Ask Your Preacher
Thousands of years ago, in many countries, continents, islands, etc., far away from Israel, how could inhabitants hear messages like Jhn 3:16? Were they just out of luck because they didn't live in the area to hear it and died and went to hell?
Dear Logistically Implausible,
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the Gentiles (a ‘Gentile’ is anybody that isn’t Jewish) that lived before Jesus or before Jesus' message covered the globe as it has now, but what little we do know tells us that God didn’t forsake them. When God called Abraham out from amongst his people (Gen 12:1-2), everyone that wasn’t descended from Abraham became a ‘Gentile’. The Old Testament follows the descendants of Abraham and God’s covenant with them; that is why there isn’t much said about the other nations that lived on this planet. Here is what we know:
- God praised and blessed honest Gentiles. Melchizedek is called a ‘priest of God’ (Gen 14:18), and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was the priest of Midian (Ex 3:1) and worshipped God. We don’t know exactly what arrangement God had with these men, but we know that they were pleasing to God and not a part of the Jewish nation. Another great example of a godly Gentile was Cornelius. God blessed and heard Cornelius’ prayers (Acts 10:1-4).
- Some Gentiles were blessed by God through conversion to Judaism. Rahab and Ruth were both Gentile women that turned to God by becoming Jews. Both of these women are mentioned in the lineage of Christ (Matt 1:5).
- We have a single statement in the book of Romans that hints at what kind of law the Gentiles were under. Rom 1:14-15 says that the Gentiles had a law of conscience written by God on their hearts. This doesn’t tell us much, but it does point out that God had a system for judging the Gentiles… it was just different than the system He used for judging the Jews.
All of this just gives a glimpse at the pre-Christian Gentile world, but it is enough to paint a picture that God had a plan to save those who lived far from Israel; we just don’t know exactly how it worked.
Will those who are mentally handicapped and cannot grasp the conditions given in the Bible to be saved go to heaven or hell? If all humans are born with the sinful nature and HAVE to trust in Jesus to forgive their sin, how can they have that understanding if they are mentally handicapped?
You aren’t born in sin, and those with mental handicaps would fall under the same rules as children. In order to obey the gospel, we must have the maturity to:
- Take responsibility for our sins (Acts 3:19).
- Hear and understand the Word of God (Rom 10:17).
- Be responsible for our own spiritual growth (1 Pet 2:1-2).
Children and those with mental disabilities do not have that ability, and God only holds us accountable for what we are able to do (2 Cor 8:11-12).
The teaching that we are born sinful is a Calvinist teaching called ‘Total Depravity’. Total Depravity means that Calvinists believe that everyone is born completely sinful and depraved. A totally depraved human is incapable of doing good or pleasing God. This is completely false. All babies are born without sin and perfect in God’s sight (even David recognized that his dead child was going to be in heaven [2 Sam 12:23]). Sin is not a birthright; it is a choice (Gen 4:6-7, Jas 1:13-15). Humans sin when they choose to do wrong; they are not born in sin.
The false teaching of ‘original sin’ is very common in today’s society. If a congregation teaches that you are born in sin, they are false teachers. Sin is a choice we make in life (Isa 7:15-16), and all humans are born upright and good (Eccl 7:29).
I believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. I didn't always, but after having two beautiful, healthy children and seeing so much beauty in the world, I decided it wasn't an accident. I decided that it was all real. My problem is, I'm a huge sinner. I smoke and drink and fight with my mother sometimes. I've had three abortions... one just recently. I can't understand how God or Jesus can forgive me. Is it possible? How do I accept Jesus as they say? I thought I had, but apparently I haven't. I don't know how to. I feel so lost. How do I accept Jesus as my Savior, and what if I keep sinning?
Yes, you can be forgiven. Yes, you do need to start making changes in your life... and yes, we can help.
We recommend two things:
- Read our article "What Must I Do To Be Saved?" to see what the Bible teaches on salvation. Read the verses we reference for yourself (that way you can see that we aren't just making this stuff up!).
- If you feel comfortable, e-mail us back, and we can get you in touch with a congregation near you that can answer your questions, support you as you seek the Lord and make changes in your life, and help you get to heaven. Not all churches are faithful, but we know of many congregations all over the country that will show you what the Bible says and make sure that you get Bible answers for your questions.
We wish you the very best. You are doing the right thing by reaching out, and you are being very courageous in trying to change your life.
My husband and I have a dilemma. I believe that if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you should be baptized and dunked in water and say that you believe Jesus is God's Son, and he died to save your soul. My husband believes that since he was sprinkled as a baby and confirmed, he is baptized even though another person made that decision for him. Didn't Jesus' baptism give us the example that we all need to do it on our own, or is that just one church's ritual?
When To Water?
Dear When To Water,
‘Christening’, also known as ‘infant baptism’, is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Children are not baptized; adults are. Baptism is only for believers (Mk 16:16). You must be old enough to understand and repent (Acts 2:38). Infants can neither believe nor repent. It is adults, men and women, who hear the gospel news and then obey it through baptism (Acts 8:12). Baptism must be requested by the individual wanting it (Acts 8:36)… babies cannot request baptism. Baptism is for those of us who have grown up, rebelled, sinned, and need our sins removed (Acts 22:16).
Once you lose your salvation, can you get it back? I always heard of "back sliding" or something. Once it's gone, is it forever gone, or can you be forgiven and regain your salvation? If everyone sins, then doesn't that mean that sinning alone won't cause you to lose your salvation? If that's the truth, what will?
Dear Sliding Forward,
It takes more than just sin to lose your salvation – it takes a lifestyle of intentional sin… and yes, those that fall away can come back to God. Let us give you an example. In 1 Cor 5:1, the apostle Paul rebuked the church at Corinth because there was a member in that congregation that was committing fornication with his father’s wife – definitely a sin. The man knew it was wrong, accepted that it was wrong, and still continued to live that lifestyle. Paul said the church needed to rebuke him and withdraw from him (1 Cor 5:13). That is what losing your salvation looks like… choosing intentionally to live a life away from God’s will and not attempting to correct your faults. If we are trying to correct our lives and change, God will forgive us even if we fail over and over again (Lk 17:3-4)… but when we stop trying, we’ve broken the faith.
Now let’s deal with a Christian that falls away from God and then wants to come back. We’ll use that same man in 1 Cor 5:1 as our example. Paul later wrote a second letter to the Corinthian church, and in it, that wayward man had repented of his sin, and Paul told the Corinthians to forgive him and reaffirm their love for him (2 Cor 2:6-8). So, the moral of the story is that even those who fall away can return to God once more.