Questions And Answers Department

R. L. Whiteside

(Editor's Note: The following is taken from the May 14, 1936 issue of Gospel Advocate. It will profit every man to read from the pen of the late R. L. Whiteside)

Are Non-Christians Accountable? Why Are Heathens Condemned?

1. 1 hear this statement occasionally: "Those young people are in the devil's kingdom. It does not make any difference what they do. They are not accountable under the gospel." What do you think of this ?

2. Are the heathen in foreign lands to be condemned in the final day for not obeying the command to be baptized when they never heard of it? -- A. T. Harris.

1. It would be hard to conceive of a more hurtful doctrine than the doctrine that unbaptized people are not accountable for what they do. If it does not make any difference what a person out of Christ does, if such a person is not accountable for what he does, then he might as well be an infidel, a drunkard. a whoremonger, robber, and killer of men. Bring that doctrine close home to the man that advocates it, and he will repudiate it! Would he say to his unbaptized son or daughter, "Go the limit while you are not a Christian. So long as you are not baptized, it makes no difference if you are a drunken sot, an immoral wretch, a sneak thief, or a bold robber and killer"-would he say such things to his own child? Is there a man so warped in his thinking that he is devoid of all the finer instincts? This is not the first time I have met with that notion. If these unbaptized people are not accountable for what they do, then they are not sinners. If they are not sinners, then there is no such thing as an alien sinner and no such thing now as baptism for the remission of sins. If the doctrine is true, then the only people who were ever baptized for the remission of sins were the Jewish converts who had sinned while they were under the old covenant. Or will the advocate of this doctrine say that unbaptized people are sinners by inheritance? They cannot be sinners on their own account if they are not accountable. Read such passages as John 1:29; Act 7:60; 26:16-18; Rom. 1:18-32; 3:9; 5:8; Gal. 2:15; and many others too numerous to mention. Let us not forget. that there are certain moral laws, and that all people are under these laws, even though they have never heard of the Bible. The uprightness of Cornelius commended him to God. It is astonishing that we should now be told that Cornelius might as well have been murdering the poor as giving them alms, and might as well have been cursing God as praying to him! And, remember, the gospel is God's power to save sinners., not to make sinners.

2. The second question is somewhat akin to the first, and raises this question: What makes a man a sinner-disobedience to the gospel of Christ? If so ', he is not a sinner till he hears and disobeys the gospel. And if that is so, then he was in a state of safety till he heard the gospel; and if that be so, then the gospel makes sinners by the wholesale and saves no one, for it could not save that which was already safe. Jesus came to save sinners, not to make sinners. The gospel is God's power to save sinners, not to make sinners. Men are lost because they are sinners, and not because they are not baptized; baptism is one of the conditions of salvation. Are men lost because they do not obey the gospel? Before answering, think. A man is in a deep whirlpool, and is about to drown. You throw a rope to him, and tell him to take hold and you will pull him out. He ref uses to grasp the rope, and is drowned. Why did he drown? One answers: . . . Because he would not take hold of the rope." Wrong; the rope had nothing to do with his drowning -- he drowned because he was in the water, and he would have drowned if there had never been a rope. The gospel is God's rope thrown out to a world sinking in sin; if men do not take hold of it, they simply remain in sin, and they are lost eternally because they are sinners. Of course, refusing to obey the gospel intensifies their guilt, for they have refused God's offered mercy and have trampled underfoot the blood of Christ. They have shown contempt for God's effort to save them. The command to be baptized does not make sinners-it was issued to men who are guilty of sins. The heathen are lost because they are sinners -- lost even if they never hear of baptism. If people will keep in mind the great truth that Jesus came to save sinners and that the gospel is the power by which men are saved, they will not have any trouble in settling both questions presented by Brother Harris. But whatever we do, let us not turn the gospel around and make it an engine of destruction instead of salvation.

Truth Magazine I:2, pp. 14-15
November 1956