It’s a problem for every generation of Christians. How does God treat and judge those who do what is right, but have no knowledge of Jesus? Are they lost forever, or does God give them credit for being good people?
Over the years, I have struggled and wrestled with this. Scripture is absolute when it states that those who believe shall be given everlasting life, whereas those who have no belief shall perish (John 3:16-18). In our cosmopolitan and pluralistic society, those words of John seem to be unacceptable, archaic, and out of touch with the real world. And yet, they were written at a time when the world was just as cosmopolitan and pluralistic as it is today.
When I read Peter’s words this morning, I thought that they might provide the loophole that most of us look for when dealing with this subject. ‘God shows no favoritism’ – not even to Christians? ‘God accepts men from every nation, who fear him and do what is right’ – does this not validate that God accepts all of those who try to do good, no matter what they believe? On the surface, it appears to be that way.
And then, just when I think this serious issue is resolved, Peter adds something to the equation: “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”
Knowledge of God’s message and the good news (Gospel) of peace through Jesus Christ is required. Universalism is therefore not the answer – knowing Jesus is.
People say that Christianity is dying out and they clutch at straws about salvation. However, there are more Christians in the world today than at any time in the history of our faith. Christ’s message is expanding and more people are being saved each day. The world may cling to its own understanding, but the Christian faith has never altered its message: those who know the Lord will know salvation.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, today there will be many people throughout the world who will turn to You and believe. They will set aside their fears and place their faith in You. They will give up on their doubts and give themselves to you. Thank You for increasing the number of Christians on Earth each day. Help us to do whatever we can to bring other people to You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.