Recently we had a visitor during our Sunday evening service (yes we still do Sunday evening and your church should too!) It is a bit informal and we give a time to ask any questions or share any comments from the congregation. The question came in from this visitor in regards to people who have never heard of Jesus or who have been taught their whole lives that another religion is the true religion and that God would not send them to Hell. That God is a Loving Father and is not mean, vengeful or hateful.
This could have escalated into a heated debate, but it did not. I simply shared very briefly about what Scripture says and then he agreed to meet with me at another time to discuss it further.
Below is a letter I wrote to this gentleman. The book that I sent him is What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert. I highly recommend you buy several to pass out to those you are witnessing to or for people just like our visitor.
Here is my letter:
Let me first thank you for your recent attendance, your thoughtfulness and your questions and concerns from Sunday evening. It has been a pleasure getting to know you and I hope that we can continue this relationship. I hope that in no way what transpired Sunday evening may deter you from attending worship services here at First Baptist nor deter you from asking very important questions. Asking questions is a very good thing. We need to ask more questions.
Let me also say that I am typing this letter for the sake of penmanship and clarity. I do not mean for this letter to be of a formal nature, but I fear that if I write it by hand it will be illegible. I want to be very clear in what I am saying.
I am also sending you this letter for the sake of time. I don’t know if or when I’ll see you again, and I wanted to get this letter to you as soon as I could.
If what I heard correctly from the question on Sunday evening, you asked that if I (we) believed that people in other parts of the world who may or may not have ever heard of Jesus or who have been so entrenched in another religion such as Buddhism or Islam, that when they die they go to hell. My short answer is yes, I (we at the church) do believe this. Not because I want to believe it or because I think it’s fair or because I think that’s what right. I believe this because Scripture says it’s true.
Very clearly we see that Scripture says that there is only one way to Heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ. “Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
I think that Romans 1:19-21 give the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. It says “19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.20 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”
Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.
The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God’s existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity’s rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).
It is a sad reality that millions of people have never heard the name of Jesus or who are taught that their religion is the true religion and way to God. But sincerity to something that is false does not make it true. That is why it is so important for us to send missionaries, send money and pray for missionaries who are going overseas to the people who believe a lie so that they can hear the truth and God can save them.
Do all religions lead to God? Actually they do. All but one leads to His judgment. Only one—Christianity—leads to His forgiveness and eternal life. No matter what religion one embraces, everyone will meet God after death (Hebrews 9:27). All religions lead to God, but only one religion will result in God’s acceptance, because only through His salvation through faith in Jesus Christ can anyone approach Him with confidence. The decision to embrace the truth about God is important for a simple reason: eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong. This is why right thinking about God is so critical.
The fact of the matter is that God is a loving Father, just like you said. But God is so much more than a Father and so much more than Love. He is those things, but He is also perfectly Just and perfectly Holy. Just because He loves us does not mean He can go against His perfection in Holiness or Justice. He must fulfill His justice by penalizing sin. And the penalty or the wages of sin is eternal separation from Him. And everyone man, woman, boy and girl on earth has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
However, God knew that we couldn’t save ourselves so He came to Earth and paid our penalty for us. He died on the cross, paying for our sin and appeasing our debt that we owed. Therefore, if we turn from our wickedness, confess our sins to God, and respond in obedience with faith, then God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
I hope this was beneficial to you. If you have any more questions, I’d love to speak with you in person or however you like.
I am sending you a book also. It is a very short and easy read but it is one of the clearest presentations of what the Bible says about the gospel and how to be saved that I have read. I think it would benefit you very much in your understanding about Jesus, Heaven and salvation.
Pastor Gavin M. Croft