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.

Resources:

New American Standard Bible

Craig, William Lane. On Guard. David C. Cook Publishing, 2010.

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Comment by Rebecca on November 30, 2016 at 11:00am
There are many parts of christianity that can be known by logical reasoning. They could know that there is NO truth in the common idea that, including, evil things, murderers, down toilets, etc, god is "everywhere", or "in everything". They coul know that there is no truth in metal or mental idols that promote terrorism, like the moon god "allah". They could know that the world is real, and not an illusion. And so seek the real Creator. If think that that if people fully follow the ltruth and conscience they have, they will recieve more. The trouble is, people often suppress the truth they know or suspect, to fit in with tradition or their own desires. Jesus did pay for the sins of everyone. But things don't always happen according to the will of God. He wishes everyone to be saved from sin, but some don't wish to be. He doesn't want a bunch of robots with control buttons. I don't under stand why anyone would be annoyed at Jesus saying " No one comes to the Father but by me". If someone truly seeks God, they will be willing to come to Him on His terms. If they don't really want to come, He won't force them.
Comment by Robert Driskell on November 19, 2015 at 12:28pm

Thank you for your comments, Gary.  I think you made some very good observations.  This topic is a favorite of non-believers who claim, "I could never believe in a god that would send someone to hell who never even had a chance to believe."  The Bible is very clear that, "...they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20) as you said in your comment.  Our responsibility (as far as I can tell) is to reach as many people as we can with a reasonable, and prayer saturated, presentation of the Gospel.

God bless you, Gary.  May God use you and your gifts for His glory.

Yours in Christ,

Robert

Comment by Gary Murray on November 19, 2015 at 10:42am

Well thought out post Robert.

Sye Ten Bruggencate once said this "God doesn't send people to Hell for what they DON'T know'

He then refers to Romans 1:18-22

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,"

Scripture is clear that all men are born with the knowledge of the existence of God, also His power and Godhead. The problems is most men suppress that truth in unrighteousness (they love their sin).

I am not a Calvin in the purest sense of the description. so I believe Christ died for ALL men and I think scripture is clear on this point. That said we know that not all men will be saved.

I believe God through the Spirit has the power to open the eyes of the unbeliever, allow him to see through the suppression and see himself for who he really is, through the eyes of God and recognize he is at enmity with the Lord. In that moment, I believe Romans 1:18-22 becomes clear to that person and then they are empowered with the ability to make their choice, righteousness or a hardened heart.

I believe this is a different experience for each individual, as far as man is concerned, but I believe it is the same method that God uses to open the eyes of all men to His salvation.

There are difficult questions that have been asked, and this question in particular has a much different answer, and that is dependent on one's doctrinal belief of salvation.

Great discussion to be had, however Robert, and I'd enjoy reading what others here would think on this subject.

God Bless!

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