06 March 2009

Universalism: All means ALL! (Pt 3)

Let us look now at the covenantal aspects that some of these universalism interpreters seem to be totally missing. I am going to keep this really simple, and will be assuming most readers already understand much of this (in other words, time and space will not be given to expound or defend this very deeply).

The Old Testament tells us of God's dealing with his people; a special people chosen out of all the nations. A small group in comparison to many nations, but a group in which God showed special treatment to. They had the oracles and sacraments of God; they had his laws, his words, he special blessings (and cursings). They were HIS people unlike any other nation.

God had this special relationship with them, and established what is known as the Covenant, with them. They lived under the blessings of this Covenant, and received things that no other people received from God. One of the promises God gave to his people was that of a Messiah. A savior who would come and set them free. They, the people of God, this small group of people, were given a special promise of redemption by their creator, that no other nation was promised.

When this savior came upon the scene, he came first and foremost to his people; that was his mission, to his people, the covenant people of God (Matt. 15:22-24). His mission was to them, as their Messiah. He collected and taught the twelve, and then sent them only out to these same covenant people (Matt. 10).

Sure, this is painting with broad strokes, but I am trying to keep it simple, since that is what is required here. Sure, I know the promise of the Gentiles coming in was prophesied, and the eventual divorce and destruction of God's once covenant people had already been foretold (Deut. 32, Isaiah 65-66, etc.); but for now, the playing out that was going on at the time of Jesus, was the Messiah reaching out to HIS chosen and covenanted people.

So, his mission was limited to that of the nation that was God's covenanted people. He was their savior, he had come for them, and he sent forth apostles to them for their repentance. The focal point of Jesus' ministry while he was here, was to those covenanted people of God.

The Jews likewise had in their mind that it was them and them alone who God was for. Even the Apostles, who knew who Jesus was, were still under the impression he was there solely to bless and save the Jews. Those who converted from the Jewish ways to become followers of Jesus, likewise thought he was solely concerned with his covenanted people of old. We know even Peter had some issues with this, and had a hard time when Paul was called into the scene to be the preacher unto the Gentiles.

This is (or should be) common knowledge to those reading the Bible. This is the culture and understanding of those living at that time. The Jews were IT when it came to a relationship with the creator, the Gentiles were NOT. So, you have these preachers (the Apostles) now burst on the scene with claims that not only was Jesus the sacrifice and savior of the Covenant people, but that this salvation was also now being offered to those outside the old covenanted people. The gospel went to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). A hard pill to swallow as a Jewish man of that time frame.

So, with this understanding in your hand now, and I hope the universalists can get their head around this historical truth; is it so hard to understand that when it is proclaimed by a teacher that "Jesus died for all," it was not a declaration of Jesus' sacrifice being for every single member of mankind, but that it was a direct address to, a direct attack against, the idea that if Jesus was the Messiah (as many of these former Jews fully believed now), that his sacrifice was not simply only for the Jews as they still tended to think, but that he had died for...you guessed it..."all manner of men," both Jews AND Gentiles. They had to be taught and convinced that now, in this gospel age, the old ways of Judaism were quickly passing away, and that salvation was being offered to all men everywhere, all types of men, not just the Jews. Again, a hard pill to swallow, but the reality that needed to be preached.

That is why in part one I could declare (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that I AM a universalist also. I believe that the gospel message went from being for one small group of the world's population, to now being declared to be applicable to all of mankind...all manner of men everywhere, and not just the Jews any longer. The gospel and sacrifice was for all...in it's proper understanding as we have seen.

This leads us right back to our look at one of the universalist's scriptures we discussed...let us see how, in context, this is exactly what Paul was also saying here in 1 Timothy 2:1-8:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all (types of) men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all (types of) men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all (types), to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Paul makes it a special point to note that he has been called to be an Apostles unto the Gentiles, again, letting them know that the message and promises are no longer to be thought of as strictly applying only to the single group of God's original covenant people, but now the message, hope, redemption and promises are for all (types of) men.

Paul is in no way saying that God was wishing for every single solitary member of the human race to be saved, as that would be contradictory to so many other passages...some of which we will look at in the next section.

Jump on over to PART 4