The Church grants that it is possible for one to attain salvation without a conscious, explicit faith in Christ. One can have an implicit connection to Christ and the Church and thereby still attain salvation.
Question: Recently, I have been looking for examples of this in Scripture where God shows mercy and forgiveness or one receives the Holy Spirit with only an implicit faith in God or Christ or the promise of Christ, or no faith due to invincible ignorance. Are there any?
Below are three examples I have considered. Example 3 is the closest one I have found. I understand there doesn’t have to be an example for the concept to be supported by Scripture, but thought maybe there is one. If not, I might ask for help explaining how it is supported by scripture.
In Jonah, Jonah tells the Ninevites that God will destroy them because of their wickedness. Then, Jonah says the Ninevites believed in God and turned from their wickedness, so God relented and spared them. Notice, it is only after they believed and turned from their wickedness first that God did not destroy them. They were forgiven after they believed, so the answer to the question is no.
Acts 10:45–47 demonstrates unambiguously God giving Cornelius the Holy Spirit before Cornelius received baptism. This was after Christ and the apostles had already preached the necessity of faith in Christ and baptism for salvation. But, here, Cornelius received the Holy Spirit after he had already feared God and prayed to God continually, so the answer to the question is also no.
In 1 Kings, God sent Elijah to stay with Zarephath, a widow who did not believe in the Lord. When her son became ill and died, Elijah prayed for God to bring her son back to life. Afterwards, the widow acknowledged that “the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth."
This example can possibly be a yes to the question because God brought her son back to life, an act of mercy, apparently, before Zarephath shows any saving faith. Perhaps, she had implicit faith.
Actually, this is referenced by Christ in Luke 4:24-26 as an example of God going outside his covenant people to show mercy and grace, which made Christ’s Jewish audience indignant.