The Holy Spirit and the Exclusivity of the Gospel
Lately, I have read some rather disturbing things by some who claim to be Christians. It has for some time now been quite a fad for Christians to believe that people who do not confess Christ can somehow be saved in the end. Some say that these who do not confess Christ are saved through their ignorance by means of their faith in a monotheistic God. Others say that these will be given a second chance later on after death. But always these are emotional arguments. I have yet to see a truly Biblical defense of these suppositions. But what I have seen are carefully articulated arguments that point to the fact that one cannot enter into God's rest apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Today I heard yet another great argument for this Biblical truth by Dr. Schreiner -- one that I had never pondered in depth until now.
Often the way that I argue that only those who confess Christ will be saved is by referring to numerous passages that teach this. A few examples are John 14:6; Acts 4:12; and Romans 10:8-21. However, there remains a doctrinal argument concerning the Holy Spirit that I believe is almost as strong of a witness for this view than the verses themselves.
First, we must recognize that the Spirit has placed Himself in subjection to both the Father and the Son. John tells us that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and by the Son in the name of the Son and that He does whatever He is told to do and says whatever He is told to say. In this way, the Holy Spirit acts as a sort of ambassador for the King and His Son. He is co-equal with these Regents, but His role is to work in the world. And as an ambassador, it is His job to point back to Those to whom He is sent, namely the Father and Son. Regarding the Spirit's work, Jesus says:
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been
judged. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you (John 16:8-15).
Here Jesus says several things about the work of the Spirit in salvation. First, He convicts of sin. This is the first action wrought in the believer. Salvation does not come without conviction of sin. Those who are poor in spirit understand that conviction. And notice that the sin directly relates to their unbelief in Christ. So not only does the believer get convicted of sin, but of unbelief in Christ. Then the Holy Spirit guides the believer into truth and glorifies Christ. Finally, He discloses the Father's will and Christ's words and deeds to the believer so that He might be sanctified, another act of the Holy Spirit.
Now, those who believe in a salvation for people who do not confess Christ as Lord, they have no outs here. There is nothing in this text or any other that suggest that the Holy Spirit works apart from Christ and glorifies God without glorifying Christ. Both Father and Son are uplifted by the Spirit. Further, the Spirit brings life. He is the one who applies the work of salvation to the believer. Thus He only applies it by means of the formula given by Peter in Acts 2:38, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit can only apply the work of salvation to those who by faith acknowledge the Lordship of Christ. Otherwise, He would be working outside of His jurisdiction and thus be making Christ a liar and usurping His subordinate role. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit would be denying Christ His due glory -- the glory due His name, the name at which all men will bow.
So, what we have here is a thoroughly Biblical argument which once again ends in the exclusivity of the Gospel call. No one can be saved apart from the work of the Holy Spirit and no one can inherit eternal life without the righteousness of Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot give anyone that righteousness anonymously. He must do it as every good ambassador does, by means of His King, the one who sent Him. In this case, it is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
So, please, if you are reading this and you are beginning to be pursuaded to believe in a salvation that comes apart from the conscious acceptance of Christ as both Lord and Saviour, then repent and accept the testimony of Peter as he spoke these words, "[Jesus Christ] is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. 12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:11-12).