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Summary: A response to the question, "What of those who have never heard the Gospel?" God is just and God is gathering to Himself and for His glory a great harvest of souls.

“You have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.” [1]

It never ceases to amaze me that unbelievers in our own nation are more concerned for the heathen in distant lands than are the professed people of God. Among God’s holy people, the concern must not be critical, or we would invest more of our funds in missionary outreach, we would encourage our youth to prepare to carry the Gospel to places far removed from our own homes and we would more aggressively evangelise our neighbours. For unbelievers, concern for the pagans is evidently important because they so frequently ask the question, “What about those who never heard the Gospel? Surely, God won’t condemn someone just because he has never heard the Gospel?”

It is a legitimate question; Christians would do well to seek the answer to this question. When we discover the answer, we will learn that we are not absolved of responsibility to fulfil the Great Commission. You do remember the Great Commission—Jesus’ last word to believers as He prepared to ascend into the heavens? You surely haven’t forgotten that Jesus commanded believers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” [MATTHEW 28:19, 20].

It has been said that evangelicals are doctrinal exclusivists, but functional universalists. Tragically, I fear this is true of far too many of us who claim to be evangelical in our faith and practise. We say we believe in hell, but our failure to evangelise is just the sort of behavior one would expect from those who believe that all will work out well for non-believers. Lacking a sense of urgency to witness, we show ourselves skeptical of the Judgement. You see, it makes little difference if we fully support missionary endeavours if we fail to seek the lost at home.

Having said that, we must still consider the question, “What of those who have never heard the Gospel?” Is God concerned for the Iranian or Somali Muslim? For the Laotian Buddhist? For the Chinese Communist Party member? For the Taiwanese Confucian? For the Haitian following Voudon? For the English Druid? What of these people?

SINS OF THE SAINTS — “You have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” [ROMANS 2:1-5].

No excuse! That is harsh! We have no right to complain about the lack of missionaries if we are not evangelising here at home. One of the churches I restarted soon after I had arrived in Canada boasted that the congregation supported over one hundred missionaries. Technically, that was true—the church sent five dollars, or in a few exceptional instances, ten dollars, to seventy or so missionaries every month. The church was dying when they asked me to come help them. They had two hundred fifty-five members, and attendance was fifty-five each week—no more, no less. The bulk of the membership had no connection with the congregation, having moved out of the area or now being homebound. Still, the church bragged of their “strong” missionary programme.

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