Romans 1:18 (KJV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed [it] unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Whenever the subject comes up of what happens to the African who never heard the Gospel, the above scripture is usually the one quoted to justify the fact that billions of souls will be tortured forever. This is usually the only scripture quoted to justify God. Taken out of context and put into the discussion of justifying God's behavior, this seems like a reasonable Scripture to quote. But when we put the Scripture back into its context in the entire book of Romans, and put those words into the apostle's mouth who never preached a hell of eternal torment in this or any other book he wrote, we then discover that this passage has nothing to do with the subject of the African who never heard of the Gospel. If you don't believe Paul never preached hell, look into the Strong's Concordance and look up the word "hell." You will discover it is mysteriously absent from Paul's vocabulary. The apostle to the world seems to be preaching a different deliverance than the modern church is preaching. Paul wrote that if anyone preached another gospel other than his, let him be accursed. Paul never preached "hell." Where does that put the "modern gospel?"
It should be obvious to anyone who will study this passage, that if one concludes that it is possible to "get saved" by looking at creation and discovering there must be a God, then Jesus died needlessly, the Gospel would serve no purpose, and there is another way of salvation other than the Gospel. Most of the world believes there is a god based upon looking at creation. Does that save them? Is a Moslem saved because they believe in a god? Was the Roman pagan even more saved because he believed in several gods? Since when does looking at a cloud bring one to "Christ crucified?" And if looking at creation, and determining there is a god can bring righteousness, how does that line up with many other passages from Paul that clearly declare, "There is none righteous, nay, not one." That includes those under the law (Jews) and those not under the law (all the rest of us).
Please observe that the list in verse 29 through 31 refers to people here on earth, not in hell and the penalty is death, not "eternal punishment." Putting this Scripture back into its proper context, we find it connected to a "therefore." This "therefore" connects what was previously discussed. "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. (Romans 2:1) Now that turns the tide a bit. The very person who places these people in "hell" and says they are without excuse is actually condemning people, judging people while they practice the very same thing!
With the above in mind, perhaps those of you who are presently using Romans to justify God sending the African to hell, will look at the rest of the book of Romans a little more closely, for "as you judge, you will be judged." In the beginning of this incredible book, Paul states, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. If looking at clouds, trees, and stars brings us to the "gospel of Christ," then spending billions of dollars printing Bibles, tracts, supporting evangelists, and missionaries is a waste of money. Declaring "Christ crucified" would be needless, if, for example, seeing a pillowy cloud can do the same thing.
The Scriptures declare there is no name under heaven by which men must be saved other than the Son of the Living God, Jesus Christ, "Yeshua Ha Mashiach" in Hebrew. Somehow, the cloud or star must reveal the Son of God to them. If this is true, then there should be thousands of civilizations around the world who have believed in Jesus Christ apart from missionaries and Bibles. Yet the ruins of ancient civilizations say, "No Jesus here." Let those who declare the "salvation through nature gospel" show us civilizations of the past who had Christianity as one of its religions as a result of looking at nature rather than through missionaries preaching the Gospel or reading the Bible. They don't exist!
It amazes me the straws people will cling to to maintain their empty beliefs. I have been told on more than one occasion how a missionary went into the deep jungles of Africa and there found a native who believed in Jesus and never came in contact with a missionary, never read a Bible, never read a tract. This native never has a name and he can never be found to give his testimony. This native has a lot in common with people who have seen aliens from outer space, they never bring the witnesses.
I am reminded of an article I read about one of the great Indian evangelists. He was terribly abused by his parents. An angel appeared to him and told him to go to a particular village. He went, and there he heard the Gospel preached by an evangelist. He was converted and later became a great evangelist himself. Why didn't the angel just preach the gospel to the boy? Why didn't he point him to a tree and say "believe in God?" Why didn't the angel preach Christ crucified to him? Because that is not the way our Father has chosen to do things. Here is the scriptural way the word of faith is planted in a person:
Romans 10:6 (NIV) But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, `Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down)
7 "or `Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
Now this may seem like a foolish way to do things from man's point of view especially in light of the fact God's people, the Jews during the Old Covenant, and the Christians during the New Covenant seem to have done such a terrible job. If the salvation of a person anywhere on the earth depended upon hearing the Gospel and accepting it, then clearly the vast majority of the world has not heard. Since the modern church says those who have not believed are doomed to everlasting destruction, and since the Scriptures clearly declare that our Father is not willing that any should be lost, but that all should come to repentence and the knowledge of the truth, we must conclude this method has fallen far short of our Father's will that all come to the knowledge of the truth. Since the church teaches there is opportunity for salvation only on this side of the grave, we must conclude the Gospel message and its method of deliverance has been a great failure. And so to vindicate God, we concoct all sorts of ways to make heaven bigger. Man is accountable only for what he knows. Stars and clouds can bring one to understanding. Little children are innocent and therefore exempt from hell. If you are baptized as a child, you are protected. If you were born in the right family in the right denomination, the faith of your family and church will be acceptable. We create "ages of accountability," etc., all sorts of schemes to try to make God look a little better.
All of these schemes are needed to justify God. The problem is that God does not need to be justified by us. His plan and method will produce a much bigger heaven than any of these schemes ever could. As a matter of fact, His plan will produce such a big heaven, that religious people will take offense and tell God He can't do it that way. God's heaven is much too big for most Christians. They would rather believe in their schemes than in the plain word of God. The average Christian has been taught from birth two great errors dealing with our subject: first, that physical death seals one's eternal fate, and second, that fate for the unbeliever is eternal punishment of the most cruel sorts. Both of these key teachings is absolutely false. It is these false premises which force Christians to come up with ways to get more people into the kingdom of God apart from the "Gospel."
The Book of Romans is certainly not an easy book to understand. It will never be understood by those who take passages out of context. This book deals with many subjects and Paul intertwines them in such a way that often we don't know what he is talking about. He "seems" to also change his mind from one chapter to another.
Another problem we Christians have with Romans is our lack of understanding of the audience Paul is addressing. The Romans were saturated with the philosophies of Greece. Paul, while not listing all these philosophies, nevertheless, was refuting them with a very carefully-prepared letter. I can't get into all the philosophical systems the Roman mind was filled with, but Paul understood their systems and effectively handled them. In effect, he was saying all the systems, or methods of man, would fail in bringing righteousness to man, including the Law of Moses. "There is none righteous, nay not one." "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." "In sin was I conceived."
But the above statements presented a problem. The Bible defined sin as "transgression of the Law of Moses." The Gentiles were not given the law and therefore could not be held accountable to it. This is why he makes the statement in Roman chapter one. He wants to make it clear, that righteousness does not come from any work, method, philosophy, or ritual of any kind. It comes from God down to man, not man's methods (works) bringing man to God. In order to do this, he must first dismantle all the methods man uses to become righteous. After he destroys all the systems, including the Law of Moses, the logical question comes to mind that if we can't find the way to righteousness, because God locked up all of mankind in unbelief, why does He still find fault? Why does His wrath still abide upon people who can't help themselves? His answer is one that the modern church still has not accepted. The modern church has really thrown out Paul's gospel for all practical purposes.
The modern church says that we die because of our sins and we will receive eternal punishment because of sins which are not repented of. We are judged because of the evil works; sins that we commit. But Paul says:
Romans 5:16 (NIV) Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Verse 12 clearly states that through one man (Adam) sin entered the world and this brought death to all men. The result of death coming through Adam causes us all to sin. Death was imputed to man as a result of Adam's sin, not our own sins. We sin because we live in a death-state caused by Adam. To prove this, God brought forth His law many generations after Adam's transgression and all those before the Law died even though they could not be liable for sin because sin is transgression of the Law of Moses. God allowed this to show us that death was imputed to us and as a result of this death we sin.
Now this sets the stage for Paul to declare something that the pride of man will not accept, especially religious pride. Paul says that death through sin was "imputed" to us and therefore it stands to reason that righteousness should come the same way, not through the law, or works or philosophies, or rituals. Life comes from the righteousness of Jesus Christ "imputed" to us while we were yet sinners.
Romans 5:18,19 (NIV) Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
The King James Bible causes some needless confusion in translation that should easily be made clear to anyone who will spend just a little time on this subject. The KJV says that "many" were made sinners and "many" will be made righteous. The Greek here is "oi polloi" which means "the many." Clearly all died. Paul's reference to "the many" (all) who died are the same "the many" (all) who receive the free gift resulting in justification. The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English clearly brings this out. Many Bible translations make this clear. Just a sampling will prove this: NIV=the many, Weymouth=the mass of mankind, Twentieth Century New Testament=the whole race, Beck (a Lutheran translation)=the many, New American Standard=the many. Clearly, the King James Version here is misleading and not true to the Greek text. Paul is clearly locking up all of mankind into death as a result of Adam's transgression, and brings all of mankind into justification unto life through the one righteous act of Jesus Christ. Just as not one man on earth could escape death by his own actions, not one man will escape or be denied life due to God's will and desire to give life to all mankind. Neither is a decision from us. One day we Christians will discover that "we" have not "decided to follow Jesus," He chose us from the foundation of the world.
So then, death was imputed to us and through death we sin, so righteousness is also imputed to us which will ultimately give us life and through the life of Jesus Christ we will become righteous. How quickly we forget those wonderful words, "For by grace you have been saved through faith,and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
For those of you who want to be able to clearly teach this subject to give clear understanding, I want to point out another translation problem stemming from the monk who translated the Greek New Testament into Latin which became the only Bible for most of the church through the 16th century. Its errors still haunt us today. Steve Jones in his book Creation's Jubilee says it this way: "When Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate around 400 A.D., he rendered the last phrase of Romans 5:12, "because all sinned." He had looked at verses such as Romans 6:23 and 5:21, where sin is the cause of death, and concluded that Paul must have made a mistake by saying that death was the cause of sin. And so, not understanding that Paul was here talking about the first death, mortality, he simply tried to correct Paul's mistake."
"Yet even The Jerome Biblical Commentary admits that this translation has a serious problem: 'A difficulty often found with it is that it seems to make Paul say in 5:12c-d(last part of verse) something contradictory to what he says in 5:12:a-b (first part). In the beginning of the verse sin and death are ascribed to Adam; now death seems to be due to man's deeds.'" (P. 307)
"And so for 1200 years while the Latin Vulgate reigned supreme as virtually the only Bible of Europe, the truth lay hidden in the Greek manuscripts far away in Constanople. When that city fell to the Turks in the mid-1400s, thousands of Greek professors and theologians fled to the West, bringing their Greek Bibles with them, Soon there developed an interest in Greek, which spawned the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. Eventually, this led to the King James Version, which was based largely on Greek texts."
"Unfortunately, however, when the KJV translators came to Romans 5:12, they were just as puzzled as Jerome was. They thought the "death" in this verse was "spiritual death," rather than "physical death." (These are inaccurate terms; the Bible calls them "the second death" and "mortality".)
"At any rate, this persistent misunderstanding made them follow Jerome's error in reversing the cause and effect in this verse. The Greek phrase used is "eph' ho." "Eph'" or "Epi," means "on, upon, or over." Even English dictionaries give this meaning, because so many of our words beginning with "epi" are of Greek origin. "Ho" means "which." The phrase "on which" denotes a consequence or result to follow."
"To illustrate, let us say, "I walked into a stumblingblock, ON WHICH I FELL." Did my fall cause the stumblingblock to exist? Of course not. Yet the KJV would have us render this: "I walked into a stumblingblock, BECAUSE I fell." That is sheer nonsense."
"So we can easily see that the first death is the cause, and our sins are the result. We are mortal; therefore we sin."
Like I explained earlier, Paul proves that people die not because of their own sins, but by Adam's sin because people died before the Law was brought into effect. God did this on purpose. Perhaps the most difficult task that I know of is to truly get people to believe that our eternal life is all God's doing. We can add nothing to it. That covenant has been ratified by God alone. Abraham, the father of faith, the heir of all mankind, who shall be a blessing to all the families of the earth, fell asleep when it was time to ratify the covenant. The covenant with Abraham, our father, was one sided. Man was the recipient, but could not participate. Abraham didn't even add an "Amen" to the deal. He fell asleep and gross darkness surrounded him.
Now for those of you who say "amen" to what I just wrote but feel it is "their" faith which justifies them, even our faith is the faith of Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace, through faith. The grace is from God and so is the faith. Those who have decided to follow Jesus, not acknowledging that we are following only because He called and we had to respond because that was His plan, are still dead in their trespasses and sin. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw (drag in the Greek) all mankind unto Myself." (John 12:32)
Going back to the first chapter of Romans, it should now be clear that he was not saying that people could be saved by receiving faith from looking at creation. He was locking all of mankind under the sentence of death by the act of one man Adam, and releasing all of mankind unto Life through the righteous act of one man: Jesus Christ. It is with this understanding that Scriptures such as this one begin to make sense:
Romans 11:29-36for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience,
31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.
32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"
35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
It is with this understanding that it begins to make sense why Paul never preached a "hell of eternal torment." It never entered his mind. Paul knew the Law of Moses never taught it. It said the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment. Paul, the apostle to the nations, the apostle to you and I, neglected to preach eternal torment because he preached the ministry of reconciliation, the reconciliation of all mankind through the one righteous act of Jesus Christ. Paul preached "Christ crucified," a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. And it is still unbelieved by most of the Christian church today.