No Excuse

universe 1

Recently we started a bible study with a friend who grew up in a mainline church. Unfortunately they did not emphasize studying the Bible, so even though some members had gone to church for many years, they did not have a firm grasp of some basic teachings until they changed to an evangelical church.

For our purpose we chose the first few chapters of Romans, as that explained the fundamentals of the gospel in a very succinct way. As a matter of fact, whenever we share the gospel with seekers, many of their questions were answered right from those few chapters. For instance:

Q. I come from an atheistic educational system and was never taught about God. So you can’t hold me accountable to something I never knew and don’t believe in. That wouldn’t be fair!

A variation is the often asked question, “What about the heathen? Nobody told them about Jesus. God couldn’t send someone to hell for not believing in Jesus whom they have never heard! Those folks were innocently minding their own business. Surely God would excuse them!” Sounds familiar? Maybe you’ve wondered about that yourself, but unfortunately the world does not work that way, even in our secular society.

Let me give you an illustration. Suppose you come from Germany where the autobahn’s posted speed limit is 130 km/hr, but often cars drive at over 200 km/hr. You rented a car and cruised along TransCanada Highway at your usual 200 km/hr, but were stopped by the police. Can you say to the policeman, “I’m sorry, officer. I just arrived in Canada and don’t know about your local speed limits. You can’t charge me because I honestly didn’t know.” Think you can get away with that defense? Not on your life! Ignorance of the law is no excuse!

The same is true of God’s law. Ignorance of God’s law excuses no man. More importantly, are people really ignorant? Not according to the word of God:

Rom 1:19-20 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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.
• Rom 2:1 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.
• Rom 2:15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

People may plead that they have never seen or heard of God, but they are without excuse. Why? Because although God is Spirit and invisible, He has made His divine nature and attributes plain to men. How? Through His creation, which is visible. God’s power and intelligence can be clearly perceived when men consider the immensity, the intricacy of the design, and the orderliness of the universe, whether on a cosmic or microscopic scale. Whenever men think of the designer, they know there must be an omnipotent, omniscient Creator behind it, namely God.

conscience 1

That’s the external witness to God, the created universe and natural law, but there is also an internal witness – conscience. Although men may not know the details of God’s law as revealed in the Mosaic law, the moral requirements of His law are written in men’s hearts. While this can be marred by people hardening their hearts and stifling their conscience, it is universal in that it cuts across race and time, and instinctively tells people what is right or wrong. Where does this universal conscience come from? From the Creator – God.

condemnation 1

The third nail in the coffin is man passing judgment on one another. In doing so they condemn themselves, because the one who judges practices the very same thing. So whenever we judge others, we judge ourselves. These three, creation, conscience, and condemnation join together to prove that men actually knew God. They just don’t want to acknowledge Him as God. That’s a problem of the will, not cognition. So men are without excuse, despite their plead of ignorance.

But back to the heathen question. Is it fair for people to be sentenced to hell when they don’t know Jesus? Think it through carefully. First of all, people are not condemned because they don’t know Jesus. They are condemned because of their own sin. Secondly, they may not know Jesus, but they know the Father through creation and conscience. Yet no one lives fully up to the level of their own conscience, even though that’s a very low standard compared to God’s requirements, namely perfection. So men are guilty and accountable to God with no excuse. Trust in Him and ask for mercy. We’ll return to this in future posts.

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  • Nancy Wu  On October 3, 2015 at 12:16 am

    What would happen to the people in China in the old days, who sought the wrong god and or tried to soothe their conscience the wrong way? e.g . buddhism etc, These people had not heard of the God of Abraham.

  • Pastor Ray  On October 12, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    They would be judged by the law God wrote on their hearts. They did not know Him as the God of Abraham, but they knew Him as the Creator. They would be found guilty for failing to live up to even their conscience. For those who seek after the one true God, He will provide a way for them to know Him, including dreams and visions as He does now for Muslims. God is always fair. He takes everything into consideration.


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