I was reading Michael Patton’s recent thought-provoking post, “How to Prepare for Hell- A “Just in Case” Letter to My Unbelieving Friends” and in the comments section someone wrote that to properly share the love of Christ, they feel they must promote the doctrine of universalism (i.e., the belief that all will be saved, whether or not they believe in Christ). They justified this by saying, “ the God we worship will by no means allow the vast majority of the human family to be permanently separated from him and his love for us is greater than the punishment that we deserve.” A few months ago I was writing on universalism quite a bit, in response to the teachings of Rob Bell. This is a theme that continues to be on my mind and heart a lot these days. I believe the teaching of universalism seriously compromises the gospel, appealing to the spirit of the age we seem to be living in, that says love= tolerance of all ways and all truths.
Here is my response to the commenter:
Certainly it is true that God’s love for us is greater than the punishment we deserve! Yet this love for us is always mediated through Jesus Christ alone, as He Himself declares. Unless one believes in Christ, they will die in their sins (John 8:24). No one comes to the Father, except via Christ the Way (John 14:6). If you have the Son, you have the Father, but if you don’t believe in Christ, you make God out to be a liar, for you deny His testimony about His Son (1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:10-12). Eternal life is found in the Son. We know we have the Son, when we believe these things. This in turn causes us to live for Him in this life.
But if universalism is true, there’s no need to emphasize these truths and include them in the presentation of the gospel. Moreover, it is not necessary to preach the gospel at all, since everyone is already on their way to God and heaven, whether or not they have the Son. But the Bible was written and the gospel must be preached so that we might know and believe these exclusive, life-saving, life-changing truths. So that we might find the Son, be found in Him, and escape the wrath that comes on those who remain in their sins. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18).”
The truths about Jesus being the exclusive way to eternal life and to the Father, the only way to be given righteous standing before God and forgiven our sins, are clearly stated. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:9-11).”
Universalism contradicts this, teaching or implying that one’s sins will be forgiven even if one does not know Christ in this life. But God is not obligated to forgive sins and give eternal life to those who reject His Son! Jesus’ purpose for coming was to remove our sins (1 John 3:5), but universalism in effect says we can stand before God in our own righteousness (i.e., apart from Christ) and still be accepted. To share the real love of Christ, tell the truth about sin & how Jesus alone takes away sin. Otherwise the “love” of Christ we share is but sentimentality that keeps people in their sins.