November 22, 2020
Can God be good if He lets people die and go to Hell when they’ve never once heard of Jesus? This question has troubled sincere people down through the ages. For unbelievers, it’s been an excuse to keep them from coming to Jesus Christ. Some have decided that there is no God. They’ve become atheists. They ask another question: “Can those who’ve never heard of Jesus still go to Heaven? Perhaps there’s some other way?"
The Apostle Paul answers the above questions in Romans 1.
First, let me say, God is righteous and just. Second, there is no other way to Heaven apart from Jesus Christ. I hope you understand that. Don’t fall for the idea that all world religions are somehow connected and everybody is going to be saved somehow. No, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.”
If a person could come to God another way, what does that make Jesus? A liar. If Jesus Christ is a liar, He’s not your Savior, because a liar is nobody’s Savior.
I want to write four things on your heart as we look into Romans 1.
All people everywhere have been given some light about the reality and existence of God. Paul makes that clear when talking about people here.
… because what may be known of God is manifest [evident] in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead [divine nature, deity], so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20, emphasis added).
They’ve been given enough light that they know there is a God. John 1:9 affirms this principle: “Jesus was the true Light which gives light to everyone coming into the world.”
God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen through creation—His beautiful workmanship all around us. At the final judgment, those who never heard the Gospel, as well as those who did hear and rejected it, will stand before God. Romans 1:18 will indict them. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."
Some might plead “We never heard the Gospel. We’re innocent.” But Paul will point out, “Not true. Creation stands witness against you.”
If there’s a creation, there must be a Creator, “clearly seen by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). “The Heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). The Heavens say, “Creator,” and “Intelligence,” so that the Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
For when Gentiles [those who’ve never heard the Gospel], who do not have the law [Old Testament], by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness (Romans 2:14-15a, emphasis added).
Everyone claiming to know nothing of God will face the outer witness of creation and the inner witness of conscience. St. Augustine said, “The soul of man is restless until it rests in God.” You cannot get around these two witnesses: Creation and Conscience. Every person has some light.
There’s danger in refusing the light you’ve been given.
…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)
You can’t simply take light or truth, put it away, and say, “That’s interesting. I’ll look at it someday if I need to.” When God gives light, when creation and conscience speak to the hearts of individuals, if they do not glorify God, believe Him, and desire to know Him, they don’t remain the same. They begin to regress and “suppress [resist, hold down, smother] the truth in unrighteousness,” as verse 18 says. Why does a person refuse the truth? Sin in his heart.
Atheists aren’t atheists because of intellectual problems but because of moral problems.
All of us have a God-consciousness. But an atheist is uncomfortable with the existence of God because it stifles his desire to be free from any restrictions on his passions. Why does a person choose to believe there is no God? To believe would mean he would have to change how he’s living. If he can get rid of the idea of God, he can get rid of that uncomfortable feeling. But you don’t get rid of it—not really. The more you try, the more you subconsciously know God exists.
The knowledge is there. Deep in the heart, conscience speaks.
An atheist is in a quandary. If he turns away from truth, he’s free to embrace his old lifestyle. But when he turns away, he gets farther from the light, father from truth, farther into darkness. “His foolish heart is darkened” (Romans 1:21).
Unbelief Is the baggage that comes with sin. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, a terrifying passage, shows how this happens. It says of the Antichrist to come:
The coming of the lawless one [Antichrist] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Who is in peril of being eternally lost?
“those who perish.”
Why do they perish?
“because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
What is their consequence for willful rejection of truth?
“God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.”
If they are deceived now, they’ll be even more deceived then.
You say, “Hold on—God doesn’t send anybody delusion. Why would He do that?” Read verse 11 again: “That they should believe the lie.”
It’s getting worse, isn’t it? The end result of believing the lie is “…that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:12)
That last phrase is key: they had the truth, they saw it, yet they chose to “not believe the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.” They heard and knew the truth, but taking pleasure in their sin, they turned from it. They looked at God, they looked at their sin, and they chose their sin.
God says, “All right. You want your sin. The baggage that comes with it is a delusion, a lie, and damnation.” God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), but He won’t violate their free will.
You are free to choose.
You are not free not to choose.
You are also not free to choose the consequences of your choice.
Again, the problem is not in the head but in the heart.
One of the greatest promises in the Bible comes from Jesus in John 7:17, where He said, "If you will do the will of God, then you will know who I am—whether I’m just some peasant prophet who has a Messiah complex, or if I have come from God” (paraphrased).
There is your challenge: Are you seeking to know the truth? Or dodging it? If you will to do the will of God, then you will know who Jesus is. You will know God is real.
The problem for skeptics isn’t intellectual. It’s their will. When you surrender your will, God will speak to you. Light obeyed increases light! If people who have never heard of Jesus Christ will follow the light they’ve been given just in the wonder of Creation, God will give them greater light.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
In the end, God isn’t going to judge us by the sin we’ve committed but by the light we’ve rejected. Romans 2:5-16 makes this clear. God knows how much light each of us has and holds each of us accountable according to that light.
"For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required" (Luke 12:48).
It will be tragic for those who refuse to live up to the light they have. But how much more so for a person who has had the Gospel presented time after time from a pastor begging people to be saved, but says “no” to God?
The burning question is not “What will God do with the heathen who never heard?” but “What will God do with you who have heard Jesus died in agony on the cross for you, and you said ‘No’?” Never say you didn’t have a chance. If you have heard the Gospel and reject it, you will get further from the truth, and your heart will become darker.
If you believe in Jesus today, I promise you on the authority of the Word of God, He will save you. If there’s just a glimmer of light right now, come to the light. Obey what you do know, and God will teach you what you don’t know. But don’t let some intellectual problems keep you from Jesus. You’ll wake up in Hell and you still won’t have it all figured out. Just come like a child and trust Christ.
Pray this prayer to give your life to Jesus:
“O God, I am a sinner and I have a sinful nature by my first birth. I need a second birth. I need a new nature. I need to be born from above. Lord Jesus, You died to save me and You promised to save me if I would trust You. Thank You for paying for my sin with Your blood on the cross. Thank You for making it possible for me to be saved today. I now open my heart. I receive You by faith as my personal Lord and Savior. Forgive my sin. Cleanse me. Save me today and help me not to be ashamed of You. In Your name, I pray. Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer, we’d like to celebrate with you and provide you with some resources to help you get started in your new life. Let us know by clicking here.