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Q I am a Christian that talks to people about Christ and one question I am frequently asked is "if Jesus Christ is the only way to God what about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ." I would appreciate knowing your teaching on this question.  

 
 
A In Romans chapter one Paul shows that no one has any excuse. No one can say, "But I never even heard of Christ, so therefore you can't punish me." Read the chapter, starting in verse 16, noting especially verse 20. Paul says that man knows the 'godness' of God from nature and should respond to that. To those who do respond to that revelation in nature, God will give more light. The knowledge of God gained from nature DOES NOT include redemption—otherwise special revelation in the Bible would not have been necessary. The point Paul is making in Romans 1 is that mankind is unrighteous and ungodly and without excuse. The reason all mankind is "without excuse" (v. 20) is that what may be known of God is "evident among them" (v. 19). It is obvious that this "what can be known" means apart from special revelation. Two phrases explain the meaning of what God "has shown...to them" (v. 19).

the invisible things about God

even His eternal power and divinity

Paul is being very careful here NOT to suggest the gospel can be understood in nature. He stresses the 'invisible' things about God, whereas Christ lived, died, and was resurrected in full view of the world. Those invisible things are the things which cannot be shown, only demonstrated. His power is eternal and therefore, mankind should see that there is an UNCAUSED power at work in creation. They should see His vast presence (omnipresence), His total wisdom (omniscience), His benevolence and His providence.

What would be the result of this understanding? Men should realize that God is GLORIOUS and INCORRUPTIBLE but instead they view Him as an image made like corruptible man and creatures (v. 23). There have, undoubtedly, been individuals here and there who did understand God as glorious. In fact, I believe the whole history of missions to so-called primitive peoples is one of God sending the Word of Salvation to places where at least a few have responded to His natural revelation. One young African man, later known as Samuel Morris, could not see God as explained by the pagan religious practices of his people. God sent a light, evidently similar to the one by which He guided the Magi to Christ, and Samuel followed that light over a hundred miles to a missionary outpost and was saved.

Skeptics love to ask about "those who have never heard" in order to try to discredit the gospel as unjust. But this passage rips the rug right out from under them! Those who have never heard are still WITHOUT EXCUSE. And, although the gospel is not provided in natural revelation, God will get it to whomever wants to hear.  

 

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