Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
I was recently challenged by a commenter on the Facebook page of my friend and former pastor, Jim Palmer. Jim’s been through a lot and has a lot to say about it. He is one of the most engaging communicators I’ve ever met. He and I disagree on quite a bit these days, but he’s been gracious about our disagreements, and his www.divinenobodies.com blog deserves a plug.
The commenter, one Mrs. Harvey, claims that “The Bible never says Jesus is our personal Savior, (sic) He’s the Savior of the world and He saved it.”
Very interesting, if slightly nonsensical. Mrs. Harvey seems to be saying that Jesus’ sacrifice automatically saved everyone in whole, a collective salvation, apart from any individual’s consent or awareness. In another comment, she reiterates this point by saying that “If we take ourselves out of the plan that was between God and His son, we might realize God did this for everyone no matter what they believe.” If everyone took themselves out of the plan between God and his son, who would be left to save? Would a plan even have been necessary? I wonder, could we have done this, if would Jesus have just cancelled his trip from Heaven to Hell and back.
So, basically, Mrs. Harvey is a universalist. The problem with that position is that Jesus disagrees with her.
But first, before this gets too heavy, let’s just watch this cat for a couple of minutes:
Now, a closer look at the message of Christ. By the way, if you’ve read this far, you might be interested in a similar article I wrote almost exactly two months ago called “Just Who Is Rejecting Whom Here?”
In the context of the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, it is clear that Jesus’ sacrifice WAS a pardon for the sin of all humans. But it is also clear that the application of that pardon is the responsibility of each individual, as a general rule. In other words, the satisfaction of that sin debt through Christ Jesus is available, but will apply only to those to acknowledge it and accept it.
In none other than John 3:16-18, Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
This passage says plainly that although salvation is offered to the world, only those who believe Jesus will “not perish, but have eternal life.” In the last part of the passage, Jesus assumes that some do not believe.
And it is true that Jesus did not come to judge the world at that time, in part because it had already condemned itself before he showed up. Instead, he came to save it, and completed his work in doing so. His desire is to save.
But he will judge the world eventually, as he states clearly in Matthew 25, because he will be left with no other choice for those who have chosen not to accept his pardon, and consequently, his rule. And this time, the law is simply this: did you accept Jesus’ fulfillment of the law for you, or not?
In Mark 13, Jesus talks about the his elect, in other words, those whom he has chosen. If he chose the elect, he also didn’t choose others. If everyone is elected, there is no need to choose. But not everyone is elected. Jesus himself said in Matthew 22 of a parable about his kingdom, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” That sure doesn’t sound very inclusive, does it?
If you were told that in next year’s presidential election, you would have one space to mark on the ballot, and your mark would elect all candidates, would you bother? Would you call that an election?
In Matthew 7, Jesus says that everyone who asks receives. Why would Jesus say this unless those who didn’t ask didn’t receive? Why didn’t he say, “Don’t bother asking. You’ve already received it.”
Later in the same chapter, Jesus says that many find destruction, and few find life. If everyone is saved, why doesn’t he just say, “Go about your business in whatever way you choose. Love me, hate me, ignore me. I’ve got you covered?”
Ok, for you who still have doubts but have been skimming over the scriptural references so far, READ THIS one below if you want to understand the rest of what follows it.
Later, in this same chapter, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”
The law to which Jesus refers, by the way, is the Old Testament Law given by God through Moses, and recorded in the first five books of the Bible, known to the Jews as the Torah.
Sooooo, according to Jesus:
Does everyone eventually live forever in God’s Kingdom? No.
Who does? Those who do the will of Jesus’ Father.
What is the will of Jesus’ Father? That whosoever believes in him (Jesus) will not perish, but have eternal life.
Who practices lawlessness? Obviously, those who do not do the will of the Jesus’ Father. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that he came to fulfill the law, to complete its requirements for righteousness and justice, that is, to obey perfectly what we could not obey and to justify with his blood the sacrifice required for our disobedience, so that we would not have to sacrifice our own and be spent for eternity. By accepting Jesus’ sacrifice, Jesus buys us, and the payment for our sin is made. He redeems us. We are then right with the Law. Our continued life under God’s grace is lawful.
By contrast, those who do not accept this offer of Jesus are enjoying God’s grace illegally, their sin having not been justified because they refuse to accept the only justification that can be made for it. Continuing to break the Law and remaining unable to fulfill it themselves, those who reject Jesus’ justification for their sin “practice lawlessness.”
And according to Jesus, when he comes again to establish his Kingdom — not just in the hearts of the elect, but in all of Heaven and Earth — to those who are lawless; those who sought in vain to buy their way into God’s presence with their good works; those who counted on the Judge turning a blind eye to justice in their disregard for the law; those hoping that they could usurp his authority; those who have rejected his offer to purchase their lives with his blood sacrifice for their sins; to those, Jesus will on that day say, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
And that is the message of Jesus. The good news is, God has made a way. The bad news is, there is no other, and if you insist on being judged by your own merits, God will oblige you. He is merciful, so he makes a way to forgive. He is just, so every injustice is righted, one way or another, through your blood or through Jesus’ blood. Take your pick. He desires our desire, so he makes the choice ours. Ultimately, he respects our decision to embrace him or spurn him. If you want to be without God, you can. And Hell? That is any place without God.
But here is God’s heart:
Ezekiel 18:31 – “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?”
For God is one who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
As well, Paul the Apostle reflects God’s heart when he says in Romans 10, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
And with that, if I may borrow a phrase, it is finished.