Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Those Who Have Never Heard

From Dr Charles Stanley...

Romans 1:18-25
In many countries, the gospel can’t be shared freely. Repressive governments and religions stop Christians from telling others about Jesus. However, God is mightier than oppression. Where human messengers can’t carry the good news, the Lord is revealing Himself to those whose hearts are open.

First, Timothy chapter two says God wants everyone to come to a saving knowledge of Him. Romans chapter 1 shows He is holy and just, but He can’t overlook man’s sinful condition, which renders all guilty and without excuse. He will not admit people into heaven unless they’ve acknowledged their need for a Savior.

But, our Father is also fair and merciful. He makes His presence known to every person so each one may choose to recognize His sovereignty. The Lord does this by revealing Himself to all mankind in two ways: through conscience and creation.

First, He has imbedded His basic moral guidelines in the human conscience. In other words, at some point in life, every sane person has an innate sense that certain actions are right and others are wrong.

Second, the Creator displays His power and divine nature through what He has made. The complexity, variety, order, and beauty of the world all point to an intelligent Designer. We can’t pinpoint every method the Lord uses to reveal Himself. Yet we can be sure nothing will stop Him from reaching out to people who follow conscience and creation to the logical conclusion: the existence of a loving, sovereign God.

This speaks to an issue on which I'm sure I disagree with some of my more Calvinist brothers. The question is whether God can apply the benefits of Christ's completed work on the cross to someone who has never heard of it, yet has come to a knowledge of God, by His grace, and who trusts Him and not any strength or goodness of their own for their salvation. I hold this rather open-handedly, but I am not prepared to say that He can't.

Take Care

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jesus' statement in John 14:6 seems clear to me: "No one comes to the Father but through me."

Rather than try to wiggle around that, I've been intrigued by what I see in Acts 9. Cornelius was a God-fearing man who prayed to God continually but knew nothing of Jesus. God didn't just let it go at that. Rather he gave Cornelius a vision so he could contact Peter and learn of Jesus.

In this account I see that faith in God alone is not good enough, but God arranged to honour such faith with a way to know what more one needs to know. I realize it is not a doctrinal statement that God will always work this way, but He has and can.
Dave G.

John K said...

Dave,
"Jesus' statement in John 14:6 seems clear to me: "No one comes to the Father but through me."

Absolutely! That is clear, but what does it actually mean? Apart from Christ and his atoning sacrifice there could be no salvation for anyone. But how much of it does one need to know or understand to be saved? The "Old Testament saints" were saved, no less than we are, by grace, through faith, by means of Christ's sacrifice, even though they hadn't heard of him.

Regarding Cornelius (Acts 10, BTW), he is described in these words: "He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly." Must we assume that he was destined for hell if he hadn't heard of Jesus? I don't think we can read into it that far. I don't think we can make that assumption.