He Who Does Good

Posted in: 2005
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 6, 2008 - 5:14:06 PM

June 21, 2005


“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9)

Is there now, or has there ever been, hope for a man to live again having never heard of Jesus Christ? Did man ever have a hope of eternal life before there was a written revelation from God? There have been teaming billions of people who have lived upon this earth who have never had the opportunity to hear the Word of God. Were they condemned to everlasting death? Questions such as these have perplexed many Bible believing Christians.

The Bible answers these questions. Man was never without hope of life-eternal; no matter the time, or the place, or the circumstance. A most gracious act, often overlooked, is the fact that the Lord “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). This light is man’s conscience; knowing a sense of right and wrong. Those who lived up to the light they were given have the hope to live again in resurrection.

“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7). NIV.

This indicates that anyone, world-wide, at any time, past or present, who has never known of the God of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob; or of Jesus Christ as the One and Only God, has the hope of eternal life—by continually doing what is right. Our Great God would not have left the majority of mankind without any hope.

Think of Abimelech the King of Gerar. We have his story in Genesis, Chapter Twenty. Abimelech must have been a devout, God-fearing, righteousness-working, praying Gentile who stood apart from all of the corruption that surrounded him and lived for God in spite of it. He lived four-hundred years before Moses. He was a contemporary of Abraham.

Abraham and his wife, Sarah, sojourned to Gerar. While there, Abimelech saw Sarah and took her to be part of his harem. His taking of Sarah into his harem was simply the practice of the despotic rights of kings to take unmarried females, whether subjects or sojourners. The king asked Abraham was Sarah his wife, and Abraham said, “She is my sister.” So, Abimelech sent his people, and they took her to the king.

Genesis 20:3-8 (NIV):

3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman."

4 Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, "Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?

5 Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister,' and didn't she also say, 'He is my brother'? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.’

6 Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.

7 Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die."

Then, Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.” The king knew it was wrong to take another man’s wife. And, Abimelech asked Abraham; “What was your reason for doing this?”

Abraham answered the king; “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife” (Gen.20:9-12) NIV.

Abraham thought he had to tell a half-truth—she is my sister—because he assumed there was surely “no fear of God” in Gerar. He thought if he said Sarah was his wife, they would kill him in order to take Sarah. Abraham was not honest with the king because he failed to inform him that she was, in reality, his wife as well as his half-sister. It seems, in this instance, Abimelech had more integrity than Abraham. By reading Genesis 20, it is apparent that Abimelech lived up to the light he was given—the Lord “lighteth” every man that comes into the world.

It seems reasonable to conclude that if there were one such king and one such nation, there must have been many more. And, if Scripture is read in view of finding individuals or companies who feared God and worked righteousness, there will be more, even up to the wise men (so called because they were wise in the ways of God) who came to the Christ child.

In Acts 10, we read of a Roman centurion, named Cornelius. He was a devout man, and “one that feared God with all his house which gave much alms to the people and prayed to God always” (vs. 2). The angel of the Lord came to Cornelius and told him to send his servants to Joppa and find Simon Peter. The servants found Peter in Joppa. While the servants were in route, the Lord was preparing Peter to receive them.

Peter, the next day, went with the servants to the home of Cornelius. Peter hesitated, at first, to preach the Gospel. Then, he said, “… Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35).

Acts 10:36-43 recounts Peter’s short, concise message to Cornelius, and his household were the only Gentiles he witnessed to. Paul was to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 19:44-45).

Cornelius was not a proselyte. Even while in Rome he was a God-fearing, righteousness working, praying Gentile. When he arrived in Palestine with his Italian band of soldiers, he must have been struck by the poverty of so many Jews because he was known to give a great deal of alms to the poor (Acts 10:2). However, he moved from that of being a devout, God-fearing Gentile to that of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul addresses the subject of the Gentiles, who the Jews looked down on, because the oracles of God were committed to the Jews. He wrote the following to the Jews in Rome;

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:5-11).

Here, Paul points out that men of other nations who have not the law of Moses, but have a law written in their hearts, that is their conscience (Romans 2:15). Those who, by “patient continuance in well doing” will fare better than the Jew who has the Law but does evil. Paul further writes; in the day when God judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16) is when it all will be sorted out—when Jesus Christ judges the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1) determining who will qualify to live during the Kingdom of God. Some will, most will not.

The truth for us who have known of Jesus Christ, is that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We should not try to limit, or restrict, God in believing that the gospel of our salvation is an absolute necessity, for everyone world-wide. He has not shut Himself up to only the Mystery.

In the regions of Outer Mongolia, or the jungles of South America, or other such remote places, there may very well be people who fear God and work righteousness and live in hope of eternal life; having never heard of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are reminded of Corinth; historically, probably the most wicked and pagan city in the Roman Empire. After Paul preached in a synagogue there, he became afraid, and the Lord said to him;

“For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:10-11).

In that corrupt city of Corinth, evidently, there were many devout Gentiles who were God-fearing, righteous-working people.

Lydia, the seller of purple cloth in Acts 16, very well might have been a woman who lived up to the light she was given when she came into the world. Notice what Luke wrote:

“And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:13-14).

More people can probably be identified in the Scripture who fall into this category. Could Rahab, the harlot, have been one?

Fortunately, for many of the God-fearing and worshiping Gentiles, the Lord providentially sent a commissioned messenger to them. Others, however, may never have been so fortunate; but they do have hope. But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.

Tom L. Ballinger