Recently, a Baptist, King James Bible, evangelist sent me an email version of an article I assume he had written asking the question, "Can a Man be Saved by a Tract Alone?" Admittedly, the title got my attention and so I read the article to see where he was coming from. The article made some good and important points about the limitations of tracts. The small size of most tracts do not have room to adequately deal with the issues of salvation. God chose to use the human element of preaching to reach the lost (1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 10:13-15). The author leans heavily on the salvation of the Ethiopian eunuch who replied when Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" (Acts 8:31).
The author concludes that although God can "use a tract to plant and water," a "human instrument must cross an individual's path for the man to be saved." In his illustration concerning the Ethiopian eunuch, he admits that the "eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53, the best tract a man could have (the Word of God)" but that he still required a human visitation from Philip in order to be saved. This he then applies to all who get saved. They must have a human instrument in order to be saved. To his credit, the author of the article does admit that the witness does not have to be present when the lost person gets saved and that the human instrumentation may come by preaching from the pulpit. Evidently, it is only necessary that a human be present at some time as a witness to the lost man or woman. He closes his article with a warning to those who reject this clear teaching from the word of God. They may be of the false prophets Jesus told about in Matthew 7:22-23.
Well, at the risk of being labeled a false prophet, I would like to give some constructive criticism of this article. I believe that this author truly loves the Lord and believes the Book (which is why I left his name out of my article) and he certainly makes some good points, but I see some serious problems with this teaching. First of all, I accept the Bible teaching that God chose to use preaching to save the lost and that the Ethiopian eunuch did not know how to come to God without the help of another man. But this does not prove that a man cannot in any circumstances be saved without a human witness present at some time. The author is using God's natural pattern in order to prove that the same God will allow no exceptions to the rule. But throughout the Bible, I see a God who continually does what man says He cannot. Just about the time we think we really have God pegged, He throws a curve ball that we cannot hit.
This error becomes more serious when it calls the word of God a tract and claims that no one can get saved by reading the Bible unless a man showed him the way. Even "the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21) is not able to save without a man standing by to explain what it means. I am not denying that this is God's normal pattern, but that is a far distance from saying that salvation can come in no other way. I suppose whenever we hear someone give a testimony that they were saved by a tract or by reading the Bible that we are to curtly tell them that they are lost. Perhaps this is a new way to get more converts in a meeting. I do not know.
Finally, this teaching creates serious problems in defining the human instruments. The author of this article has already stated that the witness does not have to carry on a personal conversation with the lost person. It can be preaching "from the pulpit in a public assembly." But if this works, what about a message on the radio or a taped video message? It would still be through human instrumentality--only the human instrument would not be physically present. Are we going to superstitiously count on a physical presence for salvation? Then again, what if the sermon were to be written out and printed in a book? Would this be human instrument enough? Many claimed to have been saved from the printed sermons of Charles Spurgeon. Were all of these people lost because Spurgeon was not in the room with them? This brings us back to a tract. How can we say there is no human instrumentation involved in tracts? Someone had to write it; someone had to print it; someone had to distribute it. Human instruments are all over the distribution of tracts.
As I said before, there valid criticisms of modern-day tracts. In olden days, a tract was a small book or booklet with much more material than can be put in our tiny tracts. Our modern tracts are too small to give much in depth about salvation unless one already has the knowledge of the way of salvation. I would also agree with this author what much harm has probably been done by the set prayers found at the end of many tracts. I believe that it makes people think that salvation is the saying of a repetitive prayer. But are there not many soul-winners who personally lead others to Christ this way? It is not the presence of a tract without a human that is the problem. In the end, my problem with this article is that it tries to solve some real problems with tracts by creating a new doctrine about salvation. I may be looked on as a false teacher for my criticism, but I know that this is serious business indeed. We need to be most wary in telling God what He must do in order to save a man.