Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why the Great Commission?

Last week, I had a discussion in the library at UNA about what happens to those who never hear the Gospel before they die or before the end of times. The argument was for those who live the “best life” they can and are “good people” – but don’t know about Jesus or don’t live for Him/in a relationship with Him. I did not know off the top of my head exactly what I thought about this, so as I often do when I want to know something, I went searching for the truth.
I wanted biblical-based truth, not opinions- even those of scholars. Faith-based topics can of course be controversial (hence, all the denominations we have); I wanted to be able to firmly stand behind what I would claim to be a pillar of truth. I did not find a black and white answer, but to my knowledge, the Bible never explicitly addresses this issue. I do not claim to be a theological expert, but I did find 11 verses upon which I drew my own conclusion. Some of the notes were drawn from my ESV Student Study Bible, which I used as my source. Here, I share my research- not to rebuke anyone else and not to be close-minded. I understand that it can be difficult to grasp the fact of how a loving God, who is Love, can condemn someone to an eternity separated from Him. As always, discussion is welcome. This is simply a means for me to biblically seek the Truth, which is the foundation upon which I have established “Look Upon the Light.”
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Question: So what about those who haven’t heard or don’t know better? *Any emphasis on a verse is mine.
1. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
  • Peter is referring to the Sanhedrin – they helped the Romans crucify Jesus, but He was the one they had to place faith in.
2. Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
  • Salvation can be found only in Christ. If it’s possible for someone who hasn’t heard the gospel to be saved, it must be through Jesus.
3. As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Romans 3:10-12
  • Being “good” can’t save us. Even things that seem to be good—when prior to salvation—are stained by evil because:
    • None done for God’s glory (Romans 1:21)
    • Doesn’t' come from faith (Romans 14:23)
4. …Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? Genesis 18:25
  • Abraham is wondering if God intends to destroy the righteous along with the wicked (Context). For the same reason:
    • If people who haven’t heard the gospel go to hell, then it would be right.
    • If people who haven’t heard the gospel go to heaven, then it would be right.
  • God wouldn’t do anything improper…because He is God.
5. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:21
  • There was no point in Jesus dying on the cross if we can get to Heaven by being “good,” sincere, or following religious rules. We can’t be justified by our obedience. The only solution to the serious problem of sin is the atoning death of Jesus.
6. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
  • Paul was so urgent about spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth because he believed that the only way to be saved was to hear and believe in the gospel.
  • Paul isn’t talking about infants. See 2 Samuel 12:23. “I shall go to him” seems to indicate that David expects a future personal reunion with the child that died.
7. …but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:18
  • John says that those who do not believe in Christ do not have a neutral standpoint before God. Because they stand condemned already, this refutes the idea that a sincere person following any religion can have eternal life.
8. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, ho gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6
  • This is theological basis for verse 4 which says that God desires all people to be saved. All must come to the one true God for salvation. So Jesus is the only way—back to Acts 4:12 (see #1).
  • Also, this verse allows no place for mediators between people and Jesus, such as saints or priests.
  • “Ransom” is common in the New Testament to express Christ’s death as securing a believer’s release from God’s wrath.
9. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:12
  • “Has the Son” implies a faith that is evident through love for others and devotion to God. Whoever doesn’t have life faces eternal punishment (See John 3:36).
10. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. Revelation 22:12
  • Jesus is saying that he will reward each faithful servant and punish each unbeliever.
11. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating… Luke 12:48
  • Some extent of punishment does await those who don’t know any better.
My Conclusion: The world’s religions do not offer many different paths to the one God. The Bible doesn’t explicitly state what happens to those who die before hearing the gospel- maybe they go to hell, or maybe they’re judged differently. Because of John 14:6, I know if there is a way, it would be through Jesus. I can’t give a black and white answer for something that the Scripture is gray about. I’m thankful that I don’t have to be who judges, but I’m glad to know the One that does! I believe it’s all less about “religion” and more about Relationship—a radical, life-changing, committed relationship with Jesus Christ. Whether we like to accept it or not, God’s wrath is a real and biblical thing. He is a loving God, but he is also a just God. Logically, because the Bible does teach us that we must receive Christ to enter into the Kingdom, I would say that those who haven’t heard the gospel are lost. And this is why Jesus gives us the Great Commission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19

1 comment

  1. Our pastor said this weekend...don't get hung up on things you are not able to understand. I love the verse you found, Gen. 18:25, we may not know what happens to those who have never heard, but we know that God is just and He always does what is right. He will do what is right by them. What unbelievers (even believers) need to know is if they personally have a relationship with Christ and then share the gospel with everyone God calls them to share with (even someone who has never heard). Great study, thanks!

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