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What About Those Who Never Hear the Gospel?

Wednesday, June 12, 2024 @ 08:40 AM What About Those Who Never Hear the Gospel? Matthew White The Stand Writer MORE

If you have been a Christian for any length of time and you have engaged in sharing the gospel and the exclusive claims of Christ, you have likely experienced some difficult questions in response to your advances.

One such question Christians are often confronted with is: “What about those who never hear the gospel?”

To be fair, unbelievers are not the only ones who raise the question. I’ve been asked that question, in some form, by many Christians down through the years.

And it’s a good question. It’s a fair question that deserves a thoughtful response.

Our answer shouldn’t simply be, “Well, it’s just God’s sovereignty,” or “It’s just a matter of those who are elected and those who are not.”

Those things may be true, but such dismissive answers will surely do little to convince the unbeliever or bolster the faith of a Christian truly pondering the question.

Scripture teaches that all men will be judged and must give an account for what they did with Jesus – whether they accepted Him, or rejected Him.

The question then, in one way or another, usually goes something like: “Well, what about an unreached group of people out there in the wilderness that never had the opportunity to hear the gospel? How can they be condemned to hell for rejecting a message they never heard? How could a loving God do such a thing?”

In response, a seasoned Christian would usually point one to the first chapter of Romans, which indeed we should. And I will get there in a moment.

But before I do, I believe there are two men in the book of Acts whose accounts come alongside and strengthen the case we make from Romans 1.

The two men I’m speaking of are the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) and Cornelius, the Roman centurion (Acts 10). The parallels between the two men are striking.

Both the eunuch and Cornelius are depicted as men who are lost, but truly seeking the things of God.

Both men, from a human standpoint, are seeking in the right place too. The eunuch had made a 1,000-mile pilgrimage to Jerusalem and had been spending time in the Scripture.

Cornelius, though not a full convert to Judaism, had adopted much of Judaism and is described by Luke as a “devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:2).

The problem both men encountered, as is the problem with many today, is that they had very limited knowledge.

It can’t be denied that both had received some light, some degree of revelation, and both were living up to the light that they had received to that point in their lives.

And because they were searching and living up to the revelation they had received, the Lord did something miraculous for both men to provide them with more.

The Lord appointed Philip to go preach to the eunuch the message he needed, and the Lord appointed Peter to go to Cornelius to provide him the message he needed.

In both cases, I believe the Lord divinely appointed someone to go to these men, not because they were any more deserving than anyone else, or in need of salvation more than anyone else, but because they were exercising the highest level of devotion they could with the amount of revelation they had been given.

Precisely because they had been living up to the light they had received, God was more than happy and willing to give them more.

At this point, many would respond by saying, “Well, some people don’t seem to be given any revelation at all.”

But that is simply not true. Scripture is very clear that all men are given some degree of revelation.

The Psalmist said “… The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).

Job said:

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this? In whose hand [is] the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:7-10).

Granted, Job was answering his accusers, but the point he was making is that even the creatures of the earth testify to the things of God.

The Psalmist said “All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing [to] thy name. Selah” (Psalm 66:4).

And we know from Ecclesiastes 3:11 that the concept of eternity is instinctively written on the heart of every man.

The point I’m making is that all men possess an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what they are currently able to see and experience.

I don’t believe for a second that a person can look around at God’s creation, the splendor of it all, the specificity of it all, the intricacies; whether viewed through the most powerful telescope that can view the cosmos or the most powerful microscope that continues to discover the irreducible complexity of the cell, and say there is no God, or at the least, not believe there is something greater.

Everything around us cries out and testifies to a Creator.

John, in the opening chapter of his gospel, said of Jesus “[That] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).

You see, it’s not that all men don’t have some degree of revelation; we all do.

Paul addressed this very issue in his letter to the Romans.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

The issue isn’t whether or not all men instinctively have some degree of truth. The issue is what men choose to do with the revelation they have been given.

Paul’s contention is that some men choose to reject it and suppress it.

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 (Romans 1:19-20).

According to Paul in the above verses, when judgment comes, these people will be without excuse. But why? Paul answers that too.

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 (Romans 1:21).

And what was the result of them not living up to the light they had received?

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (Romans 1:22-25).

It's not that some don’t have a revelation of God; it’s that they choose to reject the revelation they have, and then they suppress that truth.

Cornelius and the eunuch both illustrate a stark contrast to that denial.

They were both devoted to what light they had been given, and as such, God was faithful to give them more, ultimately leading to their acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

So what about those who never hear the gospel?

I believe we are standing on solid ground to conclude that if man will accept, and not suppress, the truth he has received, even when limited, that God will grant more and provide them with the amazing opportunity to come to know Jesus.

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