Can God save people who are not part of His Church? Let's look at some of the examples of God's relationship with pagans in the Bible.
Genesis 20:3-6, "But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, 'Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife.' But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, 'Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also? Did he not say to me, "She is my sister"? And she, even she herself said, "He is my brother." In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.' And God said to him in a dream, 'Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.'"
So here we see a pagan king telling God, "I was living up to the light that I had, I did this in the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands." And God said, "Yes, I know you did this in the integrity of your heart." A pagan king speaking with God in integrity, and obeying Him (verse 7-15).
2 Chronicles 35:20-22, "After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. But he sent messengers to him, saying, 'What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.' Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo."
Here we see God leading Necho, Pharaoh of Egypt, a pagan king, and speaking to Josiah through him! By the way, Josiah didn't heed the words of God through Necho and died in battle! The point is we see a pagan king following God!
Psalm 87:4-6, "'I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to those who know Me; behold, O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia: "This one was born there."' And of Zion it will be said, 'This one and that one were born in her; and the Most High Himself shall establish her.' The LORD will record, when He registers the peoples: 'This one was born there.' Selah"
Here we see the names of Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia, pagan nations, written in the Book of Life! Saved people from pagan nations!
Matthew 8:10-12, "When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
Of whom was Jesus speaking? He was speaking of a pagan Roman Centurion! Jesus said that this pagan's faith was greater than all He'd found in Israel! Amazing.
Luke 12:47,48, "'And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.'"
Jesus said that to whom much is given, much is required. What is the flip side of that? That statement necessarily means that to whom little is given, little is required. Did Jesus say that? Yes! So those tribes and nations and people on which very little light shines, of them very little is required. But to us in the west, who are saturated with flooding rays of God's light, of us much will be required.
Acts 10:34,35, "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: 'In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.'"
Every nation who fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
Acts 17:22-24,30, "Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.'"
Paul said that they were very religious. They were religious, but ignorant. This is what Paul was saying. Then in verse 30, he says,
"'Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.'"
God overlooks pagan ignorance where there is pagan integrity! God overlooks pagan ignorance when pagans follow the light they have been given!
John 1:9, "That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world."
God gives light to every man (and woman and child) that is born into this world!
Romans 1:19,20, "Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."
God has shed light on people, and can be seen, through His creation...through nature. The creation testifies to every mind that there is a Creator!
In the judgement day someone may say, "God, I just didn't see it!", to which God will reply, "You saw it, I have record of it. Yes, you saw it, you just didn't want to see it."
Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."
God is a God of love, and He loves everyone, including the pagans. His grace has appeared to all men.
In the story of Jonah, the evil pagan town of Nineveh repented and were forgiven by God. But they didn't become Jews or Christians, they just became forgiven pagans.
God is a fair God. He judges every single person by the identical standard: based on the light they had. Everyone will be judged based on the light they did have, and no one will be judged based on the light they did not have.
Romans 2:11-16, "For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles [pagans], who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."
When I heard this message, one thought came to my mind: Then why should we spread the Gospel? There is no need for evangelism.
This obviously is incorrect based on Christ's command to preach the Gospel to all the world, baptizing and teaching them to obey. Then the pastor answered my question! Praise God!
He said, after repeating the questions I had in my head, that the idea above is based on a faulty assumption: That all God's pagan children are living up to the light they have. That is dead wrong. Most are not living up to the little light they have. All those who practice evil with brothels, prostitution, murder, corruption, etc., they are all headed to destruction. We need to reach out to all these people. We need evangelism! Thanks to Dwight Nelson for preaching this message!
I hope you have enjoyed these scriptures. At least you will have something to think about. God bless you and keep you!