I came to faith in Christ for my eternal salvation nearly fifty years ago in September of 1972. Back then all of us Jesus people (as we were called) were concerned for everyone within Christendom who did not have “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” The Jesus movement as a whole was quite diverse. Not all were Free Grace. In fact, many were not. But we all agreed that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestants were not born again and needed to be.
In the forty-eight years since then, more and more Evangelicals believe that essentially 100% of the people within Christianity are born again—with most excluding cults that deny the full deity of Christ.
There are several ways in which this sort of universalism for all in Christendom is held. Many would say that all who are sincerely seeking to follow Jesus are eternally secure, regardless of how well they are doing. That would mean that nearly everyone in Christianity will be in the kingdom.
Others says that everyone who has been baptized is guaranteed to be in Jesus’ kingdom. That too would mean that nearly everyone in Christianity is secure.
Still others say that everyone who believes that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again is part of God’s forever family. Since nearly 100% of people in Christianity believe that, this, too, is a version of Christian universalism.
We in the Free Grace Movement (FGM) know that only those who believe in Jesus for everlasting life have that life, as the Lord Jesus Himself (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-27) and His apostles (Acts 16:31; Rom 4:1-8; Gal 2:16; 3:6-14; Eph 2:8-9) said. Following Jesus, being baptized, and even believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection do not guarantee one’s eternal destiny.
But why did the Lord and His apostles teach such a narrow way to be saved? Such teaching excludes a lot of people in Christendom who have never believed in Jesus for everlasting life.
The reason is simple. The Lord Jesus taught that because that is the truth. His apostles taught that because that is the truth.
If you study the Lord’s evangelistic messages in John’s Gospel, you will see that He never gives an invitation to believe.i He simply states that whoever believes in Him will never perish but has everlasting life. The apostles say that same thing.
When we evangelize, we are in the truth-telling business. We are not selling anything. We are not seeking for people to pray a prayer, walk an aisle, make a commitment, or be baptized. We are simply telling them that the Lord Jesus guarantees everlasting life to all who believe in Him for it. For proof, we point to the cross and the empty tomb. Jesus removed the sin barrier so that we are able to have everlasting life simply by believing in Him. If He had not died in our place and risen from the dead, then faith in Him would be worthless (1 Cor 15:19).
It is not telling the truth to tell people that if they believe that Jesus died for them and rose again, then they are safe and secure even if they do not believe that it is possible to be safe and secure prior to death. If we are trying to enlighten all people within Christianity that they are born again no matter what, then we are inadvertently supporting those whom the Scriptures say we should treat as under a curse. Modern day Judaizers are clearly proclaiming a different gospel from what Paul preached (Gal 1:6-9). Paul pronounced an anathema, a curse, on such preachers.
Remember the old TV game show, To Tell the Truth? Well, it is not just an old show from 1956-1981. It is now in its sixth season in its current go round (2016 to date). Three contestants are on stage and two are imposters. The panelists ask questions and try to find out which one of the three is telling the truth.
Sadly, it is not simply people in non-Christian religions who need to find out who is telling the truth. People in Christendom need to find and believe the truth as well. Most people in Christianity proclaim some sort of salvation by works. That is not telling the truth. That is a lie. We cannot be saved by good works (Eph 2:8-9). We can only be saved by faith in Christ for everlasting life.
To slightly modify the motto that we learned when on staff with Cru: We are to share Christ and His promise of everlasting life to whoever will listen with the result that those who believe in Him have that life. And we are to leave the results to God. Tell the truth. Not all in Christianity are kingdom-bound. That is only true of those who have believed in Jesus for their eternal destiny.
i. John 4:10 is an invitation to ask God what the saving message, the living water, is. The question in John 11:26, “Do you believe this?” is not an invitation to believe, but is instead the Lord giving Martha, whom He knows believes in Him for everlasting life, the opportunity to confess her faith, a confession He knew would end up in Scripture (John 11:27).