What about those who have never heard?

-Justin Long

It’s a question that I have heard asked more times than I can count. Generally the question is asked in direct response to hearing the Gospel of Jesus told. I’m quite certain that you have wrestled through this question, and my guess is that you have probably changed your answer to the question more times than you have heard the question posed. I mean, I know that we preach that there is no salvation apart from Christ, but does that really mean even those “Tribes In Africa who have no access to the Gospel” as it is usually put, will be condemned to hell apart from the Gospel? Doesn’t that just seem a little bit unfair? Doesn’t everyone deserve a chance to respond to the Gospel? Well, let us investigate. What does God’s word tell us about those who do not have the special revelation of the scriptures among them.

Rom 2:12  For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.

Rom 2:14  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.

Rom 2:15  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

At first, glance we might be drawn to the word “excuse” in the last part of verse 15 and say, “well there we have it, those who have never heard will be excused and therefore will be saved apart from Christ.” But, that is not at all what these texts suggest. How then should we understand the text? We should understand that, though not all people will have the special revelation of Scripture, every person has the moral law of God written on their hearts so as to know good and evil, and yet every person due to their wicked hearts will choose to transgress God and sin against Him. Therefore, every person is guilty of sin and deserving of the wrath of God. As a result, we sinners deserve nothing, especially not the grace of God for salvation. So, to say that every person deserves a chance to hear the Gospel would be to suggest that God is obligated to give grace to every sinner. DEFINITELY, NOT A TRUE STATEMENT.  Nevertheless, God in his love and grace has ordained the spreading of the Gospel to a lost and dying world, that any who believe upon the name of Christ for salvation will be saved.

So, what does this mean for us? It means that we need to be about the business of spreading the Gospel to those who have never heard, because they are real people who apart from the Gospel will suffer eternal separation from God in a real hell. May we be imitators of Paul as he exclaimed “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Romans 15:20-21.

-Justin Long

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