Baptism/Amazing Grace: A Conversation Over Lunch, Part 24 (In Reply to Keith Brenton, Part 1)

[The last post was intended to be the conclusion of the series, but because Keith's comment is so pertinent to the question at hand, and because it pushed me deeper into God's word (which is always a pleasure), I'm posting this four-part reply. And then it'll be time for supper.]

Keith Brenton posted a comment regarding the fate of those who’ve never heard the gospel. I think we need to discuss the points he makes.

Keith has commented thoughtfully here for many years, and is the editor of the online magazine New Wineskins.

Romans 10 and the fate of those who’ve never heard of Jesus 

I agree that there is no such thing as a righteous unbeliever. But I would ask – isn’t there an intrinsic difference between someone who has heard the gospel and rejected it (let’s call them “disbelievers” for clarity) and those who have never heard the gospel and therefore cannot believe it (let’s distinguish them as “non-believers”)?

Obviously, there is a difference, but whether that difference changes one’s eternal fate depends on what the Scriptures teach.

Paul recognizes  this possibility in Romans 10:14 – “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Heartily agreed. Paul deals here specifically with those who’ve never heard the gospel. His point is that faith in Jesus — the faith that saves — is impossible without having heard about Jesus. Paul’s point is not to justify the lost who’ve not heard but to urge the saved to be certain to spread the gospel far and wide.

Context matters –

(Rom 10:2-3 ESV) 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Paul is speaking of the Jews. “Righteousness of God” refers to God’s faithfulness to his covenant to save by faith, particularly faith in Jesus. Thus, the Jews’ “zeal for God” failed them because they lacked knowledge of God’s righteousness: his salvation found in Jesus.

We don’t think of the Jews of Jesus’ day as “ignorant of the righteousness of God,” but Paul declares that to be the case. And their ignorance does not excuse them.

They knew the Torah. Many had it memorized! But they didn’t know God because they didn’t recognize God in Jesus.

(Rom 10:4 ESV)  4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

They are ignorant because they didn’t see Jesus as the culmination of the Torah. But he is — for the Jews first but also to the Gentiles. But zeal for God, even for Israel, is not enough. Faith in Jesus is essential.

(Rom 10:5-7 ESV)  5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.  6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down)  7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

Paul refers to Deuteronomy 30 –

(Deu 30:11-15 ESV)  11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

Paul declares that salvation is attainable. We don’t have to reach into heaven for it, because heaven has already come to earth. We don’t have to reach into the abyss, because salvation has already risen from the grave. Salvation is here! Just as Moses had promised 1,500 years before!

 (Rom 10:8 ESV)  8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

Paul says that the salvation promised by God in Deuteronomy 30 is faith in Jesus.

(Rom 10:9-10 ESV)  9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Paul continues to work within Deuteronomy 30. Salvation is within the Jews’ grasp. They need only come to faith and confess that faith.

(Rom 10:11-13 ESV)  11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Paul then expands his exposition to include the Gentiles. All that he said of the Jews is true of Gentiles, too! They may be saved if they believe in Jesus. The promise, though, is only for “all who call on him.” There’s not a hint here of salvation for those without faith in Jesus.

(Rom 10:14 ESV)  14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Paul then deals with exactly the question we are wrestling with in this series: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?” Indeed. That’s the question.

Some would argue that it’s not a problem. Or that we shouldn’t judge. Or that it’s very negative and bad for the church’s image to discuss such issues. Or that God will save them by some other means. What does Paul say?

(Rom 10:15-17 ESV)  15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Salvation comes from faith. Faith comes from hearing. Hearing comes from the preaching of the word. Preaching comes from sending preachers.

(“Preach” translates a word meaning “proclaim the good news.” We would translate more accurately as “proclaim.” BDAG translates “announce, make known, by an official herald or one who functions as such.” Hence, the burden to proclaim is on all who speak in the name of Jesus, that is, all Christians.)

Does Scripture declare the fate of those who don’t know Jesus?

Does scripture specifically, unequivocally, inarguably deny the possibility of salvation for all those who have not heard the gospel?

Yes.

(John 3:18 ESV)  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Notice the “already.” It means “right now” not “if they should hear about the gospel some time in the future.” BDAG calls the word a “marker of logical proximity and immediateness.”

(Rom 8:8-11 ESV)  8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The indwelling Spirit saves, just as God’s presence in Israel’s camp saved them. Outside the camp there is only desert. It’s the Spirit who gives life to our bodies — through whom God gives immortality. Without the Spirit, we are “in the flesh” and “cannot please God.”

(1Jo  4:1-3 ESV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits  to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out  into the world.  2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that  confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  3 and  every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the  spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the  world already.

What’s the test? Either you confess Jesus or you don’t. Should we apply the test? Of course. We are commanded to do so.

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19 Responses to Baptism/Amazing Grace: A Conversation Over Lunch, Part 24 (In Reply to Keith Brenton, Part 1)

  1. Eagerly awaiting the next installment!

  2. laymond says:

    Jay, please pardon Brother Keith for not posting a longer comment ,I suspect he is still tired from doing “The Math” on his own blog :)

  3. Ray Downen says:

    Excellent! It’s clear that judgment will come to all and that only those who obey the gospel will be saved. It’s not all who hear. It’s not all who say they have faith in Jesus, but it’s those who hear and obey the gospel. It is written in this blog: What does Paul say?

    (Rom 10:15-17 ESV) 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

    Salvation comes from faith. Faith comes from hearing. Hearing comes from the preaching of the word. Preaching comes from sending preachers.
    ——————————–
    RAY: The only problem here is that the writer speaks of “sending preachers.” He later clarifies that it’s the responsibility of every Christian. He’s right. It’s not that we have to “send” someone. It’s that we each have a responsibility to share gospel truth with those with whom we come in contact. Good for those who do go as evangelistic “missionaries.” But we who go as visitors should carry with us the gospel message wherever we go.

    Will those who never hear the gospel be saved by good works? I know one brother who says they will and has written a book about his theory. But the answer is “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No, God will not save sinners because they did good deeds of any kind. The one way to salvation is through Jesus. How urgent then the need for us all to tell of His love and gracious offer of salvation.

  4. Alabama John says:

    Would we ever take the same stance with the first part of the same verse John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned,

    And if we would have to jump to other explanations to clear up the misunderstandings of that very clear part, why not the same treatment for the last?

  5. Bobby Deason says:

    I appreciate all that is being written in the spirit of brotherly love and quest for truth. How does John 15:22 and Romans 2:12 – 16 fit into the Romans 10:1 – 17 discussion? It is true that no one will be saved except through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. That is true for Adam and to the last person to live on this earth.

    We must allow God to say who will and who won’t be eternally saved or lost. Those who haven’t heard cannot believe. I’ve thought often about those who died one the day of Pentecost both in Israel and other parts of the world – who never heard that wonderful sermon by Peter of God’s saving grace in Jesus.

    Is the information from creation sufficient to save, if received and sought after Romans 1:16 – 24? Is the law of the conscience in Rom. 2:12-16 sufficient for God to apply the shed blood of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice? Thank you all for your word’s of Scripture wisdom. Jay I appreciate your challenging and thought provoking blogs. Unity of all believers is my hope, mission and hearts desire, John 17:20 – 24. Our motto in Life Communication is “Jesus Focused, Grace Oriented and Love Motivated.” Fraternal love in Jesus, Bobby Deason

  6. Charles McLean says:

    I would suggest that our own principles of equal treatment are at the root of this dilemma, more than some lack of clarity in the scriptures. If God gives eternal life to “disbelievers” who repent and come to faith in Jesus, while refusing eternal life to a person who never had the opportunity to make that choice, there is something in us which cries out, “But that’s not fair!”

    I would suggest that this is not a spiritual construct, but an Adamic one. A child whose playmate gets a cookie while he doesn’t, will complain as much about the injustice as about missing out on a treat. I think this expectation was the underlying motivation that sparked Cain’s murder of Abel. “He gave his offering, I gave mine, but you like Abel and you don’t like me! That’s not fair!”

    This is the argument Paul faces in Romans 9, where he reminds us: “Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’

    “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’

    “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

    When God’s justice is questioned, Paul does not defend it by declaring that God does in fact, treat everyone alike. He suggests rather that justice is God doing just as He says he will. To have mercy, or not to have mercy, is entirely in the divine purview.

    But this makes us queasy. We don’t like answering the question the same way Paul did, because that answer does not satisfy our Adamic questioners– nor our Adamic selves.

  7. But Charles, doesn’t “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” cut both ways? That God can have mercy and compassion on whom He wills, whether they have heard the promise of the gospel or not?

    In fact, isn’t it Paul’s point — as Jay notes above — that some of Israel, God’s own people, will not benefit from the promise. Is it because they have not heard? No, but because they have heard and not believed (v. 30ff). In other words, Paul isn’t speaking hear about those who haven’t heard, but those who have heard but will not believe.

    Can you believe and respond to an offer you have not heard? Of course not. Does that mean that you are excluded from the offer? That depends on the one making the offer.

    What I’m questioning is whether phrases like “…whoever does not believe is condemned already” automatically include those who have not heard the offer … or if phrases like “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” are synonymous with “Those who are in the flesh cannot be saved.” Is pleasing God exclusive to those who have heard of and accepted the offer; the promise? Do we exclude little children from that? Those who are challenged to be able to understand the offer? Those who lived before Jesus was born? Do we have the authority of scripture to make this sweeping judgment when scripture says that it’s not within our purview to judge those outside the church — including, presumably, those who have not heard (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)?

  8. aBasnar says:

    We are judged according to our works, not by what we believe or don’t believe. The reason God condemns people is not because they rejectted the Gospel, but because they sinned. And in this God does recognize that not all have the revelation of His Law, so He won’t judge all according to the 10 commandments – but ALL have the witness of creation and nature and a common sense of what is right and what is wrong (thanks to Eve) which makes all people responsible fortheir actions.

    The question “Can you believe and respond to an offer you have not heard?” misses the point Paul makes throughout Romans: People have no excuse, because all sinned. It’s sin that condemns us, not a lack of knowledge about the Gospel.

    And this should urge us to make the Gospel known.

    Alexander

  9. Yes, all have sinned; there is no excuse; sin condemns us. None of that is in dispute; at least, not for me. The question is whether God says He condemns those who have not heard, all of them, across the board; because that’s what believers have been saying for perhaps centuries — but is it specifically what God says in His word?

    Or that He will judge and we should not?

    I understand that the vast majority of believers have been comfortable somehow with that conclusion and chalk up any discofort to it being an Adamic (in Charles’ words!) reaction rather than a divine one. If our sense of justice is that skewed away from God’s, can there really be hope to see things as He sees them; are we really created in His image? Isn’t seeing justice alike a pretty foundational necessity to us representing His righteousness?

    Over-arching question, still, in my mind, is: Are we saying that God’s judgment triumphs over mercy?

  10. laymond says:

    Alex said, “We are judged according to our works, not by what we believe or don’t believe. The reason God condemns people is not because they rejected the Gospel, but because they sinned.”

    When one sits and deeply studies just what the bible says, what I have been saying all these years does not seem so out of whack, we will be judged only at the end of time, and only on our works, just as Jesus was judged on his—

    Jhn 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
    Jhn 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
    Jhn 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
    1Pe 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear:

  11. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Keith,

    In Rom 9, Paul sketches how God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — leading to his election of the nation of Israel. Not everyone received this blessing. God chose Israel.

    Now, in 9 – 11, Paul wrestles with God’s apparent rejection of Israel, as evidenced by the rejection of the gospel by most Jews — and the incongruity of so many Gentiles becoming a part of the elect nation of Israel by faith in Jesus. You have to get this to follow his argument in c. 10.

    In c. 10, Paul makes plain what was implicit from before, that election and faith go together. All with faith are among the elect and all the elect have faith. Therefore, Jews who reject Jesus are not saved — even though they may be zealous for God as they understand him.

    This brings us to “faith comes by hearing” and the call for missions.

    Rom 10:18 ESV But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

    Paul thus deals with wnether the Gentiles have in fact heard the gospel,quoting Ps 19.

    The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
    2 Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
    3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
    4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
    In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
    6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

    Paul does not use the OT as a book of familiar quotations. Rather, he incorporates the quoted (and surrounding) text into his arguments, rather as a lawyer cites case authority. Paul quotes for the content of the Psalm — which is about the revelation of God through “general revelation” available to those who don’t have the Law and the Prophets.

    This sounds very much like –

    Romans 1:19-20 ESV 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

    Paul assumes we have a multi-chapter attention span and seems to be harkening back to the more extensive arguments made in Rom 1 and 2.

    19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

    “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

    20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

    “I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

    21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

    In short, as to the Jews, Paul does not bother to refer back to chapter 2. Rather, he either relies on arguments already made in chapters 2 and 3 and/or is expecting his readers to also think of –

    7 (G)The law of the Lord is perfect,[c]
    (H)reviving the soul;
    (I)the testimony of the Lord is (J)sure,
    (K)making wise (L)the simple;
    8 (M)the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
    the commandment of the Lord is (N)pure,
    (O)enlightening the eyes;
    9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;

    The next few verses of Psalm 19 deal with the special revelation given the Jews (again, like Rom 2 – 3) and their special place in salvation history.

    And Paul then refers to prophecies that demonstrate that God expected a majority of the Jews to ultimately reject Jesus! It is, in a sense, a part of his plan.

    Which leads to chapter 11 and Paul’s question –

    I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

    In short, Paul’s solution is to accept God’s plan — even though God’s plan wound up rejecting a majority of the Jews due to unbelief.

    22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

    It is not an easy teaching, but Paul’s point is that it is the teaching of prophecy and therefore true. Paul does not rationalize unbelieving Jews back into salvation, nor does he offer hope to Gentiles without faith in Jesus. Rather, he celebrates that God has saved a remnant of Israel and is now bringing in the Gentiles.

    You see, we all deserve damnation. We don’t deserve salvation. Salvation is an utterly undeserved, unmerited gift. But God is never worse than just. He is not cruel. No one will receive more punishment than he deserves, and I trust God to mete out justice perfectly.

    Nonetheless, I desperately want to honor God’s mission by helping him redeem the world by seeking the lost.

  12. Charles McLean says:

    Keith wrote: “Can you believe and respond to an offer you have not heard? Of course not. Does that mean that you are excluded from the offer? That depends on the one making the offer.”
    >>>
    Of course, sovereignty is sovereignty, in any direction. But your last sentence appears to put us in the place of assessing “the one making the offer”. I think, again, that the unspoken foundation of much of our dilemma is based on,”That’s not fair, and since it’s not fair, it must not be God. God would have to give you the benefit of the doubt, or some other access to eternal life, if you never heard the gospel.”

    Again, our ideas of justice and fairness are our own. The idea that God would, without explanation, CHOOSE Jim Bob as a person to whom He declines to extend mercy just staggers us. We can’t even shake our own standards in general terminology. Jay says he trusts God to mete out justice, which is like saying he trusts water to be wet. Justice is not a principle external to God which he will apply to mankind. If God does it, it is just. We keep trying to take our own principles and to apply them to God, and in so doing we think we come to a better understanding of who God is. I think we are unwise in this.

    Now, if we decide to step into that seat of judgment on our own hook, that is wrong. To redeem an old Marine canard, our calling is to “Love ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.”

  13. Alabama John says:

    Mercy triumphs Judgment.

    WE are Gods children.

    Think how you would treat your child, reward or punishment, according to its age and understanding and that is how God will treat us.

    By us, I mean every human that has ever lived on this earth until the end of time.

  14. Alabama John says:

    Way to go Charles, Semper Fi !!!

    How much simpler can it be than that.

  15. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ala John,

    Rom 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    Paul describes those not yet justified by faith as “weak,” “sinners,” and “enemies” of God. In fact, only the elect are children of God –

    Rom 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

    When speaking of salvation, it’s only those with faith who are God’s children.

  16. Randall says:

    It has been said that “God created man in His own image and man has returned the favor.”
    Randall

  17. aBasnar says:

    The question is whether God says He condemns those who have not heard, all of them, across the board; because that’s what believers have been saying for perhaps centuries — but is it specifically what God says in His word?

    We are so used that all that God looks at is our faith that we tend to understand condemnation simply as a result of not having faith. But ALL people ALREADY stand condemned because of their DEEDS. So God does not condemn, because they have not heard, but because of hat they already have done.

    Being saved is by Grace, it is not something anyone could claim or deserve. So it is by Grace that missionaries are being called, gifted and sent. Such as God took time to send Jesus and suffered the nations to live in darkness for 4000 years, he suffered certain tribes in the fringes of this world to wait even longer.

    What He earnestly commands us therefore is to preach the Gospel. If we start worrying what will happen to thse who have never heard, the answer is: They will die in their sins. If that bothers us, we should seek to support mission or go out ourselves.

    God let ALL but eight souls die in the 3rd Millenium BC, because of their works. And He will judge again all nations. The ark that saves people today is faith and baptism in the risen Christ – yet we should not forget that Noah’s faith was linked to a righteous life (Gen 6:9), and – shocking – that’s why he found Grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen 6:8).

    And such as Cornelius gives us an example that Godd looks for and finds those who work righteousness among the nations (Acts 10:to reveal Himself to them, we can expect tha same to happen today (and it does happen) – But such people are very, VERY rare. Yet listen to this, to get a more balanced view:

    Act 10:34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,
    Act 10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

    Cornelius reacted to the revelation at hand with “fear of God” AND a life that seeks to please Him. While it is true and serious that all stand condemned because oft heir sin, it is equally true that God seeks and appreciates those who do what is right out of their desire to get to know the unknown God.

    God judges according to our works, and such as Noah found Grace because he was righteous, so only the righteoius shall live by faith, while the unrighteous (baptized as often as they please) will not inherit the Kingdom. I stress this, because once we get away from an “abstract” understanding of salvation by faith, we will better understand God’s righteousness.

    So – summary – ALL stand condemned because of their sins, not because of a lack of faith or revelation. BUT those (few) outside the reach of Christ’s messengers who diligently seek God in doing what is right and pleasing to Him, will be found by God who seeks and notices such people; e.g. Job 1:8 – a gentile that was saved without being of Abraham’s physical seed. But why was he saved? Because of the righteousness by which he expressed his faith.

    In other words: The puzzle can only be solved by letting go of an “abstract” faith-alone salvation.

    Alexander

  18. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Bobby,

    Thanks very much for the note. I have a post on those questions rattling around in my skull. I tried to type it while in the hospital, but just didn’t have the necessary resources. I’ll try to type it up tonight to show up soon.

  19. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Bobby,

    I answered a portion of your question at http://oneinjesus.info/2012/03/baptismamazing-grace-a-conversation-over-lunch-part-24-in-reply-to-keith-brenton-part-1/#comment-336852. You also asked,

    How do John 15:22 and Romans 2:12 – 16 fit into the Romans 10:1 – 17 discussion?

    (Joh 15:22 ESV) 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.

    (Rom 2:12 ESV) 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.

    Paul declares that we are only accountable for that portion of God’s will we know.

    (Rom 5:13b ESV) sin is not counted where there is no law.

    I’ve addressed this topic in some detail in a series of posts on Romans 5.

    An Email About Romans V, Part 1

    An Email About Romans V, Part 2

    Here’s the short answer:

    * We are only accountable for so much of God’s will as he has revealed to us — whether through special revelation (Torah, the Bible, prophets, Jesus, etc.) or general revelation (the creation, cultural moral standards, internal moral standards).

    * We all sin enough based on what we know to damn ourselves. We all do what we condemn in others. We all violate our own culture’s standards. We even sin against the created order.

    * Therefore, all deserve death and punishment proportional to our sins.

    * Before Pentecost, only the elect received eternal life, and all others died. But they did not suffer eternal punishment. Rather, they just died and won’t be resurrected to either punishment or reward.

    * After Pentecost, only the elect receive eternal life — and that is by faith in Jesus. All others die and are punished, but only in proportion to their sins. After punishment, they die, that is, they cease to exist.

    This makes sense of Paul’s statements that God does not punish sins committed before Pentecost along with his statements that God now only gives eternal life to those who believe in Jesus. This approach fits the rest of scripture as well.

    The biggest question is why Pentecost is the line for people who weren’t able to learn about Pentecost during their lifetimes? How is that fair?

    (Act 17:30-31 ESV) 30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    (Rom 3:24-25 ESV) 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

    To me, however, the really hard question is why God overlooked sins in the past? It’s perfectly fair to fairly punish people for their sins against known laws of God. Why be kinder than that to anyone?

    Well, who am I to ask, when I’m among the elect? No one, really. But I’ll delve just a little deeper –

    “Forbearance” in Rom 3:25 refers back to –

    (Rom 2:1-4 ESV) Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

    God had been patient in suffering the sinfulness of the Jews and Gentiles alike, but Paul warns that God’s patience had expired. Why? Well, because how much sin does God have to put up with before he renders justice? Isn’t justice needed? Isn’t justice right and holy?

    You see, the truly hard question is how was it fair not to punish sin before Pentecost (other than through physical death without hope of resurrection)? Our God is a merciful God indeed!

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