Available Light: Consideration of Romans 1 – 2

We are considering a post by Al Maxey and another post by Leroy Garrett arguing that, for those who’ve never heard the gospel, their salvation will be determined based on their response to what they know of God from other sources.

Both Al and Leroy Garrett rely heavily on Paul’s arguments in Rom 1 and 2. And so we begin there.

Paul states the theme of Romans —

(Rom 1:16-17)  I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

The gospel saves, but it only saves those who believe in Jesus.

(Rom 1:18-20)  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Verses 19-20 teach that God reveals himself through his Creation. God’s self-revelation through the Creation is the first “book” of revelation that Leroy refers to in his post. Many other passages teach the same thing. Paul concludes that God’s revelation through his Creation leaves men “without excuse.”

(Rom 2:1-3)  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

If we judge others for lying to us, and then lie ourselves, we’ve condemned ourselves because we demonstrate that we know lying is wrong and yet we lie. Our consciences — our moral nature — thus is the second “book” of God’s revelation that Leroy refers to in his post.

Paul argues that we all have “no excuse” because we are guilty of the very same sins we condemn in others. Thus, the first and second “books” of God’s revelation leave everyone with no excuse for their sin.

Paul’s point in both passages is that these “books” serve to damn us all because even those without the benefit of the scriptures fail to live up to what these books teach. This result allows Paul to conclude —

(Rom 3:22-24)  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Paul teaches that “all have sinned” — who could disagree? And he teaches “all … fall short of the glory of God.” Not only do those without the scriptures sin, they fail to merit salvation. All of them.

We need to return to a passage I skipped —

(Rom 2:8-13)  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism. 12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Paul states the standard by which we’ll all be judged. If we obey “the law” — regardless of the “book” in which it is revealed — we’ll receive glory (v. 10). If not, not. (Many readers will be bothered by Paul’s emphasis on individual merit here. Paul wrote it. I’ll offer an explanation below once we cover the present point.)

Notice Paul’s use of “glory” here and in 3:23. Here he promises glory to those who obey. In 3:23 he declares that “all” fall short of glory. In other words, no one meets the standard of Rom 2:8-13 on his own merit. It’s a difficult conclusion, but how else could we keep chapter 3 consistent with chapter 2?

(Rom 2:14-16) (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Paul applies the same point to Gentiles who don’t have the scriptures. Sometimes their consciences accuse them. Sometimes their consciences defend them. But we shouldn’t imagine that there will be Gentiles who stand justified by their consciences. Paul has already said,

(Rom 2:1)  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

And Paul concludes,

(Rom 3:23)  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Paul is certainly not teaching that there will be Gentiles who will be saved outside the gospel.

But might Paul be teaching that Jesus will justify the righteous unbeliever who has never heard the gospel? No —

(Rom 3:22)  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

You see, the essence of Paul’s teaching on grace is that faith is the only adequate solution to our inability to obey as we should.

(Rom 4:14-15)  For if those who live by law [regardless of the “book” through which the law is revealed] are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

No one conforms his life even to his own conscience, and no one lives up to the glory of God revealed in his Creation. Therefore, all those without faith in Jesus are lost — even though they are only accountable for so much of God’s law as they know. They know enough to damn themselves.

Note carefully that Paul says the way for there to be no transgression is for there to be no law — but he’s already shown in chapters 1 and 2 that everyone knows some of God’s law!

This is why Paul declares,

(Rom 10:14-15) 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? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Paul concludes that salvation by faith dictates the sending of missionaries. “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Indeed.

You see, the law (as revealed through any of the three books) serves only to damn. Even those who’ve never heard the gospel have heard enough of the law of God to stand damned. Therefore, it’s imperative that they hear the only message that brings salvation — the gospel.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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31 Responses to Available Light: Consideration of Romans 1 – 2

  1. Terry says:

    I agree with you completely. Salvation is based on faith specifically in Jesus Christ.

  2. David Himes says:

    You're concluding that God will condemn a person who has never heard of Jesus, solely because that person does not have faith in Jesus?

    Do I understand you correctly?

    I believe God will judge our faith, if know have heard about Jesus. What he will do with those who have not heard about Jesus, we simply don't know. And whether God will judge us according to "the available light" we have, ultimately is up to God. We simply don't know.

    I think this is a judgement we should leave to God.

    Our response should be to tell others about Jesus — not judge their salvation or condemnation.

  3. guy says:


    good post.

    (1) People dealing with this issue often lose sight that people are not lost because of not hearing the gospel. People are lost because of sin.

    (2) The Bible nowhere portrays anyone has haphazardly lost or unfortunately lost or unluckily lost. People are *willfully* lost. It's not as though men are trying so hard to do the right thing but God is stingy with access to the solution. No. Paul says there in Romans 1, men *supress* the truth in unrighteousness. God's sunshine is showing, but lost people have their eyes shut tight and deny they feel its heat.

    (3) No one is portrayed in scripture as being perfectly okay as they are without the gospel–even when they're spotlighted as better than others. Take Cornelius for example. Luke records that he was a good guy. But the answer was not to leave him as he was. Rather, he was given more revelation. So rest assured, if anyone out there really is groping for truth and will respond aright, God's pattern is to send them messengers to give them the truth they're looking for.

    (4) To say that sinners can be fine in eternity without the gospel cheapens Christ's work on the cross.


  4. Alan says:

    I basically agree with what you are saying. However, I think that it is not clearly revealed what God will do with people who obey to the extent of their knowledge. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away sin. But God can apply that blood to anyone he wishes. God has the right, if he wishes, to apply it to some folks who didn't perfectly follow the five-step plan of salvation… regardless of which step or steps they missed. I won't be offended in the least if God does so. And if God doesn't, that is also his right. He is the judge, not me.

  5. paul says:

    All I have to say is…

    The Word of God is clear on this subject- EVERYBODY deserves to burn in hell for eternity for their sin, and ALL have sinned… Therefore we have only one hope and that is in the Grace and Mercy offered to us through Jesus Christ (Jesus alone is the ONLY way to be freed of the righteous wrath of God). We need to avoid speculation and stand ONLY on the word of God:

    Titus 3:9
    "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain."

    The net result of speculation and looking for ways around plain scripture will result in heretical teaching. It is wrong to twist scripture to fit our wishes and will result in our rejection by God, the one whom we are solely dependent on for His Grace and Mercy in order to be saved from certain eternal death.

    "…brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him,
    has written to you,
    as also in all his epistles,
    speaking in them of these things,
    in which are some things hard to understand,
    which the unlearned and unstable twist,
    as they do also the rest of the Scriptures,
    to their own destruction." (2 peter 3:15b-16)

  6. Alan says:

    It astonishes me that some here would argue that God does not have the right to forgvie anyone he chooses…. if I understand what is being said.

  7. Excellent post Jay! Enjoyed your handling of the passages in Romans greatly.

    Now, as could probably be understood from my previous comments on this subject, it is my conviction and strong believe that any doctrine which holds out the hope of salvation for the unreached multitudes apart from the gospel, ignores the following Biblical teaching:

    1) Pagan worship is utterly repugnant to God, Exodus 20:3-5, Joshua 24:14, Deuteronomy 11:6, Isaiah 48:2, Ephesians 4:17,18.
    2) The heathen are neither completely ignorant, nor innocent. Romans 1:18-23, 2:12-16. Note in 1:18 "suppress". The ASV has "hold" the RSV (more correctly) "hold down". They have sinned against the light they have. Romans 1:24-32. Ephesians 4:17,18.
    3) The early converts' former state is describes as "without hope" (Ephesians 2:12) and being "alienated from God", Ephesians 4:17,18. Compare 1 Peter 1:9,10.
    4) Jesus Christ is the only way to God, John 3:18, 36; 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 John 5:11,12, 1 Timothy 2:5,6.

    And so the New Testament asserts that the work of Christ is the only way to a right relationship
    with God (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). There is only one mediator between God and humans: Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). This is clear. Passage after passage in the New Testament presents Christ as coming to earth, dying on a cross, rising from the dead, and offering his life, death, and resurrection to all who would want to be restored to their heavenly Father. If there were other ways to God, then Christ’s sacrifice would have been in vain.

    However, we should understand that Christ’s work is the basis for salvation. People receive
    this gift of grace when they accept it by faith and obedience to the gospel, hence the passion we as Christians have for sharing our faith with others.

    Now, there are some Christian scholars have suggested that there may be special circumstances where God applies Christ’s atoning work to individuals who were, for various reasons outside their control, prevented from knowing about Christ. For example, God may be gracious to infants who die at an early age or those who are mentally incapable of hearing and understanding the gospel message. In this sense, they are reconciled to God “through” Christ, but not in conjunction with an explicit affirmation of faith.

    Could it be the same for individuals who have not heard simply because of when and where they were born, and whom God discerns would respond positively if they did have the opportunity?

    I doubt this argument. But to be honest, we don’t know and never will know for sure. I believe this not to be the case, and therefore believe it is imperative that Christians continue to share their message of hope with others. But I do entertain the thought that perhaps God is so gracious to judge people based on what they could possibly know and nothing more.

    Now still ohers might try to take comfort in believing that the Bible teaches that there are “degrees of punishment” in the judgment of God (cf. Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 12:47-48) Degrees of punishment seem to be determined on the basis neglected opportunities. I’m not sure about this, but it must be considered a possibility.

    But again, this entire discussion should NEVER diminish our sense of urgency for both seekers and Christians. Transformation and a purpose in this life remains a motivation to place our trust in Christ and share the good news with others.

    Ultimately, we trust that God is good, loving, just, and fair. The Bible says that, “the LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8 NIV). He does not want any to live self-destructive lives, but for all to turn from their sin and be reconciled to him (2 Peter 3:9).

    I always put my trust in God and Scripture that affirm that “all who seek find.” God has promised that anyone who searches after Him will find Him – find Him through Jesus. If they seek the Lord, the Lord will make sure they find Him! I do trust and believe God will providentially provide this opportunity for those sincerely seeking Him!

    Anyway, these are definitely tough questions not to be studied for the “faint hearted” Christian!

    God bless,
    Robert Prater

  8. Larry Short says:

    Guy & Robert, I basically agree with you. One modification is needed, faith in……….
    When we preach or teach its faith in Jesus as we reveal the gospel. But for all the time before the cross, it was faith in God. Abraham, Moses, etc. died without knowing the gospel of Jesus, or even the name. Yet their faith saved them by the power of the cross.
    Could a Jew in Asia Minor be saved, not hearing of Jesus, living in the few years after Pentecost, and before Paul's or anyone's missions? Could he be saved before the cross? Does lack of new knowledge condemn a life lived in a previously God aproved method?
    Two things here: first faith in God is faith in Jesus because Jesus is God. Second knowledge of Jesus, the name, the earthly life, or the cross was not required prior to the cross. Question is it how to have saving faith in God.
    The trying to be Godly person in the deep Amazon, isolated from the rest of the world, is in the exact postition as all OT follks. If he asks the Great Spirit for forgiveness of sins, does that access grace? Sure, Abraham, Moses, and others heard from God, but did everyone else in OT? Anyway I'm not sure, but see a path that seems to be traveled. Look forward to comments & Jay's further posts.

  9. Zach Price says:

    because without faith all we have left is our judgement of right and wrong that we all have since the garden of eden. so without faith we are doomed–that is the faith that we are saved from that judgement by our savior who died for us.

    that right there makes the most sense to me. without the gospel there is no hope because all we have without it is judgement

  10. guy says:

    If God can forgive by fiat, then what's the point of Christ's work on the cross?

    If God can apply Christ's work on the cross to anyone regardless of repentance/faith, then how could an omnibenevolent God fail to apply it universally?

    How can there be circumstances which prevent people from knowing Christ which fall outside God's providential control and sovereignty over the world? If any people *will* accept Christ, God has the means and power to ensure that they hear about Him.

  11. Alan says:

    If God can forgive by fiat, then what’s the point of Christ’s work on the cross?

    The sacrifice of the sinless Christ is what enables God to forgive whomever he wishes without violating justice.

    If God can apply Christ’s work on the cross to anyone regardless of repentance/faith, then how could an omnibenevolent God fail to apply it universally?

    Rom 9:14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!
    Rom 9:15 For he says to Moses,
    "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

    How can there be circumstances which prevent people from knowing Christ which fall outside God’s providential control and sovereignty over the world?

    God has not neglected those people. One day we will all see that both God's mercy and his justice have been satisfied.

  12. youlackmadmen says:

    If no one can be saved apart from Christ, doesn't that mean that everyone who lived at the time of Jesus is now in Hell? The Apostles, the 70, and other disciples never set foot on the vast majority of the globe. For example…

    There were no Aztec Christians at the time of the arrival of the Conquistadors. How do we explain this? Did they all die? But if God will always make a way, that would suggest that no one over there wanted to hear the Message to begin with! Doesn't that sound a bit odd? And put like that, only Europe and the Middle East contained penitent souls. And this is of course completely unrelated to the fact that none of those places were known to exist at that point.

    And even if one the Aztecs in Ancient Mexico had wanted to know about Jesus, how would he have gotten the Message? Well the Book of Mormon claims to answer that, but I think we can all agree that their account is probably not accurate. Could the Apostles have teleported over there? It seems like something of that nature would've been remembered or written down. And at the end of the day, the result is still the same, everyone on the continents of Australia, North and South America from the time of Jesus are now in Hell because they never heard (or because the teleporting Apostles preached to them and they all rejected it).

    Something fishy is going on here, wouldn't you say?

    If the rules of the game don't change, then how can we say that those people received a special pass and yet modern day people in the exact same situation don't get that very same pass? Or do we really believe that literally, the entire worldwide generation of the 1st century is all, without a doubt in Hell?

  13. Zach Price says:

    If you continue in Romans 3:25
    "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
    It almost seems as if Jesus was just a demonstration at the time in order to fulfill justice in place of those "at the present time" who were not justified by law.
    He goes on to talk about God being the one and only God of both Jews and Gentiles who are justified by the SAME faith. It seems to me then that those who don't have the same faith–that is faith in Jesus–cannot by justified unless there is a different "demostration" of that justice for their [people in far off places who haven't heard of Jesus] specific present time and place, and that doesn't really make sense. (unless of course you're Mormon)

  14. guy says:

    1. If God can have mercy on 'whomever he wishes,' then i still don't see why Christ's atoning work was necessary. Rather, if Christ's atoning work is what enables God to save, as you say, then clearly He can save only in the *way* in which Christ's atoning work enables Him to do so. Is Christ's atoning work such that its benefits could be "syringed" into anyone directly/passively? Or does it require some medium of transferrance (ex., repentance/faith)?

    2. If God can apply the benefits of Christ's sacrifice to anyone *regardless* of their response to it, and if God's omnibenevolence does *not* obligate Him apply it universally, then God could choose to save *no one* and yet be *benevolent* (not just benevolent, but OMNI-benevolent) in doing so. That's hardly benevolence.

    3. If its God's perogative to apply the benefits of Christ's atoning work to some but not others irrespective of their response to Him or Christ's atoning work, isn't it also God's perogative then to choose to un-apply those benefits to someone irrespective of their response to Him or Christ's atoning work?

  15. Zach Price says:

    1. Would we know that God was merciful as such without Jesus? Romans 3 seems to explain that it was a necessary demonstration of God's justice. And a necessary demonstration would leave me to believe then that the latter be true that there is a sort of required medium as you put it.
    We have faith then we are justified, but in order to have faith we need a demonstration of that justification in which to have faith in the first place.
    demonstration of justification for others->faith in the results of demonstration->justification of ourselves
    think of it like scientific testing of an immunization, we test it on test animals, it appears to work– so we then test on humans, it appears to work– so we then use it ourselves

    2/3. Yes I agree that if you were to take salvation to the possibility of universality logically it would be equally possible to be universally damned. That is if it's possible that anyone could be saved regardless than equally it is possible that anyone could be damned regardless. However, possibility does not equate necessity.On the other hand, if it was possible that we all could be damned regardless then what is the point? I don't think any of us believes that so we cannot hold its opposite as true either. Ill make an analogy. This is why the chaos theory by it's own arguments is false. Chaos theory by definition is a rule, but if there are no rules, it's all just random then you couldn't even have chaos or randomness itself as a rule. So what I'm saying is that (2) and (3) don't really accomplish anything if they were true other than to say it doesn't matter and if that's the case we wouldn't have to worry either way.

  16. Alan says:

    If God can have mercy on ‘whomever he wishes,’ then i still don’t see why Christ’s atoning work was necessary.

    Christ's atoning work is the very reason God can have mercy on whomever he wishes. The penalty for sin had to be paid.

    If God can apply the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice to anyone *regardless* of their response to it

    It's impossible to respond to something you have never encountered.

    then God could choose to save *no one* and yet be *benevolent* (not just benevolent, but OMNI-benevolent) in doing so. That’s hardly benevolence.

    God could choose to save *no one* and would still be just. I don't think we could say he was being merciful (better word than benevolent IMO) in that case. But that's not what he's doing.

    If its God’s perogative to apply the benefits of Christ’s atoning work to some but not others irrespective of their response to Him or Christ’s atoning work, isn’t it also God’s perogative then to choose to un-apply those benefits to someone irrespective of their response to Him or Christ’s atoning work?

    God is faithful to his promises. He will keep them.

    I think you're missing the point that God is the one making the rules. He can do whatever he wants. What he has said he will do, he will do. What he has said he will not do, he will not do. What he has left unsaid, he can either do or not do… regardless of what we think we can infer between the lines.

  17. guy says:

    If you think God is benevolent, and if you think God cannot act contrary to His own character, then He is obligated to act benevolently (not because God owes it to me, but because God owes it to Himself).

    i don't have any qualms with the idea that God is the one making the rules. The tension i'm feeling is upon what basis God makes those rules and whether He is obligated to act consistently with those rules. To say that God can save people by fiat apart from their repentance/faith doesn't seem just or benevolent. Why? Because He expects that criteria to be met by some but not others. Because it would imply that there are those He saves neither by fiat nor by repentance/faith. Upon what basis did He choose to exclude some? Why did He not extend that special fiat-benevolence to everyone? Either arbitrarily, or on some feature in them which makes Him a respector of persons. Either way, it was *not* on the basis of His benevolent character nor on justice. And if that's the case, then God isn't keeping His own rules. (Which, by the way, justice is not limited to the idea of everyone getting what they deserve. i suppose that's one form of justice; but God often models a restorative notion of justice. And that form of justice is not consistent with non-universal fiat-salvation).

    Feel free to have the last word. i gather at this point, my strong non-Calvinist inclinations are rubbing up against your opposing inclinations, and little more than that is happening.


  18. Alan says:

    i gather at this point, my strong non-Calvinist inclinations are rubbing up against your opposing inclinations

    I'm certainly not a Calvinist. I'm probably somewhere in-between. But I do see the difficulty in reconciling the "calvinist" passages and the "arminian" passages. We're inherently limited in understanding the prerogatives of a God who lives outside of space and time. I'm convinced it is a paradox that we won't fully understand in this life.

    But I can't see any way around the fact that God can do whatever God wants to do. Probably, we just don't fully understand what God said he would do.

  19. Larry Short says:

    Guy & Alan, I beleive the extremes are showing, and they are unworkable. Let's list some common items:
    1-Jesus' sacrifice was enought to erase every sin of every human that ever lived or will live.
    2-Most will not benefit from that sacrifice. Broad way to destruction, smaller path to heaven.
    3-On our own only perfection can earn salvation. Also nobody's perfect, so nobody earns, that includes the isolated people of the world. Rm 2
    4-Acess to God's gift is faith (and faith responce: baptism, Abram leaving Ur, Moses going back to Egypt, etc.) To some this is a pure mental exercise, but the normal Bible senario is Jame's living faith.

    Now the topic here is; is our informed faith the only possible path, or can the ignorant of God or Jesus, have s path to faith also? Can the American native in 1000ad pray to the Great Spirit, and express faith and ask for forgiveness? If he must know Jesus to respond, will God directly speak to him or send a teacher? Is there grace by available light?

  20. paul says:

    Yes God is both Just and Righteous.

    [and for those who don't know, the words translated "Justice" and "Righteousness" in certain places in Scripture are in fact the same word.]

    He is also HOLY ! Moses had to take off his shoes in His presence; Isaiah and Ezekiel thought they were goners when in the presence an absolute Holy God; Uzzah disrespected God's Holiness and was struck dead, etc.
    Point being that God's holiness doesn't tolerate the presence of vile sinful people (of which everyone of us is).
    Only being IN Jesus can we have any chance of being in heaven as Jesus' Holiness will cover our vileness. God can only save those who can be covered by Jesus; NO universal salvation for everyone- only those IN Jesus will be saved (and if they know Jesus by another name and through another way because of the absence of Gospel preaching, well and good).

    Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
    19 because what may be known of God is clearly recognized by them, for God has revealed it to them. 20 For ever since the creation of the world the unseen things of Him are clearly perceived, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they know God, they do not glorify Him as God, nor are thankful, but become vain in their reasonings, and their stupid hearts are darkened.

  21. guy says:


    1 – 4 sound good to me (though i'm not sure about that 'pure mental exercise' bit in 4), and i haven't meant to say anything contrary to those items.

    No i don't think praying to the Great Spirit will suffice for saving men from sin. i believe people are saved in Christ alone, and repentance/faith/baptism is the avenue by which a person gets into Christ.

    i think God chose the gospel as the (sole) means by which to save men from sin, death, and hell, and i believe He has the power to back up that choice (i.e., He has the power to make sure that Native American in 1000A.D. hears the gospel).

    Ya know, i've heard more than once a person say (and cite sources) that global travel was likely common far earlier than most academia would have us believe; but i've never chased that down to verify for myself. Anyway, i just mention it to say that the gospel could've made it to all kinds of places on the map that we don't know about within the first century or two. It's arguable the case that what we have of first and second century Christian history only represents a fraction of those kinds of events.


  22. Alan says:

    i think God chose the gospel as the (sole) means by which to save men from sin, death, and hell, and i believe He has the power to back up that choice (i.e., He has the power to make sure that Native American in 1000A.D. hears the gospel).

    God surely has not overlooked anyone in providing salvation. He wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Yet he tells us that only a few will find that narrow road. All of us who have commented here are working from very limited perspective, and making many different assumptions. God's ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than our thoughts. He has it all figured out. We don't.

  23. Larry Short says:

    Thanks for the replies. What's the difference between the 1000ad native American and the 2500bc after flood fertile crescent resident?
    1-blood of Christ saves ad & bc.
    2-bc could not be faith in Jesus, since yet to be revealed. No record that God gave every righteous of OT a gospel lesson.
    Seems to be people of God wihout direct revelation, like Mose's father-in-law Jethro. Job seems to have some knowledge of God, for example sacrifices like Patriarchs, but no direct revelation until the end of the ordeal.
    Anyway to me seems to be lots of available light, but all details are missing. (matching knowledge). Maybe Jay's last post will clarify all!

  24. guy says:


    It super late, else i'd write more. But try Acts 17:30-31.


  25. Zach Price says:

    Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Chris is the same yesterday, today and forever." The same people who would reject him now would have rejected him in BC and the same people who would accept him now would accept him in BC.

  26. Larry Short says:

    Guy, thanks. I have always cherished Paul's sermon on Mar's Hill as a model of relating gospel to people, respecting people's religious zeal, and a way of relating ideas that curious Athenians couldn't resist.
    I know Acts 17:30 " In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." (TNIV ibs.org) seems to say that since Pentecost, we are in the age of knowledge.
    As a subtheme from John the B to now, we are in an age of repentance. John's sermons and Peter's words at Pentecost are mostly repent. Perhaps available light ended with full knowledge of grace.
    " seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him" (v27) could be for times past, but seems like a design of the human soul.
    I don't know the answers, nor does it directly affect us, but its good for us to think of lessor read scriptures sometimes.

  27. Dan Smith says:

    Jay, et al
    Salvation of the ignorant is at best a “wish” that is based upon God’s love for humanity. It certainly is not a scriptural “face.” I can consider God’s “love” only in light of his “righteousness” and “justice.” The cross offers “potential” salvation, not “universal” or even “ignorance.”

  28. Alabama John says:

    For somw reason we do not understand our spirit and soul was put in a baby being born to a couple of a christian nation.
    WE also were given the mental ability to undrsdtand the teachings we were given by folks we admired anloved, and believed had the right answers pertaining to God and His wants for us.
    Knowing this we try to obey as best we can.
    Very few of us leave this belief and teaching to be a part of any other.
    This is the same with those born in other places and under other religious beliefs.
    It is hard to understand all the others going to hell and why we are the only ones going to heaven.
    Were we picked to be born here by a throw of dice by God if you will, or why were we so fortunate to be picked to be born Christian?
    Don’t tell me everyone has the same opportunity as us as that was throughout time and even now just not so IF you believe all are judged alike.
    It is true if God judges the exceptions so they have just as good an chance as we do to be accepted into paradise.
    To believe other wise is just too egotistical for me.

  29. Randall says:

    Alabama John,
    I doubt you believe God ever did anything whimsically, arbitrarily or “by the throw of the dice.” I know you used that phrase just as a figure of speech and surely all of us give Him credit for being bigger than that.

  30. Alabama John says:


    I was being very facetious.

    That is believed and taught but in nicer wording.

    God didn’t randomly pick out spirits and souls to enter a babies body knowing that by far most babies were going to be born in a place where it wouldn’t be a christian. If He did, He knew it was destined for hell before it was born. That would be most of the people on earth throughout history. What kind of God would that be? I don’t believe that at all but it is strong COC teaching.

    The narrow is the way is misused, misinterpreted, and always spoken by someone that thinks they personally are on the narrow road. After seeing the division it has caused and the ego trips in the churches of Christ for 70 plus years ……well!

    Jesus died for ALL men, past and present and everyone has (or has had) the opportunity to go to heaven even if we are judged differently by God due to our individual circumstances.
    That is what Judges do, weigh the evidence and make a decision based on it. God doesn’t need evidence to judge by as He knows all.

  31. Randall says:

    I read something the other day – I think it was in an article about the Hebrew word hesed variant spelling chesed. The article raised the question as to whether mercy or justice comes first. I guess some might wonder why others would even ponder such a thing.

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