Monday, November 3, 2014

What about those who have never heard? (part 2)

One of the most common objections to the exclusivity of the Christian gospel goes something like this: "God must surely be forgiving toward those who never have heard of Him."

There are a few reactions that I have to this retort. 
First, it's a very loving thought. Anybody that makes a statement like this probably isn't trying to win a debate as much as they are trying to appeal to the love of God, in which they most certainly believe. To think of people in the world who are less advantaged and, in some cases, at a complete disadvantage in life, is absolutely commendable and appreciated. 

The next couple of thoughts I have about the above statement are less emotion-based and more theological/philosophical in nature. These two thoughts will make up parts one and two of this blog topic.

Read part one here.

There is no other way but Jesus.

Matthew 26:36-46 is a very interesting passage of Scripture. Just moments from His wrongful execution, God the Son is pleading with God the Father about the unavoidable fate that awaits Him. 

He's in the Garden of Gethsemane. You've probably heard the story before. He is under so much anxiety that he is sweating drops of blood. (For the science behind that, click here.) His disciples, on the other hand, are very sleepy and can't stay awake even though Jesus has asked them to keep watch. Big, earth-shattering events are about to take place and this Messiah is very aware.

Jesus knows that He is going to die, this is part of His obedience (Phil 2:8); He knows that He is the One who can connect sinful man to the Father (John 14:7) and just before He made that claim He stated that He is the way, the truth, and the life. There's a lot happening in the background of these verses.

So why is He now, mere hours before His foreknown death, asking the Father if there's another way? Jesus actually requests of the Father, "...if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me," (v. 39). And again, He pleaded, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done," (v. 42). 

What's going on here? 

Well, for starters, Jesus is not trying to rebel against the Father. That should be understood to His submission to God's will (vv. 39, 42, 44). 

He's also not just giving an example of how to pray -- though that's certainly part of it.

The Lord is making a point in Matthew 26 that was affirmed by the apostles in the years after His death, resurrection, and ascension -- there is salvation in no one else, there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12).

By reading Matthew 26 and the events that follow, it becomes quite obvious that God is very intentional in His plans for the world. He didn't just create a bunch of people that would build idols that were all really a reflection of Him, all leading to the same place. He didn't orchestrate a bunch of religions that allow their adherents to enter heaven as long as they are sincere. He is much more specific.

Jesus is seemingly requesting another way from the Father.

But God has not made that possible.

It doesn't matter if someone grew up hearing the gospel every Sunday in a Southern Baptist church or if they were raised Buddhist in Japan or if they're living in the wilderness with no real direction or truth influence.

All people must bow the knee to Jesus.

In part one, it was shown that the Bible is clear concerning the fate of sinners -- they are guilty and will be judged, regardless of good works, religious practices, sincerity of heart, or anything else.

But now let it be clear to you: Through the death of Christ that occurs in Matthew 27, His resurrection in chapter 28, and His offer of salvation for all who believe in what He has done, all men can receive mercy, grace, and eternal life. 

God has made it clear, you must submit to Jesus alone.

It's not a popular message and that's why a lot of people don't want to talk about it. But when it comes to those that have never heard, there is no exception clause. There is no second way. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but praise be to the Lord who has offered us the gift of live even though we've earned death for ourselves.

Check out these verses for more information:

We're sinners.

God interceded for us.

He is offering you a gift.

Will you believe?