WHAT ABOUT THOSE
WHO WERE NEVER BAPTIZED?
A very serious question often arises when one discusses God's plan of salvation with someone from a denominational background. "What about my mother? She was never baptized." This question often poses a problem for the one who is learning for the first time God's requirements for salvation. How could his dear mother have been wrong in God's sight? Certainly one should seek to respond to this question in such a way that will not alienate the querist. However, one also should take care in his response not to compromise the Bible's teaching.
Brother Rubel Shelly has written an article entitled "Do You Think My Mother Is Going To Hell?", which deals with this problem. In the article, he tells of studying with a man who raised the question at hand. He makes a very good point in closing the article: "My only concern was to encourage him to do what he had learned was God's will for his salvation." This kind of response takes the emphasis away from the condition of the man's mother, and rightly places that emphasis upon the man who had learned God's will.
However, brother Shelly makes some arguments in this article that raise some very serious questions. He writes,
"Judgment is the work of the Son of God when he sits on the great white throne in the last day! (Acts 17:31; Rev. 20:11-15). It is an arrogant thing for any sinner to think himself fit to pass judgment on any other sinner!"
Does one pass judgment by saying what the Bible says? No. A Christian, by his own authority, is not judging another to be lost. If a Christian compares what the Bible says regarding man's salvation with what another has done in his life, and sees that that one has not complied with God's will, who is the judge if he concludes that this person is lost? Is the Christian the judge? NO! God is the judge, for He set forth the stipulation for man's salvation in the first place. The preacher's responsibility is to "speak as the oracles of God;" (1 Pet. 4:11). God's word says that those who do not obey will not be saved (Heb. 5:9). Thus, he must preach the necessity of man's obedience.
Next, brother Shelly writes:
"The Bible teaches that people will be judged in part according to their opportunities for learning and doing the divine will (Luke 12:47-48). Some will surely find mercy in their 'ignorance and unbelief' which may not be extended to others of us because of our increased opportunity to learn and do God's will."
Does the Bible really teach that mercy will be extended to those who had limited opportunity? Brother Shelly cites Luke 12:47-48 to prove his assertion. Notice what is taught in the passage. Yes, there is a difference in the number of stripes given to the two, but do not overlook two very important facts. First, the servant who did not know the Lord's will "did commit things worthy of stripes." His sin is obvious. It cannot be denied. He deserved to be punished. Second he was punished. The degree to which each was punished is not the point of this issue. Yes, the two men received different punishments, but each was punished.
Another question arises from this line of thinking. How much disobedience will God allow? If the preacher gives the hope of salvation to every "godly" person who has not had opportunity to learn all of God's will, what will he do for the one who has had less of an opportunity? If God can overlook one's disobedience to the command to be baptized, why will He not overlook disobedience to the command to repent? Why will He not overlook disobedience to the command to believe? In fact, why would God not overlook any and all disobedience? The idea that God will excuse disobedience in some and not in others directly contradicts plain Bible teaching. Paul presented this fact to the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:34-35). God is not a respecter of persons based on nationality, and neither is He a respecter of persons based on opportunity. Who is accepted with Him? Peter answered the question well: "he that feareth him and worketh righteousness." Acceptance with God cannot be attained without one's working righteousness, i.e., obeying His commands (c.f. Psa. 119: 172).
One inescapable conclusion must be drawn from this teaching. If God is willing to save one who has never been baptized, then the blood of Christ is absolutely worthless. That one who was never baptized would have been saved by something other than Jesus' blood. What is it about baptism that saves? Is it the water itself? No! It is the blood of Christ. Every faithful gospel preacher teaches that the blood of Christ washes away sin when a penitent believer is baptized (Heb. 8:1,314; 10:22). When one implies that man can be saved apart from baptism, he reveals that he really does not believe that Jesus' blood washes away sin in baptism.
Truly the child of God must seek to be as tactful as possible in teaching the lost. Directing the focus of the conversation away from a "godly" loved one, and toward the convicted sinner is a proper action. But when one implies that God may save that loved one in spite of his disobedience, he has compromised the truth, and has loosed where God has not loosed.
by Kevin D. Beard
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