In an earlier gracEmail, I stated that God will judge all people by the light they had and not by truth they could not know. A dedicated missionary in South America and a former missionary to Africa ask, “If that is so, am I wasting my time here? Why preach the gospel today? Are you saying that people are saved apart from Jesus Christ?”

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No one will enjoy eternity with God apart from the atonement that Jesus made for sinners. But the redeemed sinners who will enjoy the benefits of that atonement throughout eternity will include many people, from within Israel and also from among the nations, who lived and died before Jesus was born. Those are people who during this life never heard of Jesus and the work he performed.

Yet those people all responded to God’s revelation that they did have, in the kind of creaturely faith that we see in Abraham, “the father of the faithful” (Acts 4:11-12; Rom. 2:11-16; Rom. 4:1-16). Also in that category are little children and infants who die before they can hear and understand the gospel. The atonement Jesus made is sufficient for God to spread its effects to whomever he might see fit.

So are you wasting your time? Absolutely not! Consider the following:

— You are obeying Jesus, fulfilling his Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

— You are speaking because you believe (2 Cor. 4:13) and are sharing the way of life (Acts 11:18).

— You are turning people from darkness to light (Col. 1:13-14).

— You are introducing people to the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9-10).

— You are spreading hope of eternal life (Titus 1:1-3).

— You are giving freedom over fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15) and are inspiring a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3).

— You are filling people with joy and peace in believing (Rom. 15:13).

— You are giving assurance of God’s mercy which transforms lives (Titus 2:11- 15).

By taking the gospel to those who have not heard it, you are also bringing them the opportunity to enjoy all spiritual blessings in Christ now (Eph. 1:3).

Let us never forget this important truth–those whom God claims as his own at the end but who never hear of Jesus now, miss the subjective enjoyment of all the blessings God gives to believers now. These blessings include a sense of peace with God, knowledge that their sins have been forgiven, a clean conscience, hope of the resurrection, anticipation of immortality in new heavens and earth, and very many more.

In the process, you are being used by God as an agent in the salvation of those who through your ministry receive the grace of God (2 Cor. 5:18 — 6:2). The gospel is God’s power for saving believers — in the fullest sense of the word “save” (Rom. 1:16). The kingdom of God brings wholeness and healing of all kinds — spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and societal (Acts 4:10-12). No, you are not wasting time, and when discouragement tempts, here are motivations aplenty.