What Happens to People Who Don’t Hear the Gospel?
The have been many arguments that spreading the gospel is unnecessary, that God will speak to the hearts of all men.
The idea that people who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be free from the judgment of God is a dangerous assumption Christians often make. The Bible tells us a different story:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20
For All Have Sinned
We are all sinners and outside of our acceptance of the Gospel, there is no forgiveness of sin. We each have an innate notion from God that He does in fact exist and is in control of the universe around us. Where creation provides us with a glimpse of God’s glory (Psalms 19:1; Acts 14:17), our hearts have a longing that can only be satisfied by a genuine relationship with the Creator. Because of this, Paul concludes in Romans 1 that all humanity is without excuse (v. 20). (Criswell Study Bible, p. 1324)
The Bible is clear; our sin has separated us from God:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
And moreover, our sin results in death:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Sin separates people from God
Because of our sin, we are in desperate need of divine mercy and pardon. We have to understand that God’s attitude towards our sin will never be one of tolerance. Although we often see our sin in tiers, with some being worse than others, all sin is equal in the eyes of God. If God chose to categorize our sin, then he would be working against His own nature. God is holy and cannot be complicit when it comes to sin. Because He is holy, he hates sin.
God literally has a ‘holy aversion’ to sin. God’s hate for sin is essential and just as important as his love, mercy and grace is to us. God has a genuine concern for us and how we live our lives. To love us, God must hate that in us that is evil and that works against his will.
What if they don’t have knowledge of God?
You may be asking yourself, “If someone has no knowledge of God, how can they be lost?” Paul answers this question in Romans 1:19-20. First off, Paul tells us that everyone sees God’s reflection in nature. In doing so, each person has enough depth of knowledge of God to make them responsible before God. When we take the time to genuinely explore creation, soak up the wonders of nature and the mysteries of space, our minds will often wonder about the Creator.
Our minds naturally lead us to believe in a cause and effect, a creator and His creation. Nature provides us with the proof that not only is God real, but he is far greater than his own creation. Paul says that having this knowledge gives us no excuse to not believe in God.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Romans 1:21-23
Secondly, Paul tells us that God has already placed in the heart of every man that there is a righteous God. We not only have the benefit of seeing His reflection in nature, but our hearts are already prepared to seek Him as our God. We are born knowing that there is a God.
However, we are guilty of willfully choosing not to glorify Him. Adding insult to injury, the good things of nature provided by God are often accepted, yet He is not credited for His work.
The Danger of Replacing God
In order to suppress the innate knowledge of God, many different forms of reasoning have been developed in the name of logic. Paul referred to these kinds of efforts as “futile thinking”. He took it a step further in verse 22 by saying, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools”. Perceived human intelligence has taken the place of the moral understanding of God. Darkness has overcome the light.
Primitive tribes and religious sects of Paul’s day also provide clear examples of what he describes in verses 21-23. In their worship, these groups often “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things”.
Each one of these groups sought to create their own god based on their own perceptions of what deity should be (in some cases animals, and in others mere men). The practice continues today in different ways; be it through atheism, eastern religions or even in the name of science.
Spreading the Gospel isn’t optional, it is Essential
The Bible is clear; any person without God is lost and deserving of Hell:
- Because of the revelation of God reflected in nature;
- Because each one of is born with the knowledge of God in our hearts.
This leaves us with one conclusion, it is essential that Christians focus on the spread of the Gospel. Be it through mission work or simple word of mouth, it is our duty to ensure that the Gospel is spread to all creation. It is a matter of life and death. (Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume II, pp. 343, 344.)