Will/can a person go to Hell because of an unfaithful believer's failure to tell him the Gospel?

Yes
20% (11 votes)
No
77% (43 votes)
Unsure
4% (2 votes)
Total votes: 56
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There are 25 Comments

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Last week, I attended the Mountain Empire Sword of the Lord Conference in Gray, TN. One of its speakers, Pastor Tom Sexton, stated that one reason churches are not growing like they used to is because many pastors no longer believe that their lack of faithfulness in giving out the Gospel could send a soul to Hell.

I had never thought about this, but when I was in Christian college (1990's), one of the motivations for missions was the fact that people are dying and going to Hell without Christ, and I may be the one who could (by giving them the Gospel) pull them out of the flames.

Has there been a change within Fundamentalism concerning this? Do we still hold that my unfaithfulness could consign someone to Hell for all of eternity?

Charlie's picture

This is difficult, because there are a variety of factors that can be adduced in how or why anyone goes to heaven or hell. I am not disposed to assign sole responsibility to Christians for people going to hell, since there are plenty of people who do hear the gospel but still reject it. However, I think that Ezekiel 33 can, through a process of legitimate deduction, be employed to show that Christians have a responsibility to warn all people of God's judgment.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Daniel's picture

I think you will get a variety of answers here. I have a feeling most answers, though, will be no. And the reason is the Holy Spirit is the one that draws people to salvation, not us. Sure, without hearing the gospel one cannot get saved. At the same time only those who have been predestined to adoption will be saved. And as God is true and faithful, those who have been predestined will be told the gospel. (of course, that is but one answer you will probably hear) I don't believe that is reason to not share the gospel though. And I think most who hold to a somewhat similar position will say missions is mandatory.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I voted uncertain but really would rather vote for "partly yes"
Here's my thinking. Scripture consistently declares that all that happens is decreed by God yet those who's choices contribute to evil are also consistently held responsible for their choices. So a believer who chooses not to spread the message is responsible for what he did not do and also to a degree responsible for the results.
I say to a degree because the fact that unbelievers go to eternal wrath is, in itself, evidence that their unbelieving condition is "their own fault."

So my own view is that any soul who perishes in unbelief is mostly responsible for that himself. But I think we're taking both that fact and the fact of God's sovereign decrees way too far if we conclude that our own responsibility in someone's unbelief (if we're unfaithful) = zero.

I'm not sure I'm saying it very well, but the gist is "partly yes, partly no."

Jim's picture

  • Each believer will give an account for his faithfulness and obedience in all things (the Great Commission included!) ! Romans 14:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10
  • Each lost one is personally responsible for his response to truth

With regard to the original comment: ".... no longer believe that their lack of faithfulness in giving out the Gospel could send a soul to Hell."

  • Lack of faithfulness is sin!
  • But it is not the sin that sends people to hell!
  • People go to hell because of their own sinfulness!
Matthew Olmstead's picture

I'm not sure the original question is asking who is responsible—it's introducing a cause/effect relationship. Depending on one's perspective, the cause of a person going to hell is their unbelief, not an unfaithful believer's failure to share the gospel. Responsibility is another matter entirely, or am I misreading the OP?

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

Charlie's picture

Matthew Olmstead wrote:
I'm not sure the original question is asking who is responsible—it's introducing a cause/effect relationship. Depending on one's perspective, the cause of a person going to hell is their unbelief, not an unfaithful believer's failure to share the gospel. Responsibility is another matter entirely, or am I misreading the OP?

Good point. I've been thinking about the OP off and on today. Here's my best Biblical answer.

Esther 4 wrote:
13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

This is especially poignant, considering the immanence of the threat to the Jews. Mordecai effectively says that God specifically put Esther into her position so she could be the instrument of His will. Yet, he simultaneously affirms that if she proves cowardly or incorrigible, God is fully competent to find another way. Esther has responsibility, but it is not "up to her." Likewise, we have a responsibility to evangelize, but it is not within our power to bring a person to Christ. Growing up in the Sword of the Lord churches, I've seen the results of the idea that we somehow contribute to God's evangelist efforts. The personal arrogance, ugliness, and lack of grace that characterizes Sword preachers is born from the conviction that they've accomplished something special.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Alex Guggenheim's picture

There will be no one in what is described as "the lake of fire" in eternity future who "would have believed" but didn't because they did not hear the gospel due to someone failing to communicate it. There will be no such person. All persons who would believe will hear the gospel and will believe. And no I am not a Calvinist of any point. This is not a question that need be resolved via Calvinism's system of theology (though it can be and is addressed within their system).

John Benzing's picture

I disagree that our main motivation should be to keep others out of hell. Our main motivation is our love for Christ. I do agree that we should view hell seriously and should be concerned about men's souls, but a lack of evangelism is from a lack of love of Christ.

Brian Jo's picture

I think the question also comes from the wrong point of view– that all men somehow are entitled to heaven, we just have to help them get there. The reality is we all deserve eternity in hell because of our sin, and it's only the grace and mercy of God that keeps us out of it.
So those who do end up in hell are getting exactly what they deserve.

(But we are commanded to evangelize!)

Ed Vasicek's picture

We will be held accountable for our failures to do God's will, but we do not determine the destiny of others.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jay's picture

Quote:
Ezekiel 33 - Ezekiel Is Israel’s Watchman
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

7 "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

Why Will You Die, Israel?
10"And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: 'Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?' 11Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

12 "And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. 13 Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14Again, though I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

17 "Yet your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not just,' when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. 20 Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways."


I would be very uncomfortable taking this passage and using it to preach the 'bloodguiltiness' of NT Christians who did not witness to everyone they met.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Charlie's picture

Jay C wrote:

I would be very uncomfortable taking this passage and using it to preach the 'bloodguiltiness' of NT Christians who did not witness to everyone they met.

Jay C, I think there is a right way and a wrong way to apply this passage. I don't think we can say that simply because it was written in light of a historical occasion that it is inapplicable to present day Christians. That approach would eliminate almost the entire Bible. However, it is also true that one cannot move directly from this passage to that conclusion.

First, the verses you bolded are not the substance of the passage, but an analogy introducing vv. 7-9. vv. 10-11 give the summary of Ezekiel's message, and vv.12ff expand that. We can draw several ideas from the text.

1. God appoints a messenger to warn the wicked Israelites to turn to Him and live.
2. The messenger is responsible only for the deliverance of the message, not the results of the proclamation.
3. If the messenger does not deliver the message, the bloodguilt is on him.

So, to find out whether this is applicable to present day Christians, we need to ask several questions.

1. Has God tasked anyone today with a message?
2. Is it a message warning some group of people to turn from their wickedness to God and live?

If so, it seems reasonable from this passage to conclude that if those conditions do indeed exist, then the messengers are responsible for the delivery of the message. If they fail to deliver the message to the group to which God directs it, bloodguilt is upon the messengers.

Of course, I'm not exactly sure how that works into a mathematical equation. What is the proportion of my responsibility for Anji the Pakistani compared to Mike my neighbor? Not sure. But, a healthy sense of responsibility might greatly spur evangelistic efforts.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Pastor Harold's picture

Christ will not lose one of them.
By disobedience, can you over come the will of God?
In our failure to speak could God not raise up an other?
Are the rolls of Heaven written by men or God?
Man is with out excuse, the creation proves ther is a God.
Just some of my thoughts.

Jay's picture

Charlie, good thoughts.

First, you're right. I posted that passage in a hurry and didn't look at it very carefully when I posted it. I had heard the beginning verses preached in this way, so I bolded them and left. I'm glad you said something about that.

Quote:
If so, it seems reasonable from this passage to conclude that if those conditions do indeed exist, then the messengers are responsible for the delivery of the message. If they fail to deliver the message to the group to which God directs it, bloodguilt is upon the messengers.

I agree that there is a clear application that we need to be more evangelistic, and that we do give account for our actions and failures in evangelism. I am thinking, however, that passages like Matthew 25:14-29 might be better if that's the point a preacher wants to make in his entire message. If you're preaching from Ezekiel, then sure, go ahead and make that point...it's there.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Mike Mann's picture

Does this passage not put us in a position of responsibility?

Quote:
Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

rogercarlson's picture

OK here is my take. Acts 11:38 makes it clear that God does not need us. But the Word also makes it clear that God chooses to use us. Mike's post on Romans 10 comes into play here. As one of those moderate (4-4.5 pointers) Calvinists, I preach both. I will say often that God has ordained the end. But He has also ordained the means - us proclaiming. God does not need us but we will miss out on the blessings of obedience. So the responsibility is ultimarely on the lost soul. But that does not mean we should not be passionate about proclaiming the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Bob Fuller's picture

I have been watching the responses. I have long rejected the use of emotional/fear-laden techniques to adjust behavior. That is what this preacher was doing. My actions do not determine another's eternal destiny. Only there responses to revelation can do that. So then, some would say, "How will they hear without a preacher." I agree with this sentiment as well. The responsibility falls to me to obey my God and be the preacher. However, you cannot move from the universal "they" to an individual and make the case that my action, or inaction, is a determining factor in their destiny.

Bob Fuller
Always Forward

BryanBice's picture

When quoting Rom. 10:13-14, it's also helpful to continue Paul's line of questioning into v. 15: "And how are they to preach unless they are sent?" One might argue that every Christian is a "sent one" by virtue of Matt. 28:19-20, but is every Christian sent to "preach" the Gospel? Every Christian is and will be a witness for Christ (in some form or another!), but is every Christian sent to "preach" the Gospel? Be careful. "Preach" is kerusso, "to proclaim as a herald." Other than pastors, evangelists, and missionaries, in 29 years of ministry, I can only recall meeting maybe 5 or 6 laymen who actually "kerussoed" the Gospel. I've known many, many more who actively witnessed for Christ (still, though, a small % of the total professing believers), but they never "kerussoed." So, if every Christian is sent to preach the Gospel, then about 99.99% are totally ignoring their sending.

Could Paul actually be referring to certain individual believers who are uniquely sent forth as heralds of the Gospel? Reading further in Rom 10, he refers to a couple OT heralds -- namely Isaiah and Moses -- who were uniquely sent to proclaim God's Word. Perhaps, then, Paul is referring to men like himself who were specifically sent forth with the duty of heralding the Gospel. If so, is it legitimate to expand the application of this passage and declare that every believer has that duty?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

BryanBice wrote:
If so, is it legitimate to expand the application of this passage and declare that every believer has that duty?
Raises questions as well about who was commissioned in the Great Commission.
For my part, I believe both the GC in Matt 28, Acts 1 etc. and also Rom. 10 are broadly inclusive, but--at the same time--some are called to a greater degree of focus than others.

As evidence, consider 1 Cor. 7. Paul argues that the unmarried man does not have to think about caring for a wife and, thus, he is more focused (not P's word, but I think that's the idea). Yet P. is also clear that not everybody is supposed to be so focused that they cannot marry.

I'd argue that preaching the gospel is similarly all-consuming for some but not for all.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Thank you for participating in the poll. It is my opinion that if YF's had been asked the same question 25-30 years ago, the results would have been the exact opposite.

Many of us have heard preachers tell how Christians will watch people being cast into the Lake of Fire. We'll see friends, family, co-workers, etc. falling into Hell. At that moment, we will wish we had done more to reach them. Thankfully, all tears are wiped away after this frightful event.

Due to Calvinism's understanding of election and predestination and its influence upon Fundamentalism, such messages are rarely heard by YF's any more.

Personally, I do not see how anyone could definitely conclude that Christians will watch people being cast into the Lake of Fire. However, I do miss the sense of responsibility for souls that inspired such powerful messages.

Jack's picture

C. D. Cauthorne Jr. wrote:
Personally, I do not see how anyone could definitely conclude that Christians will watch people being cast into the Lake of Fire. However, I do miss the sense of responsibility for souls that inspired such powerful messages.

But [I ]should[/I ] we feel a sense of responsibility upon hearing something that is not definitely biblical? I'd suggest we shouldn't and that such feelings of responsibility are the result, whether or not intentional, of manipulation. We should reserve our feelings of responsibility for those things on which God has clearly spoken (e.g., our responsibility to obey God, including speaking the Gospel).

BryanBice's picture

Jack wrote:
C. D. Cauthorne Jr. wrote:
Personally, I do not see how anyone could definitely conclude that Christians will watch people being cast into the Lake of Fire. However, I do miss the sense of responsibility for souls that inspired such powerful messages.

But [I ]should[/I ] we feel a sense of responsibility upon hearing something that is not definitely biblical? I'd suggest we shouldn't and that such feelings of responsibility are the result, whether or not intentional, of manipulation. We should reserve our feelings of responsibility for those things on which God has clearly spoken (e.g., our responsibility to obey God, including speaking the Gospel).

Absolutely, Jack. That form of preaching also produced the "This Is Your Life" messages that proclaimed that all of your wicked deeds--even the Christian's--will be displayed on a giant jumbotron for all humanity to see at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Motivate by fear & guilt and people will live right?? Let's just preach the Word--accurately and with integrity (1 Cor. 2:1-5, 12-13).