What about-those-who-have-never-heard (1)


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What about-those-who-have-never-heard (1)

  1. 1. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 1 WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD? I t’s one thing to say that those who knowingly reject Christ CONTENTS do so to their own loss. But what about those who have A Growing Argument never been told that Christ died In A Shrinking World . . . 2 in their place? Is it possible that Is Christ The Only God would deny heaven to them Way To God? . . . . . . . . . 4 for not accepting a Savior they What Can We Know had never encountered? How For Sure?. . . . . . . . . . . . 13 could they be held accountable How Can We for what they didn’t know? Make A Difference?. . . . 22 These are hard questions that Have You need more than theoretical or Really Heard? . . . . . . . . 31 speculative answers. So with millions of unreached people in mind, we have attempted in the following pages to understand what the Bible itself says about those who have never heard. Martin R. De Haan II Managing Editor: David Sper Cover Photo: Digital Stock Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.All rights reserved. © 2002 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 2 A GROWING never heard that Christ died ARGUMENT IN for them. The unfinished mission A SHRINKING of reaching the world raises WORLD troubling questions for those who believe that Christ is T he global influence the only way to God. of Christ is a fact of What about those who die history. The impact without knowing? Could of His life has gone far God possibly say to them, beyond the streets and “I’m sorry, but you have not neighborhoods of His accepted My Son”? If so, homeland. will they cry, “But we never In The History Of The knew that He did anything Expansion Of Christianity, for us! How could we accept Yale scholar Kenneth Scott what we never even heard?” Latourette traces the These are important influence of Christ down questions. They are so through the centuries into significant that some who our current era. He shows have heard about Christ say that vast distances have that they could only reject been covered and cultural a God who would judge barriers have been crossed. people who didn’t believe Around the world, Christ’s in a Savior they never followers organized first to had a chance to accept. meet their own needs and The debate over the then reached out to others future of unreached people in the far reaches of the has become more intense in earth. Yet despite these the last couple of decades. enormous accomplishments, Ironically, as the number there are many who have of people who have never 2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 3 heard about Christ seems Jesus, why can He not do to be shrinking, a growing likewise for the unreached number of theologians are person today who has no wondering whether it is explicit knowledge of Christ possible to be saved by but may believe in the One Christ without hearing His who raised Jesus from the name or His gospel. dead? (Rom. 4:23-24).” By similar reasoning, some appeal to the fact that Would a good many Christians already God hold people believe that God will apply the death of Christ to infants accountable for who die or to people with what they have severe mental limitations. never heard? They go on to suggest that “evangelicals who are lenient toward these While believing that ‘innocents’ should extend Christ is the only way to their reasoning further and God, many think that it embrace ‘the untold.’ ” might be possible to come As we take a closer to God through Christ look, we do so with this without ever hearing His confidence: If at any point name. One advocate of this we find ourselves doubting view says, “If the eternal God’s goodness or losing God, who does not concern for those who necessarily view time have never heard, then sequentially, has applied we have not understood Christ’s blood to people of the Scriptures or the faith in the Old Testament heart of the God who who have no knowledge of inspired them. 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 4 IS CHRIST similarities are only part THE ONLY of the picture. Buddhism claims enlightened thinking WAY TO GOD? without making an issue I n this age of global of whether there is a God. culture and pluralism, Hinduism teaches that few issues raise more there are thousands of questions than the claim by gods. Modern Judaism Jesus’ followers that He is maintains that the long- the only way to God. So awaited Messiah has not before we take a closer look yet appeared. at “those who have never heard,” let’s look at the biblical evidence for why “It is a stubborn many continue to believe fact that that personal faith in Christ non-Christian is so important. What about the religions are similarities between radically different Christ and other from Christianity.” religions? Some have J. I. Packer observed the parallels between the teachings of Christ and other world In general, other major religions. His emphasis on world religions emphasize treating others the way we the importance of human want to be treated, while efforts to purify the soul. seeking peace and purity By contrast, the gospel of of soul, is not unique to Christ says that we can’t the Bible. achieve cleanness of heart Yet the comparative by our own works but only 4 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 5 by relying on the forgiveness that Jesus had a right to Christ bought for us when make such amazing claims He paid for our sins on His about Himself. cross. The uniqueness of Christ Where in the Bible is carefully developed by does it say that Christ another apostle in the first is the only way to chapter of his letter to the God? The apostle Peter Roman Christians living in said of Christ, “Nor is there the pluralistic city of Rome. salvation in any other, for Paul wrote: there is no other name 1 Paul, a bondservant under heaven given among of Jesus Christ, called to men by which we must be be an apostle, separated saved” (Acts 4:12). Peter to the gospel of God didn’t come up with such 2 which He promised before a conclusion on his own. through His prophets in According to the gospel the Holy Scriptures, writer John, Peter was with 3 concerning His Son Jesus others who all heard Jesus Christ our Lord, who was Himself say, “I am the way, born of the seed of David the truth, and the life. No according to the flesh, 4 and one comes to the Father declared to be the Son of except through Me” (Jn. God with power according 14:6). to the Spirit of holiness, by If it were not for the rest the resurrection from the of His life, those few words dead. 5 Through Him we would have been long have received grace and forgotten. The entirety of apostleship for obedience Christ’s life, death, and to the faith among all resurrection, however, show nations for His name why His followers concluded (Rom. 1:1-5). 5 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 6 In these opening educated in the doctrine words, Paul identified some and theology of Moses, he distinctives that he believed prayed daily with the rest of set Christ apart from all his nation, “Hear, O Israel: other religious founders. The The Lord our God, the Lord gospel of Christ was deeply is one!” (Dt. 6:4). As a result rooted in the predictions of of this training, Paul had Old Testament prophets initially persecuted Jewish (v.2). Even though the countrymen who followed Jewish prophets didn’t know Jesus and declared that He how it would happen, they was Lord and Messiah (Acts pointed to a Messiah who 9:1-2). Only through a life- would die a substitutionary changing encounter with death for wrongs that were the risen Christ on the not His own (Isa. 53:1-10; road to Damascus did Dan. 9:24-26). Paul become convinced Verses 3 and 4 refer that Jesus was both Savior to additional factors that and God (vv.3-22). distinguish Christ from In that moment, Paul all other religious leaders. became one of the many According to Paul, Jesus witnesses of Christ’s was “the Son of God,” who resurrection—a resurrection possessed both a human that distinguishes the gospel and a divine nature. This of Christ from all other was something that the faiths. If Jesus’ body had apostle had once found remained in the grave impossible to admit. All of after His death on a Roman his religious training had cross, He would have come made him suspicious of any to the same end as all other religious idea that even religious teachers (see 1 Cor. hinted of idolatry. Well 15:12-19). Instead, the 6 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 7 evidence of an empty tomb, then to people of every personal appearances, and other nation. witnesses who were willing Could people be to die for their claim that worshiping the true they had seen Christ alive God but calling Him after His death all combine by a different name? to lead many to believe in Paul had so much Christ as the King of kings confidence in Christ that and Lord of lords. he told a group of Athenian It is on the basis of such philosophers that the God he evidence that Paul wrote: had come to know in Christ I am not ashamed of the was the God they were gospel of Christ, for it is worshiping in ignorance the power of God to (Acts 17:16-33). salvation for everyone This claim that people who believes, for the all over the world have some Jew first and also for knowledge of the one true the Greek (Rom. 1:16). God (Rom. 1:18-21) has Paul’s enthusiasm was been observed by others rooted in the conviction who have brought the gospel that the God of his fathers to previously unreached had revealed Himself in a people. Don Richardson, manner that now needed to author of Peace Child and be declared to all the world. Lords Of The Earth, is The apostle did not interpret known for finding ideas in his experience merely as part other religions that can be of his Jewish heritage. He used to introduce the God believed that Christ had of the Bible. He tells of provided a salvation that people living in an isolated needed to be offered first to culture who, when told his Jewish countrymen and about the life of Christ, 7 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 8 quickly recognized the God put their faith in the one of the Bible as the God they true God could find had been waiting for. They forgiveness even though told of traditions of a lost they didn’t have the whole holy book and spoke of a gospel message as we Creator from whom they know it (Heb. 11:1-40). had been separated. When An example of a the gospel was presented to repentant person who such groups, the people didn’t have the whole gospel responded warmly to the is one of the two thieves message of Christ. who was executed along Richardson’s with Jesus. The message of observations suggest Christ’s death for sin and that people in unreached His subsequent resurrection cultures may have remnants had not yet been declared. of knowledge about the But one of the thieves found one true God that have mercy when he confessed been passed down from his sins and asked Christ to generation to generation. remember him when He But what about those came into His kingdom. In ancestors who died before response to the dying man’s hearing about Christ? faith and his less-than- Can a person be complete understanding of saved without hearing the gospel, Jesus said, the gospel? Here we must “Today you will be with Me be careful. It’s important for in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43). us to say as much as the What we know from this Bible says without adding passage is that Christ offered more. It’s clear that until “deathbed assurance” to a the beginning of the church, man who acknowledged his repentant individuals who own sin and asked the right 8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 9 Person for help. What we The problem with don’t know for sure is to such a view is that it is what extent we can apply not supported by some this example to others of the most foundational who recognize their sin biblical texts. Consider, for and appeal to the one true instance, these well-known God for mercy, even though words of Jesus: they’ve never heard the full For God so loved the gospel of Christ. This raises world that He gave His another question. only begotten Son, that Will God use the whoever believes in Him death of Christ to should not perish but forgive everyone? In a have everlasting life. For desire to see everyone benefit God did not send His Son from the salvation provided into the world to condemn by Christ, some believe that the world, but that the because of Christ’s death on world through Him might the cross, God will eventually be saved. He who believes forgive all people regardless in Him is not condemned; of whether they have heard but he who does not of Christ or whether they believe is condemned have believed in the gospel. already, because he has They go on to say that not believed in the name because Jesus paid the price of the only begotten Son for everyone’s sin, He could, of God. And this is the on that basis, follow through condemnation, that the on His own desire when light has come into the He prayed from His cross, world, and men loved “Father, forgive them, for darkness rather than light, they do not know what they because their deeds were do” (Lk. 23:34). evil (Jn. 3:16-19). 9 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 10 Both Old and New Bible shows that God Testaments follow this sacrificed His own Son to pattern of offering spiritual assure that the balance of forgiveness only to those justice was met, but He who acknowledge their sin offers His mercy only to and accept God’s terms those who are willing to of forgiveness. come to terms with their Our own systems of own wrongs. justice follow a similar Why isn’t it enough path. Little mercy is to be sincere? The extended to hardened prophet Jeremiah, speaking criminals who show no on behalf of God, wrote, apparent conscience, “You will seek Me and find remorse, or even Me, when you search for acknowledgment of Me with all your heart” (Jer. wrongdoing. Yet something 29:13). His words show different happens to those who come to terms with the harm and pain they have “You will seek caused others. When justice allows, leniency Me and find Me, can be extended within the when you search boundaries of the law. Even for Me with all when prison terms and death sentences are legally your heart.” mandated, there is a level of Jeremiah 29:13 human reconciliation that is possible when individuals show a willingness to face that an honest heart is the harm they’ve done. important. Jeremiah clearly In a similar way, the acknowledged that God 10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 11 honors those who seek Him seeking such to worship with their whole heart. Him. God is Spirit, and But honesty of heart is those who worship Him only one part of the picture. must worship in spirit From Genesis to Jesus, the and truth (Jn. 4:22-24). Bible also shows that God wants sincere people to know the truth about Him. “God is Spirit, The God of the Bible expects something all of us can and those who relate to. Just as we don’t worship Him must want others to believe false worship in spirit and dishonoring rumors about us, so the God of the and truth.” Bible insists that those who John 4:24 worship Him do so on the basis of what is true. Expressing His concern Here Jesus spoke of that people worship God worshiping “in spirit” in the in both sincerity and truth, sense that God is looking for Jesus said to a skeptical, those who will respond to non-Jewish woman: Him from their heart. But You worship what you do He also said that God is not know; we know what looking for those who will we worship, for salvation worship Him in truth. That is of the Jews. But the one word adds profound hour is coming, and implications. now is, when the true The requirement of truth worshipers will worship can be both comforting and the Father in spirit and deeply troubling. On one truth; for the Father is hand, believing reliable 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 12 information about God according to knowledge. brings great assurance to For they being ignorant of those who accept Him as He God’s righteousness, and is. But that same knowledge seeking to establish their can also fill us with deep own righteousness, have concern for those who still not submitted to the don’t have an adequate righteousness of God. For understanding of what they Christ is the end of the need to know. law for righteousness to The apostle Paul’s letter everyone who believes to the Romans shows that (Rom. 10:1-4). he was heartbroken over Paul’s words in verse 3, his countrymen who didn’t “seeking to establish their understand that they needed own righteousness,” remind to rely on God’s mercy us why everyone needs to rather than on their own hear the gospel of Christ. merits. Even though Jesus The Jewish family, friends, Himself declared that and neighbors Paul cared “salvation is of the Jews” so much about were not (Jn. 4:22), Paul knew that much different than the many zealous Jewish rest of us. We are all worshipers were rejecting inclined to rely on our the part of the truth they own accomplishments. needed to be saved. So There is something within the apostle wrote: all of us that believes we Brethren, my heart’s desire deserve not only the good and prayer to God for things God gives us, but Israel is that they may be also His forgiveness and saved. For I bear them eternal life. witness that they have a zeal for God, but not 12 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 13 WHAT CAN Whom was Paul WE KNOW most concerned about? Instead of FOR SURE? answering such questions, I magine asking the Paul showed that he was apostle Paul the far more concerned about question we are those who turn away from considering in this booklet. what God has revealed “Paul, what about those about Himself through both who have never heard?” nature and His messengers. What if we followed up The man who saw with a second question: himself as “the apostle to the “Paul, do you think it’s Gentiles” was concerned possible for someone to about people of all nations respond to the light he’s who, without intervention, been given and to be would continue to run from saved by Christ without the light of God. His letter to ever hearing His name?” the Romans shows that he If we use Paul’s letters saw all people, Jew and to try to guess how he would Gentile alike, as entangled in answer, we might conclude their own tendency to avoid, that he would encourage us suppress, and deny the truth to leave those answers in that was self-evident even in God’s hands. He wrote as the natural world (Rom. one who believed that God 1:18-21; 3:10-23). would be a fair judge to all This universal (Rom. 2:1-11), without tendency to deny personal saying how God would deal accountability and error is a with persons who respond in human trait that Paul did faith to the light they’ve been not underestimate. What he given. said about human nature 13 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 14 seems to parallel a story that own choices (Gen. 3:12-13). showed up in our local Thoughtful reflection shows newspaper. It described the that we are all wrongdoers actions of a couple of men who need the forgiveness of who tried an unorthodox God. method of trimming a row Paul saw all of of bushes. Since they didn’t humanity in this category have hedge clippers, they (Rom. 3:23). He was not tried lifting a lawn mower content, however, to prove and using it like a trimmer. the liability of guilty people. Unfortunately, one man was Instead, the apostle was seriously injured when he deeply concerned about lost his grip on the mower. those who needed to Their misfortune became a hear that Christ had died part of the daily news when for their sins (Rom. 9:1-3; the injured man tried to sue Phil. 1:12-18). the manufacturer for failing Did Paul believe to label the machine with a there was anyone who warning against using it as had never heard? In a hedge trimmer. Romans 10:18, the apostle Blaming others for asked this question and our own irresponsibility is then answered in a way that something we all are inclined might surprise us. Instead of to do—especially when it acknowledging that there comes to our relationship were many who had not yet to our Creator. Just as our heard the gospel of Christ, first parents tried to shift he continued a theme that blame after their first act of he began in chapter 1. disobedience (Gen. 3:8), we Asking and answering his are all prone to try to avoid own question, he wrote: the consequences of our I say, have they not 14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 15 heard? Yes indeed: The heavens declare the “Their sound has gone glory of God; and the out to all the earth, and firmament shows His their words to the ends handiwork. Day unto of the world” (v.18). day utters speech, and It’s important to see how night unto night reveals Paul answered his own knowledge. There is question. He didn’t write as no speech nor language if there were a fairness issue where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, People of all and their words to the end of the world (vv.1-4). nations are By quoting these words accountable not of King David, the apostle for what they repeated here what he emphasized in 1:18-21. don’t know Once again he reminded his about Christ but readers that the Creator has for what they revealed enough of Himself in the natural world to hold do know and yet all people everywhere turn away from. accountable for their lack of heartfelt worship and gratefulness (1:21). at stake. Instead, he quoted Yet Paul didn’t use from a Psalm that speaks of the truth of Psalm 19 the evidence God has left as an excuse to stop of Himself in nature. In caring. Instead, he went Romans 10:18, Paul referred on to write about his to Psalm 19, which begins: own Jewish countrymen: 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 16 Did Israel not know? result, Paul spent his life First Moses says: “I will doing what he could to provoke you to jealousy make sure that as many by those who are not a people as possible heard nation, I will move you to what God had done for anger by a foolish nation.” them through the life, death, But Isaiah is very bold and resurrection of Christ. and says: “I was found by What did Paul those who did not seek see as the greatest Me; I was made manifest danger? In Romans 1:18- to those who did not ask 25, the apostle wrote: for Me.” But to Israel he The wrath of God is says: “All day long I have revealed from heaven stretched out My hands to against all ungodliness a disobedient and contrary and unrighteousness of people” (Rom. 10:19-21). men, who suppress the If Paul believed that truth in unrighteousness, someone could have saving because what may be faith in response to natural known of God is manifest revelation, that’s not where in them, for God has he focused his attention. shown it to them. For Neither did he use a lot of since the creation of ink expressing fear that God the world His invisible would not be fair in attributes are clearly seen, judgment. Instead, the being understood by the dominant emphasis of his things that are made, even letters is on the tendency of His eternal power and human nature to reject the Godhead, so that they are God behind natural creation without excuse, because, and to worship the creation although they knew God, instead of the Creator. As a they did not glorify Him 16 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 17 as God, nor were thankful, of spiritual independence, but became futile in their their children have inherited thoughts, and their foolish an aversion to the truth. hearts were darkened. Like nocturnal animals who Professing to be wise, naturally avoid the light, all they became fools, and of Adam’s children are born changed the glory of the with an uncomfortable incorruptible God into sensitivity to light. an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed Ever since Adam animals and creeping things. . . . [They] and Eve started exchanged the truth of down a path God for the lie, and of spiritual worshiped and served the creature rather than the independence, Creator, who is blessed their children forever. Amen. have inherited Here Paul described a process that could be an aversion to called “the death spiral the truth. of human history.” By their own choices, morally responsible people end up All who inherit the legacy worshiping creation rather of such human nature find than the Creator. many ways to reject Christ. Paul’s explanation is Not believing the gospel is based on the Old Testament only one of them. The Lord record that ever since Adam Jesus Christ is more than and Eve started down a path the Messiah who died on 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 18 the cross for our sins. He that in many different ways, is also the Creator who is God has taken the initiative constantly revealing Himself to reveal Himself and to through the natural world receive those who respond (Jn. 1:1; Col. 1:16-17). in faith to His messengers. Here, though, we need to consider an important question. The Scriptures Does the Bible say there is more than one plainly state way to accept Christ? If that before Christ is not only the Savior Christ’s death on who died for us but also our Creator and Sustainer (Jn. the cross, people 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17), is it were accepted by possible to accept Christ by God when they receiving Him in any one of the ways He reveals Himself? responded in Is bringing a repentant heart faith to what He to our Creator the same as revealed to them accepting Him as Savior if we have no knowledge of about Himself and the gospel? about their sin. The Scriptures plainly show that before Christ’s death on the cross, people Abraham is an example were accepted by God when of someone who was saved they responded in faith to not by hearing the gospel as what He revealed to them we know it today, but rather about Himself and about by believing God when He their sin. Hebrews 11 shows promised to give him a child 18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 19 and a legacy in his old age example of this unfolding (Gen. 15:5-6; Rom. 4:1-5; story is seen in the life Heb. 11:8-19). of a Roman military officer The author of Hebrews named Cornelius. In Acts began his New Testament 10, he is introduced to us as letter by saying that a devout man of prayer who throughout history God feared God and gave to the revealed Himself in many needs of others (vv.1-2). times and in many ways One of the reasons that (1:1-2). His point was that Cornelius is important to all of this self-disclosure this study is that he is an was moving toward the day example of a Gentile who when His own Son would had not heard about Christ step into history to reveal and yet was known by God. the love of God and then He was called “one who die for our sin (v.3). feared God” (v.2), which At that point in time, was a term used of Jewish the breaking news was that proselytes. So it appears that the Creator Himself had he was a Gentile who first personally visited our planet responded in faith when he (Jn. 1:1-3,14). After Christ came in contact with the died for our sin and rose God of the Jews. Then from the dead to prove it, sometime after the death He sent His followers out and resurrection of Christ, into the whole world with an angel from God appeared the message that God the to Cornelius in a vision and Father had sent His Son said, “Cornelius! . . . Your into the world, and that prayers and your alms have all who believed in Him come up for a memorial would be saved. before God” (vv.3-4). A New Testament In the events that 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 20 followed, the Scriptures gospel of Christ, some things describe how God sent the are clear. We’ve already apostle Peter to Cornelius seen that people will not and his family. Peter be condemned because they explained to the Roman have not heard about the officer that the God he life, death, and resurrection had been worshiping had of Christ. Those who are revealed Himself in Christ. condemned will be judged Cornelius and the rest of his because they have not household heard Peter say, responded to what God “To Him all the prophets has revealed about Himself witness that, through His through conscience and the name, whoever believes in eloquent witness of nature Him will receive remission (Rom. 1:18-21; 2:12-16). of sins” (Acts 10:43). In addition, it’s important This is just one example that we don’t make the of what is seen elsewhere in mistake of thinking that Scripture. Cornelius shows all lost people will suffer the God’s willingness to use same punishment. The Bible supernatural means, if shows that even though no necessary, to respond to one can earn his way to those who want to know heaven, the rewards of Him. believers (2 Cor. 5:10) How will those who and the punishments of have never heard the unbelievers (Rev. 20:13) will gospel of Christ be be a matter of degree based judged? While the Bible on works. Jesus Himself does not tell us everything taught the principle of we would like to know about judgment by degrees how God will judge those when He said: who have never heard the That servant who knew 20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 21 his master’s will, and did If this is our concern, not prepare himself or do then we might also be according to his will, shall troubled by the fact that be beaten with many many people live with stripes. But he who did profound mental retardation not know, yet committed or disease that makes it things deserving of stripes, impossible for them to hear shall be beaten with few. and consider the good news For everyone to whom of Christ. Others die at a much is given, from him very early age. We all come much will be required; into the world with differing and to whom much has abilities and opportunities. been committed, of him they will ask the more (Lk. 12:47-48). God’s love Justice, by its very nature, must be just calls for varying degrees of reward or punishment. and His justice What if we find must be loving. ourselves struggling with issues of fairness? Some of us will undoubtedly Even among those who find ourselves struggling do hear the gospel, there are with the thought that God profound differences. Some has not given everyone an hear clearly about the love equal opportunity to hear of Christ from loving parents the message of Christ. We or godly spiritual leaders. may be deeply troubled by Others hear the message of the fact that not everyone Christ from those who abuse has had a chance to hear their power and exploit their the gospel. followers. 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 22 This is when, once again, HOW CAN we must trust the Judge of all the earth to do what is WE MAKE A right (Gen. 18:25). We don’t DIFFERENCE? A have it within ourselves to s we consider the resolve such problems. God question “What alone knows how to deal About Those Who with people in a manner Have Never Heard?” there is that allows for the choices another important question: they had in light of what What can we do to help they knew or didn’t know others once we know what about Him. Christ has done for us? Thankfully, we are left with more than just the People desperately statistics about those who need to hear that have never heard. There is Christ died for much that we can do. Let’s consider, for instance, four them, that He practical ways we can rose from the make a difference. dead to prove it, By Praying For Unbelievers. The first way and that He offers we can make a difference is forgiveness of sins by praying for those who do and everlasting life not yet believe in Christ. Once again we can learn to all who will from the apostle Paul when believe and he wrote: trust Him. Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and 22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 23 giving of thanks be made brings honor to Him. for all men, for kings and • “intercessions”— all who are in authority, a word of involvement, that we may lead a quiet sympathy, and and peaceable life in all compassion for those godliness and reverence. who do not know God. For this is good and • “thanksgiving”—a spirit acceptable in the sight of gratitude to God for of God our Savior, who the saving gospel of desires all men to be Christ that can be saved and to come to the proclaimed to those knowledge of the truth who do not know Him. (1 Tim. 2:1-4). The apostle understood Paul wrote this while the influence of government giving counsel to a young on the mission of Christ. As pastor named Timothy. In a result, he urged Timothy to the process, the wise and maintain well-balanced seasoned apostle described prayers both for leaders and several kinds of evangelistic those living under authority, prayers. We are to offer: so that the people of God • “supplications”— “may lead a quiet and prayers arising from peaceable life in all a sense of need as we godliness and reverence.” realize the desperate Then, almost as a condition of the lost. surprising afterthought, Paul • “prayers”—a general made the statement that word for prayer that God “desires all men to be conveys an attitude of saved and to come to the awe and respect for knowledge of the truth” (v.4). God, recognizing that What did Paul mean the salvation of the lost by this comment? Was he 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 24 saying that all people will be compassionate desire will saved because that’s what never override the human God desires—even if they responsibility to respond. don’t believe in Christ? God wants everyone to say “yes” to Him, but many will say “no” instead. “For this is good As we pray, God wants us to reflect His desire for and acceptable in all people to be saved. He the sight of God wants us to pray not only our Savior, who for ourselves but also for those who don’t yet know desires all men Him, and for anything to be saved and that would enhance their to come to the receptivity to the gospel. By Helping To knowledge of Bring In The Harvest. the truth.” The Lord Jesus spoke of the 1 Timothy 2:3-4 mission of world evangelism in terms of the team effort it takes to harvest a crop: Such an interpretation Behold, I say to you, lift would not fit the rest of what up your eyes and look at Paul wrote. Instead, the the fields, for they are apostle was referring to the already white for heart of God. The God of harvest! (Jn. 4:35). compassion wants His own The harvest truly is people to live in peace. But plentiful, but the laborers He also has a deep love for are few. Therefore pray those who have not come the Lord of the harvest to to know His Son. That send out laborers into His 24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 25 harvest (Mt. 9:37-38). rise by day, and the seed We are not called to should sprout and grow, carry out His mission he himself does not know alone. Bringing in the how. For the earth yields harvest is a team effort crops by itself: first the that God Himself is deeply blade, then the head, after interested in. Therefore, He that the full grain in the encourages us to look to head. But when the grain Him for the additional ripens, immediately he people and help that are puts in the sickle, because needed to supplement our the harvest has come. own prayers, interests, and This simple story reminds efforts. And in the process, us that growth of the seed to our Lord wants us to have maturity is similar to the an attitude that is far more growing receptivity within inspired than overwhelmed the heart of an unbeliever. by the task before us. Responsiveness to the Sowing The Seed. gospel takes time. As we Mark 4:26-29 adds continue to think about another word picture to those who have never heard, the illustration of harvesting we need to remember that a a crop, which helps us to person usually doesn’t think in even more basic understand the gospel in and strategic terms. one hearing. This gives us Speaking of our role in reason not only to provide bringing the gospel to our a one-time witness to our friends, the Lord said: friends but to invite them The kingdom of God is as into other environments, if a man should scatter where over time they can seed on the ground, and hear the good news of Jesus should sleep by night and Christ in different contexts. 25 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 26 Working And Waiting. he doesn’t dote over the In verse 27, Jesus reminded field. He attends to other His followers that the sower responsibilities, trusting in is not the one who brings time as his ally. about new life. Rather, he As we share our life and is one who “should sleep by faith with friends, time is our night and rise by day, and ally as well. It often takes the seed should sprout and time for nonbelievers to grow, he himself does not begin to grasp what the know how.” gospel means. Think of all Time can be an ally the experiences you have rather than an enemy to the gone through to develop farmer. The growth process your values and current occurs as he does what he view of the world. Yet can and then waits on the sometimes we expect normal processes of nature. unbelievers to change their He goes home at night and entire outlook on life after goes to sleep. Early in the hearing the gospel only morning he rises and once. Most people need takes care of other daily more time to come to an responsibilities. As he waits, awareness of their need the days turn into weeks and to a confidence in what and the weeks into months. Christ has done for them. During that time he Usually, the Lord of the removes hindrances to the harvest takes time to growth of his crop. He puts cultivate and grow such a fertilizer on the earth to conviction in those who are enrich its natural fertility moving toward Him. and he removes stubborn Honoring The Source weeds that rob the plants Of Growth. In verse 28, of food and moisture. But the Lord said that “the earth 26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 27 yields crops by itself: first illustrate the initial signs the blade, then the head, of spiritual life within the after that the full grain in human heart. A genuine the head.” conversion is never just the independent response of an individual. At the heart of the process is the convicting Sometimes we and calling ministry of the expect unbelievers Holy Spirit, who makes the to change their Word come alive and stirs the heart of the unbeliever. entire outlook on God the Holy Spirit will life after hearing germinate the seed of the the gospel Word, though to us it looks like it produces “all by only once. itself.” The ultimate sign of ripe grain is the development of The word translated the “full grain in the head.” “by itself” is automatos If the farmer harvests too (from which we get the word soon, he will have an unripe automatic). This implies that crop. If he waits too long, it good seed depends on good will rot in the field. ground. The open heart Timing The Harvest. is the good ground that Verse 29 continues, “But produces fruit. The word for when the grain ripens, “blade” refers to those first immediately he puts in the appearances of a crop that sickle, because the harvest indicate growth is taking has come.” place. This process of Just as the plant shows natural growth seems to the farmer when it’s ripe 27 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 28 enough to harvest, so need to hear again. But unbelievers send signals that beyond our neighborhood they are ready to respond. is a world of other fields, In the ancient world, when the farmer saw the ripe grain beckoning to Reaching those him from the field, he who have never immediately ordered the harvest to begin. heard begins with This reminds us that as a down-to-earth, we do our part by waiting caring interest in on God, we also need to be alert and sensitive to the those who are right time to encourage the closest to us. people to make a decision to accept Christ. If we try to force their decision, we other teams of workers, can do damage. But if we and other strategies of continue to show them outreach. Here too we that we care, and look for have an important role. times to ask appropriate By Developing A questions, God Himself Global Perspective. will give us the wisdom we Just before Jesus ascended need to help them make the to heaven, He told His most important decision of followers: their life. You shall receive power We’ve just been talking when the Holy Spirit has about what we can do to come upon you; and you help those within our own shall be witnesses to Me sphere of influence who in Jerusalem, and in all haven’t heard or who may Judea and Samaria, and 28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 29 to the end of the earth Organizations have (Acts 1:8). been set up to assist in The cause of Christ sending a larger number has been a global enterprise of missionaries to this very from its beginning. The needy part of the world. By strategy outlined by our giving, praying, or even Lord is simple but not easy. going, you too can help We are to depend on the accelerate this important Holy Spirit’s power as we outreach to “those who have witness to the life-changing never heard.” claims of Christ. Some of us We care about these will carry this out locally in people because all who have our own sphere of influence not heard and all who have (Jerusalem). Some of us heard without believing will will extend our witness to eventually give account of include a nearby region themselves to God. (Judea). Others will go to By Trusting In people of a different culture God’s Character. In (Samaria). And still others the last book of the Bible, will go to the “end of the the apostle John wrote: earth.” Then I saw a great white The largest concentration throne and Him who sat of people who haven’t heard on it, from whose face the the gospel of Jesus Christ are earth and the heaven fled located in a part of the away. And there was world often referred to as found no place for them. “The 10/40 Window”—a And I saw the dead, small region 10 degrees to 40 and great, standing before degrees north of the equator, God, and books were stretching from West Africa opened. And another book to East Asia. was opened, which is the 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 30 Book of Life. And the dead be rewarded according to were judged according to their faithfulness (1 Cor. their works, by the things 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:10), and which were written in the unbelievers will be given books. . . . Then Death appropriate punishment for and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone Once human not found written in the Book of Life was cast into independence the lake of fire (Rev. has been looked at 20:11-12,14-15). under the blinding A loving, all-wise God is the only One who has the searchlight of God’s character to carry out such scrutiny, all will judgment. He alone knows realize they have all that we could have done and all that we actually did. been treated fairly. He alone understands the mitigating circumstances of each act. And He alone is a the lives they have led (Rev. God of complete justice as 20:13). Eternal life can be well as mercy. received only as a gift, Once human but both believers and independence has been unbelievers will be held looked at under the blinding accountable to God for how searchlight of God’s scrutiny, they responded to Him. all will realize they have been treated fairly. In their own moment of accountability, believers will 30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 31 HAVE YOU standard of righteousness REALLY HEARD? (Rom. 3:23). The terrible consequence of this is that W hen we were we are separated from a children, many holy God (Rom. 6:23). of us heard But the Bible also says frustrated parents asking that because of God’s deep if we really heard their compassion for us, He reminder to finish an unwanted chore. We may have claimed to have heard, “All have sinned but our attitude and actions said otherwise. and fall short As you have read this of the glory of God booklet, you may have . . . . For the wages thought about your own response to the gospel. of sin is death, but Have you heard it? And if so, the gift of God is how have you responded? eternal life in Christ It’s easy to put off making a decision. And this Jesus our Lord.” becomes an even greater Romans 3:23; 6:23 tendency when eternal consequences are at stake. But God wants us to make became a man and allowed a decision about His Son. Himself to be nailed to a The gospel is a simple cross to pay the penalty for but heart-penetrating truth. our sin (1 Pet. 3:18). The Bible tells us that all of It’s not enough just to us have sinned and fallen know these great truths. short of God’s perfect We must respond to them 31 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. Q0605 Never Heard 2col pp 4/10/06 8:39 AM Page 32 by personal choice. The Jesus Christ has come into Scriptures tell us, “As many your life and given you the as received Him, to them gift of eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12- He gave the right to become 13). Can you think of children of God, to those anyone you’d like to share who believe in His name” your new discovery with? (Jn. 1:12). Will you respond to this spiritual light God has “He who has the placed before you? Right now you can go to God in Son has life; he prayer and express the who does not have desire of your heart. Receive the Son of God the Savior’s forgiveness and His gift of eternal life with does not have life. Him. These things I have It can be expressed in written to you who a simple prayer like this: Jesus, I know I’m a believe in the name sinner and can’t save of the Son of God, myself. Thank You for that you may know dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I that you have receive You as my Savior eternal life.” and Lord. Take control of 1 John 5:12-13 my life and make me the kind of person You want me to be. Remember, there are people Did you pray that prayer? all around you who still Were you sincere? If so, you haven’t heard the saving can have the assurance that gospel of Jesus Christ. 32 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Get your free BibleResources catalog! Discovery Series booklets can be valuable guides to help you learn what the Bible says about a broad range of topics. Each 32-page booklet can be used in your personal Bible study or in a small-group setting. Your free Bible Resources catalog includes a briefdescription of each Discovery Series booklet.To get your copy, write to us at the address belowand ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below torequest your copy today.www.discoveryseries.org/catalogUSA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7