“ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD THE GOSPEL DOOMED?”
It is important that we begin this new calendar year, and this month that will end with our annual emphasis on missions, with a consideration of others. By others, I refer to those who are not like us, who are not Christians, whose eternal destinies have not been forever altered by a saving encounter with the gospel and a reception of the gifts of faith, of repentance, and of eternal life in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God and the unique savior of sinful men.
When considering the spiritual condition of those poor souls who are not Christians, of course we open ourselves to severe criticism by those blinded unbelievers who would accuse us of judgmentalism, of racism, of ethnic arrogance, of cultural imperialism, and a whole host of other charges that are merely constructs designed to distort reality and obscure the truth. Nevertheless, before proceeding, allow me to do a bit of housekeeping. One is not guilty of judgmentalism who embraces a position regarding the truth that is found in God’s Word. For example: I am not judging someone when I disapprove of his adulterous lifestyle. Rather, I am agreeing with the judgment of God as it is found in His inspired and infallible Word. As for the warning of Christ to “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” found in Matthew 7.1, it is a caution perversely embraced by those who know they are doing wrong in order to protect their wrongdoing from the disapproval of others. It is not judgmentalism to agree with judgment of conduct that God has already pronounced. As for racism, it is a charge that must be couched in the secure confidence of profound ignorance. For most of my life I have heard the charge that Christianity is the white man’s religion, a charge I first began to hear on Indian reservations as a child. I then heard the accusation on the university campus. I have even heard the charge leveled by supposedly well-educated adults who ought to know better. The three sons of Noah who exited the Ark after the great Flood were Ham, Shem, and Japheth, with Japheth the primary ancestor of the white people of this world, Ham and Shem being the primary ancestors of the darker people of this world. Point of fact, Christianity first took root among the Jews, a Semitic people descended from Shem. Christianity as quickly spread to Africa and India as it did to Europe in the first century, so the notion that Christianity is a white man’s religion and by inference to be of benefit to white people more than to others, is utter nonsense that has no basis in history.
Still others insist that the desire to spread Christianity is based upon ethnic arrogance. Of that, I am absolutely sure. Without doubt, there is ethnic arrogance associated with the spread of Christianity, though light needs to be shed on the matter. First, it must be argued that no two cultures are equal and human history has always seen the clash of cultures take place, with the more successful culture usually overwhelming the less successful culture. However, that takes place where there is no Christianity to be found, as well as where Christianity is found. India, China, Africa, Europe, the British Isles, and the New World saw these phenomenon centuries before the dawn of the Christian era. Sadly, ethnic arrogance can also be found in Christian missions. It ought not to be, it ought to be rooted out, it is not pleasing to God, it is a separate issue from the gospel message, but it is admittedly a problem that needs to be addressed at another time, since it is neither the original nor the best motive for spreading the gospel. How about the charge of cultural imperialism? With a religion like Islam, which is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is supposedly a belief system that describes the relationship of a creature to a creator; this is a particularly sensitive issue. The reason it is so is because Islam is itself primarily engaged in cultural imperialism, seeking to forcefully impose cultural rules on others with little regard for heart beliefs and values. Thus, it is no surprise that since Muslims think that all westerners are Christians, they frequently see such things as Levi’s, baseball caps, belts, Air Jordans, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola in their countries as efforts by Christian westerners to engage in cultural imperialism, rather than correctly seeing such things as fads embraced by their children and marketed by companies for no other purpose than to make money.
Can we set aside all those hot button charges and emotional accusations that cloud our consideration of the facts that are important and beyond dispute found in God’s Word? One of the questions that arise in the minds of many with respect to Christianity’s inherent manifesto to evangelize everywhere is why? The question is not so much why seek to evangelize the lost everywhere, for that is obvious. The Savior commanded as much. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,” Matthew 28.19. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16.15. “. . . repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations,” Luke 24.47. Finally, “. . . ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” Acts 1.8.
Thus, it is clear that obedient Christians will seek to fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ. The question that I seek to address today is why the Great Commission was committed to us? Coming at the issue from a completely different direction than our Savior’s marching orders, we should ask what is the condition of the heathen? What is to be said about the spiritual condition of those who are not only not Christians, but they are not in lands where Christians can be found, and not in regions where the gospel is ever proclaimed? In short, are those who have never heard the gospel doomed?
As we turn to God’s Word, may I suggest a mindset that is helpful in any search for the truth? I recommend that you consciously avoid the notion of what you think ought to be in favor of what you discover is. I say this because the mind is so facile that what you think ought to be will actually condition your faculties as you search so that you recognize only what agrees with your predetermined conclusion. Have you not noticed this with whom you discuss politics and culture? Thus, you will (in a sense) “find” what you are looking for even if it is not there. My suggestion is that you do all of your looking and then conclude from what facts you have found what actually is.
The question before us is Are those who have never heard the gospel doomed? Notice, we will not in this message consider those who have heard the gospel and rejected it. Neither will we consider those who have heard the gospel and embraced it. Our consideration will only be of those who have never heard of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God, the virgin born Savior of sinful men’s souls Who died a substitutionary death on the cross, was buried, rose from the dead three days later, and Who is presently enthroned in heaven awaiting His glorious return in power and great glory.
I propose to answer the question following a consideration of three important matters; the nature of God, the nature of mankind, and the nature of the gospel:
First, THE NATURE OF GOD
How does the nature of God bear on the issue of whether or not those who have never heard of Jesus Christ, of whether or not those who have never heard the gospel, are doomed?
I begin by insisting that the nature of God determines His morality. The Bible reveals that God is personal, that He possesses the personality characteristics that we also possess as personal beings; intellect, sensibility, and will. That is, both God and we can think rationally and logically, both God and we recognize the existence of morality, such as right and wrong, and both God and we possess will, the capacity to decide and to act within the limits of our nature. Focusing on God, specifically His sensibility, sometimes referred to as His moral attributes, we see what is also held by conservative scholars, that the Bible reveals God to be a moral being, possessing among others such moral attributes as holiness, goodness, mercy, grace, righteousness, justice, and love. Because of time constraints, may I simply point out without proving what is so evident to those who read God’s Word? God is holy, meaning He is pure from any taint of sin or moral defilement, good, meaning He is benevolent, merciful, meaning God’s goodness is exercised on behalf of His creature’s needs, gracious, meaning He freely acts on behalf of those without merit, and also just and righteous, meaning He visits entirely appropriate consequences on individual behavior. What about love? John 3.16 proclaims God’s love and both First John 4.8 and 16 declare that God is love. So you see, while there are conflicts that exist between our perceptions of what constitutes morality, God differs from you and me in that He is entirely consistent in His morality and that He possesses perfect clarity regarding what actually is moral conduct. You and I, on the other hand, are notorious for our tendency to display by words and deeds moral confusion. Support for everything I assert in this message will be found in the footnotes of this sermon when it is posted to the church web site later today.
Continuing in this vein, the nature of God determines His actual deeds. In Malachi 3.6, the LORD declares that He does not change. Of course, He does not change, He is perfect. Being perfect, as a predictable consequence, He is also faithful. Moses declared, in Deuteronomy 7.9, “the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God.” What is faithfulness? It is consistent. It is constant. It is predictable. It is reliable. This means that God is always holy. God is always good. God is always merciful. God is always gracious. God is always righteous. God is always just. God is always and can only be love. Has it been the experience of many that God does not always from our perspective seem to be holy, good, merciful, gracious, righteous, just and loving? Yes, as the anger of Cain toward God, the anger of Job toward God, the anger of Jonah toward God, and the disappointment of Martha and Mary toward the Savior plainly show. However, despite the erroneous conclusions drawn by flawed men who rely on their own very limited perspective of reality, God is always and ever true to His nature.
This means that the nature of God determines His reasonable and just requirements. God is never wrong. God is never mistaken. God never omits from His considerations any of the facts or germane details. Thus, it needs to be settled in your thinking once and for all, the answer to the rhetorical question posed by Abraham so long ago when faced with God’s determination to annihilate the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because their sins were very grievous: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” There are times in your life when you are faced with tragedy that provokes you to consider God’s motive for acting, or what appears to be His motive for not acting to spare you or a loved one great pain and heartache. Keep in mind the question of Abraham, which was not really so much a question as an assertion: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” What then can be said about God’s pronouncement to Adam, in Genesis 2.17, “thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”? Or His declaration by the prophet Ezekiel, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”? What can be said about the Apostle Paul’s declaration in Romans 6.23, “For the wages of sin is death”? And what is to be said about John 3.18? “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Next, THE NATURE OF MANKIND
How does the nature of mankind bear on the issue of whether or not those who have never heard of Jesus Christ, those who have never heard the gospel, are doomed?
First, let us ask the question, Is not everyone born sinful? Oh, is there disparity of opinion regarding the answer to that question, as evidenced both by people’s comments and people’s child rearing philosophies. Some would say, “No,” children are not born sinful. They are innocent.” Others would say, “Yes, children are born sinful,” yet their reluctance to curb children’s infantile impulses and impose upon them the restrictions that are so necessary to liberate them later on from their passions shows that their words do not agree with their actual parenting philosophy. Please do not mistake what I show you in God’s Word for anything like distaste for children. I love them, like them, encourage married couples not to try to play God by preventing the conception and birth of them, and am dead set against any actions that endanger them, either before they are born or after. It breaks my heart when children’s worst fears are realized, namely the loss of a parent by divorce, and I do everything in my power to see children raised in intact homes by moms and dads who love and serve God as they carefully raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That said, children possess a sinful nature from the moment of their conception. Notice David’s inspired comment about both his prenatal development and his conception, in Psalm 51.5: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” As well, consider Psalm 58.3: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” My friends, this means infants, from the womb, are estranged from God. Thus, the very nature of the newborn is corrupt.
As well, Does not everyone voluntarily commit sins? The lies that are spoken by the young are not the result of any coercion. “Billy, did you take that cookie?” “No, Momma.” No one ever taught a child to deceive. Therefore, it cannot be blamed on anyone else’s influence, or upon society’s ills, or even on poverty. It is the very nature of the child, and therefore the very nature of the adult, to commit sin. Granted, there are evil influences that affect the degree to which sins are committed. An evil cousin can teach a youngster to sin more cleverly than he did before summer vacation, but the propensity to sin was already there, and every child volunteers to commit sins of various kinds without any help whatsoever.
This being the case, Is guilt and responsibility for wrongdoing limited to only some of those who are guilty? Everyone has a disposition that is inclined against God. God is holy, while individuals (be they infants or adults) are defiled. God is good, while individuals are bad. God is righteous, while individuals are unrighteous. The fact that every jurisdiction under the sun passes laws in an attempt to restrict the conduct of people who would in some way inflict harm on others shows that man’s sinfulness, therefore man’s guilt, is universal. Therefore, I ask you, are only some who are guilty responsible for their guilt? Are only some accountable for their wrongdoing? Is a thief responsible for stealing only in the city where there are police officers, or is he not just as wrong for stealing out in the wilderness where no police officers are in sight? Is a lie only a lie in Monrovia, or is a lie as much a lie when it is told on a raft the middle of the ocean? I think we would agree that one’s geographical location is hardly a factor in considering whether something is right or wrong, or in consideration of one’s responsibility for the guilt associated with wrong conduct. Driving a car at 90 miles per hour through a school zone is no more wrong than driving a car at 90 miles per hour through a group of children in the Sahara, since the recklessness is the same, the danger to the children is the same, and the level of irresponsibility displayed by the driver is the same. How about poverty as an excuse? Are the poor justified to steal? Why, then, did no one in Black Harlem ever lock their doors in the first half of the 20th century, though that ghetto was among the poorest in the country? And why did almost no one lock their doors in the Deep South in the first half of the 20th century, though the entire region suffered through grinding poverty? It is because those who lived in both places, though poor, did not see their poverty as justification for stealing.
Therefore, can we not conclude that a man is sinful by nature, no matter where it is he is born, geographically or economically? As well, when an individual sins, does he not sin willfully, voluntarily? And does the location of his sins in any way affect the guiltiness of his wrongdoing? The point that I seek to establish is that guilt is guilt, whether it is guilt in the vicinity of a gospel witness or not.
Finally, THE NATURE OF THE GOSPEL
By gospel, of course, I refer to the good news to which the Apostle Paul referred in First Corinthians 15.1-4:
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
However, when I refer to the nature of the gospel, I am referring to far more than simply a consideration of the historical facts that are recorded in God’s Word and that took place in real time over the course of three days and three nights. The nature of the gospel includes all that is relevant to what the Lord Jesus Christ did leading up to His crucifixion, as well as what He did subsequent to His ascension to God’s right hand, and the salvation that results. To that end, allow me to ask several questions related to this important matter of salvation made possible by the gospel, and then draw a conclusion:
I have four questions for your consideration: First, was God in any way obligated to send His Son to die on the cross for our sins? Was the Lord Jesus Christ in any way obliged to die on the cross for our sins? I think those who have read the Bible would concur; there was no obligation with either God the Father or the Lord Jesus Christ in connection with the gospel. That the Father sent His Son and that the Son willingly came was entirely a matter of grace. Would you not agree? Next, is the matter of the salvation of someone’s sinful soul related to God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, except by grace? That is, is God in any way obligated to save any sinner, or is salvation by grace? Ephesians 2, verses 5 and 8 jumps out, do they not, with both declaring, “by grace are ye saved”? Who among genuine Christians would dispute that salvation is entirely a matter of God’s grace, free of obligation by God to those without merit? Third, consider this matter of faith. Does God have to give someone faith? I am among those who are convinced that faith is a gift that is given by God, through the means of His Word being preached, and as a direct result of the Spirit’s blessing, Ephesians 2.8, Romans 10.17, and Second Corinthians 4.13. More to the point, I am convinced Ephesians 2.8 declares faith to be a gift that God gives: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it [faith] is the gift of God.” Thus, not only is salvation by grace, that which is associated with salvation, and that which results in salvation, is also by grace. Meaning? Meaning God is in no way obligated to give faith to anyone. Finally, consider this thing referred to as repentance. Does God give repentance?
Acts 11.18: “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
Second Timothy 2.25: “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
In both verses we find the Greek word didwmi, translated granted in Acts 11.18 and translated give in Second Timothy 2.25, the very commonly used word for giving as an expression of generosity. Notice, however, that in both verses it is God Who gives and what He gives is repentance. That is grace described, even if the word grace is not used, is it not?
Can we not conclude from these four questions that God has no obligation to save anyone? He did not have to send His Son in the first place. That He did send His Son was a gracious thing. He did not even then have to save anyone. That He does save some is gracious. As well, He does not have to give anyone either faith or repentance. Thus, there is nothing about God and a sinner that obligates Him to bless, though His holiness, righteousness, and justice, are moral attributes that do demand His punishment of the guilty for their sins.
What does this mean? This means that the heathen are doomed. They are doomed because they are damned. They are damned because they are deserving. Thus, since God’s moral attributes are present without contradiction or conflict of any kind; no one can rightly raise any objection about the peril of the heathen by insisting “That’s not fair!”
You claim you don’t believe in God in the first place, so what place is there for you to claim He is not fair? You reject the gospel out of hand who claim you do believe in God, so why do you have any concern for the condition of the heathen? My point is that you have no standing in this discussion who deny the existence of God or who discount the importance of the gospel. On the other hand, we who are Christians, who embrace not only the truth about the sinfulness of all men but also the imperative to respond to the gospel, understand that not only are the heathen doomed, but the gospel is their only hope. As the Apostle Peter once said to the Jewish rulers, in Acts 4.12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
It is given to us as a commission to seek the salvation of all. It is given to us as a message, this gospel of God’s grace toward sinful men in His Son, Jesus Christ. So, what about those who never hear, who are never told, who are without God in the world and are without hope? Romans 1.20 ends, “they are without excuse.” God has not left Himself without witness. “. . . the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen [by everyone], being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” Is it enough? No, it is not enough. That is why our Savior has commissioned us. That is why our church is a missionary Baptist church, rather than being a congregation of sufficient and satisfied selfish people.
Those who have never heard are doomed. That is why we are charged to either go or to send those who go. That is why our church is so committed to supporting missionaries. That is why we conduct an annual Missions Conference.
 Exodus 20.14; Matthew 5.27-28, 32; 19.9, 18; Romans 13.9; Galatians 5.19; 2 Peter 2.14; Revelation 2.22
 Henry Clarence Thiesen, Introductory Lectures In Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), pages 128-133, Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Volume I, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1950), pages 456-463, Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, revised edition 1961), pages 62-71, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), pages 200-208, J. L. Dagg, Manual Of Theology And Church Order, New Edition, (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1982), pages 76-94.
 Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 60.
 Chafer, page 206
 Thiessen, pages 129-130.
 Genesis 4.5; Job 3.1ff; Jonah 4; John 11.21, 32-33
 Numbers 23.19; 1 Samuel 15.29
 Genesis 18.25
 Ezekiel 18.4, 20
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 242-243.
 Keep in mind that God most certainly does obligate Himself to keep and to bless those who are His children through faith in Christ.
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