Summary: Charles Spurgeon was once asked his opinion about those who had never heard of Jesus or the gospel. His response sting rings true today: “How can they be saved without ever hearing about Jesus? We should rather ask, how can we be saved if we do nothing to take the gospel to them?”

What is the fate of those who have never heard the gospel? What about the innocent person in a far-away land that has never heard of Jesus? Are they thrown into hell even if they haven’t heard of Jesus? Another way of asking this question is this: how does God deal with people who have different levels of exposure to the truth? This is an issue of ultimate seriousness and I hope to treat it as such.

Three Kinds of Responses

1) Exclusivism – Faith in Jesus through the gospel is necessary for salvation.

2) Inclusivism – Faith in God in general revelation is sufficient. Postmortem Evangelism - Those who have never heard the gospel will have an opportunity to trust Christ after death. This view is traditionally called “postmortem evangelism.” It concurs with exclusivism when it stresses that faith is a conscious and explicit trust in Christ but sides with inclusivism when it contends that the love and justice of God require that everyone be given an opportunity to trust Christ.

3) Pluralism – all paths are valid and true.

Universalism – Here the thought is that everyone will ultimately be saved. According to this view, every human being God has created will finally come to enjoy everlasting salvation. Here’s how the Bible responds to this important and solemn question (and how I hope you learn to deal with it as well)… There are four steps to Paul’s argument in Romans 1:19-21. I want to show you Paul’s conclusion first and then work backwards.

1. All People Have Heard of God

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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” (Romans 1:19–20).

Paul’s conclusion is found in verse twenty: “So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). So, the Bible says, they do know God. And how does everyone know God? Because God made the world. He created - like a potter, or a sculptor or a poet, except he created out of nothing. In verse twenty, when it says that God is “[has] been clearly perceived,” through “the things that have been made” stand for one Greek word (which you will all recognize), the word poiema. It’s the word from which we get “poem.” The point is that in a poem there is manifest design and intention and wisdom and power. The wind might create a letter in the sand, but not a poem. That’s the point: God acted, God planned, God designed, and God crafted. And by doing that, Paul says in verse nineteen, God made himself evident to all mankind. The universe is a poem about God. What can be known is evident among them – God’s eternal power and God’s divine nature are known by everyone. This means that you and every person you will meet in this city are the creation of God and designed by God for a purpose, namely, to communicate God. You are God’s poem. The conclusion is people are without excuse.

1. All People Have Heard of God

2. All People Have Rejected God

“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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:21–25).

Then look at Paul’s three steps to this conclusion…

Step #2 is in verse 21: “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him”

People are without excuse and are deserving of the wrath of God… because there’s no one that honors God as God. People are without excuse and are deserving of the wrath of God… because there’s no one that gives God thanks. People know there’s a God and they suppress the truth and the result of such suppression is… People become “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21b). The Bible calls this act idolatry.

1. All People Have Heard of God

2. All People Have Rejected God

3. All People Are Guilty Before God

Step #3 is in verse: the failure to worship is not because of their ignorance. The failure to worship is in spite of sufficient knowledge of God. But look also in Romans 2:14: “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law” (Romans 2:14). All human beings have the moral law of God stamped on their hearts. We see this teaching before back in Romans 1:32: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).

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