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November 22, 2021 12:01 am
What happens to people who never get the opportunity to hear about Christ? Today, R.C. Sproul walks us through one of the most common questions people raise against Christianity.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind. If we have any concern for people if we have any compassion for people. We must ask the question what happens to people who have never ever had the opportunity to hear about Christ. Usually, the question is framed around a poor innocent native in a remote jungle somewhere whose never heard the gospel well-meaning Christians try to answer that question, but any times their answer inadvertently denies salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. Over the next few days. Dr. RC Sproul is going to respond to some of the objections unbelievers have to the Christian faith.
And this question is one that always seems to come up in our last program I talked about the importance of obeying the biblical mandate to give an answer to everyone who asks us and give a defense for the hope that lies within us, and I mentioned an exercise that I was engaged with with the people from the evangelism explosion organization in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where these people collated a list of the most frequent questions or objections that they encountered with people in the context of evangelism and they reduce that number to 10 and I wrote this book called reason to believe in response to that survey to give them some help in providing information for people who were involved in this task of evangelism and I said that what we were going to do now is look at some of those most commonly raised questions or objections about Christianity and today I will list the heart with the question that I get more often than any other question which may seem a bit strange to you but the one I hear again and again, is this question what happens to the poor innocent native in Africa or Australia or South America or wherever, who has never ever heard of Jesus Christ. It's amazing how often that question comes. I teach seminary and frequently the question comes out of the lips of seminary students who are bothered by this question. I sometimes when I hear it I think I heard that question so many many times.
I'm getting tired of answering it and then I checked myself in mid-thought and I say yes but I remember the first time I raise that question.
It bothered me. It's an obvious question isn't.
I mean if we have any concern for people if we have any compassion for people. We must ask the question what happens to people who have never ever had the opportunity to hear about Christ. So this is not just an idle question. It's an important question. Usually the way it's phrased is what happens to the poor innocent native in Africa who is never heard of Christ. When I hear the question phrased in that manner. I have two answers for one of which is kind of a tricky answer designed to stimulate deeper thought and the other answer is a more serious or more sober answer than I'll give you both. I'll give you the first answer first. When people say to me are safe. What happens to the poor innocent native in Africa who is never heard of Christ. I said nothing happens to the poor innocent native in Africa. The poor innocent native in Africa doesn't have a thing to worry about the poor innocent native of Africa. When he dies goes directly to heaven he doesn't pass go, he doesn't collect his $200.
He has a free ride for eternal life and people look at me and stork astonishment sometimes in anger and say how can you say such a thing doesn't the Bible command the church to go into every nation and every tongue into every tribe and to preach the gospel to every living creature doesn't the Bible teach plainly that everybody needs to hear the gospel, how can you stand there and say that the poor innocent native in Africa doesn't need to hear the gospel doesn't need Jesus say well I said it was a tricky answer is an answer to a complex question. You know, with a complex question.
Is this the kind of question tricky attorneys asking the court room. You know the attorney that asked the defendant when did you stop beating your wife, for if the defendant says last week is virtually confessed to previously bathing his wife and if he says never that means he still debating his wife would know I already answer the question. He convicts himself of wifely and that's what we call a complex question.
That's kind of a loaded question that makes assumptions that are not spelled out what when the question what happens the innocent native in Africa was never heard the gospel is raised in that manner.
It has this kind of subtle assumption that I'm trying to challenge what's the assumption the assumption that there are innocent natives in Africa.
What I'm trying to say to people is innocent people in Africa and South America and Australia in Russia will care where they live as long as there innocent. They don't need Jesus innocent people don't need a Savior innocent people don't need an atonement innocent people have nothing to worry about. But what's the big question here. Are there any innocent people in Africa, Australia, New Zealand or anywhere else. According to the Bible. There are no innocent people are in innocent people in Africa learn innocent people in America the whole world has been brought before the tribunal of God and determined to be guilty. Somebody counted once nonlocal in the world. Does this sort of thing, but somebody counted once that in a single Willie Graham evangelistic sermon. He quoted the same verse of Scripture for the six times can imagine that. But what was the verse.
One of Billy's favorites all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If the New Testament teaches anything, it teaches the universality of human sin. So the first thing if were going to answer this objection is to get it clear that there's no such thing as an innocent native anywhere. But again, the protest may come forth and say well okay maybe the people in Africa who have never heard of Jesus are sinners.
They may be guilty of all kinds of things but once in their certainly not guilty of is the sin of rejecting Jesus so you're absolutely right there, certainly not guilty of rejecting Jesus if it never heard of Jesus.
How can anybody ever be called guilty of rejecting something that they've never been offered if we remain. They don't have to worry about the judgment of God because they've never rejected Christ and the people brief this deep sigh of relief. I say that's right, they don't have to worry ever about God's judging them negatively or putatively for rejecting Jesus of whom they've never heard the only judgment that will come from God.
At that point will be on the church who is responsible for the fact that these people haven't heard of Jesus because we've been commanded to make sure that they hear of Jesus were the ones that will be held accountable for that, not the person who is never heard of Jesus. But what frightens me is this sigh of relief. I say to these people. Why are you relieved to hear that God will not judge these people for rejecting Jesus.
And when we probe that usually what I get is this that people make the assumption that the only thing that would really get a person in Wade's and serious trouble at the last judgment is the rejection of Christ. And since these people won't be in trouble for rejecting Christ because they've never heard of Christ.
They breathe a sigh of relief. I call our friends then will get this get out of jail free card. They will have the past go, no go straight to heaven as if they were innocent and I raise this question supposed. However, these same people who have never heard a single word about Jesus who have no earthly idea whatsoever about the second person of the Trinity in terms of his earthly incarnation. What if those same people have rejected God the father. See, the only sin for which we were deemed guilty is not the sin of rejecting God the son. If we also likewise reject God the father, we are immediately exposed to his judgment and the thing we have to understand, dear friends, is that Christ came into the world that was all ready guilty not for rejecting him of whom they did not know, but for rejecting the father who sent him again to see the puzzlement and bewilderment in the eyes of people who hear me say that an ASIC but wait a minute, what about those poor people who live in those animistic countries were there born and raised in the midst of idolatrous religion or different religions that obscure the character of God. How can they be held accountable before God for rejecting the father when they don't know anything about the father either civil now it's important for us to be able to give a biblical answer to that question because one of the clearest teachings of the New Testament is this that God the father has revealed himself plainly and clearly to every human being who was alive on this planet. There may be lots of places in their's world where the church is not present. There may be lots of places in the world where the Bible has never been published. There may be many remote places in this world where the missionary activity of the Christian community has never penetrated but there is no place on this planet were God has left himself without a witness. The psalmist tells us, for example, that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth his handiwork and there is no place on this planet where the heavens are totally invisible and the firmament is not made manifest you single what about the person who's blind, I can't see the sky they can see the visible manifestations of God Willie apostle Paul makes a claim in the New Testament that not only has God revealed himself externally through creation but also that he has planted within the soul of every human being and knowledge of himself that he has planted his law within us and that in every human nature. There is an immediate inherent understanding is vague as it may be of the character of Almighty God. Know the place where this is most plainly taught in the Bible is in the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans, Paul says in the 18th verse of this chapter for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, which is common on that briefly. I know that when the Bible speaks about the wrath of God.
People get nervous.
People get uncomfortable somehow people think it's beneath the dignity of God to become angry as he is in anger sin. While we understand there is such thing as righteous indignation, and that the reality of God's wrath is an appropriate response to evil. Why shouldn't God be angry with evil. God understands better than you doing better than I do how destructive sin is. And we also noticed that the target of his wrath, of which Paul is speaking here is not innocence the wrath of God is never revealed against righteousness is not revealed against godliness and it's not revealed against innocence. What Paul is saying here is that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against what against ungodliness and on righteousness over not getting in the technicalities here of the syntax of this text. I am persuaded that what Paul is talking about here is the he's not saying that God is just angry about all kinds of ungodliness and all kinds of unrighteousness, but there's one specific particular sin that the apostle has in view here and it's a sin that can be described both as an action that is unrighteous, but it's also ungodly.
It's a sin that is particularly related to our response to God what is it he says this wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who sit press. The truth in unrighteousness. God's anger is directed against mankind for the suppression of truth for taking the truth and putting it in jail incarcerating for stifling it for entering it for holding it down, but it's not just that God is angry because of how we handle truth in general, but again it's more specific than that. There is a specific truth that human beings willfully and universally in our fallen condition by our nature, repress and suppress, and that truth is the truth about God himself says in verse 19 of Romans one because what may be known of God is manifest in them. For God has shown it to them.
For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Look at that carefully to hear what Paula said Paul is not saying that God has planted obscure or hidden esoteric clues in remote corners of the universe that only the most brilliant, the most erudite, the most investigative type person may peradventure discover Paul is saying here that God reveals himself plainly clearly manifestly the Greek word there is for on a Roth. The Latin term is money faster than God's revelation of himself to the world is crystal clear. It's playing it's manifest God himself has shown it to them as the text goes on to say that man understands it is clearly perceived by us.
What Paul is saying is that every human being knows that God exists and that we know something of his eternal majesty is power. His deity is Godhead and that truth we reject and that that revelation is not something that happened in the 16th century are in the first century were in the 10th century BC but it's an ongoing self-disclosure of God that is built into the creation and has been going on through the things that are made through the created order from day one.
Up until now, and every single human being alive in Africa and Asia, and Australia in North America and South America anywhere in the world does the same thing they suppress the revelation of God and the conclusion. The apostle comes to is therefore they are without excuse known the minute or so that I have left. Let me ask you to ask yourself this question. What excuse do you think people are depending upon to exonerate them from the last judgment of God the excuse.
Everyone is hoping for is the excuse that is claimed by the agnostic who says there is insufficient evidence insufficient data insufficient information about which to make an intelligent judgment.
The excuse were all hoping for is the excuse of ignorance of the last day people really want to say, oh God, if only I had more knowledge. If only I had more information. If only you would've major revelation more clear.
I not only would've embrace you, I would believe you ever been your faithful disciple.
I would've obeyed you all my life. Paul said excuse is stripped away because the assertion here. This dramatic is that the apostle is saying God exists and you know what he has made it absolutely plain and you have rejected him and turned from him to idolatry and that the fact that your religious does not ameliorate your guilt and intensifies it because it's a false religion, and you're not worshiping God as you and so he brings the whole world before the tribunal of God.
So what happens to the person who has never heard of Christ, that person is not going to be judged for the knowledge he doesn't have. He will be judged perfectly by God strictly on the basis of the light that he does have that keeps me no comfort whatsoever because that person needs desperately to hear the light of the gospel which is not those who have already rejected that situation.
Critical message for us today is in it. Everyone without Christ is lost that increases our urgency to bring the gospel to our dying world were glad you joined us today for Renewing Your Mind all this week we're making her way through portions of Dr. RC Sproul series objections answered in eight lessons RC answers questions like why is Christ the only way does God exist in today's question. What about the innocent native but in addition we want to help you learn how to defend your faith in a comprehensive way. That's why were also including Dr. Sproles, 32 part series on apologetics called defending your faith receive a digital download of both series when you contact us today with a donation of any about our offices are closed this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. So were not answering the phone, but you can give your gift and make your request online. When you go to Renewing Your Mind.org.
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Contact us today with a donation of any amount and will be happy to send you Dr. Sproles objections answered and defending your faith again. This is an online offer only, so contact email@example.com before we go today there's RC with a final thought for us in our quorum Dale thought for the day. Let me remind you if you struggle with this difficult question. If you care about a lost humanity doesn't know Christ. Let me remind you if you are a Christian if you weren't born a Christian, you were born with the same propensity toward suppressing the truth of God's revelation that everybody else in the world has and the only reason that you have come to faith is through the grace of God that is placed you in the circumstances where you could hear the good news of the Redeemer that God sent into this world because Christ came into a world that had all ready been judged guilty and I say to you, dear friend, if you really care about those people who have never heard of Christ that you do something about it that you make sure that they do and let us know longer rest on the. Assumption that everyone in the world is innocent and don't need Christ. God didn't rest on that Christ didn't rest on that and he does not allow us to rest on what we do share the truth of the gospel with others. It's important to talk about the exclusive nature of Christ. That's controversy with so many people it's viewed as arrogant tomorrow and the program Dr. Strobel answer the question why is Christ the only way join us Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind