Select Wisdom Brand

Click the image to watch the video.
Scroll down for more options.



What About Those Who Never Heard?

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 2:9–16

God is impartial. His righteous standards do not change, and they are applied to every person equally. We can offer no excuses for sin and unbelief. Our only option is to repent and place our faith in Jesus Christ.


One of the questions I am most often asked, not only at church, but also as I travel and speak in various places, is this: “What about all the people who have never heard the gospel of Christ—are they going to face the judgment of God?” It is a question that troubles many Christians.

The apostle Paul has already addressed that question in Romans 1. He has explained that the world has the revelation of creation—the glorious beauty and complexity of creation. But how do they respond to it? Do they thank the Creator? No, they suppress the truth and refuse to believe the obvious—that this designer universe and our own designer bodies have a divine Designer. The world may never hear the gospel of Christ, but they have denied the gospel of creation. And God says in Romans 1:20 that mankind is therefore without excuse.

Now here in Romans 2, Paul addresses the moral but unbelieving person and says the same thing—mankind is without excuse and, apart from faith in Christ, without escape from the coming judgment of God. And here is why: Mankind has not only the benefit of the gospel of creation but also what I like to call “the gospel of conscience.” All people have an intuitive sense of right and wrong.

As Paul explains this further, he actually destroys several myths about God and the reality of God’s coming judgment. The first myth he destroys is that God will be partial toward people He does not want to condemn.

Look at verses 9-10:

There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

Whether Jew or Gentile, those who persist in doing evil—without any desire for repentance—are revealing they are without saving faith. They are going to face tribulation and distress in their eternal, future judgment.  

On the other hand, those who by their works reveal their desire to honor God are demonstrating saving faith, and Paul says their future will be one of “honor and peace.”

It does not matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile. God does not have pet students or court favorites. In fact, Paul writes next in verse 11, “For God shows no partiality.”

Whether you are civilized or primitive, educated or illiterate, wealthy or poor, young or old, religious or atheist, God is not going to play favorites on judgment day. He is not going to let you slide on in if you can impress Him in some way. That is a myth.

The second myth Paul destroys is that God will judge only those who knew what the Bible commanded. Here is what he writes:

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. . . . For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. (verses 12, 14-15)

God has written His law on the hearts of every human being. In other words, every man, woman, boy, and girl is hardwired with the knowledge of good and evil. We all intuitively know right from wrong. God has written the basic truth of His moral law into our DNA.

So, the man who never had a Bible and was unable to read, “You shall not steal” still knows he is doing something wrong when he steals his neighbor’s chicken. The woman who has never read, “You shall not bear false witness” knows intuitively she is wrong when she tells a lie. Primitive tribes or civilized empires who worship the eagle or the sun or nature or an evil spirit or even themselves know deep down that they have chosen something lesser to worship than the creator God.

How? As Paul says in verse 15, God has written His moral law on every person’s heart.

Beloved, on the day of judgment, as all of unbelieving humanity stands before God, the question will not be, “Did you have a copy of the Ten Commandments?” The issue will be, “Why didn’t you obey the commandments written on your heart?” The billions of people around the world who never owned a Bible will stand before God and be judged, not for what they did not know, but for what they intuitively knew in their heart and yet in defiance refused to obey.

Paul writes to that point here in verse 15:

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.

Paul uses the analogy of a courtroom scene. The guilty one is brought forward, and the charges of breaking God’s law are read. Even though this person has never seen a copy of the Bible, he is guilty of breaking God’s law. And to prove it, the prosecuting attorney calls his primary witness to the stand. It is this person’s conscience.

The man begins trembling, hoping that conscience will say something to the judge like, “Your Honor, he just didn’t know any better.”

But conscience is going to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on judgment day. “Your Honor, I tried to tell him he was doing something wrong, starting when he was young, continuing through his teenage years, and into his adult life; but he repeatedly told me to stop talking. He told me over and over again, ‘Keep quiet, you’re ruining my party. I don’t want to listen to you.’”

And the judge will declare the man guilty. You see, unbelievers will not stand before God to discover whether they are guilty but to hear God render a verdict of guilt, which they already know by their own conscience is true.

So here are the myths that these verses are destroying:

  • The myth that God will play favorites with people who impress Him
  • The myth that God will only judge people who knew what the Bible commanded

But there is one final myth—and this is mankind’s last gasp of a defense. Here is the third myth:

On judgment day, God will judge only the big sins that people have committed.

But Paul writes here in verse 16, “On that day . . . according to my gospel [this is the gospel truth] God [will judge] the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

He is not talking about just the obvious sins, the public sins, the big sins. Paul says that God will judge our “secrets.” He is going to uncover everything—big sins, little sins, public sins, even our sinful secrets, sinful thoughts and motives and wishes.

Beloved, on that judgment day, every unbeliever will stand before God to give an account of his sins, and each will do so, having refused the gospel of conscience and the gospel of creation and the gospel of Christ. What is God going to do? He is going to expose even the secrets of every unbeliever.

Hebrews 4:13 puts it this way: “All are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” There is nowhere to run. No excuse will hold up. God will impartially, fairly, thoroughly expose every sin.

You cannot hide from God, but here is the good news: you can hide in God, through Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus took your punishment and your sin on Himself. He suffered and died on the cross so that by putting your faith in Him alone, you can be accepted into the family of God. You can find your hiding place in Him.

And do you know what that means? It means that one day, you will not be dreading eternal judgment, but anticipating eternal joy.

Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.