Doesn't the Call to Witness Mean
People are Saved by Our Works?
Q. If salvation is a matter of faith only, then why is it important for us to witness to others? Isn't that another way of saying that we are saved by others' works, that is, their witnessing? And isn't that what the Mormons teach when they say that believers must be baptised for their dead in order for the dead to be saved?
See FAQ 57. This is an extremely good point. Much of evangelical theology is bounded by the assumption that this life is the only opportunity we have to respond to the Gospel of salvation. But if salvation, in special cases, is extended to the spirit world, as Peter teaches, then the boundary of predestination is extended.
We could ask ourselves some other questions. Why did Peter specifically mention those who lived during the flood period? What of those who died after the flood and up to the time of Christ -- did they also merit the right to hear the Gospel in the spirit world? We don't know but I think logic must demand that they had the same right.
What of the length of time between death and judgement? The generation of Noah had to wait many centuries before they could hear the Good News since the work of atonement had not at that time been wrought. May we assume that those passing into the spirit world, and specifically into prison, who did not hear the Gospel in mortality, receive the Word at the hands of witnesses as soon as they get there? We cannot, from the scriptural record, say for sure, though divine justice would suggest that they do.
I must, at this stage, add another factor into the equation of Gospel preaching and Gospel reception. Just because someone has "heard the Gospel" and rejected it does not necessarily mean that he has been given the proper chance to respond. Is the true Gospel being preached, a half-true Gospel, or a counterfeit? must also be asked. And was the Gospel preached in the Holy Spirit, in love, or in the flesh? An unbeliever hearing the Gospel preached by a hypocrite or in a spirit of malice or some other spirit that is not filled with love is, one could argue, perfectly justified in rejecting it. And what of the inner condition of the individual? I heard the Gospel preached to me many different times but I only responded on one of those occasions because that was the time it actually penetrated my heart and not just my ears. I believe that it is consistent with divine justice to take such factors into consideration. However, only God can be the final arbitrator.
The Mormon system is a little different from what we are speaking of here though should be mentioned. Like the Catholics, who believe they are the only true church authorised by God, and whose sacraments they believe are absolutely vital to salvation, the Mormons would have you believe that they alone are God's divinely commissioned agents of salvation. For them the work of baptism is necessary for salvation (as for the Catholics), whereas for Bible-believing Christians, baptism is the response of obedience by one who has already been saved. Baptism does not itself save, anymore than baptism for the dead is necessary for those who receive the Gospel in the spirit world.
So, no, we are not saved by others' works. It is in any case Yahweh who takes the initiative in first reaching out to us and He is not dependent on anyone witnessing to save another. If we refuse, He will raise others and if there are no others, He will directly intervene as He did with Paul. There is no need to 'guilt' people into witnessing, as so many evangelicals do, by creating the false fear in us that if we don't witness, someone will be lost and we will be responsible. This is a demonic idea. Yahweh is not so weak or impotent as to be unable to provide everyone with the opportunity to be saved whether we, as witnesses, respond to the call or not.
This page was created on 8 April 1998
Last updated on 20 December 2007
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