Are the Heathen Lost?
June 24th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
ARE THE HEATHEN LOST?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-24-87 7:30 p.m.
Our message tonight concerns something that has been asked and asked, reiterated and reiterated: what of the heathen? What of the pagan? What of these who have never heard the name of Jesus? Are the heathen saved? How does God do with and for them?
Our background text will be in Romans 10, beginning at verse 9; Romans 10, verse 9:
What saith the word of faith that we preach?
It is this: if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
. . .
For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.
There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things . . .
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
I say, Have they not heard? Yes, truly, verily, their sound went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
[Romans 10:8-9, 11-15, 17-18]
Isaiah is bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me.”
The preaching of the gospel: are the heathen saved? What of people who have never heard the name of Jesus? And that would be the majority of the human race.
We begin: first, it is impossible for God to be unjust. It is impossible that God should be unfair to any member of the human race. It is unthinkable and unimaginable that God would do anything wrong. Do you remember the pleading of Abraham in the eighteenth chapter of Genesis before Jehovah God, when the Lord announced He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? [Genesis 18:20-23]. And in it was Lot, his nephew, and Lot’s family [Genesis 19:1, 15]. And as Abraham pleads before the Lord God, he says, “Lord, if there be fifty righteous in the city, would You spare it for the sake of fifty? [Genesis 18:24]. Or would You destroy the righteous with the unrighteous?” [Genesis 18:23]. Then the question: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” [Genesis 18:25]. Of course, the story, you remember, “Yes, if there are fifty righteous in the city, I will save it for their sakes; I will not destroy the righteous with the wicked” [Genesis 18:26]. Then he comes on down, finally gets to where he thinks there’s enough in the family of Lot to spare the judgment of God [Genesis 19:32]. It is impossible for God to be unjust. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” [Genesis 18:25].
All right, the second avowal: Christ died for the sins of the whole world, all of the human race. Second Corinthians 5:15, “Christ died for all, we should live for Him who died for us, and rose again.” Second Corinthians 5:19: “God was in Christ, reconciling the whole world unto Himself.” First Timothy 2:6, “Christ gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” There is no member of the human family who has ever lived, who lives, or who yet shall live, for whom Christ did not die. As there is a universal lostness and condemnation in sin [Romans 3:19], so there is a universal redemption and salvation in Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 5:15, 19; 1 Timothy 2:6]. As broad as is the spectrum of sin and as tragic as is the lostness of all humanity, just so broad and just so expansive and inclusive is the atoning grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The thing follows this pattern: Romans 3:23: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 5:12: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.” Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As universal as is sin, so universal is the atoning grace and redemptive blood of our Lord Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:22].
All right, number three: it is God’s will that none should perish, but that all should be saved, the whole human race. Second Peter 3:9: “God is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Ezekiel 33:11: “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die.” The whole human race, every living soul, is dear and precious in the sight of God, and Christ died that all might be saved [2 Peter 3:9].
All right, number four: if anyone is lost, or if anyone is saved, the lostness or savedness depends upon our choice, our volition. We are free to choose the one or the other. The means of our salvation are ever before us; they are ever at hand. The passage I just read in Romans 10:8, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” John 7:17: “If any man will do God’s will, he will know the way, the doctrine thereof.” Acts 17:26 and 27:
God hath made of one blood all nations on the face of the earth,
and hath determined . . .
That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us:
For in Him we live, and move, and have our being . . .
That’s all mankind; that isn’t just we in the Western world, or we in America, or we who are in Christendom; it applies to all humanity, all of them.
Number five: the revelation of God is universal. Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men.” Whether he lives in China, or in Africa, or in Tibet, or in Russia, or in South America, the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. It is our response that is problematical and awaited; not the revelation of God. The revelation of God is universal. John 3:36: “He that believeth. . .hath everlasting life: he that believeth not. . .shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him.” The condemnation is not whether there is a revelation or not; the condemnation or the salvation lies in our response to the universal revelation of God [John 3:36].
Now I speak of the universal revelation of God, which is to all mankind, which is to the entire human race, which is in all creation. As the psalmist begins in Psalm 19:1:
The heavens, the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork—
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.
There is no line—
there is no language—
there is no place, there is no nation
where their voice is not heard.
The revelation of God is universal. It is to every heart; it is to all the races, it is to the entire mankind [Titus 2:11; John 3:36; Psalm 19:1-3].
Now when you read philosophy and when you study theology, there are five categories; and these are repeated through all of the centuries. I don’t know where it all started, but through all of the centuries, all of the students who’ve ever studied theology or philosophy, all of them are taught these five things; whether they are accepted or not, they are taught. I’m talking about the universal revelation of God to all mankind.
There is the cosmological argument; from the Greek word cosmos, “the world.” There has to be a cause adequate to account for the universe. Where did it come from? And who made it? It leads us to God. That’s the cosmological argument. There is in this universe a law of cause and effect, and there’s never one without another. If there is a cause, there will be an effect. If there is an effect, it is because there is a cause. And this universe, somewhere, somehow, in accounting for it, we have to seek an ultimate cause. Who made it? That’s the cosmological argument for the existence of God.
The second argument is called the teleological, from teleios, which is the Greek word for the great completeness and the finality of things. There is evidence of purpose and design in the universe. You see it in everything that you look upon; there is a design in it. In all of the biological processes of life, you see purpose throughout it. And intelligence is in ourselves. We don’t have to go beyond our own being to experience intelligence. There is intelligence and purpose and design in the universe. That’s the teleological argument for the existence of God.
The third argument is called anthropological, from anthropos, which is the word for “man.” The spiritual nature of man, where did it come from? Could materialism have produced it? Could blind evolution ever bring us up to where I am a spiritual being? And being spiritually conditioned throughout history, there is universal belief in God. There’s no language, there’s no place where God is not believed in.
Then there’s the fourth: the ontological argument, from ontos, which is the present participle of the Greek word “to be,” einai, ontological. The idea of perfection argues for a necessary existence of such: you’ve got that in your mind, in your head, in your heart, and in your life; the idea of perfection. Where does it come from if there is no perfect thing?
Then the last, the fifth is moral: it is a part of our very being. So there is a God who is moral and personal. I want to give you an illustration of that. One of the most impressive of all of the journeys that was ever made was by Charles Darwin in a little boat called the Beagle. And leaving England, he went into the Pacific Ocean. When he got down to that passageway, the Magellan, the Strait of Magellan, down there at the tip of the South American continent, in Tierra del Fuego, he saw a race of people, the Tierra del Fuegans. And he wrote back, saying, “I have found the missing link. I’ve found the missing link between the ape and the Homo sapiens. I’ve found the missing link: those Tierra del Fuegans down there. They are not human. And yet they are above the anthropoid, ape. I found the missing link.” Well, what happened was, when that word was published in England, there were Christian people who read it; “Charles Darwin has found a race of people that are not human; they are subhuman.” And what those Christian people in England did, they sent missionaries down there to the Tierra del Fuegans. And did you know, those people responded: they became Christians, they accepted the Lord, they were baptized, they organized churches and became some of the most brilliant and exemplary of all the followers of Jesus in this earth. And Charles Darwin himself, rebuked by what had happened among those dear people down there at the tip of South [America], became a daily contributor, a monthly contributor to the missionaries who were working down there among those people.
The difference between us and the ape, or us and the chimpanzee, or us and the anthropoids, the difference between us is the difference between heaven and earth. That’s God. That’s a part of the universal revelation of the Lord in us, in all mankind.
Now why are the lost lost? And why are the heathen heathen? Is it because there is no revelation of God to them? I’m talking about all mankind. Why are they lost? Heathen, pagan, why? It is because there is no desire to know God in their lives. It is not because there is no revelation of God to them; there is a daily and constant revelation of God to them. They are lost because there is no desire to know God.
“Now pastor, you are so positive about that.” I’m just reading the Word of the Lord. The Book of Romans begins with that avowal that all mankind is chargeable before God because God has revealed Himself to all mankind. And he begins with three avowals here in the first chapter of the Book of Romans:
It was known, God, for He was manifest in them; for God hath shown Himself to 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 all mankind is without excuse:
Because what they did was, instead of glorifying God, they became vain and foolish . . .
and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image like unto corruptible man and creeping things.
Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness. . .
Those who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
[Romans 1:19-21, 23-25]
Now the first thing that he avows here, saying that the Lord God, the true God of creation, revealed Himself to all mankind, the first thing he says here, that mankind, instead of worshiping God, began to worship things [Romans 1:25]. Worship themselves, worship money, worship idols, worship things made by the hand, made things that are in human life; that’s the first thing they did, and do. They worship things; not God, but things [Romans 1:25]. That’s called idolatry. Anything you worship, anything you put above God is idolatrous. That’s the first thing. The second thing he says—and this is an amazing one—”For this cause God gave them up” [Romans 1:26]. What did the men and the women do? All right, he talks about the women first: “For the women did change the natural use into that which is against nature”; they became lesbian [Romans 1:26]. “Likewise the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly”; talking about the homosexual. They call themselves “gays.” Then this awful clause: “and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” [Romans 1:27]. That’s why God gave them up; that’s the second reason.
When dear old Dr. Schaeffer was the self-appointed volunteer chaplain out at Parkland, he took me out there; went with him several times. And in one of the big rooms out there, I mean a big room, it was jammed full of people; and they were standing up, no room for them all to be seated. And when I said, “What in the earth is the matter with all these people?” They were all there because of syphilis, or gonorrhea, or herpes—venereal disease. And since? I haven’t been out there since AIDS. That’s what God says. That’s what God says. He reveals Himself to all mankind; and God gave them up [Romans 1:24]. And from what I can read, venereal disease—with its AIDS, and syphilis, and gonorrhea, and herpes, and all the rest of the devastating diseases that follow—from what I can read, there are going to be millions and millions and millions and millions of people that are increasingly caught up in that awful judgment. Paul says that’s God [Romans 1:24-32].
All right, now a third that he says here in the first chapter of Romans: “Because they did not retain God in their knowledge.” Now he’s talking about all mankind; he is talking about the whole human race.
Because they did not retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient—
then he names them and it just goes on and on and on here—
unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, malignity,
Backbiters, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they could commit such things are worthy of death.
That’s what Paul says of the whole human race.
God has been revealed to all mankind. The heavens declare Him [Psalm 19:1], the creation declares Him [Romans 1:19-20], their souls declare Him [Ecclesiastes 3:11]: they’ve got God-sensitivity in their very makeup and birth. But knowing God, they have dishonored the Lord, and they have no desire to follow Him in life. Therefore the judgments of God upon all mankind: God gave them up [Romans 1:21-28].
Now, when we reach the age of accountability—we’re talking about universal—when we reach the age of accountability, there is a God-consciousness in us. I’m talking about the African, I’m talking about the Asian, I’m talking about the black man, and the yellow man, and the white man, and the red man, universally. When we reach the age of accountability, we also reach the age of God-consciousness. And that brings to us an inevitable choice. It is a universal confrontation.
One: we can believe, and accept, and trust, and commit, and repent, and turn, and change to the God of the universe. We can do that. Anywhere in God’s earth a man can turn to the Lord. Or he can reject and he can refuse, and he can follow his own fallen and sinful way. Now whether we are heathen there in Africa or in India or whether we are heathen here in America, it is just the same. There is a great need for the message of the God-called, God-sent preacher [Romans 10:13-15].
In Romans 10, it is the preacher who speaks by word of mouth, like your pastor, like the pulpits of our Western world: a God-called, God-sent preacher [Romans 10:14]. Or it can be by the revelation of God in His great, marvelous world in which He has placed our lives. Verse 18: “Verily, God’s gospel has sounded out into all the earth, and the words of the Lord unto the end of the world” [Romans 10:18].
Now let me sum up in a sentence what God says, not what I say. If I were thinking this thing through, I would come to another conclusion. I can tell you that being honest with you. But what God says is that the whole world is conscious of God. All of us are accountable to God alike, whether the heathen in America or the heathen in Africa; we all are accountable to God [Romans 3:9]. And whether it’s a heathen in Africa or whether it’s a heathen in America, if I turn and appeal and seek and confess [Romans 10:9-10], God will be merciful to me; whether I’m in Africa or whether I am in America. It is obligatory, when I reach the age of accountability, to seek the face of God, and to ask His forgiveness of my sins, and to seek His will in my life.
I have a personal comment about it, which is this: we have a far, far greater possibility of people turning to God under the preaching of the gospel than we do in the preaching of the heavens to the human heart. It works both ways. The preaching of the gospel in a country like Israel is met with harsh and bitter rejection, officially so. The preaching of the gospel in a country like India is met with tragic persecution. The preaching of the gospel in communist lands is a harsh and bitter experience. Like the preaching of the gospel from the heavens in Africa is met with great discouragement. But whether there is a man in Africa, or India, or Israel, or China, or anywhere in the human race, if there is a man that seeks the face of God and wants to be saved, God will reach down and touch that man, and open the doors of heaven for him, and show him the way to be saved. I repeat: even though in some countries the preaching of the gospel is met with bitter, bitter enmity, for the most part it is a far more likely thing that people will turn and be saved under the ministering of a preacher declaring the good news of our salvation [Romans 10:13-17].
Now, one other concluding word: that’s up to God, who is saved and who responds. My part is to deliver the message, to preach the gospel, to present an appeal. And that’s going to be the sermon this coming Sunday. When I preach the gospel and am faithful in its delivery, there will always be some who will respond, always. God will not allow the atoning death of Christ to go without a recompense and a reward [Romans 5:11]. There will be souls that God hath chosen, trophies of grace to give to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:14]. My part is to deliver the message, and preach the gospel; God’s part is to reveal Himself to those who see and hear, when the rest is in His gracious hands.
God be praised that He wrote my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27] God be praised that His grace, through some loving somebody, a preacher or a mother or a father, that His loving remembrance came down to you and brought you. And maybe, in God’s goodness and grace, someone here tonight will be drawn by cords of love in his soul to accept the Lord Jesus and to believe in Him [Romans 10:9-10]. If God so calls, would you answer tonight with your life? And in this moment when we stand and sing our appeal, a family to come into our church to belong to us, or a somebody you to answer God’s call in your heart. But above all, if the Lord has spoken to you to give your heart in trust to the Lord Jesus, would you make it openly, statedly, publicly, a confession of faith in Him? And welcome, while we stand and while we sing.