Why and how does God use believers to save people?

This came up in anther discussion and I thought it deserved separate attention.

Mormons definitely believe that people are an integral part of God’s plan to bring salvation to he world.  He uses us to send the message.

Here is an example of some thinking on this subject from Feast Upon the Word Blog

Evangelicals seem to believe something similar, that faith comes by hearing the word, and that people are there to evangelize.

Romans 10:17– “So then Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. ”

In principal I don’t see any fundamental difference in how we view God’s use of humans in this capacity- people are the vehicles God most often uses to spread the word, with some exceptions.

Of course Mormons believe that people will have a lot longer to spread the word to their brothers and sisters and that everyone will ultimately have the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel. I am not as clear on all the Evangelical Answers to the issues surrounding this.  Although I have listened to this:  from parchment and pen: Fate of the Un-Evangelized

Do we have very similar or radically differing thoughts about how or why God uses people to work salvation? What does this say about our respective God-views?

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27 thoughts on “Why and how does God use believers to save people?

  1. From my own discussions with friends of many faiths, I would tend to say that we are much more in agreement on the issue than not.

    However, I have also noticed that when someone wants to hammer home differences, something I really do try to avoid, as a general rule, that person will make extreme statements that are not representative of their fellow-believers.

    I definitely believe that God uses His children to spread His word. The scriptural and historical record are filled with examples of this. The number of times that God and/or Christ have personally appeared to men and women to spread the message of the Gospel is fairly limited (and I am considering Christ’s mortal ministry as one occasion).

    As to why God uses people as vehicles of His message, I think that it is simply a matter Him wanting us to develop faith. I mean, seriously, who would deny the message of the Gospel when it comes straight from God Himself, shrouded in all His glory? (The folks who denied Christ while he walked the earth did not see Him in His glory.) It is entirely a matter of faith when we have to hear the message from fellow mortals and determine if the message is legit or not.

    Of course, at some points in time, God has felt it necessary to personally visit His children. But, as far as I can recall, these visits have always been to a relatively small group (usually just one or two), and then they are always charged to go out and share it with others.

  2. We agree.

    I think the blow back you got in the earlier comments had to do with expressing the idea that Jesus NEEDS us to spread his message and he could NOT do it without us.

    Clearly Jesus has chosen us as his ambassadors, but we Evangelicals don’t think that Jesus is coming to us with a request for something that can’t happen without us. The “rocks and the trees” will do it if Jesus chooses. It’s our privilege to be a part of spreading the good news.

  3. The idea that becoming a Christian is some sort of a go-it-alone thing is foreign to the New Testament. Following Christ was always associated with becoming part of a community, part of a family. And that makes sense: We’re created in the image of God, and God himself is a loving relationship.

    The idea of ongoing human relationships is inherent in the Great Commission. Jesus didn’t tell his followers to merely go and make converts. Yes, he did tell them to baptize people, but that’s not where it ended. He also told them to make disciples and to teach them — acts that suggest ongoing relationships and personal support for one another.

    Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (see John 17) was that his disciples could in some way have the same type of unity with each other that he had with his Heavenly Father. While we don’t know all what that entails, its not the sort of thing that happens in a vacuum or with people all going in their own directions. Jesus’ words make clear that he wants his followers to have the profoundest of relationships with each other, for it is through loving and being loved that we experience the love of God.

    I don’t see how that can happen without us personally sharing the Good News with others.

  4. On whether Jesus “Needs” to use us:

    I suppose the fact that Jesus does do it this way seems to indicate that he needs to do it this way to accomplish his purpose. Or at least that this is the best way to do it.

    Jesus method is clear, but the grand point of it all seems a bit more complicated to me, since I, with my meager mind, can think of more efficient ways of spreading the word, and even more efficient ways of using people as ambassadors if the maximum number of saved was the issue.

    That is the puzzle for me.

  5. The idea that becoming a Christian is some sort of a go-it-alone thing is foreign to the New Testament.

    I don’t know who is arguing that. WE clearly need other people to help us grow in our faith. JESUS doesn’t need us. That’s all I’m saying. Everyone can go on and on writing pages and pages about how the Bible tells us that we need to go share the news and that we need to be in community, I’m never going to disagree. The non-exclusive thought I’m expressing is that God doesn’t need us.

    Jesus method is clear, but the grand point of it all seems a bit more complicated to me, since I, with my meager mind, can think of more efficient ways of spreading the word, and even more efficient ways of using people as ambassadors if the maximum number of saved was the issue.

    Jesus also has a handle on who and when people will freely accept him as their Savior. I’m under the assumption that the maximum number of people will be saved.

  6. I said:

    The idea that becoming a Christian is some sort of a go-it-alone thing is foreign to the New Testament.

    To which Tim replied:

    I don’t know who is arguing that. WE clearly need other people to help us grow in our faith. JESUS doesn’t need us. That’s all I’m saying.

    Nobody here is arguing for going it alone, and I agree totally with what you’re saying.

    But there are evangelicals (and I in no way suggest that you are arguing this) who give the impression that all that’s involved in becoming a Christian is uttering a simple prayer, and wham, bam, you’re guaranteed a place in heaven, and that’s all there is to it. But people who say that are, in my view, missing the point of what the Christian life is about. Jesus doesn’t want to be just our Savior, he wants to be our Savior and Lord. Becoming a follower of Christ isn’t “fire insurance” but rather answering a call to discipleship and fellowship. And that’s a process, not an event, and comes about (except in very rare cases) as we have relationships with other people. We were never meant to be alone in this thing called faith.

  7. Well, an artist still “needs” red paint in order to paint a red rose on a canvas, if that is what he is trying to do.

    However, the artist doesn’t “need” to paint the picture in the first place.

  8. I would suggest that Jesus does need us, but it is only because He chose to set His plan up in this way.

    In other words, before the world was created, Jesus could have set up whatever method He chose in order to spread His word. But once He set the plan in motion, and set the rules for how things on earth would work, He was bound (and still is bound) to follow those rules.

    As has been said elsewhere by many people, Jesus can’t violate His own laws. If he decrees that man must learn to walk by faith, and that they will hear His word through a few chosen vessels who will then spread the word to others, well, then, He needs to follow that decree. Not because we, as mortals, tell Him to do so, but because He has said so.

  9. Of course the question still remains as to why Jesus chose to do it this way if his plan is how the Evangelicals say it is.

    It seems almost comparable to making the world through natural selection in its organic inefficiency.

  10. I don’t think Jesus is bound to follow any particular rules, what rule is there that he can’t come in glory and have every knee bow?

  11. Tim: Thanks for the interesting post (and the link!).

    “Do we have very similar or radically differing thoughts about how or why God uses people to work salvation? What does this say about our respective God-views?”

    Like you, I don’t see any substantive difference in how we discuss our roles in God’s work.

    Regarding our God-views, though, this topic does bring up an interesting difference—and I apologize right now if I turn this yet again into a “the only real difference between our religions is creatio ex nihilo” discussion.

    Joseph Smith stated very clearly that human spirits have always existed in “some state” (not his words, but I don’t want to get bogged down in those details), and that “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory…saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself.” This is in contrast to the God of mainstream Christianity, who chose to create spirits that he could later exalt (or not).

    In other words, Mormon-God felt the need to exalt something he discovered, whereas Evangelical-God felt the need to create something he could exalt.

    (Tangential to this discussion is the question, from the Mormon view, of what sort of interactions we had with each other before the moment that God brought us together….)

  12. Sometimes I wonder if we should color the LDS and Evangelical post a different color so people know whether or not to start hating on them before they read them.

  13. I don’t think there really that much difference between the ex-nilo vs. the eternal souls doctrine, is there?

    For Mormons, God is taking navel lint and making it into diamonds.

    For Evangelicals, God is making the navel lint out of nothing and then making it into diamonds.

  14. Tim: I thought you and Jared were the same person. No?

    (Next you’re going to tell me that “Seth R” isn’t just one of Jack’s pseudonyms.)

    I totally overlooked the byline when I read this in my RSS feed.

    Jared: Why would you (as LDS) view eternal spirits as “navel lint”? I see no reason to scum-ify mankind.

  15. Next you’re going to tell me that “Seth R” isn’t just one of Jack’s pseudonyms.

    Well, he could be my sock puppet. How else do you explain the fact that we’ve never been photographed together?

  16. Brian,

    Navel lint is actually kindof cute, depending on the navel.

    We are less than the dust of the earth according to Alma, no?

    Pick some other diminutive substance if you are offended ;). The point of the analogy is the difference between where God found humankind and where he plans to take them.

  17. what rule is there that he can’t come in glory and have every knee bow?

    It seems pretty clear, at least to me, that Christ has said that He isn’t going to do that until the end. If His goal was to just convince everyone at once that He is who He said He was, why bother using people to spread His word in the first place? Again, I think it all boils down to the need for us to develop faith, not just to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ.

  18. There is no telling whether or not I am actually Tim.

    Perhaps its an unfathomable mystery.

    Maybe its like the Phil Hendrie program.

  19. I hope aquinas is not secretly Elder Holland. If so, this makes all the snarking I’ve done about his son (my American Heritage teacher back in the day) rather embarrassing.

  20. Jared: Fair enough. I thought you were going for the total depravity ick-factor when you chose “navel lint” as the diminutive.

    (btw, I think you mean King Benjamin, not Alma.)

  21. I actually meant Nephi in Helaman 12:7-8

    ” O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
    For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God”

    Either way it shows how rusty I am with the Book of Mormon.

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