Does God Condemn Those Who Have Not Heard?

It’s a great joy to me when church members come to me and ask for some help in clarifying an idea or thought from the scriptures. I am not always able to answer with clarity, but I enjoy sharing about the Bible with my brothers and sisters.

Recently a Sunday School teacher asked me about a thought that was brought up in the lesson materials. I thought that the question raised might be something that a lot of us have questions about.

The question is, “Does God condemn people who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus?” My response is made up of these 5 points:

  1. God will do what is right. I cannot know the nuances of how God might judge every human circumstance. I cannot know the soul of any person. However God judges people, God will make the right judgment. I am sure of that. As Abraham says in his conversation with the Lord before He destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).
  2. Every person will be judged based on the light he or she has been given. The fact that a person has not heard the gospel does not mean that he or she will not be under God’s judgment. Each person will have to answer to God for the life they have lived. If they are condemned, it will be because of their own actions, not because they didn’t believe in something they never heard about.  Note what Paul says in Romans 2:14-15: “Indeed, when Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves…They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness…”
  3. The gospel of Jesus is sufficient to save anyone who trusts in Christ as Savior and Lord. We may not be able to say how God will judge those who have not heard, but Jesus declares that His life and death are sufficient for anyone. “…whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
  4. God wants everyone to be saved and redeemed in eternity. John 3:17 says that God sent His Son into the world “not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is “not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.”
  5. Finally, we are called as followers of Jesus to share the gospel as if everyone’s salvation depended on it. We must not let our mission activity or our evangelism become less urgent because people might not have to hear the gospel. Our calling is not to be the judge. That is God’s job. Our calling is to bear witness everywhere that we can.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

Siler City, NC

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