The first & foremost agent in the salvation of a soul is God. Throughout history, God has been active in an incredible number of ways. Regarding redemption, God conceived of, initiated and carried out a plan that provides a way by which guilty sinners, experiencing repentance and practicing faith, can come back into a right relationship with the Creator. God the Father sent the Son, who also sent the Holy Spirit who currently ministers in a wide variety of ways.
John 16:8 reads, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” The Spirit is operative in the lives of sinners to lead them to conviction, intending that they come to genuine repentance and faith in Christ. We will see below that the sinner can respond in two basic ways.
The Spirit is also ministering in the lives of the Christians. The following verses are informative to this end.
“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.” (Jn.16:13)
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (Jn. 14:26).
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Act 1:8).
The Christian Worker
The next agent to be considered is the obedient Christian. Romans 10:13-17 states, “‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
Paul also indicates that the proclamation of truth is important in convincing people to surrender to God when he writes, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1Co.1:21). Consequently, Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Ti.3:16-4:5).
I have often heard it said that the Holy Spirit is the only one who can convict sinners of their sin. However, though I do not deny the need for the ministry of the Spirit, it is important to consider the synergism between the work of the Spirit, the human agent (preacher) and the Word of God. Clearly, the Spirit convicts (convinces) people of sin (Jn.16:8) but, using the same word (elegchō), Paul states, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke (elegchō) in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning” (1 Ti.5:20) and, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove (elegchō), rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Ti.4:2) and, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute (elegchō) those who contradict” (Titus 1:9) and, “This testimony is true. For this reason reprove (elegchō) them severely so that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit 1:13) and, finally, “These things speak and exhort and reprove (elegchō) with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15).
The third agent in this process is the sinner. Upon exposure to truth and the influence of the Holy Spirit and the Christian worker, the sinner must respond. They can reject and suppress such efforts (Ro.1:18, Act 7:51) or receive and yield (Acts 8:15, Ga.3:14 [Ro.8:9-17]).
God has made all necessary provisions for men to be reconciled to Him and continues being active in drawing men to Himself. As well, it is important to recognize that our involvement in influencing others, and their response is very real and significant. In other words, based on the revelation we have in Scripture, the salvation of a soul is not “all of God.”