By Donald P. Ames
So frequently in talking to people about salvation, and particularly about the necessity of being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22 :16; 1 Pet. 3:21), I am answered: “I love the Lord and His word, and pray to God regularly. I believe God will not allow me to be lost, but will direct me in my study so that I might find the truth.” It is my sincere desire that all might also find the truth, but there are several things about this reply that deserve our close consideration. Surely if we truly love the Lord and His word we will not allow anything to stand in our way, but will with open hearts and minds seek to know His will and to do it (Acts 17:11-12).
Love For The Lord
Love of the Lord and for His word are not measured by sentimental standards. This is not to say that those who profess such love are hypocrites or are lying. No one is questioning their sincerity at this point. But that love can only be demonstrated by the actions one manifests. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Yet, sadly, many of those who profess such a deep love for the Lord are quick to use this reply as an answer to the commands of Christ to be baptized for the remission of their sins. If they truly love the Lord and His word as they profess, then “why tarriest thou?” (Acts 22:16).
Sincerity alone will not get one to heaven. Regardless of how sincere one may be, he can believe a lie! He can believe that lie and be fully convinced that he is believing the truth. And, God will allow him to believe that lie and be lost if he is so determined. This point is abundantly clear from many Bible passages. The prophet in 1 Kings 13 was sincerely trying to do all God told him to do. However, another prophet “lied” to him (1 Kings 13:18), and he believed that lie-and died for disobedience. The apostle Paul was formerly a vicious sinner (1 Tim. 1:12-15; Acts 26:9), yet was motivated by the most sincere purposes (Acts 23:1). He gave the same testimony regarding many of his Jewish brethren still lost in sin (Rom. 10:1-3). See also Matt. 7:21-23.
The Bible plainly states that God will allow those who do not “receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” to “believe what is false” (2 Thess. 2:10-11). If one is determined to go their own way and believe what they want to believe, God will “give them over” (Rom. 1:28). This very attitude is frequently the real attitude behind this reply-else they would accept and obey that which is revealed in God’s word.
What Will God Do?
Those who so reply imply God will perform some sort of miracle, such as speaking directly to them, to convince them that they are wrong in their present belief. However, to do so would make of God a respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11). Why should God make a special appearance to them and not to each and every other lost soul in the world today? Since God does not desire that any be lost (2 Pet. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:4), then why should He not personally appear to every individual and personally guide them all the way? If He can do it for one, then He would have to do if for all!
“But, didn’t He personally appear to Paul?” someone asks. There are several things to be noted in the appearance to Paul. (1) Paul was not seeking a confirmation that what he believed was okay. (2) Paul was in error and had to change to fit a special purpose God had in mind for him. (3) Paul was selected as an apostle of the Lord-to carry the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1, 5). This carried with it special requirements which no one can meet today (Acts 1:21-22). (4) Paul still had to be saved just like you and I do (by obedience to the word of God-Acts 22:16); the choice was still his to make.
However the age of apostles and special miracles is past (1 Cor. 13:8-10). God calls us today through His word (2 Thess. 2:14), which is His power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). It contains all that is needed for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3) and was written that we “might believe . . . and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). Thus “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17), for God has decided that through the preaching of the gospel, those who believe (manifested in obedience-James 2:17-18) shall be saved (1 Cor. 1:21).
The sad truth is that those who so contend usually would not believe even if God did so act (see Luke 16:31). If they will not accept the word of God, given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and confirmed by the miracles performed by the apostles, why are we to expect them to accept anything else either? This truth must be faced by those who so contend.
Passing The Buck
Those who so argue are consciously or unconsciously seeking to pass the blame for their salvation or damnation to God. “If I am lost, then God misled me” is what they are in effect saying. However, the word of God is abundantly clear on the necessity of baptism (since this is usually where the argument is made) and is freely available to all who want the truth. God has done all He can and “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” (Heb. 10:26). He will not perform another miracle! But Satan would love for us to so blame God! Also, we must remember that all of us will answer for what we have done (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12). To seek to “pass the buck” to God is merely to delude our own selves. His will has been made known, and we will be judged by our response to it (Mark 16:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; John 12:48).
Is It Sincere?
One is also made to wonder how sincere such a statement really is. When Philip expounded the way of the Lord to the eunuch, he did not seek such a refuge. Instead we find him eagerly asking, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Here was a zealous and honest individual studying the word of God. God performed no special miracle for him, but a preacher was sent to expound unto him more fully the way of the Lord. And, he gladly obeyed that message that he might be saved (Heb. 5:9).
For those so earnestly seeking the truth, could not the very presence of a gospel preacher in their home be an answer to their own prayer for guidance? As he reveals God’s will to them, is this not what they desired? Why then will so many reject it and reply in such a fashion? Could it be they really were not ready to “count the cost” (as in Mark 10:22)? Did they really want the truth-or to be left with their minds undisturbed in the belief they were okay all along? Finally, we close with the final question: Whose fault will it be in the day of judgment if you have rejected the word of God in favor of something God has not revealed or promised (2 Thess. 2:10; Ezek. 3:19; 33:11)? Do not seek refuge behind this excuse, but instead render obedience to the will of God today!
Truth Magazine XXI: 29, pp. 457-458
July 28, 1977