The question is often asked with great concern, "What
about those who have never heard the gospel?" Biblically, this is
no problem. Many have had difficulty with the this question because of
a failure to apply the teachings of God's word and the perfection of His
character, as well as a failure to consider the witness of history.
God-consciousness is when a person becomes aware of the
existence of God. He may not know what to call him, but in his own thinking,
he becomes aware of the existence of a superior and powerful being who
orders and controls the world around him. There are several ways a person
can be made aware of God, but perhaps the most obvious is through the existence
and order of the physical universe (Psalm 19:1-3; Rom. 1:19-20).
This is called the cosmological approach to awareness
of God. Another way, the religio-logical approach, recognizes the very real
possibility of the existence of God because of the prevalence of "god
worshipers" within his society. And still a third way is called the
ontological approach which accepts the existence of God because man's soul
conceives of such a being and because within the soul of man is a "feeling"
or "need" that such a being must indeed exist.
The only time when mankind was "right" with
God was in the garden of Eden before Adam's sin of disobedience. It is
at that time after Adam's sin, that mankind lost any "connection"
with nature and God's presence. But that very nature is the thing that
has always been a beacon of testimony to the existence and power of God.
Psalm 19:1 says that,
"the heavens are telling of the glory of God
and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands."
This indeed provides a "knowledge" of God which
must be addressed by every human soul which is exposed to it. Paul writes
that because of this "testimony," mankind is "without excuse"
in regard to accountability to God. Romans 1:19-20,
"Because what is known about God is evident among
them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world,
His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been
clearly seen by being understood through what has been made, so that they
are without excuse."
Paul then describes this as "knowing God" in
"For even though they knew God. . ."
The validity of any interaction with God is established
on God's terms; terms which God has faithfully provided for mankind in
the bible. Any attempt to "interact" with God apart from first
dealing with the sin problem the way God demands for that problem to be
dealt with, falls far short of spiritual reality.
This "knowledge" of God is not gospel information
about entering into a spiritual relationship with Him, but its information
that points to the existence of God and reminds man of his inner need for
God. It is then at this point that each person must make a personal decision
concerning this universal and "natural" revelation of God. He
must decide whether to "honor him as God" or not. Paul continues
at Rom. 1:21,
"For even though they knew God, they did NOT honor
Him as God
or give thanks (express a recognition of God's grace)."
When a person DOES express this honor-attitude toward
God, it is then God's responsibility to get to that person the specific
gospel information they need to enter into a "saving" relationship
with God, which is necessary because all mankind is born in sin and under
spiritual death, separated from God.
That gospel information has always been basically the
same since it was first given to Adam and Ishah after they sinned. I.e.,
God would provide a savior who would defeat Satan and pay the just penalty
for sin on behalf of all mankind. This is taught by understanding the meaning
of Gen. 3:15 and the significance of the animal sacrifices which God instituted
at Gen. 3:21 compared with Gen. 4:1-7.
The difference before and after the cross is simply the
specifics of that salvation promise. Before the cross, one must trust in
God's promise of a coming savior. After the cross, one must trust in the
fact that God kept that promise and provided the savior in the person of
However, if upon arriving at "God-consciousness,"
anyone decides not to honor him as "nature" logically dictates
that He should be honored, then his soul will begin seeking a "replacement"
to God. This is where idolatry and religion comes from. (True Christianity
is not a religion; it is a personal relationship with God based on forgiveness
of sins and the imputation of divine righteousness to that person. Religion,
on the other hand, is man trying to "find" God or appease God
or gods on man's terms. Religion always results in some kind of oppression
Again, Paul discusses this at Rom. 1:21-23,
". . .but they became empty in their reasonings
their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they
became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image
in the form of corruptible man and of birds and animals and insects."
"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and
worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator."
It needs to be recognized that no one can learn about
JESUS without a "proclaimer" (Rom. 10:14-15). That proclaimer
can be a book, a person, an audio -- but it is NOT received "naturally"
nor does God "zap" someone with the information he needs to be
All cultures have been exposed to the truth of the gospel
at some point in their history (starting back from the time of Babel).
As these individual societies moved further and further away from God's
message of salvation, they adopted idolatry to replace the "inner"
need all men have to "relate" to God. Then as various individuals
are raised in that society - each one must face the issue of God Consciousness
If they reject the "revelation" of God as He
is proclaimed in "the heavens" (the natural creation), then they
continue in the idolatry of their culture (or even advance on it). In such
situations, the "decision" toward God has already been made and
God is under no obligation to provide the specifics of the gospel. But
if any person "seeks for God" (Acts 17:24-27) after arriving
at this consciousness, then God will SOMEHOW get him the gospel information
he needs to trust in Christ.
This is based on God's character.
1. God's love for all: John 3:16 - love is the attitude
that seeks what is best for His creatures. He wants what is best for them,
but will not force himself upon them.
2. God's desire based on his love: 1 Tim. 2:4, "who
desires all men to be saved."
3. God's righteousness and justice prevent Him from ever
EXAMPLES OF THIS MAY BE SUGGESTED
1. In the first century, apparently the gospel message
was carried throughout the entire "populated" world (perhaps
simply the Roman Empire -- but the language in the bible needs to be dealt
with). Col. 1:6, 23; 1 Tim. 3:16; Acts 17:6
2. Historical evidence that "suggests" the fulfillment
of this concept.
A. Historical quotations
1. Justin Martyr, 2nd century (Schaff, vol. 2, p.12):
There is no people, Greek or barbarian or any other race,
by whatsoever appellation or manner they may be distinguished, however
ignorant of art and agriculture, whether they dwell in tents or wander
around in covered wagons -- among whom prayers and thanksgiving are not
offered in the name of the crucified Jesus Christ to God the Father.
2. Tertullian, 2nd century (Schaff, vol. 2, p.12):
We are but of yesterday and yet already we Christians
fill your cities, roam your islands, your camps, your palaces, your senate,
and your forum -- we have left you only your empty temples.
3. Origen, 3rd century:
In all Greece, and among all barbarous races within our
world -- there are 10's of thousonds who have left their national laws
and customs, customary gods, for the word of Jesus Christ. Though to adhere
to the word of Jesus Christ, they have incurred the hatred of idolaters
and even though they have embraced the word, it incurs often death as well.
And considering how in a few years and with no great store of teachers,
in spite of the attacks which have cost us life and property -- the preaching
of the word, the presentation of the gospel, has found its way into every
part of the world so that Greeks and Barbarians, wise and unwise adhere
to faith in Christ.
4. Eusebius, 4th century:
There flourished at that time many successors to the apostles
who when they laid a continuing work of preaching the gospel and scattered
abundantly over the entire earth the gospel, the wholesome seed of Jesus
Christ, for a very large number of disciples carried away by a fervent
love of the truth which the divine word revealed to them -- fulfilled the
command of our Savior, leaving their country, they fulfilled the office
of evangelist, carrying the gospel to those who had not heard the word
B. Historical evidences with regard to the spread of the
1. Letter to Pline, governor of Pontus, to the emperor
"There are so many people who have accepted Christ
that there are
very few people left who are still in a heathenistic system."
2. The queen of Abysinnia was led to Christ by two captives
from Tyre, and as a result the people of Abysinnia in the 1st century,
responded almost en masse (over 90 % conversion).
3. In Persia: Thadeos went to Persia and he went into
one Persian town. He said, when he came there were only 18 believers; when
he left, there were only 18 heathen.
4. Pontaeus of Alexandria, in the 2nd century, decided
to be a missionary to India because he thought that no one had ever been
burdened for the people of India. He discovered believers there and they
had the gospel in their own language.
5. The people of China: In the 6th century, the Nestorians
were driven out of their home and went to China where they led the ruler
of China to the Lord and spearheaded a fantastic outreach and spread of
All people regardless of what cultural or religious upbringing
they received are born in sin (Ps. 51:5), that is, with a sin nature, and into
the kingdom of darkness . And through the presence of the sin nature they
are judicially appointed as "sinners" and under the penalty of
sin, which is spiritual death (separation from God) Rom. 5:12; 6:23.
The one who has not believed in the name of the only begotten
Son of God "has been judged ALREADY" (John 3:18) for it is appointed
unto man (the unbeliever) to die once and after this comes judgment (Heb.
However, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (John
1:29; 4:42: 1 John 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:6) and God is "now declaring to men
that all everywhere should repent (Acts 17:30) because He has fixed a day
in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He
has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the
dead" (Acts 17:31). Therefore, "He who believes in the Son has
eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but
the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).
The point of all that is to establish the fact that God
requires personal accountability through volitional freedom, which is the
right and responsibility to "think" for oneself.
With this in view, it is only just for God to provide
the information ALL peoples need in order to get saved. Jesus said, "and
I, if I be lifted up from the earth (crucified) will draw ALL MEN to myself"
But of course, if they don't even want anything to do
with God after God-consciousness, then there is no guarantee that they
will hear a gospel message. In so-called "Christian" societies,
they may hear the gospel even though they do not want it, but in the "heathenistic"
societies, if they do not respond to God-consciousness in a positive way,
then they may never hear and still be held accountable ("they are