Question: Can People Know Jesus if Someone Doesn’t Tell Them?

How will there be faith

I’ve told people over the years that I’ve always been able to answer the questions that adults throw at me. But kids stump me all the time! With adults, you can talk around issues, go look up answers, and even blow smoke until they just move on. Kids cut straight to the heart and don’t allow any hedging.

When I asked for questions from you, the readers of these devotions, I expected questions from adults. Uh-oh. Here’s a few from kids …

Question: How did people in the other parts of the world (other than geographical locations in the Bible) know about God and Jesus before traveling across land and water was accessible to many??

Great question. And it presumes the obvious: For people to know about Jesus, somebody’s got to tell them. That’s what evangelism is all about. That’s why Jesus gave the great commission, calling us disciples to “go and make [more] disciples” … and the next part of that phrase is key, “of all nations.” So how did – and will – the nations know unless and until we tell them?

The first simple answer is … they didn’t know. That ought to concern us about their eternal salvation. Our only hope on this score is the graciousness of God!

And fortunately God’s grace acts in another way. It’s called PREVENIENT GRACE. It simply means that God interVENES PRE (before) we ever know we need his GRACE. In other words, the Holy Spirit keeps working on people all through their lives, wooing them to Him.

One way in which God asks preveniently is that God testifies to himself! Romans 1 says it like this: “19 For what can be known about God is plain to [all people], because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” As it says in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Thus, people throughout history – even before the coming of Christ – knew (and still know) God intuitively. God has woven wonder and awe into the very fabric of the human soul.

People all over the world and throughout time have cried out – as best they knew how – to that which is obviously bigger than us. The Apostle Paul acknowledge this as he evangelized the people in Athens. In Acts 17 he said, “23 Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God[j] and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.”

Paul would, of course, go on to tell the people of Athens about how we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. But God preveniently stirs the soul of people before they even know what they’re searching for.

Sadly, while most intuitively “grope” for God at some point in their lives, many will ultimately reject God. That’s what Paul says as our verse from Romans 1 continues.  “20 So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.” That’s the sad news. We’ve all seen people who’ve been given all the evidence, all the love, and all the opportunities, and yet still choose to reject God.

On the other hand, there have always been people throughout the world who’ve “groped” for the true God – hungry, seeking, yearning, listening, trying to see and hear and know – and I believe God honors them … even if they haven’t known yet the name of the Lord. A fascinating example of this is happening right now in parts of the Middle East. People – like shepherds who’ve never heard of Jesus – are having dreams of the Savior! God is coming to them in dreams. Our Lord is honoring those who are groping for him. That explains part of the explosive growth of Christianity in places like Iran. Iran has a largely secret and underground church, because of the threat of persecution, but God is moving preveniently and without human witnesses.

A Scriptural example of this groping hunger for the true God is in Acts 8. An Ethiopian eunuch, a servant of the queen, went to Jerusalem. Why? Scripture doesn’t say that he was there on court business. No. He was there to worship. The scene unfolds in Acts while he’s riding in a chariot, trying to decipher the prophecies of Isaiah. Yes, in Acts, God sent a messenger to tell this man about Jesus – Philip – but the point is that there has always and eternally been an intuitive hunger for the true God. And on one hand, we have to trust that our God our grace is working preveniently to turn hungry hearts to him. And, on the other hand, we must keep telling people about the grace of God through Jesus Christ lest the natural hunger of groping people dies out before they know God fully.

Question: Adults, how’d I do? And, gulp, kids, how’d I do? (Note: I think I’d simplify it for them. I’d stick with Romans 1 and say, “God is big enough that He doesn’t have to rely on human’s imperfect efforts. God has revealed himself to all people. And all people – at least some point in their lives – know that there is a true God. And for those who truly seek him, God will honor that and find a way to stir belief.” So what do you think?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who relies on grace

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