David Faust asks, What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a universalist? A knock on the door for no apparent reason. Universalism is a widely accepted philosophy. Universalism says that no matter what everyone will eventually be saved. Today people say things like, “Oh well, we’re all headed for the same place,” or “A loving God would never condemn anyone,” and these all reflect universalism.
Danny Pelfrey in a recent article in the Restoration Herald comments about the lack of interest in evangelism among Christians. “I was disappointed that the passion I had seen in the past for lovingly reaching out to those outside of Christ seemed to be vanishing. I was not hearing the Lord’s people talk much about evangelism. I was concerned that most churches did not seem to be planning for evangelism, and I was hearing very little preaching and teaching on the subject. Worst of all, the waters of the baptistries in our churches seemed to remain still- very little stirring. Many others have verified that a renewal of evangelistic passion among God’s people is one of our most crucial needs.” The title of the article is “Biblical Evangelism requires passion”
Talked to one of my son’s about this message. After explaining the idea of universalism, my son asked, “What’s the big deal?” A big deal among the unsaved is that they think they are going to heaven when they are not. A big deal among Christians is that we have no motivation to share the gospel message with others- if everyone is going to be saved, why bother? One of the reasons that there is little passion about evangelism is that many people have adopted universalism if not with their heads at least with their hearts.
Thesis: 1) What does Bible say about universalism? 2) Because of what Bible says, how is church to conduct herself?
I. What does the Bible say about universalism?
1. The Bible teaches the absolute uniqueness of the one true God and the salvation He offers.
a. Uniqueness of one true God- “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:39. “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.” 1 Corinthians 8:4.
In a recent interview, not long before his death this past year, Charlie Daniels was asked an interesting question. Is there a song you wrote that you regret writing? Answer was yes, called the Universal Hand. “Jehovah, Allah, Jesus or any other name, no matter what you call him, no matter how you see him, there is only one Universal Hand”- Daniels says he has found it not true
b. Uniqueness of the salvation God offers. “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.” Isaiah 33:22, NIV.
“I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” Isaiah 43:11, NIV.
Also- Isaiah 45:21-22- “Declare what is to be, present it--let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
God reached down for us. Many religions talk about how to reach up for God (impossible) but God reached down for us. Listen to Jesus- “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3. God reached down by sending his Son. Johnny Cash- When he reached way down for me. I was lost and undone without God or His Son when he reached down his hand for me. “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” Psalms 18:16.
2. The Bible emphasizes the absolute uniqueness and exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.” In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6, NIV.
“Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”” Acts 4:12, NIV.
3. The Bible stresses the reality of judgment, heaven, and hell. ““Then they (goats) will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous (his sheep) to eternal life.”” Matthew 25:46, NIV. “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9, NIV.
4. The Bible emphasizes the personal responsibility of each individual in accepting God’s gift of salvation. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” Deuteronomy 30:19. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--” John 1:12, NIV.
Transition: Why would the Bible reflect such consistent urgency about evangelism if souls were not a stake? Why would Jesus say, “Make disciples of all nations,” if all were eventually to be saved anyway? Why did the apostle Paul implore people to “be reconciled to God” if such reconciliation was going to happen anyway? Universalism only leads the church toward apathy and uninvolvement in the eternally important task of evangelism.
II. Because of what Bible says, how is church to conduct herself? Church must...
1. We must teach the true Biblical universalism. God does love the whole world! We do serve a caring God who “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9, NIV. Everybody ought to know who Jesus is! The church needs to preach the gospel to everyone universally. The true universalism is not a mushy mindset, but a mighty mission! The church’s work continues as we gracefully tell the world the good news that Jesus saves. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2, NIV. Jesus died for the whole world. Now salvation is conditioned on the response of the individual to that salvation but how can they respond if they never hear the clear call of the gospel?
2. We must practice true Biblical universalism by demonstrating genuine compassion for all people. Racism, bigotry, cliquishness, divisiveness, and disregard for people are ugly hindrances to the spread of the gospel. On the radio heard one preacher talk about a young man to whom he witnessed about Jesus Christ. The young man said to the preacher, “I don’t want your Jesus.” The next day he died. The preacher was asked to preach at that young man’s funeral. The preacher told everyone the story about witnessing to this young man and how he rejected the gospel. Then the preacher went on to talk about the ugly realities of hell. How much of a comfort was that to the boy’s parents and to the family! “Every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Titus 2:10, NIV. Preacher told the truth from what he knew but was he speaking the truth in love? Ephesians 4:15. Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.”
3. We must teach the truth. The authority of Christ and the integrity of His Word demand that we not hesitate to proclaim “the whole will or whole plan of God” Acts 20:27, including truths which may seem unpopular or unpleasant. While we must “be merciful to those who doubt or waver” Jude 22, and patiently instruct those who honestly struggle with the perplexing questions of modern life, we must uphold the biblical standard. What is our standard of life (not our standard of living)? 2 Timothy 3:16- All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.”
4. We must disciple the nations. If we truly believe people are lost without Christ, then God’s message leaves us no other option. We must never lose the compelling motivation that Paul expressed when he said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16. “But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9
I remember being at a chapel service at Roanoke Bible college when I was a senior. A recent graduate and a friend of mine Jeremy Woolard was delivering a message about evangelism. Jeremy was trying to revive a church near the beach (Jeremy was a surfer). There was a church meeting about what could be done for outreach, specifically how to bring more people into the church. Jeremy brought out an idea about going door to door with evangelistic tracts with the church’s name on it. One fellow said, “That is just not my style,” and the idea was shot down. Jeremy talked about an idea of passing out sports drinks on the beach with the church’s name on it. The same fellow said, “That is just not my style,” and the idea was put to rest. Jeremy mentioned about having a concert of gospel music near the beach that would promote the church. That same fellow said, “That is just not my style,” and the idea was grounded. Finally in desperation Jeremy asked that fellow, “Ok, what is your style?” The man said, “Well, none of those things that you mentioned.” Jeremy asked the question again, “Ok, but what is your style? Let’s get around something that you feel like is your style.” The man was silent. Jeremy said, “Find out your style and then let’s go for it.” Also Jeremy said, "I like my way of doing it (evangelism), better than your way of not doing it."