“The sower went out to sow…” (Luke 8:5).
Some years back I was listening to a sermon by the late Roy C. Deaver. At present, I don’t recall the specific topic he was preaching on, but he said something in that sermon that has stuck with me. He referenced the Lord’s parable of the sower/soils (Luke 8:4-15). After listing each soil and what they represented, he asked, “But I want to know why our Lord didn’t say anything about the fifth soil.”
The fifth soil?
I don’t believe brother Deaver was questioning the Lord’s understanding. Certainly he knew that if there was a fifth soil our Lord would have said something about it. Yet, brother Deaver insisted there was a fifth, unspoken soil that demanded our attention. He went on: “The fifth soil – what about the people who never heard the gospel in the first place?”
That is a riveting question, and one for which many Christians struggle to find an answer. Brother Deaver came up with a conclusion, and I’ll share it with you in a moment.
It is not my intention to go into a lengthy expose in answer to the question, “What if some people never hear the gospel?”, but I will share a few thoughts.
If people are not lost until/unless they reject the message of Christ, then it logically follows that ignorance is best, and the gospel should be withheld from them. But the New Testament clearly countermands this theory (2 Corinthians 4:3). The Christian’s marching orders are to get the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
The lost are already lost (Romans 6:23). They do not become lost only when or if they reject God’s word. However, people are lost because of their sin, and cannot be saved apart from the word (1 Peter 1:22), and of course, an appropriate response thereto.
So, what about those who never hear? Is it possible that accountable people die – maybe every day – having never heard the gospel of Christ? Sadly, I suppose so. What happens to them? I believe only God knows the answer to that question. He alone can and will judge all men righteously (Genesis 18:25; Acts 17:30-31; 2 Timothy 4:8).
But back to the point. What was brother Deaver’s answer about the fifth soil?
“The only conclusion I could ever come up with is: the Lord never intended for there to be any fifth soil.”
In my opinion, it is the best answer I’ve ever heard because it rightly shifts at least some of the responsibility back on to you and me.
Let’s all chew on that for a while.
But not too long.
We’ve obviously got work to do.