April 5, 2012

What if You Never Heard the Name of Jesus?


What if you never heard the name of Jesus?  How could you be saved?
 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:13-15

This passage appears to convey that man must hear a preacher preach in order to be saved. But we know that everyone in the world does not have access to that freedom. It is a valid concern to ask by what means people receive salvation who have never heard the name of Jesus. How do individuals with mental handicaps get saved if they can not understand the consequences of sin and the need for atonement?  God has not neglected to address these exceptions.
Without a doubt preachers and teachers are vital to fulfilling The Great Commission. Ordained in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus’parting words to His disciples were, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We Christians are commanded to evangelize. 

The Romans 10:13-15 passage above is a step-by-step portrayal of how The Great Commission is accomplished.  When viewed under a microscope, the stages are like squares of a quilt, individually inadequate but collectively complete.  Keep in mind that the verses build to a conclusion which proclaims, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”  A messenger of the gospel bares a gift so good that carrying that gift makes even his feet beautiful!

There are multiple actors and actions involved in The Great Commission.  When the verses are read in reverse order, the foremost action is that first God SENDS (1.).  Once the messenger receives the call to go, he obeys and PREACHES (2.).  When the messenger preaches, the ears of the listener are opened to HEAR (3.).  Active hearing triggers the heart to BELIEVE (4.).  A believing heart triggers the mouth to CALL upon the name of Jesus (5.).  Once Jesus’ name is professed, then salvation is complete.  Salvation begins and ends in God. The Great Commission is a marvelous sequence of inspired parts.

Everyone who hears the gospel is obligated to accept Jesus as Lord in order to be saved. John 14:6 states, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It is only by the righteous sacrifice of Jesus, God's only Son, that the power of sin and the penalty of death were defeated, once for all.  Embedded halfway between the endcaps of human history, the timing of that act doesn't impact the victory it accomplished.  The final judgment has not yet occured.  The victory won by Jesus can be claimed over all who stand before God to be judged when that day arrives. 

Romans 5: 17-18 says, "For if by one man's [Adam's] offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.  Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

All those to be pardoned at the judgment will be marked by the saving blood of Jesus Christ, whether or not he knowingly served Jesus by name during his earthly lifetime. Jesus says to have seen Him is to have seen God the Father (John 14:9). The two cannot be segregated; therefore, to know, honor, obey and serve God the Father is to know, honor, obey and serve the Savior Jesus. 

The requirements to serve God the Father are no lesser than the requirements of serving the Savior Jesus once introduced to Him formally. God instills all people with three qualities which provoke an awareness of Him, so that all people have the opportunity and obligation to embrace His Lordship; 

1)      A conscience; the perpetual voice inside man which differentiates right from wrong
Romans 2:13-16, “for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

2)      A measure of faith; the necessary basis for spiritual comprehension and acceptance
Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  Ephesians 2:8 says that it is by grace we are saved through faith.  Because faith is essential for salvation, God equips us with the one tool we need to accept His grace.
Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

3)      Awareness of creation; God utilizes His visible masterpiece to reveal Himself by appealing to our senses
Romans 1:18-20,” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 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,”

Helen Keller, both blind and deaf before two years of age, testified that she had an awareness of God before ever hearing about the Bible.  Multiple online sources summarize her thoughts as follows, “In one of her letters, Helen told Bishop Brooks that she had always known about God, even before she had any words.  Even before she could call God anything, she knew God was there.  She didn't know what it was.  God had no name for her -- nothing had a name for her.  She had no concept of a name.  But in her darkness and isolation, she knew she was not alone.  Someone was with her.  She felt God's love.  And when she received the gift of language and heard about God, she said she already knew.”
The gifts of a conscience, a measure of faith, and awareness of God through creation are inalienable birthrights given to every person.  Birthrights are granted without merit, but can be forsaken at will.  Remember that Esau abandoned his inheritance for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-33). Man may deny, defy, and reject his birthrights, but only by deliberate effort will he succeed in purging them from his life.  No birthright will ever restrain a man to remain faithfully in his father’s house, as was conveyed through the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31).

Because these birthrights are inbred in every person, this knowledge should be a basis for sharing the gospel message with non-believers. We should always assume that these seeds remain active within a person, working to woo that soul to Christ.  The hearer may argue that none of these elements remain in his possession, and this may be true as of the point of conversation, but the seed of all three once did. 

A person may go so far as to slay these birthrights.  In such cases God may relinquish that person over to the hardening of her heart (Joshua 11:20; John 12:40).  But we can never know, nor should we dare to speculate, when God has discontinued His pursuit of a soul (Romans 1:24,26,28). That is not a liability we want on our accounts.  

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