This question deals with the fairness and justice of God in relation to how God will judge those who have never heard the Gospel message of Christ’s atoning death. If He is the only way to the Father, how can God judge someone fairly if that person has never heard the Gospel?
First, establish the fact that God by His very nature is incredibly fair and just in every judgment He makes. How can you be sure God is fair?
1. God is fair because He could have simply left man to perish in his sin. However, He did not do that. Rather, the Father purposed to send His Son to redeem us! This proves the God is fair.
2. God can be completely fair because He has all the facts seeing every intent and motive of every human heart (1 Cor. 4:5).
3. God is fair because He judges men by their own ways (Eze. 18:29-30).
4. God is fair because He only requires men to respond based upon what they know (Rom. 2:11-12). God bases His judgment on the light that has been given a man and the response that a person makes to this revelation.
a. The light of creation.
In Romans 1:19-20, Paul explains that men possess the light of creation because the invisible attributes of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. God’s creation is a powerful revelation of our Creator. God has clearly proven His existence by what He has made. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard" (Psalms 19:1-3). God’s proof is the physical world we live in and the biological creation of the human body. The plant and animal kingdoms also give testimony that God is powerful and wise. These truths men either acknowledge or suppress in their hearts. Therefore Paul declares that if men reject this light they are absolutely without excuse before God.
God won’t even allow the excuse, "I never heard the gospel." Even if someone grew up in the jungles of South America, Borneo, or some remote place in the world. That man is still without excuse. Why? Because the witness of creation has already been given to prove that God exists.
However, if men respond to the light they have been given, God will give them more light, the light of the gospel. Cornelius, the Roman centurion, is the best example of this fact (Acts 10). This man believed and feared God but he didn't know who God was or that the Messiah had come. Therefore, an angel was sent by God to tell Peter to go witness to this man. Cornelius heard the gospel and was saved. I believe this is why missionaries are out in the jungles today, because someone is seeking more light. See also the example of Philip being sent to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29).
b. The light of conscience.
In Romans 2:11-15, Paul explains that God will judge every man on the basis of what he knows. He explains that to the Jew who knew the Law he will be judged by the Law. But for the Gentile who didn't have the law, God deals with him on the basis of his conscience. Since God knows the heart of man He knows if a man has obeyed his conscience or rejected it’s accusations. The conscience of man is the proof that the law of God is written on every man’s heart. The tribesman in the depth of the jungles of Borneo has a conscience. The Law of God is written upon his heart, just as it is with someone born here in the United States.
Think for a moment. Why is it that we felt bad about certain sins before we ever heard the gospel? That was the conviction of our conscience. Yet, we violated our conscience anyway and did whatever we pleased. Your conscience has been given to each of us to either accuse us for sinful actions, or excuse us when we do that which is right (vs. 15).
Therefore, God is fair in all His judgments because He sees man’s heart, He sees his conscience, and He sees man’s deeds, which enables the Father to judge righteously and according to truth.
c. The light of the Law.
To the Jews God gave the additional light of His Law. Therefore, the Jew will be judged by the light of creation, the light of conscience, and the light of God’s Law. "For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:11-13).
d. The light of the Gospel.
For us, we will be judged on the basis of the light of creation, the light of our conscience, and the light of the Gospel. Paul declares that one day God will, "judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel" (Rom. 2:16).
In conclusion, God is obviously fair when He judges in this manner. He only requires men to respond based upon the light that they have. What could be more fair than that? Once you have established these truths, ask the person you are witnessing to; "since you know these things, what is keeping you from responding to Christ?" This person has heard and does know the truth. What’s hindering a response? Asking questions like this will help you determine exactly what is hindering the person from receiving Christ and what issues you need to address.
This study was written by Pastor Steve Carr. If we can be of any further assistance please contact us a www.calvaryag.org or (805) 481-2320.