There are many questions a person must answer in the course of their three score and ten. A first grader is asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Whether firefighter or ballerina, professional athlete or nurse, our children are primed to make life-defining decisions from those earliest of days.
The need for relationship and significance in the eyes of another drive us to search for companionship and collegial cohorts. The need for community asks us to choose between conformity and nonconformity, whether we will be a leader or a follower, whether we will choose excellence or mediocrity.
One can say, after looking back on their life, their days are filled with one question followed by another. But is there a question so significant, so critical and so life defining that it is found in the history of each person who has, does or will walk the face of this earth?
The Bible records a discussion between Jesus and Peter in the Gospel of Mark 8. After asking Peter what people were saying about Jesus's identity, Jesus asked Peter the most important question ever be presented to a man. "But who do you say that I am?"
This question requires a person to evaluate the relevance of Christ to their life. In this question they must deal with their sinfulness and need for forgiveness. They must acknowledge their brokenness from the Father and their need for restoration. They must deal with their need for restoration in the form of a new birth that creates a new man, rather than simply a reformative process of the old man.
From birth to death this question must be answered by every human being.
The desire of the pagan who refuses to see the object of nature as simply the handiwork of God but chooses to call it god himself is not spared the need for forgiveness and restoration. Though desiring to be united with the Father, they have not answered the question posed to Peter. Though there is a sincere desire to be united with the Father, being unable to answer the question forces an eternal separation from the Father. It is the ultimate realization of the failure of humankind to create their own answer.
But what of the one who desires to bring all humankind under the banner of loving Christ that does not include the saving event of the cross? This Universalist approached the crucifiction, even if motivated by an inclusive view desiring all to experience the love of God, nonetheless subjects the spiritual needy to an eternity no different from the one who rejects the specific message of Jesus Christ.
In other words, whether Gospel hardened or denied by circumstance the opportunity to hear the message of Christ, that one who does not properly answer the question posed to Peter by our Lord is not to be afforded a place as a part of the Bride of Christ.
It is critical to note that regardless of all the acts of piety and holiness, conformity to religious rights and procedures, if the answer to Peter's question is not "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," there is no salvation, there is no forgiveness and there is no restoration.
This position is not one of exclusivity held by the body of Christ. It is a position mandated by God's sovereign will, His right understanding of justice and His loving provision of grace.