WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVE NOT HEARD ABOUT JESUS CHRIST?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Whenever the Christian teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, invariably, the question is posed, “What about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ?” While this question is usually asked in a captious (entrapping) manner in order to intimidate the Christian to retreat to silence, the Christian soldier needs to have handy verses that address that matter. So, what does the Bible say about those who “have not heard the name of Jesus?” Let us search the Scriptures and see!
In his 30-plus-year ministry, the Apostle Paul met many heathens, people who had never heard a single word about Jesus Christ, who literally knew nothing about the one true God, JEHOVAH, the God of the nation Israel. These Gentiles literally had no knowledge of the Bible whatsoever (even of the Old Testament Scriptures, which was the only “Bible” during the first half of Paul’s ministry).
Ephesians 4:17-19 says about these people: “ This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,  Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:  Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Ephesians 2:11-12 explains why the Gentiles were spiritually blind and ignorant: “ Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Those Gentiles did not have the God of the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ, so they lived apart from His life, His values, and His plan!
That Gentile ignorance began to diminish with Paul’s ministry, as the Apostle himself describes in Acts 26 (referring back to events in Acts 9, about 30 years earlier): “ And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.  But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;  Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,  To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
In Acts 17, Paul is in Athens (verse 16). While standing on Mars’ Hill, he speaks to all Athenians, but especially to its Greek philosophers (verses 18ff.). These Greeks are very religious, as evidenced by their altars and devotions, but they do not know the God of the Bible, the Creator of heaven and earth: Paul notes their altar that reads, “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (verse 23). Paul preached to teach in verses 29-31: “ Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” God had sent Paul to these ignorant Gentiles to stop them from thinking vain thoughts, to quit reducing the Creator to some manmade idol, and to realize that Jesus Christ had come to save them from such foolishness!
Years after his salvation and the beginning of his ministry, Paul wrote in Colossians 1:23-24: “  If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” If we take verse 23—“the gospel… was preached to every creature which is under heaven”—very literally, every single person had heard the Gospel of the Grace of God in Paul’s day. Despite such limited and slow communication in that period of history, the Bible affirms that the whole then-known world had heard about Jesus Christ (this was through Paul’s ministry; Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26; Ephesians 3:9).
Colossians 1:5-6 says, “ For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;  Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:” Surely, if the whole then-known world had heard of Jesus Christ, today’s “advanced” communication methods could certainly prove it to be true even now in the 21st century.
It should be pointed out that we do not know just how much those who (allegedly) “do not know” know. We do not know how much they know. The Christian should point this out and emphasize it when asked, “What about those who have not heard about Jesus Christ?”
Read Romans 1:18-20: “ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
In the above passage, the Bible does say that, because of the existence of the natural creation, every single person knows that there is a Creator God, Someone who is powerful and Someone who is a righteous Judge. They know there is a God (they may not know His name, but they do know that He exists). They are “without excuse.”
Every person, no matter where he or she lives in the world, has a conscience, something “which may be known of God [that] is manifest in them” (Romans 1:19). Romans 2:13-16 explains: “ (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.  For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:  Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; )  In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”
God will eventually judge “the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to [Paul’s] gospel.” Every person who has lived in this the Dispensation of Grace, will be held accountable to God regarding what he or she did with the Gospel of the Grace of God. God could only be just in doing this if they all had a chance to hear it, and evidently, they all will have had a chance.
Throughout the world are God’s written Word, the Holy Bible, and His people, Christians, who teach and preach the Holy Bible. Through these two means, God makes Himself known to the world’s lost people. If any person in the world wants to know JEHOVAH, “the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9), he or she can know Him. God is not hiding from anyone. In fact, Paul, in the context of Acts 17, says “…all nations of men… that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:” (Acts 17:26,27).
As English-speaking people, we can come to know God through the King James Bible. First, we must be willing to listen to what He has to say in it!
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