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Tag Archives: universalism

Time for a Great Quote! (R.C. Sproul)

“I’m afraid that in the United States of America today the prevailing Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 6.19.53 AMdoctrine of justification is not justification by faith alone. It is not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in our culture today is justification by death. All one has to do to be received into the everlasting arms of God is to die.” (R.C. Sproul, Saved from What?)

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in salvation

 

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“The Savior of All Men” (A Study of I Timothy 4:10)

Friends:

As we have been looking at “Ten Steps to Spirituality,” one particular verse merits a bit more attention from us.  How are we to understand this verse which says, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

If taken in a literal sense, if God is “the Savior of all men,” then universalism seems to be taught here.  But that would contradict all the other Pauline passages which teach that some will be eternally lost.

Another possibility is that “Savior of all men” is meant in a broad sense, but that He is the Savior of believers in a more particular and special sense.  Some Arminian believers suggest that the text is teaching that Christ has paid the penalty for sin for every human being, that He is the potential Savior for those who believe.

One writer suggests that the word “all” has several nuances, depending on the context and usage.  How did the Apostle use the term “all” (pas in Greek)?  James White says that sometimes “all” means “many,” but “many” never means “all.”  “All” denotes “all types” or “all kinds.”  Paul writes in I Timothy 6:10 that money is the “root of all (pas) evil.”  Is that really true?  Was money the motivator in the Garden of Eden?  Is money always the cause of murder?  Do people commit adultery because they love money so much?  Most modern translations render I Timothy 6:10 as “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

The Apostle Paul had a specific ministry to the Gentiles, so perhaps the idea here is that He is the Savior to more than the Jews.  He is the Savior of all men of every ethnic and cultural background [who believe].  Revelation 7:9 speaks of there being those whom God has redeemed from “every kindred, tribe, tongue, and race” before the Throne.  Some would argue that Paul’s use of the word “world” may have the same meaning in some passages, that is, not everyone without exception, but the whole world of humans without distinction.

Our verse reads:  “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”  Let’s think about that term “especially.”  The Greek word malista has the idea of “chiefly” or “most of all.”  One translation suggests that Paul is saying that Jesus is the Savior of a specific subset of “all humanity”, that is, He’s the Savior of “believers.”

So,as one writer puts it, the text is saying:  “We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all types of men (as opposed to Israelites exclusively), that is (or, particularly) those who believe.”

Christ is the Savior to all — to uncircumcised Gentiles and every type of human on the planet.  His salvation is fully effective only to those who believe have faith in Christ’s finished work.

Paul also says in I Timothy 2, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.  For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.  Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” (I Timothy 2:5-8).

Thank God for His Son, the Savior of all who believe!

[Thanks to Jim McClarty and his work found at: http://www.salvationbygrace.org/uc/sub/qaprint.aspx?qa=114&local=11a for some of this material.]

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in UNIVERSALISM

 

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A Review of Three Books on Eternal Lostness

Friends:

I’ve recently reviewed three books on eternal lostness for the Emmaus Journal.  The review is found below.  The book that really concerns me is Sharon Baker’s book Razing Hell.  Please feel free to post your comments below.

Click on the following link for my review:

review of three books on hell – pdf

 

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“FAREWELL, ROB BELL” AVAILABLE NOW

Thanks to all who have supported me in this publishing project, “Farewell, Rob Bell”:  A Biblical Response to Love Wins.  I especially appreciate the support of Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries.  This book is now available through Amazon.com.  There is also a Kindle version.  Allow me to repeat the flyer below which shows the cover (masterfully done by Christian cartoonist Ron Wheeler):

God’s given me courage to send a copy to Bell’s elders at Mars Hill Bible Church.  Please pray that some of them will read it and respond properly.

I’ve also sent a copy to Mark Galli of Christianity Today who says that Rob Bell and Love Wins are no litmus test of orthodoxy!  He’s publishing a book entitled God Wins.

Discussion Questions:  Why should we get in such a flap about a book on God’s love?  What makes neo-universalism so dangerous?

 

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“FAREWELL, ROB BELL”: A Biblical Response to Love Wins (available soon)

Friends:  I’ve been working hard the last few weeks to complete my response to Rob

me at hard labor

Bell’s Love Wins:   A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, 2011).   The book is finished and is being published through Amazon’s Create Space (print on demand).  Not a particularly long book (70 pages or so), “Farewell, Rob Bell:  A Biblical Response to Love Wins” deals with the primary questions Bell raises in his presentation of what I’ve been calling neo-universalism.

I’m extremely pleased with the original cover art by cartoonist Ron Wheeler.  Below is the cover (which probably needs no explanation):

Didn’t he do a great job? I’m trying to keep the price down, so I’m charging only $10 (which includes shipping to the USA and Canada).  Send a check or money order made out to me (Larry Dixon) + your address and I will ship your copy as soon as they come off the press!  My address:  117 Norse Way, Columbia, SC  29229

Sorry for the commercial, but I believe I’ve put together a solid response to Bell which will be of help, especially to those who have not or do not intend to read Love Wins.

 

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“Will Only a Few Be Saved?” (Part 2)

We began this three-part discussion by recognizing that there is a new challenge facing Evangelicals by a

"Hi, there. We're the NEO-UNIVERSALISTS!"

group I’m calling the neo-universalists.  Unlike classic universalists like Karl Barth, C.H. Dodd, John A.T. Robinson, and Nels F.S. Ferré, these neo-universalists are rather militant about their belief that God will (must) save all.  God’s very greatness, says Rob Bell in Love Wins, depends on God’s getting what God wants — and He wants all to be saved.

Part of the neo-universalist argument is that Evangelicalism is stingy, teaching a fewness perspective in which only a limited number will be saved.  The neo-universalists argue for endless opportunities after death to believe the gospel and mock the Evangelical perspective as “toxic” and as a “hijacking” of the Jesus story.

We suggested in Part 1 of this discussion that God is under no obligation to save any.  And His greatness is true with or without man’s salvation.

We then noticed that Jesus Himself was asked a very specific question about how many would be saved in Luke 13.  Let’s look at the whole passage:

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

We made several observations as we began our study of this biblical text.  To summarize those earlier points, we noticed that Jesus addresses His answer to the people, rather than to the individual who raised the question.  And He immediately launches into an analogy about a narrow door, a house, and a houseowner.

We saw in verse 24 that Jesus challenges the people to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”  Salvation in Jesus’ analogy sounds difficult:  the door is narrow, “every effort” is required to get into that house, and the many who try to enter (and won’t be able to) appear to present an obstacle to the ones Jesus commands to “make every effort to enter.”

Additional Observations:

1.  Moving on in the text, we notice that the one who is to make every effort to enter is faced with a greater challenge.  There is an owner of the house who may get up at any time and close the door!  What?!  Doesn’t God want His house filled?  How could He ever get up and close the door?  The neo-universalists argue that salvation’s door should remain eternally open.  Let’s notice exactly what Jesus says:  “25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’”

"This is MY house, right?" (God)

Notice the term “once.”  Jesus seems to be saying that the opportunity to enter through that narrow door into salvation’s house is limited.  It is limited by the Owner Himself!   He, as the homeowner, has every right to get up and close the door to His own house, doesn’t He?

Why does a homeowner get up and close the door to his house?  Perhaps the open door has made the house drafty?  Perhaps he’s keeping out wild animals?  No!  In this text the open door is shut because the time for people to enter is over!  It’s His house. It’s His door.  It’s HIS prerogative to close that door when He chooses to do so.

2.  But those who find themselves on the outside, on the other side of that door, do not simply go away.  The verse says,  “you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’”  The “you” is plural.  Those outside don’t give up.  They continue knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.”   Apparently, they are unable to break down the door, or jimmy the lock, or go into the house through a window.  This door is the only way into the house, and if the houseowner doesn’t open the door, they won’t get in.

3.  There is then a discussion through the door.  The houseowner responds to the pleas of those outside who are asking for entrance.  We read, “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from.'” (v. 25).  Those asking for entrance are strangers to the homeowner.  They have no familial connection with the owner; He owes them nothing.   The owner of the house gives them two reasons why He is not going to open the door to them:  (1) “I don’t know you.”  and (2) “I don’t know where you are from.”

4.  But in this analogy Jesus says the conversation will continue.  He says, “‘Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'” (v. 26).  So they did have a connection with the homeowner.  They enjoyed at least one meal with Him and heard Him teach in their streets!  These outside have moved from asking for entrance to demanding entrance based on these factors.  But these do not qualify them as having a relationship with Him.  His response is shocking in its unqualified rejection.  Let’s carefully notice His response:

5.  Jesus says the homeowner will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me, all you evildoers!” (v. 27).  Their claiming to have eaten and drunk with Him and to have heard Him teach in their streets was completely insufficient in providing a reason why He should re-open the door.  The homeowner repeats exactly His rejection:  “I don’t know you or where you are from.” (v. 27).  He then brings the conversation to a shocking and abrupt conclusion by saying, “Away from me, all you evildoers!” (v. 27).  So these pleading for entrance are not just strangers to the homeowner, but evildoers.  And no sane person is going to knowingly allow an evildoer into his home!

6.  We then have Jesus’ conclusion to the matter.  Remember, this conversation began with someone asking Jesus a specific question: “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”  Jesus concludes His analogical response by saying, 28“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

If we have correctly understood Jesus’ analogy as referring to eternal salvation, then His conclusion emphasizes several matters:

(a) Jesus describes the outside of the house as a place of “weeping . . . and gnashing of teeth.”  Those who

The agony of those outside . . .

don’t get into that house are on the outside and it is not a pleasant location!  It is characterized by weeping and teeth-gnashing. Edersheim, referring to the expression ““weeping and gnashing of teeth”” (used in Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; and here in Luke 13:28), points out that ““weeping”” is associated in Rabbinic thought with sorrow, but ““gnashing of teeth”” almost always with anger (not, as generally supposed, with anguish). [Is it not, therefore, reasonable to assume that those who reject the work of Christ, if they were offered the opportunity to leave hell, would rush to spread their sin and unbelief among the blood-bought children of heaven?]  Those outside the house are not in spiritual or eternal neutrality.  They experience terrific pain.

(b) Those who are outside will see the celebrated leaders of Judaism (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets) in the kingdom of God.  [This reminds one of the rich man's experience in Luke 16:19-31 who sees Lazarus in Abraham's bosom (heaven)].

(c)  Those outside will not only see Israel’s leaders in the kingdom of God.  But Jesus says, “you yourselves [will be] thrown out.” (v. 28).   (TO BE CONTINUED)

Discussion Questions:  When Jesus says in John 1:12 that one receives the RIGHT to be called a child of God, how do these pleading to be let in assume a RIGHT they do not possess?  How ought the fact of the owner of the house getting up and closing the door to His house motivate every believer to systematic, strategic, intentional evangelistic efforts right now?

 

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“Will Only a Few Be Saved?” (Part 1)

One of the arguments used by the neo-universalists (such as Rob Bell, Thomas Talbott, Philip Gulley,

CarltonPearson, etc.) is that the traditional gospel is STINGY, representing a God who is NOT generous and does NOT want all to be saved.  Evangelicals, it is charged, are guilty of holding to a fewness doctrine in which only a limited number will be redeemed.

First of all, I reject the notion that God is under obligation to save any!  Nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of God’s obligation to rescue any of us from our sins.  Jesus’ rescue mission flowed out of LOVE, not DEBT.  Bell argues that God’s very greatness is dependent on His melting every human heart.  He writes, “How great is God? Great enough to achieve what God sets out to do, or kind of great, medium great, great most of the time, but in this, the fate of billions of people, not totally great. Sort of great. A little great.” (Love Wins, 97-98).

Did Jesus ever face this question of whether FEW or MANY (or ALL) will be saved?  If so, what did HE say?

We read in Luke 13:

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Several observations are in order as we look at this biblical text.

1.  This specific question, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” was directly asked of the Lord Jesus.  Are we really interested in hearing His answer?

2.  The question is asked by “someone.”  We are not given any more specifics than that.  We are not told that it is a trap by the religious leaders.  “Someone” asks Him this most critical of all questions:  “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

3.  It sounds very much like the questioner is a believer in Jesus, for they seem to expect Him to be able to answer the question!  And the way the question is worded sounds like the assumption is that “only a few people” are going to be saved.

4.  We are told that “Jesus said to them . . .”  Apparently, He used this question as an opportunity to continue His teaching ministry to the people of the towns and villages He was traveling through as He was making His way to Jerusalem.

5.  To a simple, although profound, question (“Are only a few people going to be saved?”) which could have been answered with a straightforward “yes” or “no,” Jesus’ answer is neither.  He launches into a personal appeal to those listening to His answer.  Jesus does not deal in hypotheticals.  Instead, He issues a personal challenge to those listening to Him to make sure they are going to be saved: 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” 

6.  As is so often His way, Jesus immediately employs a figure of speech, a metaphor, to communicate His answer.  He discusses a door and a house and a homeowner.  One point might be that the house of salvation does not belong to us!  It belongs to Someone else who has every right to set the conditions for welcoming people into His home.

7.  And Jesus says that the door to that house is a “narrow door.”  Why would the door to salvation be narrow?  Doesn’t God want His house filled (refs?)?  Why isn’t the entrance into salvation a wide, rapid, moving sidewalk that will accompany any who want to step onto it?

8.  Note that Jesus’ challenge is “Make every effort to enter . . .”  It sounds as if getting into salvation’s house is difficult (see issue of rich man & “with man this is impossible”– who then can be saved?).  Perhaps those efforts to enter are difficult because of the “many” that “will try to enter and will not be able to.”  What in the world would keep people who want to enter that house from not being able to?!  This part of Jesus’ answers sounds like He is saying there will be FEW who will get into that house because MANY are trying to get in but won’t be able to!

9.  If Jesus’ answer stopped at this point, it would be very discouraging.  He appears to be saying that the most important matter is to make sure you are making every effort you can to get through that narrow door because many are trying to enter and aren’t able to.  (TO BE CONTINUED)

Discussion Questions:  How can we show from the Scriptures that Jesus’ expression “Make every effort” does not mean that we are saved by our good works or by our best efforts? Before we consider the rest of this text, do you get the impression that salvation is hard or easy?  That it is intended for the MANY or the FEW?

 

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