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News for Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Sunday School Lesson — Bible Studies for Life
Feb. 2: What About People Who've Never Head the Gospel?
By Josh Moore
Focal Passage: Romans 1:16-25
The question over the eternal destiny of those who have never heard the gospel remains one of the most perplexing and difficult issues to answer. The Bible testifies to God’s surpassing love; so much love that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). When faced with the facts that there are billions of people in the world today who do not know Jesus as Lord, we desire salvation for those who have never heard the gospel. This is exacerbated in today’s global society where the cultures of the world interact on a daily basis. We are exposed to different cultures with opposing faith commitments that often seem just as rigorous as our Christian beliefs. But is this yearning for “conversion-less” salvation for all those closed off from the gospel supported in Scripture, and how would this view impact the Great Commission of the church? We turn to Romans 1 to find a passage containing a clear response to this vexing problem.
All people are without excuse (vv. 18-25). This passage tells us that God revealed Himself known through His creation. Through the grandeur and immensity of the cosmos we see God’s divine nature and power on display. As we learned last week, this is a key reason we realize God exists, for the “heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) Also, we as humans have an inner capacity for God and a moral consciousness giving witness of our need for a relationship with our Creator. Blaise Paschal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” Yet Romans tells us that we, controlled by our fallen natures, all suppress this truth and exchange this need for God with the lusts of our hearts. We worship the created world instead of the Creator. We attempt to fill that God-shaped hole in our lives with human-made substitutes. Through His Creation, we know that God exists, yet we have suppressed the truth, refused to give Him thanks, and our hearts have been darkened. This is the universal plight of humanity. We have exchanged God’s Truth for a lie, and because of this, we all deserve God’s wrath.
Believers have a story to tell to the nations (vv. 16-17). But this is not the end of the story! For the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation, available for everyone who will believe and have faith in Christ Jesus (v. 16). Jesus has commissioned his church to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). Yet, the world so often rejects the gospel, for the “word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” (I Corinthians 1:18) and Jesus has become “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for those disobedient to the word.” (I Peter 2:8) Most of us would agree that those who reject the gospel face God’s wrath. But what about those who have never heard? If we say that they are not under God’s wrath because they have never heard the gospel, then why should we bring the gospel to them through missions, if only their rejection will condemn them? This contradicts Jesus’ commission to us. We should not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16); we must take the gospel to the nations. For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), not just those who have heard the gospel.
We have a story to tell to the nations, and we must take this great news to all the world.
— Moore is the director of church relations at Union University in Jackson. He also serves as minister of education at First Baptist Church, Dresden.
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