Romans 10 tells us that a person cannot confess Christ unless they have heard of Him.
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:14]
Many antagonists of the Gospel, this includes denominational believers, will often challenge obedience to the Gospel in Baptism by asking this question. This is one of the most challenging questions, but not unanswerable. As with all questions we turn to scriptures for the solution.
Before we answer, we must establish some undeniable facts about Christ. Here are 3 absolutes about Jesus:
1: JESUS is the ONLY WAY to the Father. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” [John 14:6]
If reconciliation to God could be done by good works of man, Mohammed, philosophy, ignorance or any other way, then what was the need of sending Jesus to provide a sacrifice? No one will get to heaven without coming to Jesus the Christ.
2: JESUS is the author of salvation for all that obey Him. All of the saved are obedient to Christ [Luke 6:46]. This is exactly the meaning of Hebrews 5:9: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;”
There is no salvation by accident, ignorance nor faith alone.
3: OBEDIENCE to the Gospel is required. The knowledge of God and obedience in Baptism are essential to salvation. One is not saved by faith only [Jas 2:24], is not saved then baptized. We are saved when we are baptized (buried) in water through faith.
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” [1Peter 3:21]
There’s more that could be said, but this is sufficient to prove the point, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD?
We answer this with the bible and just a little bit of reasoning.
Allow me to offer 2 possibilities:
EVERYONE WHO IS SEEKING THE TRUTH, GOD WILL ENSURE THAT THEY HEAR IT. We have a few examples of this in the New Testament. The first is the house of Cornelius. He was a devout believer in God and had been praying about this very thing. God sent him Peter to, “who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.” [Acts 11:14]. We can also see this when Philip was urged to go down toward Gaza and encountered the seeking Eunuch. [Acts 8:26-39]. All the more reason we need to keep preaching to the whole world. [Mat 28:18-20; cr. Lu 10:2]
GOD KNOWS WHO WON’T ACCEPT THE GOSPEL EVEN IF THEY HEARD IT. The rich man in Luke 16 wanted Lazarus to go back from the dead to warn his brothers about the torment they were facing. The answer was, nope, if they’re not listening to the revelation they already have, they won’t hear even if someone were raised from the dead. [Luke 16:19-31]
Romans 1:20 tells us people are without excuse in light of creation. We all know that many reject God and they use His creation to do it. We could all think of a person that is NOT SEEKING the truth, rather they’re seeking THEIR TRUTH. [2Thess 2:8-10].
If they wouldn’t accept the basic light of creation declaring the existence of God, they won’t accept any more light. Jesus acknowledged this when He said, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” [Mat 15:14].
He also warned, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” [Mat 7:6]
There are those who just won’t believe regardless the effort, even if someone comes back from the dead. That’s what Jesus did, and many still won’t believe.