Only Jesus? [Thoughts from the Cutting Floor]

In yesterday’s sermon, we spent a couple minutes chasing a rabbit with regard to Jesus’ parable of Two Houses, also known as the parable of the wise man and the foolish man. The rabbit we chased was with regard to the story, which was obviously about people who have heard Jesus’ words, and either chosen to obey or disregard his commands. The question that we asked was: “What about those who have never heard of Jesus or his teaching?”
Jesus has made it clear in the passage at hand that there are two roads, two gates, and two fates for trees who bear good fruit or bad fruit. Clearly, Jesus points toward the coming reality of eternity spent in heaven with the Lord or eternity spent in hell. So the real question is, “Would God send someone who had never heard of Jesus to heaven or to hell?”
There are two schools of thought on this. One is that of inclusivism. The idea here is that those who haven’t heard will be judged by their actions, good weighed against bad (something of a karma situation), or by some separate standard that God would use to judge righteous from unrighteous. The other school of that is that of exclusivism, wherein it is believed that none will be receive salvation outside of faith in Christ. I personally fall into that second school of thought, and I base those thoughts in the scripture. Let’s look at what the Bible says on this front.
Romans 1:18-20 // “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” This was the scripture we read yesterday, noting that God has created everyone and everything, and in his creation, he has made it apparent that he exists. How? By giving order, design, beauty, and majesty to us in his creation. So all should see that there is a God, and that they are not. The passage concludes by saying they are without excuse. Why? Because they are still accountable to the Lord for their sin. That is the point here. All know in some fashion there is a higher authority, a right and a wrong. And all can and should recognize they do wrong. This is what prepares the heart for Christ and repentance.
Romans 10:14-15 // “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” Paul, later in Romans, makes and plea for the Gospel message to go out. It cannot be believed without being heard, heard without a preacher, a preacher without sending. Paul is presenting the case for the church and for sending people forth with the word of Jesus Christ. Paul is certainly burdened for the lost, and his life bears this out. He was of the belief that no one would be saved apart from the saving name of Christ.
John 14:6 & Acts 4:12 // “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” & “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” I list these two scriptures together, because they essentially say the same thing. But the claims come from two different sources: Jesus & Peter. Jesus makes an exclusive claim about himself and Peter confirms it. There is salvation found nowhere else but in Jesus and in his name. All are called to turn from sin, believe exclusively in Christ as the way of salvation, being baptized in his name. Neither Christ nor Peter name, or give room for, another way of salvation.
Acts 10 // A reading of the whole chapter in this case is quite necessary. In the chapter, Cornelius is found to be “a devout man who feared God with all his household”, yet he is a gentile and outside of a knowledge of Christ. It is thru the process of God giving visions and dreams to both Cornelius and Peter that Cornelius is brought to salvation in Jesus Christ. It is quite a story, but in demonstrates how even a God-fearing, moral man like Cornelius and his family were in danger of God’s judgement apart from Jesus Christ.
While it may be tempting to go for the idea of inclusivism, we must not fall for it when we look at the text of scripture. God is under no compulsion to save all; he is God and can do as he pleases. But it does please him to save some, and this is why Jesus came. Certainly, God is calling all people unto himself, and he is calling us to join him thru our own evangelism and thru our sending of missionaries to the ends of the earth. Let’s keep meeting together as believers and working so that every tribe, tongue and nation may hear the good news that Jesus Christ has died to save sinners.