Sunday, January 15, 2017

Result, Not Condition

“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son in order that all those believing might not perish but have eternal life.”  This is perhaps the most well known verse in the Bible but what does it mean?  Does it mean that unless we believe we will not live eternally?  Certainly we know that unbelievers and many other types of sinners will end up in the lake of fire. (Rev. 21:8) Isaiah tells us, “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”  Sin has no place in the New Jerusalem. The question is, will there be any cowards, or unbelievers or murderers or sinners to throw into that lake?  You see, when John speaks about “all those believing,” he is not setting a condition, rather he is describing the result.  Any believing on our part is the result, not the condition of God’s love and the sending of his son. Remember the Red Sea.  God saved the children of Israel and then they believed.  How could it be less with the Lord Jesus?  Sometimes we are also deceived by our interpretation of Romans 10 where it says that “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.”  We think that here too, Paul is imposing a condition on salvation, “you have to believe otherwise you will not be saved.”  But what is happening in Romans 10 is different.  Paul is speaking to those at Rome who are anxious.  They're not Jewish; Israel is the apple of God’s eye but what about them, what about people of different ethnicities?  Paul calms them, “your believing, your calling on the Lord is assurance that God has already broken into you life, already saved you and he's faithful and will stick by you all the way!  The “if” is not a condition, it is a comfort.  It turns out that the only requirement for salvation is to be a sinner.  What happens if all your life you have never believed?  The answer is we do not know.  We know that God is good and he sees all the good you have done in your life.  We know too that death is no impediment to Jesus.  He goes down into hell and preaches to the worst of the worst. (I Peter 3:19) As the theologian, Markus Barth said, God is both willing and able to save all men, turning them to the truth.  Some object, “my whole life I have been believing, how is it that someone who in their life never knew Jesus might enter the kingdom too?  How is that fair?”  But isn't this the objection of the workers in Matthew 20? What is the Lord’s answer? “Friend, I am doing you no wrong…Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Why do you give me the evil eye because I am good?”