I'm doing a lot of thinking about this chapter from the book "Radical," by David Platt. So, I'm just going to fill this post with the parts that most stand out to me so that I can think about it more as I type it, and so that you can ponder it as well. Please read this with a Biblical mindset, which may be different than our natural mindset. And let me know what you think. (So, everything from here forward is David Platt, not me!)
"Let's not forget what's at stake. I
invite you to take a brief journey with me through the book of Romans to
discover seven truth that help us understand what Scripture teaches
about people who have never heard of Jesus.
Truth 1: All People Have Knowledge of God
Romans 1:18-20 - "18 The wrath of God
is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and
wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For
since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal
power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from
what has been made, so that people are without excuse. "
other words, every person on the face of the earth and every person
throughout history - without exception - has knowledge of God the
Father. The man in the African jungle, the woman in the Asian village,
the nomad in the remotest desert, and the Inuit in the forgotten tundra,
regardless of where or how they live, have this in common. Of course,
not all people in the world say they believe in God. That leads to the
Truth 2: All People Reject God
said, "Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor
gave thanks to Him." All people, including you, me, and the man in the
African bush, have rejected true knowledge of God. Though this is a
fundamental truth of the gospel, it is often overlooked in discussions
of what happens to people who never hear about Jesus. Sun gods, moon
goddesses, gods of prosperity - none of them deserves worship. Only God
deserves worship. So when we worship "gods" instead of him, we don't get
credit for trying out best. Out idolatry is just not good enough. So
there's another truth to consider.
Truth 3: All People are Guilty Before God
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
cast has been made, and it's decisive. All people, regardless of
religious, cultural, or ethnic background, stand guilty before God.
you ask me, "What happens to that innocent guy in the middle of Africa
who dies without ever hearing the gospel?" My confident answer to you,
based on the authority of God's Word, would be, "I believe he will
undoubtedly go to heaven. There is no question in my mind."
before you label me a heretic (and others label me a hero), read back
over that last paragraph. Look especially at the hypothetical question:
"What happens to the innocent guy in the middle of Africa who dies without ever hearing the gospel?" (This is how most people words this question.)
The reality is, the innocent
guy doesn't exist... in Africa or anywhere else. Instead there are
people all over the world standing guilty before a holy God, and that is
the very reason they need the gospel. This leads us to our next
Truth 4: All People are Condemned for Rejecting God
only is every person guilty before God, but there is also nothing we
can do to change this. Even our attempts to obey God only further
uncover our inability to do so.
people to be okay when they haven't had the opportunity to hear the
gospel. But think with me about the logic of this conclusion. Imagine
encountering an international student newly arrived on a college campus
in the United states. You ask her if she has ever heard of Jesus and
with a puzzled look on her face, she responds, "No." Now, if this girl
is headed to heaven precisely because she has never heard of Jesus, then
the best thing you could say to her for the sake of eternity is, "If
anyone tries to tell you about Jesus, just put your hands on your ears,
start yelling very loudly, and run away." Obviously, this particular
methodology is not prescribed in Scripture. But when you follow the
logic of the conclusion above, this is the practical result.
though, some will maintain, "Well, is God just in condemning people for
not believing in Jesus when they never had a chance to hear about
Jesus?" I believe the answer is no. God would not be just in condemning
people for not believing in a Savior they never heard of. But don't
forget, people are not ultimately condemned for not believing in Jesus.
They are ultimately condemned for rejecting God.
can imagine tears in Paul's eyes when he comes to Romans 3:20. He has
painted a terrifying portrait of humanity's sinfulness. But I can also
see Paul wiping away those tears as he pens his next words.
Truth 5: God Has Made a Way of Salvation for the Lost
21 "But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
the good news! Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, and
through him we can be righteous before God and assured of eternal life.
God has made a way of salvation for the lost. Not a way, but the way. And this is the good news - the gospel. But the question still remains. What about people who never got to hear?
Truth 6: People Cannot Come to God Apart from Faith in Christ
We long for there to be a way for those who have not heard to be saved. We are sure that God in his love would not allow them to go to hell when they haven't even heard of Jesus. Again, we need to consider the ramification of such a conclusion. If we conclude that people can get to heaven apart from faith in Christ, then this would mean there is something else they can do to get to heaven. Such a conclusion would not only undercut the previous truth we saw in Romans; it would also be tantamount to saying to Jesus, "Thank you for what you did on the cross, be we could have gotten to God another way."
If people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ, and is more than a billion people have never heard of Christ, then a serious and eternal problem exists. This problem leads us to the final assertion in the book of Romans.
Truth 7: Christ Commands the Church to Make the Gospel Known to All Peoples
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can
they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they
hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
In these three short verses, we see God's design for taking the gospel to all the people of the world, including the billion who have never heard the name of Jesus. In order for us to see it, let's take the verbs from this passage in reverse order. Starting with the last verse, you see that God's plan involves sending His servant. So that's step one in the plan of God - God sends servants.
Then, continuing to move backward in the passage, we see what those servants do. They preach. This is God's plan. He sends His servants, and His servants preach.
Moving one step further back, when His servants preach, people hear. Unless we are preaching to a wall, people wall hear us when we preach. So the plan is progressing: God sends His servants, His servants preach, and people hear.
When they hear, the previous sentence says, they will believe. This passage is teaching that when we preach and people hear, some of them will believe. We have seen that one day every nation, people, tribe, and language will be represented around the throne of Christ. This means that every people group is going to hear the gospel preached, and someone from every people group is going to trust Christ for salvation. God sends his servants, His servants preach, people hear, and hearers believe.
The last two steps in God's plan are obvious. When hearers believe, they call on the name of the Lord. And when they call on His name, they will be saved. So there you have it - the simple divine plan for taking the gospel to all people of the world.
God sends His servants. > His servants preach. > People hear. > Hearers believe. > Believers call. > Everyone who calls is saved.
Now look back at this progression and ask one question: Is there any place where this plan can break down?
There is only one potential breakdown in this progression - when servants of God do not preach the gospel to all peoples.
We are the plan of God, and there is no plan B.
If this is true, then the implications for our lives are huge. If more than a billion people today are headed to a Christless eternity and have not ever heard the gospel, then we don't have time to waste our lives on the American dream. Not if we have all been commanded to take the gospel to them. The tendency in our culture is to sit around debating this question, but in the end our goal is not to try to find an answer to it; our goal is to alleviate the question altogether.
This is a cause worth living for. It is a cause worth dying for. It is a cause worthy of moving urgently on. We have the gospel of Christ in us, and we do not have time to waste. Some wonder if it is unfair for God to allow so many to have no knowledge of the gospel. But there is no injustice in God. The injustice lies in Christians who possess the gospel and refuse to give their lives to making it known among those who haven't heard. That is unfair.
I find it interesting that one of the most common questions asked today among Christians is "What is God's will for my life?" or "How do I find God's will for my life?" Many Christians have almost assumed the attitude that they would obey God is he would just show them what He wanted them to do. In the middle of a Christian culture asking "How do I find God's will for my life?" I bring good news. His will is not lost. The answer is clear. The will of God is for you and me to give our lives urgently and recklessly to making the gospel and the glory of God known among all people, particularly those who have never even heard of Jesus.
The question, therefore, is not "Can we find God's will," The question is "Will we obey God's will?" Will we refuse to sit back and wait for sine tingly feeling to go down our spines before we rise up and do what we have already been commanded to do? Will we risk everything - our comfort, our possessions, our safety, our security, our very lives - to make the gospel known among unreached people?
Such rising up and such risking are the unavoidable, urgent results of a life that is radically abandoned to Jesus."