So, if a person never heard of the Gospel and Christ, then would it be impossible to be united to God by Christ?
According to my evangelical background this is exactly what I had believed for many years. The irony behind the hearing of the message is that a whole system has grown up around it that desperately needs to hear the good news of Christ. Heck, Christianity has become little more than those same little pockets of Judaism spread all over the world, of whose members mostly rejected the gospel preached to them!
The message of Christ is a message of reality, not a message of potentiality. A person is not saved because they fulfill some kind of requirement of believing the gospel (from which arises endless asinine debates over how much of the message needs to be believed), but one is saved because of what the good news declares: that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. When Jesus Christ died on that cross and then rose again EVERYTHING changed. The only reason we don’t think so is that we still insist on viewing everything according to what we see or what makes sense or by what pans out, etc. Our confusion regarding salvation comes from a desperate attempt to reconcile the everything we once recognized with the everything that can only be recognized in Christ.
I guess this one (email) dealt mainly with the question…”Who then can be saved?”
The miracle of new life in Christ cannot be contained by any set of beliefs, nor can your assurance rest upon anybody else’s confidence or understanding. I had to find this out for myself just as you do. While your questions might be summed up in the one you suggest I see another underlying theme regarding fairness. Though we (and I do include myself in this) think we are only asking what would make God fair or unfair regarding all the different scenarios we propose the truth is that we are trying to sort out, rationalize and validate our own jumbled perceptions. I’ve not only been there, I find myself often falling back into a re-evaluation of God’s fairness/unfairness when the confusion (or should I say, objection) is only a product of my own conflicting judgments.
Would Jesus really have meant something other than the whole world? Like some exclusive group? He made no such distinctions when dealing with people in His day, He ministered to all sinners, am I right?
Ironically, he did make a distinction, though it was a totally upside down perspective to all the exclusivity of the mind of man! The exclusive group to which he referred was made up of rejects of the world, those who had no standing among those of the world’s view of rightness. Those he spoke of as being excluded from the life of God were those who seemed to have the authoritative stamp of God’s approval, while those he spoke of as being included in his kingdom were those who had been excluded by religious man and his supposedly God-ordained system. It’s backward to all the logic of man — religious or not. But if you take a simple view of it all you’ll see that it is not God who excludes, but that it is man’s continual design to do so. Paul told his own people after they had rejected the good news of Christ that their rejection only revealed they were regarding themselves as unworthy. In other words, by the righteousness they sought after through the law they were excluding themselves.
Who then can be saved? What is impossible with man (especially religious man) is possible with God. Forget all the hypothetical or doctrinal rationalizations, for there is always something more personal behind the questions. What you really want to know is something like, “How can God love ME if I can not love myself?” or “How can I be saved if everybody is not saved?” Such reasonings may well be established upon the same old sense of confidence we found in getting everybody around us believe what we believed or to get involved what we were involved with in order to validate our beliefs that we were okay in believing or doing whatever it was. And vice versa, for many of us found a validation to do something because “everybody else did it” or believed it (my dad used to throw that in our faces when we wanted to follow certain styles … remember that?).
Your objections to how you see this salvation panning out for the world are founded upon the contradictory, haphazard, judgmental, preferential choices of man, so that you assume any choice made by God would be something of like nature. But the choice of God is CHRIST, the one who was rejected by the choice of man. Regardless of all appearance, there is no real confidence found in the validation of myself by anyone other than Christ, the chosen one!