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The Lostness of Man (Part 5)


What about Those Who Have Not Heard of Jesus?

Almost all biblically centered Christians accept the justice of punishment meted out to gospel-hardened people who have ignored or obstinately rejected Christ's offer of salvation. But what about those who by geographic or historical accident live in cultures where Jesus is un-Known? What about those who, although they may have a rudimentary knowledge of Jesus, have never been meaningfully evangelized? Is it fair that they should be in unspeakable torture? May there not be in the depth of the divine mercy opportunity for them in the future state?

There are those who have concluded that all such will be saved. They have substantiated their views, however, not by a contextual interpretation of all relevant Scripture but rather by fashioning their concepts of God's love, justice and morality after their own. Sometimes they have reasoned from assumptions that have no biblical support. They have resorted to human feelings, human sentiments, human intuitions. Where they have appealed to the Bible, it is to isolated "proof-texts" that only seem to confirm their wishful speculations.

The answer to this heart-rending question must come not from human reasoning and human sympathy, but from Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. What did the omniscient holy Jesus teach? What do the Christ authenticated Scriptures say? Any reponse not anchored in this bedrock of Bible truth has no more authority than the person who proposes it.

Jesus said: I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9

I am the way . . . No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. John 3:3

Jesus declared Himself to be the only door and the only road to the Father. He has not opened a variety of ways to be saved. There are no optional alternatives. For a person to qualify for heaven, Jesus makes regeneration, that is, a spiritual rebirth, absolutely necessary.

The apostle Peter declared of Jesus, "Salvation is found in none one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). It is not a question of whether there is good in other religions"; it is a matter of there being but one divinely appointed way of salvation. All who miss this one way of salvation are in peril.

The apostle Paul is equally unbending. To those in Colossae who had put their trust in Jesus Christ he wrote that God the Father "has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." He adds, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1: 12-14). It is clear that those who go to heaven are they who qualify, and qualification is through Christ, who alone forgives sins. Paul has this to say about the effects of sin and its only remedy: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

William G.T. Shedd comments:

Sin is the suicidal action of the human will. A man is not forced to kill himself, but if he does, he cannot bring himself to life again. And a man is not forced to sin, but if he does, he cannot get back to where he was before sinning. He cannot get back to innoceny nor can he get back to holiness of heart.

In the early paragraphs of his letter to the Romans, Paul argues that all people outside of Christ are in such a situation:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities– his eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20

Citing Old Testament Scriptures, Paul concludes: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Romans 3:10-12

Pagans who have never heard of the true God and His Son Jesus Christ, Gentile moralists, Jewish legalists– whose case Paul has just taken up (see Romans 2:17-29)– all alike are under sin's power and sin's lethal remuneration and thus unable to achieve eternal life by any efforts of their own. They are all under God's judgment. The remedy– the only remedy God has revealed– is Jesus Christ, the Giver of eternal life.

For all members of the human family, the alternatives are two: eternal life and eternal death. There is no neutral territory between these two immeasurable destinies. The Bible makes these affirmations of all persons, whether they have heard of Christ or not.

It is hardly necessary to multiply quotations. This sense that salvation is only in Jesus and that people– whatever their status – are saved only by a conscious surrender to Him runs through the whole of the New Testament. In no place and on no account is it ever modified or set aside.

The wondrous fact of the gospel is that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10: 13). But the Scripture can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14).

Devastating logic! God has ordained that people should be saved through the preaching of the gospel. And Jesus has commanded us to preach it to all people (Luke 24:47). There is not a word in God's Book that so much as intimates He saves human beings without using human agents to take the good news of salvation to them. Nothing in the Scriptures implies that God in His sovereignty and great love, will wink at the guilty of those who had no opportunity to know of Christ Jesus.

J. Herbert Kane puts the whole matter correctly and succinctly in his book, Christian Missions in Biblical Perspective.

To say, "God will take care of the heathen," and leave it there is to close oneís eyes to the clear statements of the Bible and the hard, cold facts of history. The question is not whether God will take care of the heathen, but how He does it. He has made it abundantly clear in His word that it is His will and purpose to care for the heathen through the Church. The miracle of reconciliation was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Christ. The ministry of reconciliation has been committed to the church. If the church for any reason fails to fulfill its God-given ministry, the church, and not God blame. World evangelization can Be acheived by human means and manpower. It is both futile and foolish to expect God to achieve by supernatural means what the church can accomplish by human means.

In one of his most haunting missionary songs, A.B. Simpson, 19th century founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, asks:

O Church of Chist, what wilt thou say
When, in the awful judgment day,
They charge thee with their doom?

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