I catch a bit of grief for my approach to Christianity. When I share biblical truths, I tend to do so very unapologetic, and with very direct calls to follow the Word of God. I believe in Solo Scriptora: The Scriptures Alone. It has not won a lot of friends, particularly in church circles. I am so quick to call out the failures of the modern church movements that a college professor told me to lay off the church. Liberal church members do not like that when discussing church, I do not fall to trends and liberal theologies, but return to the Scriptures for how the church should react to their ideas. It makes me sound exclusive and not very welcoming to people, according to their ideology. I really okay with that statement. I really believe that the Scripture is the infallible and inerrant Word of God for His people. A Special revelation of Himself to those that would call upon His name for salvation. Today I am going to share the Scriptural reasons I believe that Christianity is actually the most inclusive and exclusive relationship we can have.
For God so loved the world in this way, that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus leads to the proclamation of the love of God and how he showed that love. God so loved the world is a very inclusive statement. It was not just the Jews that God loved, it is not just the Christians He loves, it is the entire world. He loves the sinner and the saint. He loves the world in the most amazing way, that He would send His only son. This is typically the end of the message today. God is love and we should accept all in the name of love. This is true, God is love. His very being and essense is love. He loves His creation with all of His compassion and fartherly affection. While this is heartwarming and gives us the feels, it is not the end of the passage. He loved the world in this way. I love the Holman Christian Standard translation of this passage because it represents the Aramaic expression with so much depth and meaning. God did not just love, He wanted man to have a deep and loving relationship with Him. He desires fellowship with His creation, but, because of His holy nature, He can not fellowship with man in its fallen status. He can not fellowship with sin. God love in a way that required their sin be removed from His sight, and He did that through His son. Very Inclusive love.
The idea of His son can be a stumbling block to some. Jesus is called the LORD in many passages in the New Testament. This is what is called a tetragramaton in theological circles. The book of Exodus tells of an encounter that God had with Moses at the Burning Bush. During the discussion, Moses asks who he will tell the Egyptians and the Hebrews sent him. God responds with the phrase I AM that I AM has sent him. This word is a from a Hebrew word that has no vowels and is the English equivalent to YHWH. It is a name without utterance, and we translate it to Yahweh. When the Greek Old Testament was translated from the Hebrew, the translators had no way to write YHYH, so they translated it as LORD, all capital letters signifying this was the name God had given to Himself. Jesus tells Nicodemus that all who believe in the Son will not perish. There is a stark difference between believing in and believing on something. When I was a little child, I believed in the tooth fairy. I truly believed that she would come and replace my teeth with quarters. When I grew older, I quit believing in the tooth fairy. Believing on something is completely different. When I believe on the Son, I just do not say I believe He is there or that He is real, but rather I believe on what He is. I believe that His existence is not a a human alone, but that I know that His purpose is to be the God of Moses that would deliver His people from bondage.
Why do I say this? Let us look at Romans 10:13 as it says that those that call upon the name of the LORD will be saved. Here we see the tetragramaton used in reference to Jesus. He is the LORD. That name, whe unspeakable name to the Jews, is the name that will bring salvation to men. Romans 10:9-10 says that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God rose Him from the grave, we will be saved. It goes on to say that it is in the heart we believe into righteousness, or become in right standing with God, and it is opur mouth that confesses in salvation. Then it goes on to say that those who call upon the name of the LORD will be saved. This is in stark contrast to Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus says that not everyone that says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Lord here is translated as boss, or overseer.. This is a huge difference, and where the inclusivity ends.
All are welcome to come and taste what the LORD has to offer. All can call upon the name of the LORD, all can experience salvation. not all who proclaim a faith will truly be of the faith. I listened to a young gay man proclaim loudly at the United Methodist Conference that the church he wants to be a part of is a welcoming church where everyone is welcomed and not hated. I would agree with him in theory. The reality is that the church is exclusive to those that are in the faith, have repented of their sin before a God that loves them so much that He gave up Jesus, not to teach about love and acceptance, but to be a sacrifice that was holy enough to forgive the sins of man, so He could love them in fellowship.
What is the church application of all of this? The church is going to be surprised some day when many who attend are not allowed into Heaven. They will cry out Lord, Lord, but Jesus will say for them to depart from Him because they worked iniquity, sin. The application is that instead of trying to fill the pews up with the lost to hear a message, why don’t we take the message to the lost? Instead of making the church a place where the sinner feels comfortable, why not preach the holiness and judgement of God against those that would not believe? Instead of teaching that all you have to do to be saved is recite a prayer, why are we not teaching people to truly be saved? Why are we afraid to say that Jesus is the way the truth and the life, and no man gets to the Father except through Him? Heaven is very exclusive.