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Lesson 13: Must the Whole World Hear *

Introduction: Religious leaders tell me that the gospel must be preached to everyone before Jesus can come again. They are not making this up, for this statement is found in Matthew 24:14. Is this literally what Jesus means? Without thinking about it, I've taken it literally. People nudge me in that direction by showing me parts of the world that have not heard the gospel. They say we need to target those places, and then Jesus can come. The logical problem arises with all of the people who have already lived and died in a part of the world not reached by the gospel. What about them? How do they impact our goal? Let's dive into our final study about being a missionary and see what the Bible says!

  1. The Only Name

    1. Read Acts 4:1-3. What is the problem with the preaching of Peter and John? (They were preaching about the resurrection, and the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.)

    2. Read Acts 4:5-7. Why do you think the Jewish leaders started out with this question? (Read Acts 4:8-9. The Jewish leaders are not asking about the resurrection, they are asking about the healing of a crippled person. If the disciples claimed it was by magic, then the Jewish leaders would have an easy decision.)

      1. What do you think about Peter's answer? (First, it is brilliant - "did you arrest us for helping someone?" Second, it shows an example of the promise in Luke 12:11-12 that the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say when we are brought before the authorities.)

    3. Read Acts 4:9-12. What do you think about the diplomacy of the Holy Spirit? (We touched on this in earlier lessons. A rule that we should never offend others is silly. At the same time, Jesus teaches us that avoiding offense in some instances is the right idea ( Matthew 17:27).)

      1. When the Holy Spirit states through Peter that only Jesus can save us, is He stating a universal truth, or is He just speaking about this particular healing? (We learned from Paul last week that we cannot live a perfect life. Thus, relying on the perfect life of Jesus, and His death and resurrection, is the only means by which humans can be saved. This is a universal truth.)

    4. Read John 14:6 and Matthew 28:19-20. If people could be saved without hearing the gospel, why would Jesus make this statement and give this command?

      1. What impact does this have on the question of whether all must hear before Jesus can return? (This makes it appear that a specific message about Jesus must be preached.)

    5. Read Matthew 8:11. Who are we told will be in Heaven? (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.)

      1. How much do you think they understood about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?

    6. Read Psalms 19:1-4 and Romans 1:18-20. What does this suggest about how everyone can know God? (The glory of creation directs us to God. Paul says that humans are "without excuse" in knowing God.)

    7. Read John 14:7. Is the reverse true, can we learn enough about Jesus by knowing the Father?

    8. Let's see if we can put these texts together and come up with an answer to the question of whether all must hear the gospel before Jesus can return. How clearly must a person understand and accept the life and work of Jesus to be saved? (A clear understanding is what God desires, that is why He gave the gospel commission to us. But, at the end of the day, people are saved by the life and sacrifice of Jesus even though they do not clearly understand it. Instead, God makes some sort of judgment based on what is revealed about Him through creation and the Holy Spirit.)

    9. Read Deuteronomy 29:29. How complete is our understanding of how God operates when it comes to salvation and other matters? (I think this is a warning about having too certain an opinion when it comes to predicting how God will save. Even our understanding of how the Trinity operates is far from complete.)

  2. Gospel Theory

    1. Read Matthew 22:37-40. How many religions share this "golden rule" view of showing love and respect to others and loving and respecting God? (Many.)

      1. Does this mean that good people will be saved? I recall my father saying that he thought Winston Churchill should go to heaven based on his works during World War II. (My father was stationed in England for part of the war.)

    2. Read Ephesians 2:8-10. What saves us? (Grace! We obtain salvation through faith in the gift of God. God created us to do good works, but we are not saved by our works.)

      1. Read Matthew 7:13-14. Does salvation by grace alone increase or decrease the number who are saved? (Most people think they are pretty good, but not too many are serious about having a relationship with God.)

    3. Read Revelation 20:11-15. Are people judged by their works? (Some are - those who are lost.)

      1. Who is not judged by their works? (Those whose names are written in the Book of Life.)

      2. Wait a minute! Don't these verses say that "each person was judged according to what he had done?" (Read Revelation 20:4-6. The key to understanding this is to understand that there are two resurrections. Those whose name is written in the Book of Life are raised in the "first resurrection." A thousand years later the resurrection of the wicked occurs, and the wicked are judged by their works.)

    4. Let's explore more deeply the issue of being lost by our works, saved by grace, and what the Bible reveals about how God decides. Go back to Romans 1:20-23. What is the most basic way in which humans reject God? (The heavens show us there is a God, but wicked humans reject Him by worshiping what God created, rather than God.)

    5. Read Romans 1:24-25. What does it mean that "God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity?" (This is a progressive rejection of God. If you reject God on a very basic level (you worship a reptile instead of the Creator of all animals), then God releases you to further sin.)

    6. Read Romans 1:26-27. What is the next "unnatural" step deeper into sin?" (The Genesis order of a man and woman becoming one in marriage, is traded for unnatural same sex bonding.)

      1. Let's consider a moment Paul's logic here. This is not a rejection of the gospel, presumably these people do not know the gospel. What is the basis for dividing between God's people and those who are not God's people? (Romans tells us there obvious things in nature. One is to worship the Creator instead of the creature. Another, is to follow the Creator's design for reproduction.)

    7. Read Romans 1:28-32. What is the next step in this progression away from God? (Since they do not learn what God is teaching them in nature, they slip even further down the slope of wickedness.)

      1. What is the final step in this slide? (Approving sin.)

      2. I cannot pass this question up because of the current debate over homosexuality. If I'm correct that Paul is describing a slide into sin for those who do not know the gospel, what sins are further down the slide than homosexuality? (Greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful, just to name some.)

      3. What does that teach us about the nature of homosexuality? (First, the sin described here is not same-sex attraction, but rather committing "indecent acts" as a result of that attraction. Second, homosexuality is identified as a failure to acknowledge the obvious lesson in nature. No one thinking correctly would worship an animal instead of the Creator of animals. No one thinking correctly would miss the design of the human body and reproductive systems. Rejecting God's obvious lessons leads to more sinful results.)

      4. How is this sequence of sin consistent with grace? (Grace is accepting God. Whether you accept God with a sophisticated understanding of the gospel, or merely accept Him based on what is revealed in nature, you have accepted God.)

    8. Friend, can you see how God opens to every human the opportunity to follow Him? You have the obligation and opportunity to share the clearest message of the gospel, the gospel of grace. Will you commit to doing that?

  3. Next week: We start a new series of lessons on Jeremiah the prophet.

  4. Note to readers: Eric Belloy is a long-time translator of this lesson into the French language. His wife just launched her first CD of piano compositions. If you would like to discover her music you can go to

* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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