In the first part of this article, we considered what the Bible says about individual responsibilities with regards to the message of God. Each person is obligated to take the information that he or she can observe about God, and take an appropriate action. No one is forced to do anything, but to “not make a choice” is really making a choice to live with the consequences of our [in]actions.
To summarize the third point from the first part of this article:
If a human being is thinking enough to ask about how God will judge those who have never heard the truth about Jesus, it is probably more important for him or her to answer something much more imminent: What will you do with the message of Jesus?
This is what seems to be the focus of Jesus’ comments, below:
If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
John 12:47-50 NASB
Accepting Jesus as both Savior and Lord is God’s specified path for reconciliation. Specifically:
- Accepting Jesus as Savior is claiming His sacrifice as the only way that our own sins can be paid for. It is reaching out, and humbly taking the gift that He offers to us, rather than being too prideful to accept help (or even being too prideful to admit that we need help in the first place).
- Accepting Jesus as Lord is recognizing His sovereignty – His right to tell us what we should and should not do. Jesus, having bought us back from our slavery to sin, has more than enough right to command our every step. Still, He suggests that our obedience is a natural outcome of our love for Him, rather than a punitive assignment (see John 14:15).
By definition, if we know the truth about Jesus, we have a choice to make for ourselves. Yes, we should care very much about those who have not heard about Him, and share that good news. However, if you or I have heard the truth – the truth that we have a choice to make, with specific consequences – then we are liable for our decision. When Jesus explained His message and His mission, He didn’t force anyone to follow. However, once they knew the options presented to them, choosing the path of rebellion and punishment caused them to be liable for the stated consequences. In the same way, for any of us to choose to reject the words that Jesus said, we are taking on the consequences that our rebellion has already earned. Trying to live in denial doesn’t change the reality of the justice that stems from God’s holiness.
If you have accepted the gift that Jesus offers, and He is your Savior and Lord, be sure that you are living out His commands, including – but not limited to – sharing the “cure” for the sickness of sin with others. That is, if you have made the decision to follow Him, then any awareness that you have of others not knowing the good news about Jesus (that is, having only a limited understanding of God and His plan) means that you have a responsibility. To help live out that responsibility, followers of Jesus can receive the direction of the Holy Spirit, which – when we listen to Him – results in knowledge and understanding beyond what our soul is ready to enjoy while it remains in rebellion or resistance to Him.
If you have not, I invite you to consider your own choice, before deflecting the conversation to the plight of others. If you continue to make the decision to reject the words of Jesus, then why would the salvation of anyone else matter to you? Your choice is your own, and their choices are theirs. (To be fair: if you are actually trying to understand God’s will for those who have not yet heard the truth about Jesus, don’t just ask amateurs on the Internet. That’s likely to just create a flame war of trite sayings and hollow attacks. Instead, sit down with someone, like a pastor, who has studied God’s word, and perform your own research together with a knowledgeable teacher.)
Jesus does not want any of us – including you – to have to bear the punishment that our sins deserve. He wants you to accept His voluntary payment on your behalf, but He will not force you to do so.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:17-18 NASB
(See also 2 Peter 3:9.)