By David Faust
Actually, universalism is no joke. It’s a widely accepted philosophy imbedded in the psyche of our generation. The idea that one must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved sounds antiquated, judgmental, and narrow beyond belief to postmodern ears. According to Jesus, the broad road leads to destruction and the narrow road leads to life (Matthew 7:13, 14), but universalists say the wide road is the right road and all people, no matter how unfaithful and disobedient, eventually will be saved. They emphasize God’s love and mercy but minimize his wrath and righteousness. They ignore the concept of Hell and assume that all who die will go to Heaven regardless of their beliefs.
Universalism’s popularity comes as no surprise. If believers and unbelievers alike will experience salvation, why be concerned about new birth, holy living, or sound doctrine? Why risk offending anyone by speaking about Christ? Why draw any religious lines in the sand? Universalism is a live-and-let-live philosophy, a religion of few demands.
When a leader in the Unitarian Universalist Church was asked how to become a universalist, he gave a striking response: “You may already be one without knowing it!” Many would never call themselves universalists, but they adopt the philosophy nonetheless and express it with statements like these: “Oh well, we’re all headed to the same place,” “Don’t be so narrow-minded; Christianity is no better than any other faith,” “A loving God would never condemn anyone,” or “Sincerity is all that matters.”
When viewed in light of Scripture, however, universalism has many problems. For one thing, it dampens our appreciation for God’s grace. If everyone is going to be saved anyway, what’s the big deal about being rescued from sin?
Universalism steals our zeal for evangelism. The early church grew exponentially because Spirit-led believers preached passionately and lived sacrificially. They believed eternal life hung in the balance and salvation could be found in Christ alone.
Universalism weakens our understanding of the church’s purpose. Jesus not only said, “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” but he also said, “whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Ambiguity about our message produces apathy toward our mission. Universalism attacks the nerve center of the body of Christ, paralyzing outreach efforts and lulling believers into selfishness, indifference, and inactivity.
When Jesus was asked, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” he responded, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:23, 24). Ultimate judgment is God’s prerogative, not ours. Our job isn’t to consign others to Hell, but neither do we have the right to pronounce someone “saved” simply because he “seems saved” to us. Nor is it our job to insist on manmade rules and opinions that make the narrow road narrower than it already is. Instead, we need to focus on what God has plainly revealed and trust him with what we don’t know, proclaiming the whole counsel of God even when it’s unpopular.
Cultural trends vary, but the Bible plainly teaches:
There is one true God, and he alone is the author of salvation. “I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11).
Jesus Christ is unique (John 3:16). He makes exclusive claims: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). At the cross and the empty tomb, he accomplished what only he could do.
Heaven and Hell are real. Jesus said, “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28, 29).
Each of us has a personal responsibility to accept God’s gift of salvation. God forces himself on no one, but says, “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).
God “is patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We can share this message of hope without being condescending or holier-than-thou. Without hesitation or embarrassment, let’s lift up the saving name of Jesus.
This article is adapted from “The Wide Road Is Still the Wrong Road” by David Faust, published in the October 25, 2009 issue of the Christian Standard.