Scripture is clearthat Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven whereby people can be saved, yet there are many who never hear the gospel message. In fact, hundreds of millions of people in India and China have died never hearing about the Truth. Not only did they never know it, but, until recent years, they had no realistic chance of hearing the true gospel before they died. And we don’t have to go that far from home. Look at the people around us who never hear the Truth proclaimed.
How can we be so sure that people must understand the first principles to be saved? Why can’t other sincere beliefs draw a person to God? Who is to say that others in remote places on earth don’t have enough true worship to be acceptable?
Working with everyone
Doesn’t God want everyone to be saved? We assume He would like that, and therefore suppose He should be revealing His truth to everyone in the world, so that more could respond.
Did you know that one time He did exactly that? For 2,000 years, God worked with creation as a whole and the results were disastrous. After 1,500 years, the race was nearly obliterated by the flood for its utter depravity. “The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
Yet, starting with Noah, God again tried to work with everybody. Within a few hundred years, disaster occurred at Babel. Once more, the created turned against the Creator and would have justified total devastation. They had been instructed to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen. 9:1). But they refused to do so. Defying God, they conspired, “Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4).
Facing such obstinacy, why should God pursue an approach that was failing? Why should He continue working with the race as a whole? In fact if He had persisted in this failed approach, man would no doubt sharply criticize the Almighty for doing so. Why, we would challenge, didn’t He try something else? Maybe some other approach would work more effectively to attract mankind to serving God!
A select nation
He did implement a different approach. He chose a faithful man and commenced to work, especially with Abraham and his seed. Here was an identifiable national group whose history God was going to control and in whose affairs the divine hand would be openly evident. Here was to be a showpiece for all the world to see the power of God; they would see the blessings showered upon obedience and the awful judgments invited by sin.
Even if others would not learn from Israel’s experience, one would think that surely the select nation itself would heed and respond.
What happened? The perversity of human beings was such that, after 1,400 years of divine perseverance, a stiff-necked and rebellious nation was overthrown and scattered by Nebuchadnezzar.
And the LORD God of their fathers sent to [Israel] by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy (II Chr. 36:15,16).
God tried again with Israel, bringing some back to their land under Zerubbabel and more under Ezra, giving them an opportunity to renew their covenant. They had learned part of the lesson: they forsook idolatry. But they replaced worship of idols with a legalistic worship of self-righteousness.
So, nearly 600 years later, this second effort ended as God’s only begotten Son hung dead on a cross, slain by the select nation his Father had chosen, blessed and forgiven so many times before. “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life…” (Acts 3:14,15).
A third approach
What was God to do? Was He to take another nation and try this technique again? If He had done so, mankind would no doubt criticize God for persisting in a failed method. Instead, He pursued a third approach. Rather than working with all people, or selecting one nation, He selected individuals out of all nations to be a special community devoted to Him and dedicated to spreading the light of His truth throughout the world.
For 2,000 years God has pursued this approach. The results have been the same. Within 100 years of Christ’s death, His elect community was riddled with heresy. Within 400 years, the major body had turned to persecuting those in its midst who still worshipped God correctly. The light of Truth was nearly extinguished.
As this era draws to a close and God’s final judgments draw near, we need only look about us to see the failure of the select-people method in bringing about a world devoted to God. Even with the true Gospel being advertised in most countries, only a few individuals are responding.
The response may be impressive by Christadelphian standards, but in a world of 6 billion people, it is miniscule. And the moral condition of mankind continues in a sharp decline of brutality and promiscuity. Even in supposedly Christian countries, decadence, violence and greed are everywhere pervasive. Conditions are approaching what they were in the days of Noah.
We see the failure
Paul’s assessment is a true generalization of any generation of mankind:
Jews and Gentiles…are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable…there is no fear of God before their eyes…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God (Rom. 3:9-19).
Man has had his chance. It is evident he cannot rule himself and conform his ways to God. The Almighty is beyond reproof. He has tried three completely different ways to appeal to His creation and all have ended disastrously. The wonder is that God continues to bother with such a fruitless creation. It’s only His grace and His integrity to His promises that prevents the entire project from being wiped out and a new start being made with a new creation. The problem is not God, it is man.
When the overall working of God with His creation is considered in this way, a remarkable picture unfolds. We see mankind without excuse, God beyond reproach.
We stand awed by the patience and perseverance of God. Further, we understand more clearly why everyone in our era is not acquainted with the gospel.
Man Without Excuse – God Beyond Reproof
4,000 B.C. – 2,000 B.C. God worked with the world in general. The results: the flood, the tower of Babel.
2,000 B.C. – 30 A.D. God worked with Israel. The results: idolatry, dispersion among the nations, crucifixion of the Son of God.
30 A.D. – the present. God is working with a select community taken out of all people. The results: early apostasy, persecution of true believers, widespread decadence and violence.