There is a false teaching prevalent throughout our churches today, and it goes something like this:
God will not let anyone die without hearing about Jesus.
Everyone will have a chance.
I remembering being told that as a child. I grew up in a Church that was extremely focused on missions and taking the Gospel to the world. It was a big church, supporting hundreds of missionaries around the world, and because of this conviction they only paid two staff. 70% of the budget went to world missions. The church was elder and lay run, so that we could funnel our resources into taking Jesus to the world. And as a child, who thought missionaries were super heroes, who loved the annual missions conference where kids got to interact with all of the missionaries, where people would come from literally around the world to participate, I asked this simple question of fairness – even in this church – and was told this lie.
Why? Why do we tell ourselves that? Because we are narcissistic and value fairness. We teach our children to share, we buy equal amounts of gifts for every child, we lash out if we feel we have been jipped; we want life to be fair. We all know that life is not fair, but we want it to be, and since we desire it in our own hearts, we think that we can define fairness and that we can impose our definitions on God.
Don’t believe me? Try to find the verse that says “everyone who is born will hear the Gospel”. And when you cannot find it, consider the lack of logic in the sentence. On the day that Jesus rose from the dead, on the very first Easter Sunday, do you think that there were people in China who were dying? When the eleven disciples hung out in Jerusalem after Pentecost and were preaching and thousands of people in Jerusalem were being saved, and when Paul took off on the first missionary journeys around the Mediterranean, do you think that there were people in North Africa who were dying? There were people in North Africa, the book of Acts talks about the Ethiopian eunuch. Ethiopia was a country in Jesus’ day! Egypt was around thousands of years before Jesus even came to the Earth, we know from history and from the story of the Israelites being held in slavery for hundreds of years before God used Moses to lead them to freedom. So, would you argue that the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection traveled to the entire world immediately, even though there were only a few hundred known disciples at the time of His death? Immediately?
Of course not.
But in our humanity, we think that we are all essentially good at the core and that we all deserve to have the opportunity to come to salvation. God’s offer of salvation is not a privilege, it is our right. And God is not fair if not everyone has a chance to be saved.
When we come to grips with the reality that Scripture does not teach that everyone will hear the Gospel, we then try to change the Scripture. We argue for God’s goodness to say that He would not condemn someone to Hell if he did not have the opportunity to believe. There is a special grace or special allowance for “the man on the Island”. This is still rooted in our belief that God owes us the chance of salvation.
But if this is true, then the Great Commission is null and void. If all babies that die go to Heaven, then abortion is not a bad thing. This cartoon perfectly explains why:
If we believe that people who have never heard the Gospel, have never heard about Jesus will be saved because of their ignorance, then it is better to leave them in their ignorance than to share with them the Gospel! Why risk the potential rejection, and thus condemn them to Hell?
The Bible teaches us that Creation in and of itself as well as our conscience bear witness about our sin and wickedness.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
– Rom 1.18-20
God has placed within humanity a conscience that bears witness against our sinfulness. If there was no written law, we would still know that murder, lying, stealing and cheating were wicked. If you had sex outside of marriage, you felt guilty about it, at least the first time – until you seared your conscience. If you cheated on a test, you knew in your heart that it was wrong – even if you ultimately only feared being caught. God has also revealed wickedness in creation and nature. We can see evil and wickedness in mosquitos, in snakes and in natural disasters. Various cultures have developed stories to explain natural disasters – the gods are angry at this or that or the volcano erupted because so-and-so did such-and-such. We understand cause and effect, consequences, and guilt.
No one is without excuse. Everyone knows that he has made some mistake and sinned in his life. Everyone. And everyone will understand [some day] that those mistakes and sins are against the creator who defined right and wrong, as soon as they realize that there is a creator who defined right and wrong. There is a sovereign. There is a judge.
Conscience and creation, while they reveal our guilt, do not reveal the way to salvation, however.
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; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.
– Rom 2.12-13
Everyone who sins will perish. If you have heard the Gospel or not, if you do not believe in Jesus and obey Him, you will perish. Jesus does teach us that there is a greater punishment eternally for those who have heard the Gospel and rejected it, but all who do not know Jesus will perish, eternally, in Hell. But anyone who calls on Jesus for salvation will be saved!
“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring news of good things!”
– Rom 10.13-15
The feet of the evangelists are beautiful because they bring the offer of salvation. It is by hearing alone that one can be saved. That is why the eskimo must hear; the priest in the example was wrong.
But how is that fair? It’s not fair. But the fairness is not lost on those who have never heard, the fairness is lost on us who are saved. We all deserve Hell. Everyone. We have all sinned, and we have broken the law of the creator and judge. He is righteous and holy to send us all to Hell, it is not our right to be offered salvation. But He has chosen to not be fair and to offer to take our place in condemnation so that we can be saved. Are you desiring salvation today? Praise God for His unmerited grace in your life that is drawing you! Are you desiring salvation for your friends and family? Praise God for the compassion that He has placed in your life, and get out there and share with them the hope that you have! Because God is righteous to judge them. But He has commanded us to be the mouthpiece to share with them, so that they might believe. They cannot believe unless they have heard. So get out there and tell them!
There is a song popular in Christian circles these days that has this chorus:
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
God is sovereign over creation. He is sovereign over salvation. No one comes to the Father unless the Spirit draws him. But God has chosen to use us as part of that plan, and the way He uses us is to stir in us a desire to see the lost saved and to lead us to preach the Gospel. We are the mouthpiece. Yes, there are situations like Cornelius where God reveals his wickedness to a man, and the man cries out to Heaven asking to know the way to be saved, and then God purposefully brings Peter to preach the Gospel to Him. People are convicted by their consciences and nature, but they must hear the Gospel in order to be saved. And if we do not go and tell them, no one will. So let’s get busy, there are 6,821 people groups (clusters of people that are unique in language and culture), who are less than 2% Christian.
I heard statistics recently that in the United States, 52% of all people in the country have claimed to have read their Bibles in the last week. 78% of people in the United States would claim Christianity as their religion. There are 6,821 nations in the world that only one or less people out of one hundred would claim to be a Christian. Yes, there are lost people in America. But the odds are “ever in our favor”. They are not in much of the world. It’s time for us to do something.