Thursday, October 29, 2015

What about Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?

The concern for those who have never heard the Gospel is common for believers everywhere. We should do all that the Lord leads us to do to get the Gospel message to everyone we can; however, there will be some, and have been some, who will never hear the Gospel in their lifetime. Let me lay out some foundational biblical truths that should guide us in our thinking on this subject.

First, we need to remember that God loves humanity enough to send His Son to die on a cross for our sins (I John 2:2, 4:10). Therefore, God cares about those who have not clearly had the Gospel preached to them as much as He cares about those who have heard it. The truth is that God is good to us all; He gave us life and, even after we rebelled against Him, sent His Son to provide payment for our sins, so that we can have our sins forgiven and have eternal life with God forever, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17 NASB).

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross made salvation possible. So, anyone who is saved is saved because of Jesus, He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). If God chooses to save some who only respond to what they know of God, it is still based on Jesus’ payment for our sins (Acts 4:12).

The Old Testament saints had never heard of Jesus. They trusted and obeyed God and He counted this as righteousness (Romans 4:3). They had no righteousness of their own, but their faithfulness allowed God to apply Jesus’ later sacrifice on the cross to them in order that they could be forgiven, “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).

In his book, On Guard, William Lane Craig deals with this question in the chapter titled, Is Jesus the Only Way to God? with this idea: since God knows each person’s personality, character, and even what their response would be if confronted with the Gospel massage, He places each person in his or her life in such a way for them to have the best opportunity to respond to God’s call to salvation.  Mr. Craig bases his theory, in part, on this passage of Scripture, “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;” (Acts 17:26-27). This passage seems to be saying that God has sovereignly guided, and is still guiding, situations and circumstances to bring each person to a place where they can choose to follow God or choose to reject Him.

The concern for those who have never heard the Gospel is at the heart of missions. That is why Christians send people out into all parts of the world with the message of Jesus Christ. However, if we are unable (or unwilling) to reach some, does God deal with them differently? I really don’t know. What I do know is that the God of the Bible is love. The God of the Bible is Holy. The God of the Bible is just. Therefore, a loving, holy, just God will deal fairly with all of us.

New American Standard Bible
Craig, William Lane. On Guard. David C. Cook Publishing, 2010.

Worldviews, choices, and destinations.

There are two competing foundational worldviews; each one containing radically different end results. 

One worldview, the naturalist/humanist/secular worldview, tells us that we came into being by accident (not guided by intelligence), that the only purpose we have is the purpose we give ourselves, and that we are responsible to no higher being or cause.

The competing worldview, the Biblical worldview, claims that humans were created by God, for His purposes, and that we are accountable to Him.  This worldview tells us that we have failed to live as God required, thus incurring His judgment, but that He has also provided the way whereby we may be reconciled to Him.

The naturalistic camp believes that science has proven their viewpoint to be true; however, they still have no explanation for our existence except to believe that “it just happened”…no rhyme, no reason…just a cosmic accident that somehow (without intelligent guidance) organized itself into everything we see today.  This theory requires faith in the proposition that ‘nothing arranged itself over millions (perhaps billions) of years into the incredibly complex universe existing today’.

Those who believe a Biblical worldview see the evidence of intelligence all around us.  The intricacies of the flower and the eyeball offer clear testimony of design.  The idea of everything simply ‘evolving’ and ‘improving’ (especially when science actually tells us that our universe is headed the opposite direction; becoming increasingly disorganized and chaotic) into the universe in which we now live stretches the very bounds of cognitive activity let alone common sense.

Make no mistake; each of these worldviews requires ‘faith’.  One either places that ‘faith’ in an all-powerful and wise Creator God as being responsible for our existence, and to whom we are ultimately accountable, or our ‘faith’ is place in random accidental occurrences governed by nothing (or governed by the “laws of physics” which came about by those same random accidental occurrences), with no purpose, headed nowhere.

The Bible tells us that the end result of a life lived according to each of these worldviews is radically different.  The naturalist/humanist/secular viewpoint is described as a gate that is, “…wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).  The Biblical worldview is portrayed as a gate that is, “…small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14).  So, in essence, what we are confronted with is the choice between ‘destruction’ and ‘life’.  When seen in this way, does anyone truly desire ‘destruction’?

God has given each of us the responsibility, and ability, and opportunity to choose which worldview we will adopt.  He loves each of us and wants us to have a saving, loving relationship with Him; but, He leaves the decision up to us: we can follow the wide gate that leads to destruction or we can follow the narrow gate (by trusting in Jesus Christ and living for Him) that leads to life now and for eternity.

As Moses told the Israelite people after explaining the inevitability of this choice, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him…” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NASB).

There is no more serious decision to be made.

New American Standard Bible