The Why Behind Global Missions

The Billions Who Have Never Heard

A couple of years ago, I was on a mission team in India engaging Hindus with the gospel. One day, my teammate and I were explaining the message of the gospel to our friend in a Muslim marketplace. While we were talking, there was a call to prayer at the Mosque next to us. This call was signaling to the thousands of Muslims in the market to begin worshiping their God, Allah. At this moment it occurred to me that my teammate and I were the only Christians in this entire market, and we weren’t there to minister to Muslims. Our sole focus was on Hindu individuals.

In places like India, knowledge of Jesus is minimally at best. Of the 1.4 billion people in India, 1.3 billion are considered unreached [1] - meaning they have never heard the name of Jesus. This meant that for my Muslim neighbors walking into the mosque, the likelihood of them having heard about Jesus was virtually non-existent. This reality begs an important question for us to consider: what happens to those who have never heard the gospel?

What Scripture Says About the Unreached

For us to answer this question we must first look to what scripture says. Our fundamental problem as a human race is that we are sinful, and our sin separates us from God - who is Holy. Whether you were born in the United States or in India, the problem of sin is universal.

Scripture teaches that in our mother’s womb we were conceived in sin (Psalm 51) and that all people have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3). Since God is completely holy and just (Isaiah 6:3, 61:8), he cannot associate with sin, nor can He leave sin unpunished. Think about how terrifying that is for a moment? Yet, that terrible reality make what Jesus accomplished on earth so absolutely beautiful.

He lived a sinless life (thereby satisfying God’s holy requirement of the law), and willingly went to the cross to bear the punishment for sin (satisfying God’s requirement for justice). It was this act that now enables sinful humans to be reconciled to a holy God (1 John 2:2).

However, our question still remains: can those who have never heard of Jesus still attain salvation? You will notice at the end of the last paragraph that I mentioned 1 John 2:2 which says about Jesus, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

A cursory reading of that verse might give the impression that through Jesus’ death, all people can now attain salvation regardless of if they have conscious faith in him. However, a better way to read scripture is to ask what is the consistent picture scripture paints regarding the issue of salvation?

Jesus in John 14:6 understands his uniqueness in salvation history by claiming “no one can come to the Father except through me.” Then Peter in front of the Jerusalem council says in Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else [Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” These verses are highlighting the idea of the exclusivity of Christ which should inform how we interpret 1 John 2:2.

A better understanding of 1 John 2:2 would be: Jesus’ death makes it possible for every person to experience salvation, but it does not necessarily accomplish it for all people (faith is still required). This is made clear in Romans 10:14-15 where Paul asks rhetorically, how then can they call on the one they have not believed in, how can they believe in the one they have not heard, how can anyone hear without someone preaching to them and how can anyone preach unless they are sent.

Which leads us to the why behind global missions; it is these verses that provide the foundation for missional involvement and answer the question “do people have to hear about Jesus to be saved?” Through Paul asking “How can they," he is making the point that they cannot believe unless they hear and they cannot hear unless someone preaches to them. Therefore we can conclude, one must hear about Jesus and respond in faith to be saved.

It then follows that those who have never heard about Jesus are still under condemnation for their sin. Since people who have never heard about Jesus are under condemnation for their sin, then proclaiming the gospel to all people becomes urgent. For the 3.3 billion[2] people worldwide who remain unreached, they remain dead in their sin and in desperate need of the Gospel!

Hope for Fruit in Global Missions

There is a desperate need for the unreached around the world to hear and know the gospel! It is a massive undertaking, yet we can also have hope that our sovereign God will accomplish his purposes. In Revelation 7:9, we are assured that there will be representatives from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language worshiping at the throne of heaven.

This is a glorious reality that is promised by Scripture. However, while we remain on this side of heaven we have been commissioned to make disciples of all nations. So, we pray for hearts to be softened, we give so that missional efforts can persist, and Lord willing, we go so that those who have never heard about Jesus can respond to the Gospel.

That scene in India truly opened my eyes to the vast lostness that still persists in the world. At that moment, I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 9:38 where Jesus says that the harvest is ready but the laborers are few. God in his glory has called to himself all peoples to worship at his throne and has given us - as his followers - the responsibility to be the laborers that go and reach them.

Whether it is a Muslim in India, a Buddhist in Cambodia, or the agnostic across the street, the God of the Bible is calling them to himself and is using us - as part of His church - to accomplish that.
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