Note: This is a rather long question and answer. However, I was unable to break the question down into smaller parts and answer each part separately.
You know what Matt 7:21-23 says .. now if this is true, is it fair and just to say that not all non-Christians shall enter the lake of fire? ... I can picture God the father throwing everyone in hell, but since God gave all judgment to Christ, its hard for me to picture Christ being harsh to moral good loving non-Christians .. especially with the hypocristes 'barren soil ' rocky soil' and 'thorny soil' talking the talk but not walking the walk. What does 'trhough Christ' mean anyway? .. Christ is only a bridge between man and God .. just because one says a simple prayer does not give one a ticket to heaven .. Matt 7:21-23 answers this .. what does anything matter anyway God knows how the story ends the middle some people call it free will is irrelevant .. i refuse to be brainwashed by generations of preaching without any free thought .. all in the name of control of the ignorant masses.
I will try to address all your questions and concerns. I appreciate your questions. Especially I appreciate the statement you made toward the end about refusing “to be brainwashed by generations of preaching without any free thought.” I wish more people had this attitude. After all, it is that for which the people of the town of Berea were commended in Acts 17:10-11.
Most of your comments may fall under the general topic of “will only Christians be saved?” It is interesting you would choose to ask this now [late October 2000] because that is the topic of one of the articles in my newsletter, “Minutes With Messiah”, for next month. (See The Real Question) First, I want to say that I don’t want to speak for God where he hasn’t already spoken. Therefore, I don’t know for sure how he will judge those who have never had the opportunity to obey the gospel of salvation through the Christ. I hope to show some places where He has spoken about this.
You say that you can picture God being harsh in judgement, but not Jesus. I, on the other hand, do not see God the father and Jesus as being that different. Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) God has been merciful throughout history (look at Cain, or the Ninevites in the book of Jonah). His Son can be no different. But mercy and justice are not mutually exclusive. God (and his Son) is also just. (Isa 45:22) The writer of Hebrews points out that justice is even more pronounced under Christ. He says (Heb 2:1-4) that if sin was punished under the Old Covenant, how much more so will it be under the New Covenant which has been confirmed by wonders and the Holy Spirit. Thus, to whom sin is accounted, that person will be punished. The question then becomes, to whom is sin not accounted? This is the heart of your question.
Will God account as sinners those who have never heard about salvation through Jesus the Christ? I don’t know for sure. I do know that all have sinned. (Rom 3:23) As you so aptly pointed out, not everyone who simply prays to God will escape the punishment of sin. Jesus himself said that some who thought themselves righteous (and maybe even were thought righteous by other men) would be sent to eternal punishment. (Matt 25:31-46)
Will God account those who are, in your phrase, “moral good loving non-Christians” as sinners? What does God provide to remove the punishment of sin? Can anyone be saved except “through Christ” (and what does that mean, as you asked)?
Jesus said in John 14:6 that “no man comes to the Father, but by me.” Peter explained further what is meant by “by” or “through” Jesus. In Acts 4:12 he said “Neither is there salvation in any other [than Jesus]: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Salvation, then, comes by the authority (in the name of) Jesus, and is in Jesus. It is because of His authority as Son of God and as the perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb 9:14, 24-28) that sin can be taken away. If it by his authority, then it must be through obedience to the dictates of that authority that salvation is determined. What are his commands regarding salvation?
In Acts 17:24-31, Paul tells the Athenians that God commands all men, everywhere, to repent. Without a change of heart toward sin, even the best of deeds done for the wrong reason can not assure salvation. Twice in the New Testament the question is asked: What shall I do to be saved? In Acts 16:30-31, Paul and Silas answered “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” In Acts 2:37-38, Peter answered “repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the purpose of remission of your sins.” On the road to Damascus Paul was told that someone would come to tell him what he must do. When that someone, Annanias, came, he said to Paul: “Arise, and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” John says (I Jn 3:23) says he commands love and faith. So as a minimum we find faith, repentance, immersion (baptism), and love to be requirements for salvation. There are other “commands” as well, like giving a portion of one’s income to the church, but these show at least a basis of what God requires.
As to your statement that Christ is only a bridge between man and God, this is true insofar as it goes. Some of the passages quoted above, however, indicate that Christ is “the only” bridge, as opposed to “only a” bridge, between man and God.
Finally, you fatalistically ask “what does anything matter anyway,” since God knows the end of the story? Does the fact that God knows how I will respond to His word mean that I have no choice but to respond in a pre-determined way? If that is true, then God really is a cruel being, punishing for what one has no control over. That would be like punishing a child for breathing. What does it matter? If we are, like in an L. Ron Hubbard story, merely characters in a novel written on some “typewriter in the sky,” it wouldn’t matter. If, on the other hand, we continue to have an existence after the story has been written, as the Bible indicates, then where I spend eternity really does matter to me.
The questioner responded, a part of which follows with my answer to that.
I agree with everything you say but i guess i am a little liberal thinking there are many paths to the one bridge between man and God .. all the major religious leaders taught love and compassion .. i worship a God of love judgment justice and holiness, therefore fairness.
Assuming that you believe the Bible to be the true, inspired word of the one God, the only conclusion is that only those that obey that word will be saved from the punishment of sin. If God chooses to grant mercy to those who never heard that word, that is up to Him. However, you say you worship a God of love, judgment, justice, and holiness--therefore fairness. I agree that God possesses all of those attributes, but that each one is controlled by the others. What I mean is this. If God is holy, He can not abide unholiness in man, even though He loves man. Likewise, a God of judgment and justice could not be a God of fairness (or the other way around) if He disregards His own law. To use a timely example, the laws of the United States provide that only United States citizens (including residents of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) can vote for the President. They also provide means by which people from other countries may become citizens. Would it be fair, then, for all the citizens of Canada and Mexico who believe in what the United States stands for to vote for our presidency without applying for and being granted citizenship? To be fair to the citizens of the U.S., the courts would have to rule that they are not entitled to vote. Similarly, God would be unfair to set up a standard, expect some people to abide by it, and then judge people by a different standard. I guess I am not as “liberal” (to use your own word) as you are.