Monday, April 11, 2011

Doctrine of Eternal Judgment, Pt. 1-A: The Gospel, the Witness of the Father and the Son

I begin this series by lifting a passage to you that has been comforting to many believers throughout the centuries; a passage that God has used to melt the hardened hearts of men and women all over the world; a passage that is so simple a child can understand it. What is that passage? The passage concerns the simplest exposition of God’s plan of salvation: John 3:16. Before I dive into this most wonderful verse, let’s survey our context.
In the first verses of John chapter 3, we note that Jesus tells Nicodemus of the necessity of a spiritual rebirth: “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v.3, NKJV). This verse has always been preached as “born again,” but the Greek word for “again” is anothen, meaning not only “again” but also “from above.” So if one substitutes “from above” for “again” in the context, Jesus says here, “unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In my mind at least, this would clarify the meaning of “born again.” But in the context, it seems that the word was used to mean “born again,” which is why Nicodemus asks Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (Jn. 3:4) Nicodemus asks this question because this was a literal meaning of “born again.” However, this was not Jesus’ point...so Nicodemus clearly didn’t understand the spiritual issue at hand. In verse 9, Nicodemus is clearly confused about these things, asking, “How can these things be?” (3:9)
Jesus turns around and directs a question to Nicodemus that I believe was fitting for him: “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” (v.10) Nicodemus was, according to the text, “a ruler of the Jews” (v.1). He was a Pharisee, one who knew the law, one who read and studied the law...and yet, he never understood anything in it regarding the spiritual rebirth. Do you not find it interesting that Jesus is not conversing with one person from the masses, but instead a “ruler of the Jews,” someone who taught the law? How much more blind it seems Nicodemus was, that he could teach a law that he didn’t quite understand himself! And the sad thing is, if Nicodemus didn’t get it, chances are, the rest of the Pharisees didn’t get it either! They were just as lost (if not more) than Nicodemus was...
Verse 11 comes as a surprise in a text that is addressing spiritual rebirth (regeneration). Jesus states, “We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness” (v. 11). Who is the “we” of this passage? Who is the “our” of this passage? The “We” and “Our” refer to not just Jesus, but also God the Father (see John 5:37). So when Jesus says that it is “Our” witness, He is saying that both He and the Father stand united in His words, that the message He gives is not His own but that of the Father’s also. For inclusivists who say that one can get to “Yahweh” and worship Yahweh without Jesus, read the words of John 3:11---the witness of John 3 is not just Jesus’ alone, but the Father’s also. In other words, you cannot please the Father without going through Jesus (John 14:6) because the Father’s own teaching is that one must confess and believe on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation. Thus, Jesus could rightly say, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber...I AM THE DOOR...if anyone enters BY ME, HE WILL BE SAVED, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn. 10:1, 9). Jesus is the door of the sheep, and if anyone comes another way, he is nothing more than a thief and a robber. So for inclusivists (those who argue one does not have to explicitly confess the name of Jesus for salvation) who are bent on making the gospel more “palatable” to sinners, they are telling people to be “thieves and robbers” and attempt to be saved some way other than the way Jesus has given. In other words, they are telling sinners a false gospel and will be held accountable to God in the end for spreading such deceit and falsehood.

In my next post, I intend to tackle Jesus’ analogy of the serpent in the wilderness (Jn. 3:14-15). Before I go though, let me reiterate that the gospel (which we will get into as we examine John 3) is the testimony of both God the Father and God the Son. There is no other way to be saved than through Jesus Christ. I plead with inclusivists to stop staining the gospel of our Lord and affirm what is written in its pages, no matter how great the existential angst and agony. And with those who have never believed on the Lord Jesus Christ I say to you, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b). You can be saved today, if you call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the prophet Isaiah pleaded, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). That’s the message: that you’re never too old, you’re never too young, you’ve never done something so rotten that the Lord Jesus Christ will not save you. He is mighty to save; just call upon His name.

You may ask, “How can I call upon His name for salvation?” The answer is so simple: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For THERE IS NO DISTINCTION between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Romans 10:9-13). All you have to do is confess that Jesus is Lord over all, including your own life, and believe in your heart that God the Father raised Him from the dead (that He died and rose for our sins), and you will be saved. This is the testimony of Scripture: from the Old Testament to the New, Jesus is the Christ, the one sent to take away our sins...and by faith in His name, our sins which are many are washed away.
To those who live on the most remote islands, this is the Word of the Lord coming to you in this moment: By believing on the name of the only Son of God, Jesus Christ, you will be saved. General revelation isn’t gonna save...Buddha will not save...Confucius will not save...you cannot even do enough work to earn your salvation. All you can do is put faith in the One who merited your salvation and mine, Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. And only by faith can we be made right with God. Do not delay, for “now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.” Call upon His Name today. Please respond here if you believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. God bless.

2 comments:

The Seeking Disciple said...

Thanks for what you are doing in defending the exclusive position. So few are doing this and I am watching with sadness as many Arminians are drifting toward Roger Olson and his views about inclusive theology. We need more voices like your own.

Deidre Richardson said...

Roy,

I praise God for your support and friendship. It's such a blessing to know that brothers and sisters in Christ can count on one another for support in these times in which the truth of the Word of God is being exchanged for a lie.

Inclusivism is indeed on the rise, which I think is so sad and damaging to the Gospel. With every bit of fervor in me, I will continue to defend the exclusivity of Christ and the Gospel. Praise God for your own work in this matter. Let's continue to do the work of the Lord.