What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

A perplexing predicament posed to Christians goes like this: "What about all those people in various lands who have never heard the Gospel message? Are you telling me they are lost and on the road to hell?"

Of course the usual assumption behind these questions is that God would never condemn someone who has not been told about the free gift of salvation through faith in Christ. So let's run with that idea for a minute. Let's say, hypothetically, that all those folks are not lost. Instead, let's pretend for the sake of argument that people who have never heard about Jesus are already on the road to heaven simply by virtue of having never heard the Gospel message.

Right away, we see how this theory comes crumbling down. Why? Because if those folks who have never heard the good news are already on the path to paradise, Jesus would have been risking their eternal life in heaven by commanding His disciples to go out and preach the Gospel to them. That zealous approach to proselytizing would place potential converts in a situation where they might reject Christ and His Gospel, and as a result suffer the eternal consequences of saying "no" to Jesus and His love.

If those adults who have never heard the Gospel are already safe in the arms of Jesus forever, then the greatest evangelistic strategy would have been for our Lord to tell His disciples something like this: "Go into all the world and be kind to people, but under no circumstances should you ever tell someone that he or she must repent and believe in me in order to be forgiven of their sins and go to heaven. If you do that, you are placing their eternal safety in jeopardy by leading them into a discussion where they might decide to reject the Gospel message."

Obviously, that is not what the Lord told them. Jesus lived and died as though men are lost without His forgiveness. And He sent out His disciples as though people who have never heard the message are lost until they hear and believe the good news.

The apostle Paul wrote, "How, then, 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? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?' Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:14-17)

God's Word gives us no indication that those who have never heard are already in "the safe zone" so to speak. In fact, the Bible says just the opposite. "What may be known about God is 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 1:19,20)

This highlights the urgent need for Christians to spread the Gospel to those who have never heard it. Every person will have to give an account of himself to God. If those who have never heard the good news are in grave danger of being lost eternally, how much more so any of us who have heard the message and yet continue to reject it?

Jesus said, "Repent and believe the good news." (Mark 1:15) Paul and Silas told the jailer in Philippi, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31) Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." And then He asked Martha, "Do you believe this?" (John 11:25,26)

Well, do you? Are you a believer? Or are you like those the Bible speaks about when it says, "The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith." (Hebrews 4:2)

The Gospel message combined with faith produces what I would call "spiritual fusion." It is extremely powerful. It brings about "the new birth." (John 3:1-16; 1 Peter 1:3) When a person accepts the message with the faith of a child, the Lord Himself enters that person's heart and life. It begins an eternal relationship with Christ which will take the individual to heaven one day.

Our Lord made this message perfectly clear when He stated, "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)

Did you catch that? Jesus said, "Whoever does not believe stands condemned already." These unbelievers, like you and I, are sinners in need of the Savior. So when it comes to those who have never heard, it is our job as Christians to reach them with the Gospel. How else are they going to know about God's amazing grace and eternal love which are given freely through faith in Christ?

Jesus told His disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 1:15,16) Our job as believers is not to try to figure out why God designed it this way. Instead, we are commanded by Christ to "go and make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28:19)

"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:15) And how blessed are those who not only hear it, but who then "combine it with faith" in an act of "spiritual fusion" whereby their soul is converted and brought into "the safe zone" of God's grace and forgiveness.

So now that you have heard this message, what do you plan to do about it?

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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