1. Question: “Did the early Native Americans such as the Aztecs Incas Mayas…have any knowledge of the word of God? If not, what happened to their souls?” Let me also ask a question to clarify the issue:
a. “Did the ancient barbarian or Scythian have any knowledge of the word of God? If not, what happened to their souls?” (Col. 3:11)
b. “Does your next door neighbor have any knowledge of the word of God? If not, what happens to his or her soul?”
2. The answer to each one lies in understanding the nature of sin, the progression of sin in this world, and salvation from sin by the gospel.
I. THERE IS A UNIVERSAL NEED FOR THE GOSPEL BECAUSE ALL ARE SINNERS – Rom. 3:9 (10-18), 19, 23; 5:12.
A. The Gospel is God’s Power to Save Sinners – Rom. 1:16-17 (Reveals the righteousness of God – God’s plan for man to be righteous, Rom. 3:22).
1. The gospel will save all sinners who believe – Rom. 1:16-17.
2. Reveals God’s mercy and grace to give sinners: A Savior (1 Tim. 4:10); a sacrifice for sins (Heb. 9:22; 10:12); a message of truth which warns of sin and calls sinners to salvation (Acts 20:24).
B. Therefore, the Gospel is to be Preached to All the World – Mk. 16:15-16; Matt. 28:19-20 (Rom. 6:23; 5:12).
1. To save the lost – Whether they already know their sin or not.
2. Because the lost are sinners under penalty of death.
II. THE PROGRESSION OF SIN IN THE WORLD – Rom. 1:18-32 (a picture of the Gentile world under sin).
A. The Ungodliness and Unrighteousness of Men Hinders the Truth of God – 1:18 (Gen. 6:1-5). (Two terms express whole volume of human sins.)
1. Ungodliness: Lack of reverence for God; a disregard for God (“irreligiousness”, Meyer).
2. Unrighteousness: Immorality, evil conduct, lack of right conduct toward men, injustice toward men.
3. Hinder the truth: Suppresses, holds down the truth; Sin blinds men to truth! (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
4. Wrath of God is against all sinners! (Answers part of above question.)
B. Historically, Men Have Rejected God and His Revealed Truth Because of Their Sin – 1:18-23.
1. God’s truth was and is revealed from God to man – 1:19 (Gen. 2:16-17 – God commanded man … Heb. 1:1-2).
2. God’s presence and nature (power and divinity) testified by creation – 1:20.
3. Men refused revealed truth and nature’s testimony – Are without excuse before God – 1:20-21.
C. When Men Reject God and His Truth, They Plunge Deeper and Deeper into Sin – Rom. 1:21-32. (progression of sin)
1. Failure to honor God – 1:21 (cf. Isa. 24:5-6).
2. Ingratitude toward God – 1:21. (Devaluing of the true God.)
3. Elevation of man (self) and human wisdom – 1:22 (cf. Eph. 4:17-18).
4. Idolatry (false gods) – 1:23.
a. Truth is exchanged for a lie – 1:25.
b. False religions developed (cf. Egypt, Phoenicia, Canaan, Euro-Asia and Americas; cf. pagan superstitions, Greek and Eastern philosophies, etc.
5. Moral chaos – 1:24-32 (idolatry feeds on and breeds fleshly lust, 1:24-27)
D. God “Gave Them Up” To Their Sins – Rom. 1:24, 26, 28.
1. Handed them over to their own devices…because they gave themselves over to sin! – Eph. 4:19 (“He let them go because they were set on going.” -R. L. Whiteside)
2. God permitted man to follow his sinful cravings and conduct with all that sin caused (pain, suffering, toil and death) – cf. 1:27.
3. God, throughout history, has revealed His wrath against sin – 1:18, 32.
4. The wages for their sin is death – Rom. 6:23.
Illus. …Departure from God….
1) Adam…Cain…Lamech…days of Noah (Gen. 2-6; 6:5).
2) Noah (Gen. 9:1)…Sons of Noah (Gen. 9:19)…Babel (Gen. 11:1-9)
E. Over Time, When Man Rejects God and His Truth, Whole Societies and Cultures Forget God and His Truth (will for them) – Rom. 1:25, 28.
1. Did native Americans “have any knowledge of the word of God?”
-Not likely, since their ancestors had long since rejected God and His revelations of truth! (Col. 1:23; but remember 2 Ths. 2:9-12)
2. Ignorance of God does not make the sinner free of his sin.
a. Magnifies their sin and alienation from God – Rom. 3:9-19.
b. Magnifies and proves their need for the gospel – Rom. 11:32; Mk. 16:15 (Rom. 1:16).
c. Magnifies the grace and love of God to give a gospel which call sinners out of the darkness of sin into the glory of salvation! – Rom. 5:6-9
1. Those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel will die because of their own sins – 2 Thess 1:8-9.
2. We must not distress ourselves over ancient peoples long since gone and their standing before God – God will be just with them (Rom. 2:2).
3. Instead, we need to learn to get right with God now! – Rom. 2:3-6
4. Faithful Christians must share the gospel with the lost! (Jno. 4:35)