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Are Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel Lost?

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Question:  What is your position on the heathen who have never heard the gospel?  There are many people in many places in history who have never been aware of Christ.  Is there any way for them to have been saved?

Response: No, it's not possible to be saved apart from the obedience of faith in Jesus Christ (Jn.14:6). As to the gist of your question, I suppose it all depends how "big" you envision God to be. Can a God who made the universe in an instant, who sustains it by His divine will, who planned the beginning from the end, who knows all things, actual and possible, can such a God anticipate the finite actions of few finite creatures, creatures of His own making? I believe this is a very small thing for Him. According to Psalm 19 and Romans 1:19-20 (cf. Rom.10:18-21), everyone knows about God. The fact that so many exchange His glory for corruptible substitutes or come to deny that they ever had any cognizance of Him doesn't change the fact of His faithfulness in making Himself known to all flesh. I don't see where He is responsible to make sure that the specific gospel message is delivered to all the myriad folk who in the history of the world have demonstrably had no use for Him (pearls before swine).

Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord.
Isaiah 26:10

Whenever there has been a spark, God has fed it - this I firmly believe (cf. Prov.2:3-5). The fact that some brave missionary has endured much to make the gospel available to a far and distant place is due to God's honoring of that spark - so that the salvation of the unlikely heathen is not a direct result of the missionary's evangelizing but the other way around:  the missionary's evangelizing is a result of the omniscience, grace and perfect planning of God, taking into account every single one of His creatures who would ever desire to seek Him. God cannot be boxed in by human philosophizing or worst case hypotheticals - He is faithful and has always been so. That has to be taken as a matter of faith, but when it is, great things happen from a spiritual point of view, not just on this issue, but in every issue in the believer's life. For just as He is faithful to take care of the most unlikely and unbelievable situations regarding the heathen - beyond what we would ever anticipate or think credible - so He can and does do for us in our lives, overcoming the impossible, creating the nonexistent, bringing blessing out of cursing for all who trust Him beyond what the eye can see. No one who needs God's provision and trusts Him for it ever lacks it - in truth. No one who has ever sought God, for salvation or for growth, has ever been denied a bountiful provision of more than they could ever ask or think. He - who and what He really is - is the answer to your question (and to all questions whose answers are worth knowing).

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:10  NIV

Please also see these important links:

Free-Will Faith and the Will of God

Faith: What is it?

Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.

Free-Will Faith.

The Plan of God

God's Free Gift of Salvation.

Choosing Hell: Questions about Salvation and the Love of God.

Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved.

Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.

Yours in Christ,

Bob Luginbill

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