Does God accept sincere Jews and Muslims?

Before the carwash knocked off my newly installed antenna, I would occasionally listen to the Diane Rehm show on our local NPR station. The show for January 15, 2007 was a rebroadcast of an interview of the “Faith Club” which consisted of three women from three different religious backgrounds. They represented Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and were hoping to find some common ground. Unfortunately, they did.

The woman representing Christianity made a statement which would make any liberal smile. After seeing the apparent sincerity of the other women, she announced that Acts 10:34-35 supercedes the need for faith in Christ. As long as you love him, God will accept you no matter what religion you choose. Sadly, she did not speak about the rest of the chapter in which Peter preaches the gospel to God-fearing Cornelius and his household. It was when they heard the gospel that they believed, received the Spirit, and were baptized (10:44-48). If God accepted them as they were, why was Peter sent and why did he preach the gospel to them?

The real meaning behind Peter’s proclamation is not as liberal as Diane’s guest would have us believe. Instead, Peter was simply revealing that God is willing to save those outside the Jewish community. Up until this point, the gospel had been limited to them. But after what transpires in this chapter, the gospel was taken to all people. In that context, God is not partial in choosing whom he will save. Any “Christian,” Jewish, or Islamic person who seeks the Lord will be given the opportunity to hear and believe the gospel.

Missionary Joseph Abraham is a good example of this. He grew up in Egypt where he was instructed in Islam. But after a time of searching for the truth, God provided for him a Bible to read and someone to explain the gospel. The point is that God does not welcome people (i.e. accept them just as they are) apart from Jesus, but he does draw in those who are searching for the truth. When those individuals hear and believe, then God saves them. Therefore, this Scripture passage does not teach universal salvation apart from the gospel. It simply reveals that God loves all people enough to send the gospel to them.