Tuesday, December 6, 2011
What About Those Who Never Hear The Gospel?
I just got done listening to Issues Etc.’s excellent discussion in the first half hour today. The question at hand dealt with people who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what becomes of them? If we all wrack our brains, we can come up with generations in various parts of the world who never heard the name, Jesus Christ, let alone that salvation is found in Him alone. (Acts 4:12) Much speculation busies the faculties of Dinvinity schools, seminaries, and us. “Needless!” I cry. First, do we have any record of the Church Fathers’ speaking of a land or people who deserved to hear the Gospel? NO. Do apostles and prophets say anyone deserves to hear the Gospel? No. Our Lord simply calls us to preach it to everyone everywhere, as He calls us into our daily vocation. Are you a pastor? Your vocation is preaching where and when God puts you. Are you a missionary in another country, perhaps, training native pastors. God’s put you there. Are you a garbage man, a bus driver, a call center rep, a teacher? Pray that God gives you opportunities to speak His Gospel. Our Lord does not and will not dwell in speculative theology. Rather, He dishes out to us what is most certain. Isaiah was aware that through preaching the Word had gone out to all the earth. People got the Word they didn’t deserve to hear. And, God used him to promise the people—His Word will jnot return void but will accomplish that for which He sends it. (Is. 55:1-11) Folks, atheists and agnostics love to pose “gotacha” questions like, “What about those who have not heard?” They are trying to prove that our preaching means nothing anyway. In our politically correct era of fairness, many people focus on those who don’t get the opportunity to hear. So, off the mainliners go on missions to heal a social ill. AS much as they care for needs around them, that is fantastic. Yet, many of these mainliners have forgotten what the Gospel is-the declaration of God that, through Christ, He saves us free for the trusting in Him. As Romans 1:16 says—It’s the power of God for the salvation to all who believe. Many mainliners like to lessen the load of the cross by redefining the Gospel. It’s enough, they say, to just feed the hungry, build houses, demand social justice as an organized community. Many such individuals themselves have been falsely catechized into douting Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and impending return. May our merciful Lord continue sending His Word to them they may truly believe it between now and their next humanitarian show. Again, God does not deal in speculative theology. He’s all about certainty. So, what about that certainty? Paul is quite blunt in Romans 10. How can they believe who haven’t heard? They can’t. How can they hear unless someone is sent to them? By osmosis? They can’t. And how can they preached unless God sends them to those who haven’t heard? They can’t. We can’t. So, faith, says Paul and I paraphrase—faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The word does it all as our Lord guides us to speak it as His ambassadors. (2 Cor. 5:20) What should we speak? Our Lord makes this a certainty also—“repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 24:47) What, may we ask, becomes of those whose parents or grandparents or grandparents great-grandparents never got the Gospel? Take a look around where many will say this has happened? Christianity used to flourish in North African and the Middle East. But, with the destructive advance of Islam—which is not a religion of peace—the people fled, were killed, or forsook the Gospel. Their lineage is the legacy of unbelief, deserving the Father’s wrath repeated to the third and fourth generations. (Ex. 20:3-5) In short, no one is without excuse. I love how Pr. Wilken and his guest addressed Walther’s sentiments concerning the American Indians. Instead of robbing them of their land in expanding America from sea to shining sea—we needed to be preaching the Gospel to them. From his home in Neuendetessau, Germany, Wilhelm Loehe sent missionaries such as F. C. D. Wyneken to the Saginaw Valley in Michigan and to northern Indiana to preach and serve among the Indians. So they could have a better life? No. So they could be a trophy by which missionaries could pat themselves on the back? No. He sent Wyneken and others to preach the saving Word of Christ crucified, the same Word that kills us and makes us alive every day and, in His Church, richly forgives our sins. When Paul wrote to the Roman congregation, He spoke, in part, to those who might have wonderded what happened to those who died between Adam’s and the time the Israelites received the Ten Commandments. As far as the Law was concerned, they became a Law unto themselves since the Law was written on their consciences (Rom. 2:15 What about the promise? Those generations, particularly between Adam and the flood also had opportunity to hear the Word. Most, except for eight person in Noah’s day, rejected it. (Gen. 6:5, 1 Peter 3:19-20) But, receiving the Lord’s promise with trust, Noah and His wife and his sons and their wives endured the flood as a type of Baptism, which now saves us. (1 Peter 3:21) Does God hate those who have rejected His Word? NO. He loved them enough to send His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the whole world, that all who believe in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, Rom. 5:6) Our Lord does not desire to burden us with speculating, “What about those who…?” He gives us His Word to speak in whatever vocation He gives us and assures us that it will not return to Him empty. It will accomplish, often unseen by us, that for which He sends it.