JUDGED BY THE LIGHT THEY HAD
THE THIRTY-FIRST DAY OF JULY IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND SIXTEEN
I love discussing scripture with my new friend, Neal. He receives the Word eagerly and “with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thes.1:6). He is one of those who “draw water with joy from the wells of salvation,” the theme verse of my website (edwardfudge.com). At our last meeting, Neal asked about people who never heard of Jesus. Can they also possibly enjoy eternal life, and if so, how? God assures us that he will judge fairly, or “in righteousness” (Acts 17:30-31). Among other things, that means God will judge each person for the way they respond to the light they actually had from God.
The first light of divine revelation is the Creation outside us, which teaches us to revere the Creator and to thank him for his gifts (Rom. 1:20-21). Second is the conscience inside us, an internal moral compass that broadly distinguishes right from wrong (Rom. 2:14-16).The Old Testament scriptures bear witness to many other portions of divine revelation God gave “to the fathers through the prophets,” as Hebrews puts it (Heb. 1:1-2). Then there is the gospel, God’s greatest light other than Jesus himself of whom it tells.
In the end, we are not saved by divine revelation, whether little or much. To learn whether anyone can be saved who never heard the gospel, we must remember how anyone can be saved who did hear it. Here we recall three fundamental truths, and each of them is equally true of those who hear of Christ and of those who do not. (1) All who are finally redeemed are redeemed on the basis of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. (2) All who are finally redeemed are redeemed because of God’s grace. (3) All who enjoy God’s grace enjoy it through faith of the sort that Abraham had.
I conclude that every person who responds in faith to the light they have from God, regardless of the brightness, content, or quantity of that light, can be saved by God’s grace, based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is what I explained to Neal and he rejoiced to hear this explanation.