I have been reading "Radical" by David Platt for a long time now. A REALLY long time for me because the book itself is only about 200 pages. My mom gave it to me maybe a year ago? I got wrapped up in doing some book reviews and trying to focus more on reading my Bible and this book got put to the side.
So now that I've finally finished it - I highly recommend that you take the time to read it. I think it will change your outlook on your Christian walk. I think if you're not a Christian this book will show you what being a follower of Jesus is really all about.
One chapter that I want to share with you is called "There is No Plan : Why Going is Urgent, Not Optional". It was a great chapter because it answers that age-old question about people that never hear the Bible - what happens to them when they die? This is the best explanation I've ever heard. If you think this is not Biblical, please comment or contact me. I don't ever want to lead people astray on spiritual matters, but I really believe this is truth. And if it is truth then we need to get off our buns and do something about it.
Everything I write from here on out is paraphrased from the book - not my own writing.
More than 4.5 billion people in the world today are without Christ. More than a billion of those people have never even heard the gospel. So what happens to them when they die? If people will go to heaven simply based on their native religious preferences, there is no urgency for any of us to go to them. But if people are dying and going to hell without ever even knowing there is a gospel, then we clearly have no time to waste our lives on things such as the American dream.
Truth #1: All people have knowledge of God.
Romans 1:18-20 - "For
the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For
the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly
seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal
power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" Basically, God has revealed himself to all people ("God hath shewed it unto them" or rather, God has made it plain to them) and in the end "they are without excuse". Paul here, when he wrote this, assumed that they knew God (he says that in verse 21). Every person on the face of the earth, and every person throughout history - without exception - has knowledge of God the Father. The man in the African jungle, the woman in the Asian village, the nomad in the remotest desert, and the Inuit in the forgotten tundra, have this in common. All people have knowledge of God because God has revealed himself to them. Of course, not everyone believes in God...
Truth #2: All people reject God.
Verse 21 says "Because that, when they
knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but
became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." All people, including you, me, and the man in Africa, have rejected true knowledge of God. The Bible says we have foolish hearts and futile minds. We have an inherently sinful nature that rebels against the knowledge and the glory of God. So here is the question, "What about a tribe that has never heard of Jesus and they don't have the Bible? But they have a desire to worship, so they worshiped what they knew. They were doing the best they could with the knowledge they had. Isn't that good enough?"
In verse 25, Paul says people have changed the truth of God into a lie, and worship created things more than the Creator. So does worshiping a god count as good enough? No. People don't get credit before a holy God for worshiping gods they create or imagine. Sun gods, gods of prosperity - none of them deserve worship. Only God deserves worship. Our idolatry just isn't good enough. We are all idolaters. Whether in America or Africa or Asia, no one worships God truly, because in our hearts we reject the true God.
Truth #3: All people are guilty before God.
Throughout the first three chapters of Romans, Paul calls humans sinful, shameful, evil, senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. Ouch. Then in verses 10-12 he says there is no one righteous, no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away and become worthless. There is no one who does good, no, not one. So all people stand guilty before God.
Suppose you were to ask me, "What happens to the innocent guy in the middle of Africa who dies without ever hearing the gospel? My answer to you would be, "I believe he will undoubtedly go to heaven." The reality is the innocent guy in Africa will go to heaven because if he is innocent, then he has no need for a Savior to save him from his sin. As a result, he doesn't need the gospel. But there is a significant problem here.
The innocent guy doesn't exist... in Africa or anywhere else. There are no innocent people in the world just waiting to hear the gospel. Instead there are people all over the world standing guilty before a holy God, and that is the very reason they need the gospel. We assume that we simply deserve heaven, that God owes heaven to us unless we do something really bad to warrant otherwise. But this is just not true. All people are guilty before God, and as such the default is not heaven but hell.
Truth #4: All people are condemned for rejecting God.
Romans 3:20 says that there's nothing we can do to change our guilt. The more we try to do good, the more we expose our evil. As a result, we all stand condemned before God. So here we get to a fundamental misunderstanding. Many professing Christians have come to the conclusion that if certain people around the world don't have the opportunity to hear about Jesus, then this automatically excuses them from God's condemnation. Such people will go to heaven because they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus. We want people to be okay when they haven't had the opportunity to hear the gospel. But here is the logic. It asserts that people will be with God in heaven for all eternity precisely because they never heard of Christ. Their not hearing about Christ gives them a pass into heaven.
Here are the practical implications of this idea. If people will go to heaven precisely because they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus, then the worst thing we could do for their eternal state would be to go to them and tell them about Jesus. That would only increase their chances of going to hell! Before we got there, they were going to heaven; now that we've told them about Jesus, they might go to hell. Thanks a lot!
Some will still say, "Well, is God just in condemning people for not believing in Jesus when they never had the chance to hear about Jesus?" No. But don't forget, people are not ultimately condemned for not believing in Jesus. They are ultimately condemned for rejecting God. There is no question that the billion people who have never heard about Jesus have a different kind of accountability before God than the rest of us. Those of us who have heard about Jesus have had the opportunity to receive or reject the gospel, and we are responsible for our decision. But based on Truth #2, all people stand condemned fundamentally for rejecting God.
Truth #5: God has made a way of salvation for the lost.
Romans 3:21-22 says that the righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe!! Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, and through him we can be righteous before God and assured of eternal life. God has made a way of salvation for the lost. And not just a way, but the way.
Truth #6: People cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ.
In Romans 3:27-31 Paul says that we cannot come to salvation by law or by our works, but only through faith. Romans 10:9-10 says if we confess with our mouths Jesus Christ and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, we can be saved.
Obviously, if people can't come to God apart from faith in Christ, then this truth is not encouraging for those who have never heard of Christ. In the emotional pull of the question, we long for there to be a way for those who have not heard to be saved. We are sure that God in his love wouldn't allow them to go to hell when they haven't even heard of Jesus. But if we conclude that people can get to heaven apart from faith in Christ, then this would mean there is something else they can do to get to heaven. It would be like saying to Jesus, "Thanks for what you did on the cross, but we could have gotten to God another way."
Romans (and all scripture) is abundantly clear on this point. Faith in Christ is necessary for salvation.
Truth #7: Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all people.
Romans 10:13-17 shows us how this is supposed to work. Let's go backwards, starting in verse 15. How shall they preach, except they be sent? So step one in the plan of God - God sends servants. Keep moving backward, we see what those servants do. They preach. God's plan - He sends servants, and his servants preach. Go to verse 14 - How then shall they call
on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him
of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a
preacher? When his servants preach, people hear. So the plan is progressing - God sends servants, his servants preach, and people hear. When they hear, they will believe. Now obviously, not all who hear will believe, but some who hear will certainly believe. God sends servants, his servants preach, people hear, and hearers believe. When hearers believe, they call on the name of the Lord, and when they call on the name of the Lord, they will be saved.
God sends his servants. ---> His servants preach. ---> People hear. ---> Hearers believe. ---> Believers call. ---> Everyone who calls is saved.
So where can this plan break down? Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. No breakdown there. Everyone who believes will call. Many will believe. People will hear the gospel when we preach it to them. And God is definitely still in the business of sending his servants. That means there is only one potential breakdown in this progression - when servants of God do not preach the gospel to all people.
We are the plan of God, and there is no plan B.