Must the Lost Really ‘Hear’ the Gospel to be Saved?

Millions live in remote corners of the earth without access to Scripture—but they too must hear the gospel to be saved.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul asks a series of questions to show that we who have been “born again” (John 3:7) must take the gospel to everyone who has not yet heard it.

“How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching” (Romans 10:14)?

So, does the Bible really teach that the millions of people living in the most distant, most isolated, most remote, and most difficult to reach places in the world must still hear the gospel (and believe it!) to be saved?

A look at just a few Bible verses convinces us that the answer is a resounding yes.

Six Scriptural Evidences That Faith Comes Through Hearing the Word

1. We are called to salvation through hearing the Word.

Paul told the Thessalonians that they were “called” to salvation “through our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 3:14), which they had “heard” preached by Paul and his team (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Likewise, in the house of Cornelius, the Holy Spirit fell on all “who heard the Word” (Acts 10:44).

2. We are born again by hearing the Word.

In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus declared that everyone must be born again. Peter affirms that we are born again “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). So, if there is no “hearing” the Word of God—or reading it—there will be no regeneration; only the words of Jesus are “spirit and life” (John 6:63).

3. A relationship with Jesus comes through hearing the Word.

Jesus makes it clear that merely professing that he is Lord does not guarantee salvation (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus must know us as a member of his family, and that will only happen if we “hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).

4. Biblical faith in Jesus comes through hearing the Word (John 10:27).

Paul also told the Romans that “faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The gospel message is a call to salvation from Christ himself, and his sheep “hear his voice” (John 10:3, 27).

5. The Holy Spirit is received through hearing the Word.

Scripture tells us that in order to receive the Spirit of God, which is necessary to belong to Christ (Romans 8:9), one must hear the gospel message with faith (Galatians 3:2).

6. Believers are sanctified through hearing the Word.

Finally, Jesus taught that we are “already clean [sanctified] because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:317:17), the spoken word of Christ which must be heard (John 10:27).

The Scriptures speak clearly. Unless the lost, near and far, hear the gospel message, there will be no effective call to salvation, no regeneration, no relationship with Jesus as his family, no biblical faith, no receiving of the Spirit of God, and no sanctification.

In other words, without hearing (and subsequently believing) the gospel message, there will be no “turning from darkness to light,” no escape from the power of Satan to God, no forgiveness of sins, and no sanctification (Acts 26:18).

Yes, we must go to those who have never heard.

Hope in Spite of Statistics

Missions statistics often paint a grim picture of how few people are going to the most remote places to share the gospel. It’s very true that an incredibly small number of North Americans are going to these hard-to-reach places—and we wish there were more! However, the statistics do not reflect how many national, indigenous Christians are doing this gospel-preaching work among their own unreached neighbors.

They, like us, desire that all people come to a knowledge of the Lord and are saved by hearing the Word and believing it. David Platt has said, “The unreached are unreached for a reason.” That’s why Live Global specializes in partnering with nationals who are going to the unreached. Many nationals have access to the unreached that North Americans don’t. They know the language and culture. They invite us to come alongside them in prayer, encouragement, training, serving, giving, and other helpful ways. We’d love to invite you to find a national partner who is serving among unreached people groups.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Live Global on July 15, 2023. Used with permission.