The “Innocent Native”
“Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick’” (v. 12).- Matthew 9:9–13
Paul’s confrontation with the Greek philosophers at Mars Hill has always been seen as a picture of the conflict between Jerusalem and Athens, between true faith, which is logical, and apostate reason, which is illogical. Starting today, we shall look at six questions that trouble Christian people, and show how true faith joined with reason can answer them.
People often ask, “What happens to the poor, innocent native in Africa who has never heard the Gospel?” Our first answer to this question may shock some people, but what we should say is: “Nothing happens to the poor innocent native who has never heard the Gospel, because innocent people do not need salvation.”
Of course, this points up the fallacy of the question as it has been posed. We have to ask a further question: Are there any innocent people in Africa or anywhere else? The clear answer of the Bible to this question is that no human being is perfectly submissive before God, and therefore, nobody is innocent. We recognize this fact in our common speech when we say, “Nobody’s perfect,” or, “To err is human.” The New Testament says that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
When we talk about innocence and guilt, we are speaking in legal terms. A person is judged guilty when he trangresses some law. But we must ask what law could these people, who have never heard of Christ or the Bible, be guilty of breaking? After all, the New Testament says that where there is no law, there is no guilt (Romans 5:13).
The answer, according to Romans 2:15, is that God’s law is written on the heart of every person. We have built into us a sense of right and wrong. The Creator reveals inwardly to every one of His creatures these basic moral principles. No one keeps them, so no one is innocent.
Beyond this, the Bible tells us that the heavens declare God’s glory, and that there is no place where that witness is not heard (Psalm 19). All men know God and are without excuse when they reject Him. Thus, God’s wrath is against them. God is not angry with innocent people, but His wrath is revealed against all men, for they deny Him (Romans 1:18).
All people are without excuse before God. The knowledge that apart from Jesus Christ there can be no salvation ought to motivate us strongly in support of missions. Purpose this day to support missionaries at home and abroad. Pray regularly for them and their families.
Passages for Further Study