As the Apostle Paul continues to speak concerning the world without Christ, he now brings up a topic that many ask about. What happens to people who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Throughout the centuries, thousands of native people lived and died in North and South America. They never got a chance to hear the Good News. Do they automatically go to hell because they were outside the reach of the Gospel?
I believe that both Paul and Jesus speak to this issue.
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.
I believe that this verse is the foundation for an answer to the questions above. God is just. We are only responsible for what we’ve heard. Those without God’s law will not be judged by that law.
So far in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he’s talked about people who reject, suppress, and deny the truth. Now he’s talking about a different group. He’s speaking about those who have not yet heard God’s law.
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
Paul makes it clear that righteousness has nothing to do with the law. It’s all about obedience. Those who have never heard about the Gospel still have the knowledge of right and wrong within themselves. That’s the basis of God’s judgment in this case.
I previously said that Jesus taught this same thing. I believe that this is found in Matthew 25:31-46. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to quote the whole passage here, but I encourage you to read it on your own.
Many people get confused by that section of Scripture. That’s because in those verses we see a judgment that’s based upon works and not faith. These people are declared righteous because they did what was required without having heard any of God’s laws.
Another point we see in the Matthew passage is that these righteous people seem to have never met the Lord. The fact that they ask, “When did we ever do anything for you?” shows that they haven’t heard the Gospel.
As I’ve said before, God is perfectly just. All of creation will see it, even on the Day of Judgment. At that time all will agree and declare that God’s determination of a person’s eternal future is absolutely right.
That’s why it’s so important now, that we prepare for that day. We need to lay aside the distractions and bring the message of salvation to all who will listen.
Question: What events helped you to receive the Gospel message?
© 2020 Nick Zaccardi