A gracEmail subscriber asks, “I have a Buddhist friend who does not believe in God as I do, or in the necessity of Jesus for salvation. I see what look like fruit of the Spirit in her life which makes me want to find some kind of reconciliation between my beliefs and hers. Any thoughts?”
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Every good thing comes from God (James 1:17), and God has not left any people-group totally without knowledge of himself. That includes the peoples of Japan, India, Hawaii and other places where Buddhism is prominently represented. Paul refers to this universal self-witness of God at least twice in his missionary preaching (Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:22-31) and also in his letter to the Romans (1:19-20; 10:18). John also acclaims Jesus as the true Light that gives light to every person coming into the world (John 1:9). He is the Logos of which the Greek philosophers spoke, although they did not recognize him as such.
This partial knowledge of God revealed to all peoples is a part of what theologians sometimes refer to as “common grace,” a sign of God’s goodness to all mankind, even to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. All human beings are made in the image of God, whether or not they know him yet as Father through Jesus Christ, and God gives them good things now as well (Acts 14:15-17). On this, I highly recommend One World, Many Neighbors: A Christian Perspective on World Religions, by gracEmail subscriber Perry Cotham (read more here), and Who Can Be Saved…? by gracEmail subscriber Terrance L. Tiessen (read more here).
Scripture tells us that no one will be saved apart from the atonement and reconciliation that Jesus has accomplished (Acts 4:12). However generously God might apply that atonement at the End, no one is able during this life to enjoy the knowledge and assurance of salvation apart from the gospel message and faith in Christ (Lk. 1:68-79; Eph. 1:13). That is reason enough to share the gospel with every person, enabling them to experience God’s salvation in this life and to enjoy assurance of life everlasting in the world to come (Mk. 16:15-16).