How to Respond to How People are Saved Listen at Words of Grace
A question is often raised by people about the love of God and how salvation is only received through faith or believing in Jesus as Savior.
Question: How can God be loving and then demand that salvation is received only by those who believe in Jesus as their Savior? What about those who have never heard about Jesus? Could God really condemn them because they don’t believe if they were never given an opportunity to believe?
Answer: This question is often used to “rationalize” other ways of salvation outside of what Scripture clearly teaches. Let’s begin with what God says clearly in His Word about how salvation is received. Jesus says: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). The Apostle Paul also writes: “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22).
Through faith (believing or trusting) in Jesus we receive the benefit of His perfect life and death in our place. We receive eternal life and salvation.
So what about those who have never heard about Jesus or had an opportunity to believe in Him? Is it fair for God to condemn them for their sins?
First of all, because we are all sinners, we all deserve God’s just judgment because of our sin: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are no innocent bystanders. We are all guilty before God.
We also need to realize that every civilization, no matter where it has settled, traces its family tree back to a common ancestor. The Bible reveals this common ancestor as Noah through his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 6-9). Secular genealogical records confirm this. (Check out the book: “After the Flood” by Bill Cooper for an in-depth study of genealogical records from all over the world confirming the Genesis account.) Every society or tribe which was isolated on some island, left the rest of civilization and arrived there at some point in the past. At one time in their history they knew the truth about God and the salvation that He would bring about through the coming Savior. If that knowledge was lost, it is not the fault of God, but the fault of man.
In addition, the Bible clearly states that God desires the salvation of all people (2 Peter 3:9) and has sent Jesus to live and to die to atone for the sins of all people (1 John 2:1-2). He has also placed within all people a natural knowledge that He exists (Psalm 14:1). When we look at the world around us we know, by nature, that there must be a God who has created us and all the things of this world. Just as we know that someone made our car and it did not happen by chance, so also we know that there is a God who created a world much more complex and intricate than our car! Paul says: “His (God’s) invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they (human beings) are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). This natural knowledge of God reveals that God exists so that we might search for Him and find out more about Him (Acts 17:27).
Finally, God also sends His people (Christians) into the world as witnesses of the salvation Jesus has won for them and for all people. Jesus told His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) so that others would believe through their word. Why should Christians go and preach the Gospel if the lives of unbelievers were not hanging in the balance? Why go if God was going to overlook their unbelief and save them anyway? Paul says: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). It is the preaching of the Word that God uses to create faith, and it though faith that God’s gift of salvation is received.
God desires our salvation, which we receive through faith. He has given to each of us an innate understanding that He exists, so that we might seek after Him, find Him, believe in Him, and receive His salvation. And He has revealed His truth and proclaims this truth through the people of His Church as His witnesses.