A Question I Was Asked:



Won't God Simply Save All Good and Honest People?






The Question:

I was recently looking at Acts 10 and Romans 1 and it made me wonder about the teaching of the 'elect.' Aren't some of these verses saying that God will save all good people, as long as they are honest and do their best? Why then the message of Christ?

These are the verses:

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right." (Acts 10:34-35).

I Put this together with Romans 1:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. (Romans 1:18-22).


UK Apologetics reply:

But 'the message of Christ' is essential because it outlines the only path to salvation. You are ignoring the fact of sin which caused the 'great separation' in the first place.

Okay, this concerns what theologians call 'General Revelation,' and 'Special Revelation.' 'General revelation' concerns what one may learn of God simply through the world around us, this is sometimes called 'natural theology.' God has given this form of revelation to everybody upon earth. The seasons, the beauty of nature, the cycles of life, the fact that all life can reproduce, the in-built love within human families, the fact that everything operates according to benevolent laws. This is sufficient to preach an omnipotent God all on its own. Paul the Apostle is absolutely clear that people are without excuse in rejecting this 'general revelation.' It does not tell us everything, of course, but it tells us sufficient to state that the atheist is fully without excuse! I totally and wholeheartedly agree with Paul on that point.

So when Paul states the following,

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

Paul is writing of this 'general revelation.' Men cannot be excused for rejecting God. In Acts, Luke also states,

: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right."

Here Luke (quoting a sermon of Peter, of course) is probably partly discussing 'general revelation,' but more especially referring to the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ ('special revelation'), was about to go to the Gentile world (as the remainder of this chapter makes clear). Within 'general revelation,' God wants to see men and women (who have no knowledge of the Christ, His message, or His coming), at least lead clean, decent lives, obeying as much knowledge of God as is available through their own cultures; being good husbands and wives, teaching their children right from wrong. Through the power of the conscience (which God has placed within all), people are always capable of this much.

But Acts 10 does not finish there and goes on to announce 'special revelation' (the full knowledge of Christ):

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached - how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen - by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, "Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. (Acts 10:36-48).

So there you have it: 1) 'general revelation' (which renders atheism inexcusable) is sufficient to encourage ordinary men and women to live basically decent existences, although they will always be, of course, subject to sin. 2) 'special revelation' - the knowledge of Christ.

My problem in the way some theologians have presented 'general revelation' and 'special revelation,' is that they present them as watertight compartments, but they are not. In fact, all of us, prior to coming to Christ, were subject to 'general revelation' and stood under it. So to state as many (but not all) theologians have done that those under 'general revelation' cannot be saved is plainly wrong. Why? Because it's where we all started! Those standing under 'general revelation' who never learned of Christ will be judged in the Great Judgment; they will be judged according to how they handled the knowledge which was granted to them. Personally, I believe that the Lord will have mercy on many, many thousands of them and they will take joy in learning of Christ at a future time.

My questioner asks, "Aren't some of these verses saying that God will save all good people, as long as they are honest and do their best? Why then the message of Christ?" No, the verses are not exactly saying that God will "save all good people as long as they are honest and do their best..." because the reality of sin is not being confronted in that view. Original Sin has passed to all humans who are currently in a state of 'falleness,' and the blood of Christ is needed to remedy the situation, justifying sinners and so enabling the imputation of righteousness. Having said that, the efficacy of that glorious sacrifice of our Saviour can be projected both backwards (the saved of the Old Testament only came under grace because of this, for instance), but also forward (some of those rising in the Great Judgment). We should not repeat the medieval theological error that those rising in that judgment rise only for condemnation; God may extend His mercy wherever He wills.

Robin A. Brace. March 21st, 2013.

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