What About Those Who Never Obey the Gospel?

As we look around the world, we can’t help but consider all those cultures which have no semblance of the gospel, and even many which are illiterate. What will God do with all of them?

First, do they need the gospel to be saved? Is the Bible the only truth from the only God? Is it for every man? Romans 1:16 says yes to all these questions. Hebrews 2:9 adds that Christ tasted death for every man. Jesus claimed exclusive access to God (John 3:16-18; 14:6; Acts 4:12), and said that if we are not with Him, we are against Him (Matthew 12:30).

Second, couldn’t God just save everyone? What about sin and evil? What about justice? God’s eyes are too pure to approve evil (Habakkuk 1:13; cp. Psalm 5:5). To some, sincerity is the only criteria that matters. But Jesus taught in Matthew 7:21-23 that God requires obedience in order to save people!

Third, why hasn’t the world heard the good news? Even though all men have some knowledge, Paul declared that the truth is suppressed (Romans 1:18-25). This is true even in our literate, civilized culture (Romans 3:9-10). All men have a God-given conscience, which leads us in our decisions, and by which we are judged (Romans 2:6, 12-15). One has to weigh the evidence and respond.

Fourth, is God at fault? God can get the message to anyone who desires it (Romans 9:14-16, 25-26). He could get it to the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza and He could get it to the Gentile Cornelius in Caesarea. The question of Genesis 18:25 holds true: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Fifth, if ignorance is safety, then what would be the best course of action? Would it not be to refrain from preaching to them, so they can be saved in their ignorance? Does that make sense in light of our duty in Matthew 28:19:20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” We must have a conviction that they are lost without the gospel.

Each of us was born to hear the holy call, to find our place in God’s unfolding plan. When His voice is heard, it’s glorious to obey and bear His light and truth to every man. We’re called to be a generation that turns the tide within our nation, but who will go and who will stand?

Each of us was born to know the heart of God, His deep desire to love and to forgive. He does not delight in judgment or in wrath, but calls to all to turn to Him and live. The word that brings true repentance, that turns away God’s sentence, are words that only we can give.

For such a time as this we were born to speak the truth — anointed words that move the hearts of men. If we are silent now, the Lord will send some other men — faithful men whose hearts are fully His, for such a time as this.

John Elliot