What about Those Who Have Never Heard of Jesus?
What happens to those who have never heard about Jesus? This question torments our thoughts and emotions. God is a God of holy justice, but also love. How can He express both traits to sinners who have never heard of Jesus?
What the Bible Says
First, the Bible is clear that Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus Himself said that He was the only way (Jn 6:29), and His earliest followers taught the same (Ac 4:12; Rm 10:9-17). The Bible also says that other ways to God fall short. Jesus Himself said this (Jn 3:18; 8:19) and Jesus' followers agreed (Ac 13:38-39; 17:30). The Bible is clear; people cannot be saved without knowledge of Christ and faith in His works on their behalf.
Second, the Bible insists that our sins make us guilty before God, rather than our rejection of Jesus. All humans are included "in Adam" (Rm 5:12-21) and have rejected God (Rm 1-2). Ignorance of Christ does not excuse us. If it did, it would be better not to tell anyone of Christ so that he would not have a chance to reject Him!
Third, the Bible says all humans are spiritually dead apart from Christ. There is no one righteous … there is no one who seeks God" (Rm 3:9-11). Even the Jews, who were given of the Law of God "have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Rm 10:2), and cannot be justified by the Law (Ac 13:38-39).
Fourth, The Bible lays out God's merciful intentions for His creation. God is patient with us, "not wanting any to perish" (2Pt 3:9). He proved this by His actions; "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rm 5:8)!
Fifth, God is sovereign over all people in His world, and has acted in extraordinary ways to spread salvation (Ac 5:12-16; 8:26-40; 10:1-43; 16:6-10).
What the Bible Does Not Say
The Bible does not speak of any special provisions for those who have not heard of Christ. The Bible is simply silent on this matter. The Bible is written so we'll know Christ and engage in the task of preaching Him to all peoples.
What We Can Conclude
First, we are responsible for the truth we know.
Second, our concern for the lost should drive us to reach them with the message of Jesus Christ. Rather than dwelling "what ifs," lets get busy!
Third, we are not ultimately in a position to judge God's actions as fair or unfair.
Some people would consider it unfair that they were force-fed Christianity their whole life, while others could say it was unfair to hear the gospel from Christians who tainted the message by being abusive or hypocritical. In other words, even those who hear about Jesus may hypothetically complain that they did not have a fair chance. In the final analysis, however, we know that God is just and that no sinner will be able honestly to protest to God that he wanted to know Him but was not allowed.
Romans 10:14-15 – Commentary from Apologetics Study Bible for Students, page #1170;
"… Two points remain. First, those who know the truth must spare no effort to proclaim it to others, for salvation is at stake. Second, the fate of the unevangelized rests in the hands of a loving and just God who will judge people on the basis of the light they received".
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 1170.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of Acts that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.