Summary: The challenge of the unreached people of earth. What does God's word say about their eternity?
Question to be asked: This has always bothered me. The Bible says that people need Jesus to be saved. But there are a lot of people in the world, and in history, who have never heard about Jesus. Do you mean to tell me that they won’t be allowed into Heaven just because they didn’t hear?
Intro: I’m glad you asked that. I really am! This question deals with some of the most basic truths of the gospel and how we apply them to life. I’m also glad because not 2 years ago, we dove into this very question, which tells me it must be fairly important.
The big question we’re dealing with today is “What about the people who haven’t heard?”
If I could do it today, I’d just walk us through Romans 1,2 and 3. But we don’t have enough time, so we’ll have to take a quicker approach. But let me tell you ahead, the answer to this question that you’re going to hear today is going to bother you. It should. It may even make you unhappy with me. That’s OK. I’m a big boy. I can take it. I’m more concerned with what God has to say on this subject and how you deal with that. So, after all of this happens like I just said it will, please, go home, read through Romans 1-3, and listen to what God has said on the subject. Then, thank God for His word, repent of your attitude toward me, and we can be friends again! But more importantly, listen to God and decide what you ought to do in light of what He says. I’d rather see a soul won to Jesus than just win a disagreement.
Please get Romans 1 in front of you. We’re going to summarize the 1st 3 chapters in 3 words: Them, You, and All.
Ch 1 - “Them”
“Them” and “they” are always easier to talk about, aren’t they? That’s true of you and me, who are sitting here in a church building, in the 21st century N. American Church, and it’s true of 1st century people who were raised as Jews, surrounded by a very Pagan Roman empire. It’s easier to talk about “them.” The HS knew that as He inspired Paul to write these words:
Romans 1:18-23 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
The people described there - the “theys” - are people who don’t have God’s written Law. They’re non-Jews. They’re Joe Pagan, living in Corinth, Ephesus, Laodicea, brought up in a world full of idols, taught from infancy that there are many gods. Yet, go back through these verses and notice that Paul says these people, without God’s written Law, are without excuse - that God has made his presence and His awesomeness “plain to them” and “clearly perceived” and that they “knew God.”
How? Just by “the things that have been made.” It takes more faith to believe that this creation all got here by random accident, uncaused, than it does to believe that it was created by an All-Powerful Designer.
So, for people to look at this and reject God leads to what Paul describes here - a whole list of sins that make people v32 “worthy of death.” It leads to God “giving them over” to do those things. That’s “them.” That’s not so far removed. That pretty well describes billions of people around the world today. Let’s go on to the next group.
This one’s a bit harder to talk about it. No apologies, though. It’s “you.” Not plural “you” - not “yous”; just plain “you.” In this chapter, Paul’s directing his words to people with a Jewish background - people who had God’s Law, and who generally prided themselves in the way that they never lived like all the people described in ch 1. After all, they knew God’s Laws.
Ch 2 - “You”
It isn’t enough just to know what’s right. Are you listening? It isn’t enough just to have all the right answers. The Jews had that.