Robert Jeffress - What About Those Who Have Never Heard About Jesus?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father but through me". But what about those who have never heard about Jesus? It only seems fair that God would give them a pass, right? Well, last time we examined two major propositions that clarify God's position on this issue. Proposition number one, everyone is guilty before God. And number two, no one is saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Today, we'll identify two more truths. We're answering the question, "What about those who have never heard about Jesus", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
If faith in Jesus Christ is the only way a person can be saved, what about people who have never heard about Jesus? What happens to them? Is God going to send people to hell for rejecting a Gospel they've never heard? If so, isn't that patently unfair? And that's the question most people raise whenever we talk about this issue of the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. What about those people, the millions, the billions in the world who have never heard about Jesus Christ? I bet you've been asked that question before somewhere along the way. How are we to answer that question?
The starting place for understanding the answer to this question or the complex issue of predestination and human choice, the starting point is to realize everyone is guilty before God. And that leads to a second truth. No one is saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ. No one is saved apart from Jesus Christ. Since the time of Christ, there is not one example in the Bible of anybody who was saved without personally exercising faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 says, "There's no other name under heaven by which we can be saved except the name of Jesus". And that leads to the third biblical proposition. And that is everyone has received a knowledge of God.
When people say to you, well, what about those who have never heard about Jesus, you can assure them that everybody who has ever lived has received a knowledge of God. There is information about God that everybody can have regardless if they ever read a Bible or ever hear a sermon. And we call that information that is available to everyone about God, we call it natural revelation. It's from nature, it's revelation, information about God that everyone can have. Listen to Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible attributes, that is his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, been understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse".
Or what can the gentile or the pagan who lives halfway around the world in a jungle or the unbeliever who lives down the street from you who's never read a Bible, who's never heard a message, what can he know about God from just simply looking at creation? Well, Paul says are two things you can learn about God from creation. First of all, about God's eternal power. Look at verse 20, "His eternal power". Now, I could spend the rest of the message giving you example after example about how creation is a testimony to the power of God. But here's just one. Well the secularist says: I'll tell you how it happened. It all happened by chance.
Let me remind you of something, chance is not a power, it's a mathematical probability. For example, if I take a penny and I flip it in the air, what are the odds that it will land heads up? Well, the mathematical probability, the chance is 50-50, right? But if it does land heads up, what made it land heads up? It could have been the force of my thumb in flipping the coin, it could have been the distance of travel, it could have been the air pressure, it could have been a bunch of things that determine which side that coin landed on but chance had nothing to do with it because chance is not a power, it's simply a mathematical calculation of probability. It's the same thing with what happened in this universe. This universe wasn't created by chance, there had to be a force that created it.
Psalm 19:1 says, "For the heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands". Anybody can know just by looking at the creation that he didn't create this world, that there is a powerful God at work. But Paul mentioned something else, natural revelation tells us about God and that is his divine nature. Again, Romans 1:20, "His eternal power and his divine nature". Now, there some truths about God that we can only know through the Bible or through Jesus Christ. You know so often, we ask the question, if God is good and loving, why does he allow things to happen, bad things to happen? Why does he allow famines around the world? Why does he allow floods, rivers overflowing their banks? Why does he allow earthquakes? Why does he allow terrorist attacks? If God is good, why does he allow bad things to happen?
Have you ever heard that question before? You see the focus is all wrong. The reason we need to switch our perspective is those bad things are usually the exception rather than the rule. Have you ever thought about it that way? Yeah, those things happen occasionally but most of the time the rains do come on schedule, most of the time the rivers stay within their boundaries and their banks. Most of the time the tectonic plates don't shift causing an earthquake, most of the time terrorist attacks are thwarted rather than executed.
You know the real question is not, why do bad things happen to good people, the real question is why do good things happen to bad people? And Paul is saying, look at it, good things God is sending to bad people all of the time. He's showing kindness to them in spite of their disregard for him. And why does he do it? Romans 2:4 says, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance". God sends good things into the life of unbelievers to try to move them to cause them to turn their heart toward him. That's what he's saying here, everybody ought to be able to look at creation and know that we serve a kind God.
Now, what about those who have never heard the Gospel? They've all been the recipients of natural revelation about God that is available through nature. But what have most people done with that knowledge about God? They've engaged in the rejection of the knowledge of God. Look at verse 21 of Romans 1, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened".
You know secularists will argue that their whole idea of God is tainted by their scientific investigation. They say in other words, we've really objectively looked at the evidence and we just can't find any evidence of God and that's why we've rejected the idea of God, there's just no scientific evidence. But the fact is the opposite is true. The person who rejects God has not examined the evidence, he has started with the presupposition there is no God and he's found evidence to try to confirm his presupposition.
Now Richard Lewontin is a Harvard biologist and he actually conceded that point in an article for the New York review of books. He said, "It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but on the contrary that we are forced by our apriori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door. In other words, we're starting with the idea that all that is real is what we can see. And so we are going to rig our so-called investigation of science to a conclusion that says, there is no God. And we'll engage in that rigged investigation because we cannot accept a belief that there is a God. That's not an honest evaluation".
They start with a presupposition: there is no God. You know we have this idea that atheists are these honest searchers for truth. They're really honestly searching for God and they just can't find him. You know why an atheist can't find God, it's the same reason a thief can never find a policeman. You know, they're not looking that hard. They don't wanna find a God that they have to submit themselves to, and that's what Paul is saying here. "The unbeliever is one who has received a revelation about the true God and he's rejected that revelation of the true God". What has he done instead? Secondly, "He has replaced the revelation of the true God with the creation of a false God". Look at verses 22 and 23 of Romans 1, "Professing to be wise, they became fools and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of a corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures".
If you ever take a course in comparative religions, here's what you'll hear. You'll hear about the evolution of religion. The idea is just as man has evolved from amoeba to a tadpole to a fish to a man and man is getting better and better and more complex, so is he in his religious thought. That is man started out, you know, as a primate and all he could worship were things and other animals. That's animism, the idea that we're gonna worship things or other objects. But as man has evolved, he went from animism to polytheism, the worship of many Gods. And then he evolved and he started into monotheism, the worship of one God, he evolved in his religious thought.
Now that's a great idea except it contradicts history. The opposite is true. Paul talks about not the evolution of religion but the devolution of religion. In other words, at the beginning man had knowledge of the one true God. Adam and Eve worshiped the one true God in the garden. They were perfect and they believed in the one perfect God. But because of sin man began to devolve and he exchanged the knowledge of the one true God and he began worshiping objects and animals and idols. He began creating false religious systems, he replaced the knowledge of the true God with a God of his own making. That's the basis of all false religions. Rejecting the knowledge of the true God that everybody has and creating a God they want to worship, making God in their own image.
And by the way, it's not just cult followers and false religious followers who do that, some professing Christians do the very same thing. They create God in their own image. A.W. Tozer once said, "Wrong ideas about God or not the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow, they are themselves idolatrous. The idolaters simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true". That's what the father of false religions do. They imagine a God, they imagine God to be a certain way and they create a God and follow him as if that was true, but so do many Christians.
Have you ever heard Christians say, "I just can't imagine a God who would send people to hell simply for not believing the right things about Jesus. I cannot imagine a God who would condemn a holy pure love even if it was a same-sex attraction, I just can't imagine that. Or I can't imagine a God who would tell Christians they need to stay in a non-fulfilling marriage if they're not happy. I just can't imagine a God like that. And I can't imagine a God who would allow bad things to happen in the world if he had the power to stop them. I just can't imagine a God like that". The operative word there is imagine. People assume that God is the sum of people's imaginations about him and that is the basis for all idolatry. That's what the unbeliever has done. He has received the knowledge of the true God, he has rejected the knowledge of the true God and he has replaced the revelation of the true God with the creation of his own God. And therefore Paul says, "He is without excuse, he's without excuse".
Now I know some of you are saying, hey, wait, just a minute pastor, but you said it's only through faith in Christ that a person can be saved. I mean what good is natural revelation if a person can't be saved? Are you saying a person can't be saved just by believing that there's a God and that he's kind? That's right, the Bible says the person who accepts that revelation about God is not automatically saved, it's only through faith in Jesus. Well then, what good is natural revelation? If somebody receives this revelation by God, he's not automatically saved, but if he rejects that revelation of God, he is condemned, he is without excuse.
You see natural revelation is a test to see if somebody really wants to know God or not. If they reject that knowledge of the true God and create their own God, then they're not really interested in knowing God but if they are receptive to that natural revelation then that leads to the fourth truth that we need to understand about this complex issue. And that is, anyone who wants further knowledge of God will receive it. Anyone who wants further knowledge of God will receive it. Remember, God's desire is to save as many people as possible not as few people as possible. Yes, God would be just in sending everybody to hell but that is not his desire, he wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth.
For example, jot down Ezekiel 33:11, "As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways for why then will you die, for o house of Israel, why then will you die"? Or Luke 19:10, Jesus said about himself, "For the son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost". Jesus' whole reason for coming was not to condemn people but to seek them out and save them. Or 1 Timothy 2:3-4, we read just a moment ago, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth". Do you see that? God desires that all people be saved. He's not saying all people will be saved but his desire is that all people be saved but the only way they can be saved is by coming to a knowledge of the truth about Jesus Christ.
So then pastor, answer your own question, what about those who have never heard about Jesus? Let's go back to that young Syrian woman we talked about last time. The woman who has never read a Bible, has never heard the name of Jesus Christ, what about her eternal fate? If she looks up into the heavens, sees all of the evidence of God's creation through natural revelation and rejects that knowledge, creates her own God to follow, Paul says, "She is without excuse". But if she receives that knowledge, if she says, "You know what, I didn't create this world around me, there must be someone greater than I. And I wanna know that somebody, I wanna know that being who is greater than I". If she responds that way, you can be certain that God will send her further knowledge and revelation of the truth of Jesus Christ.
You say, wait a minute pastor, how can you say that? You know every day, we hear stories here at our church. People who say, from all over the world, who say, "You know, I just happened to be in my car listening to the radio when I accidentally came upon your program or I just happened to be flipping through the television dial and I accidentally came upon Pathway to Victory and I listened to the message and I trusted Christ as my Savior". You know the older I get, the less I believe in accidents and coincidences.
Listen to me, whenever God sees a man or a woman, a boy or a girl who really wants to know him, he'll make sure that that person receives the knowledge of Jesus Christ whether it's through an internet connection or a television signal or a radio broadcast because God is even more interested in that person's salvation than you and I could ever be. He's not willing that any should perish but all should come to a knowledge of the truth. Anyone who wants further knowledge of God will receive it. But now listen to this, yes, God has ordained the end result that people should be saved by trusting in Christ but he's also ordained the means by which they hear the Gospel. God will send that truth, yes, but he does it through people like you and me. And that's why he's left us here.
Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said there is only one reason I'm leaving you here and not taking you to heaven with me, it's so that you will go into all the world and preach the Gospel, make disciples. In Acts 1:8, before he ascended into heaven, he reminded them one more time. He said, now before I go, remember you were to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Folks has that sunk in with you that's the reason you're here? You're not here for any other reason, God left you here instead of rupturing you to heaven when you were saved, left you here to fulfill that mandate to take the Gospel to everyone. Now none of us by ourselves can do that, none of us can go to the remotest parts of the earth or remotest parts of even this country. And that's why it's so essential, if we're gonna be obedient to God, we follow God's plan. And that is banding together as Christians, banding together as a church to fulfill that mandate in Matthew 28 and that strategy of Acts 1:8.