“All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
There are a lot of verses that a person reads that simply get skipped over. Like this one. It is part of a short psalm of praise to God, yet there is clearly a message of judgment as well as the opportunity for salvation. If we slow down just a little, we find ourselves scratching our heads. At least I do. Here’s another verse in this Psalm:
Psalm 98:2 The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
Together with verse 3, it is clear that God has shown the entire world how to be saved. This should pose a problem for us because Jesus didn’t come for another thousand years. Why is that a problem? Because Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
What about those who have never heard of Jesus?
Everyone seems to have an answer for that, even if they aren’t sure what the answer is. For the majority of the world, it would seem that they don’t really care because they think they can earn eternal life by doing good things, with each person following his/her own standard of good. We really don’t like to think about dying and whatever is after that, so we do our best to avoid the topic.
Many “Christian” churches even say that Jesus paid the price for our sin, but it doesn’t really matter who you worship or even if you worship. Why? Because God’s love is so overwhelming, He will simply forgive all sin, even if you are a devote Muslim or even atheist. Other churches aren’t quite so liberal. They deal with this problem through infant baptism. That way, no matter the life one leads, their ticket for heaven has been punched.
I don’t know about you, but I see lots of problems with these theories.
For a John 14:6 guy like me, I am still faced with the “What about those” question. The answer lies in our starting point and the nature of God. That’s where the book of Romans can be of great help. You see, Paul clearly illustrates the true nature of man – one who knows all s/he needs to know about God through the things that have been made (Romans 1:19). God has shown himself to every human being ever born or to be born. BUT…. we refuse to honor him or give him thanks. Instead, we make our own idols and worship them. THAT’s the starting point for this “What about those” question. We all know God and what to do, but we refuse to do it. All of us.
That seems pretty hard to swallow, so Paul expands upon this in Romans 3. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (v. 10-12). Paul goes on to explain that the only way out of this mess is through faith.
But, you say, what is religion if not faith? False religion, and the whole world is full of it. No one will escape this grave error. You see, God demands obedience, and all will be held accountable. Faith in the one true and living God is the key, but if nobody will truly honor or thank God, how can we expect forgiveness/salvation? The answer is that we can’t.
Here’s the bottom line and the point that we must understand if we hope to answer the “What about those” question. We are so ingrained in our sin that we refuse to obey God. We simply will not do it. Animals obey God, but humans won’t. We’re too smart for that, or so we think.
Here’s the next point. God is under no obligation to forgive any of us for our blatant disobedience and open rebellion. None. His very nature is righteousness and justice. These are the foundation of his throne. This word combination makes for a very interesting study. Here’s a few places for you to start: Psalm 89:14, 91:2, 9:7-8, 33:5; Isaiah 9:7, 28:17, and Jeremiah 9:24. Simply put, God will have justice.
But….he is also merciful. Look, he made humans to honor and thank him, so that in itself is mercy extended to everyone. The fact that we won’t obey isn’t a problem with God, it’s a problem with us! Even so, he has the right to exercise mercy despite rebellion. Moreover, he desires to shower riches beyond comprehension to some who have always openly rebelled against him. Not to all, mind you, because he then would no longer be just. But, like any judge, he has the right to be merciful and forgive.
Here’s the deal with this. God is the one who gets to make up the rules about forgiveness. We are the guilty ones and are in no position to tell God how he should forgive. Here’s the way God has decided to do things. He has come to earth himself as a sacrifice and as payment in full for the sin of all those whom he chooses. This we know through the man named Jesus. He came from a nation that started with one man, Abraham, who God made a promise to. It is this nation, the Jews, whom God has specially chosen to be his people. Salvation – Jesus – comes through the Jews and is available to all people.
Faith is the key. Abraham had faith in God’s promise, and God counted it to him as righteousness. Since the beginning, God has promised a Savior to whom we might obtain eternal life. These promises were given to us through prophecy and were written down in a place we call our bible. This is a big deal, this prophecy stuff. In fact, God challenges us directly with this:
Isaiah 41:21-24 Set forth your case, says the Lord; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, or that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed or terrified. Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.
God has told us the end from the beginning. That’s our proof. Furthermore, he has chosen to do so through the Hebrew (Jewish) nation. Salvation comes through the Jews. That’s God’s design, at his prerogative. Jesus came through the Jews. Forgiveness comes through faith in him. While it is true that Jesus came long after Abraham died, Abraham was still saved by him. Is this because God’s overarching love transcends all things, like some religions would say? No, it was because from the beginning, God told us about salvation through a man who was to come. Abraham knew all about this and believed because he trusted God.
What was that prophesy? In the Garden, when God cursed the serpent.
Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.”
Prophesy can be challenging to understand, but it’s all there. The bible is full of it. In fact, the chances anyone would fulfill all the prophecy that points to us being able to identify Jesus is beyond imagination. Yet, Jesus did fulfill it – all of it. That’s just part of the reason we know he is God. Other reasons include the things he did, namely miracles. He also prophesied about himself and the things to come. All these happened, including that of his burial and resurrection. In fact, his resurrection is the centerpiece of our faith.
Speaking of faith, this is what identifies us Christian. It identifies us as the only children of God. Everything we believe comes through the Jews. No one has ever been forgiven their sin – or ever will be – without believing God’s promises, and those promises are only available through the Jews. Mind you, very few Jews today believe that Jesus is their Messiah, but they are wrong. They don’t believe their own scripture.
Finally, salvation is a gift, and so is faith. It has to be. Why? Because the bible says so, but there is good reason for it. This bring us back to the nature of man. We are so evil in our sin that we absolutely refuse to follow the true God, even though we all know who he is. If that’s the case, then how will we ever have faith? The answer is we can’t – unless God gives it to us. And in doing so, he changes us from the inside out. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us. We become new people, not just contractually, but in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Abraham had faith. His was a gift of God. Without it, Abraham would have been one of billions of rebellious humans doomed to eternal punishment as a result of their sin. Just like me.
So, you see, God is the one who made the rules long ago. It’s our choice to believe or not. We choose not to. All of us. The fact that some do believe is solely because God had mercy. On those whom he will have mercy.
Amen and amen!
Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers