Are we ready for an answer to the big question: “What about those who have never heard of Jesus?” I think we are. Let’s give it a whirl! Let’s assume that the person asking the question has been exposed to Christianity and has even been to church as a child and teenager.
Well, that is a very qood question that deserves a good answer. I’ve been asked it before and actually spent a great deal of time looking into it. You see, most people, whom you would think would know, haven’t really thought deeply into it. Your question is foundational; and without a good foundation, the whole ideology crumbles. Because most don’t know how to answer your question, it would seem that Christianity is phony. I get that. I hope my answer gives you a basis to understand that it does, indeed, have merit – more so than people realize.
First, let me give you some background. I have come to believe that the bible is an incredible book. From the beginning to the end, it describes the man we call Jesus and his role in all of creation, particularly with regard to humankind. Of particular interest is that from the very beginning, the bible pointed to a very special man and gave specifics so that people may recognize him when he comes. That man turns out to be Jesus, although very few people are willing to really look into this. In fact, most people refuse to seriously consider what he has to say. Why? Because he says crazy stuff like claiming to be God and requiring complete allegiance to go to heaven. He requires us to change the whole way we look at things. He knows this will cost us friends and family, yet he requires it of us – if we are to be with him in heaven. His primary claim of authority, besides the countless miracles he performed, was that he was raised from the dead, just as the Jewish book had said he would. I know it’s hard to imagine and I’ll be glad to explore this more sometime, but suffice it to say that there was no other man like him before or since.
Many people do many things as a result of this. Jews pretty much say that he was not the Messiah their books foretold and that he did not rise from the dead. Islam teaches that he was a very important prophet but definitely was not God nor did he rise from the dead. Pretty much all the religions, including the faith of atheism, contradict Christianity (and each other for that matter). Logically, only one can be true. Maybe none are, but it does’t make sense that two or more that disagree can be right at the same time. Most people say that there is truth to all of them and that reality is somewhere in between. But, if we care enough to really dig into it, we find this isn’t the answer either.
I’ll let you decide for yourself about all that. For now, let’s assume that the bible has merit of its own and that it says what it says. We can hash over details later. And this is what it says, that God initially made everything perfect but did allow for choice, and we chose to turn our back on God. It also says that the human condition is such that we have willfully separated ourselves from God. What, exactly, is it that separates us? The bible calls it sin. It may take many forms, but it is those acts that harm ourselves and others and that distance ourselves from God. While it is true that some people do far worse things than others, even the best of us refuse to give up our sin entirely, as harmless as some of it may seem. Furthermore, our biggest problem is that we neither acknowledge the true God or give him thanks. The bible claims to be the direct and only true communication by God to mankind. Even within Christianity, we have the vast majority of denominations that pick and choose those passages they like and ignore those they don’t. Many flat-out claim that much of the bible is a fabrication.
All this is a problem for the entirety of mankind because the bible is also quite clear that God is just, meaning that the harm we cause will be accounted for and must be paid. In other words, our sin doesn’t disappear. If you punch a school teacher in the mouth, you can expect to have consequences, right? Well, God has very specific consequences for our rejection of him which is eternity in a real place we call hell. Remember, for now, we are not debating the “fairness” of this, we are simply outlining what the bible says. It’ll be up to you whether you believe it or not, but that doesn’t change what the bible says.
The good news is that God provided a solution for us. God is the creator of everything. It is his prerogative to make the rules as he pleases. One of the rules is that he never lies. Another is that our sin must be paid for. Another is that he is merciful. Still another is that he is merciful on whom he chooses. He has determined a method for mercy – that he came to earth himself, in human form, as Jesus the Christ, to live a perfect, sin-free life, and to pay for our sin, entirely, through his death on a cross. His resurrection from the dead is the proof in all this. The only thing that is required is belief in Jesus and whom he claims to be. We all know that saying isn’t the same as believing, right? This applies here. God knows if we are sincere or not. If we are, he changes us from the inside out. If we aren’t, we are liars. If we are sincere, we begin to see things differently. The bible will start to make sense. We will want to walk away from sinful behavior. Many people in our lives won’t like this change and will want us to be like we were, but we don’t go back. At least we won’t stay back. We follow Jesus. Many friends, and even family, will not understand. Some will refuse to even talk to us. While that is tragic, Jesus is more important.
God is the one who makes the rules. Not you or me. I certainly don’t understand everything, but I have come to find that he is wise in ways that I once thought were stupid. I was wrong. As a result, I have come to trust him in things I don’t understand. Here is one thing I don’t completely understand – that God is clear that heaven is available only to those with faith in Jesus, nobody else. That’s what the bible says. We can disagree or try re-write the bible, but that doesn’t change what it says. At the very first sin ever in humankind, God foretold of a savior. As time went on, God revealed that this one would come through the lineage of a man named Abraham. Indeed, we find that a particular baby born in Bethlehem proved to be the one all the prophets had spoken of. God has clearly established that it is faith in this one savior that we may be saved.
God is under no obligation to allow any of us into heaven. We have all blown it – down to the very last human, besides Jesus. He has provided a gift of amnesty for those who choose to believe and follow Jesus. Being Jewish isn’t a requirement. Believing Jesus is. God does not discriminate by nationality, color, sex, or anything else. All are welcome to believe. It doesn’t matter what your sin is, all are invited to believe. The knowledge of God has been revealed to all humans, and God has sent his messengers to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Does that mean some have not heard of Jesus? Yes. Is that unfair? No. Why not? This is really difficult for even me to accept, but God has his reasons, and I have come to trust in him. It is easier to accept when I remember that all humans reject the true God and sin as they please, despite knowing better. Furthermore, mere knowledge of Jesus doesn’t save anybody. Almost the entire world knows who Jesus is, but they reject him – even most who claim Christianity as their faith!
Jesus told us as much. He said that few would enter by the narrow gate. So, we have our answer to the question, “What about those who have never heard of Jesus?”. The question now is what you will do with all this. I’m here to tell you that I am convinced that the bible is true and that Jesus was raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sin. Will you look into this more or will you walk away? Whether or not you believe doesn’t change what is reality. The bible is very clear that it is the truth. If it isn’t truth, then there must be another. If it is truth, then we would be wise to pay attention and dig into it. Take a look around. What do some people say about it? You know, those born-agains. What do they say happened to them? They will all tell you how much Jesus has changed their lives. They’ll tell you stories that will be hard to believe, but they are true. They’ll tell you how they destroyed their lives and how God changed everything. They will tell you how God takes care of them by protecting them and providing for them through all sorts of life’s storms. You’ll see a faith in Jesus that will surprise you. One thing is certain, these people are not the same as they once were. True, none are perfect, but they are not like they once were. Something radical has happened that can only be explain as a miracle.
Yes, people can change on their own. Yes, some religions also can induce changed lives. But the bottom line is that born-agains have changed so much more than compared to any other means out there. Peace, contentment, and love are all so much different now. So, again, what really matters is what you will do with all of this. I encourage you to dig into this for yourself. I will guide you, but it is a decision that will be yours to make. Faith is what God requires, but he also says that faith is a gift. Ask him, sincerely, for faith.
Well, there it is. Weeks of head wrangling finally boiled down. You’ll see that this is much the same as many other gospel presentations. You may be surprised that it doesn’t get into specifics about predestination, considering all the time we spent on the subject. Did I leave it out? No, it’s there; it’s just not labeled as such. This dialogue is spiritual milk compared to spiritual meat on topics like election. Certainly, predestination could be the very next topic, but it is not necessary at this point. However, it is necessary to understand it if we are to properly address the featured question. Central in this is that mankind is hopeless on our own and that salvation is truly an unmerited, un-obligated gift from God. In all my thinking on this stuff, I don’t believe it is possible to answer the “What about?” question without eventually having to kick out the cornerstone of our faith – Jesus himself – if we refuse the doctrine of election.
Heavy stuff, folks.
Father, please give us faith. Amen.
Copyright © 2017 Scott Powers