Romans 3:22b-24 “There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
When I lived in Texas, former Governor Rick Perry was quoted as believing that people without faith in Jesus go to hell. He came under some public pressure for saying so, but he didn’t take it back. Pastor Rick Warren, whom you may know as author of The Purpose Driven Life, was asked about the same thing before a group of famous journalists and editorialists from some of our nation’s biggest newspapers: The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and Washington Post. Again, he gave a straightforward answer. He affirmed that without faith in Jesus you cannot be saved.
This issue is rarely understood by those who don’t have faith in Jesus. It always sounds to them like we are saying we are better than they are just because we have determined to follow Jesus. Inevitably they bring up some famous, unselfish unbeliever, or the native who never gets to hear the gospel, and object, “You mean so and so is going to hell just because he didn’t know Jesus?”
Such people are missing the point. It’s not that I am good and others are bad. I’m no good at all. Neither is anyone else. “There is no difference,” Paul says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As members of the family of humankind, we are all in the same boat, and that boat is sinking fast.
Every one of us is terminally ill, sick with sin. No matter how many times we change our spiritual diet, no matter how much we increase the number and intensity of our moral workouts, we can’t lick this disease. Neither a spiritual diet of our own choosing, nor exercising ourselves in good works, has any effect, except to hurry the spread of the infection.
Only one Doctor holds the cure. Jesus alone dispenses the good news that his own blood washes away the guilt that is killing us. He has transplanted our sin with his own perfect record of love and compassion. He is running a free clinic where these gifts are distributed. But only those with faith trust the Doctor and receive the gift.
There is no greater gift of God for which we owe him our thanks than this one.