Can God reach all the billions of people who, through no fault of their own, have never heard of Jesus Christ? If I am concerned, how much more should God—who is perfect in love—be concerned?
—Bruce Chwalek, via e-mail
Can God? Of course! An omnipotent God can do all he wills. And God is concerned. As the Lord told a reluctant prophet, "But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah 4:11).
Missions history is bursting with accounts of God using dreams, visions, Scripture, and his messengers to reach lost people with the good news. Yes, God cares more about the lost than we do, which is one reason he entered our world to die for our sins.
But your question, which many other people ask, may betray an inadequate understanding of human depravity. When we talk about those who, "through no fault of their own," haven't heard of Christ, we seem to assume that their biggest problem is not sinfulness, but ignorance. If only these innocents, we seem to say, had the opportunity to hear, all would be well. And we might secretly wonder whether God is being unfair to deny everyone an equal chance.
Yet Scripture says that all humanity is "without excuse" before God because Creation reveals his existence, power, and divine nature. Further, we rebels unrighteously "suppress the truth" we have (Rom. 1:18-23). We are at fault. As a consequence, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). If God were perfectly fair, we would all be in hell.
But our loving God does not do that. Further, for unknown reasons, he gives us differing amounts of light—and we must respond to the light we have. Those who respond to a little will receive more. As Jesus said, "Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him" (Luke 8:18).
So if we Christians care about these lost, sinful people, perhaps we ought not to ask whether God will save them in their ignorance. (Sincere and equally brilliant theologians differ on this matter, and Scripture does not address it directly.) A more fruitful focus might be on how God can use us to make sure they have an opportunity to hear.
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
Click here for reprint information.