Words of a Fether

I am the way, the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father except through me. ~Jesus

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One God Fits All?

When Jesus said open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest (John 4:35), who’d have thought this could one day apply to the Body of Christ itself? Of all the people on the face of the earth who should know the gospel and be united around our faith, it should be us, yet a large number of Christians don’t seem to know what makes them such. But scripture tells us: There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:4-6).

But Jesus also had this to say about a past/future congregation: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead (Rev. 3:1), and Paul said in 2 Tim. 3, But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days... having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. This late in the church age, we should hardly be surprised that such conditions exist now. But at the same time, we have to go about the task of spreading the gospel— even if that means witnessing to professing believers as the largest mission field of all.

There are very disturbing teachings coming from Christendom these days. Take this quote from Tony Campolo for example:

When it comes to what is ultimately important, the Muslim community’s sense of commitment to the poor is exactly in tune with where Jesus is in the 25th chapter of Matthew. That is the description of judgment day. And if that is the description of judgment day what can I say to an Islamic brother who has fed the hungry, and clothed the naked? You say, But he hasn’t a personal relationship with Christ. I would argue with that. And I would say from a Christian perspective, in as much as you did it to the least of these you did it unto Christ. You did have a personal relationship with Christ, you just didn’t know it. And Jesus himself says: On that day there will be many people who will say, when did we have this wonderful relationship with you, we don’t even know who you are. . . Well, you didn’t know it was me, but when you did it to the least of these it was doing it to me. (emphasis mine) — (source)
A slight variant of this teaching is that since there is only one God, then every god is that one God. But aside from the fact that Campolo ripped Jesus’ words completely out of its context of judging how people treated Tribulation believers, esp. Jews (or we’d have to say that salvation is not by faith but by good deeds alone), his reasoning is absurd. Can I say that I’m really married to Johnny Depp but just don’t know it?* Can someone who worships a tree or a rock be worshiping the one true God and not know it? Can you visit me at my house but say you really went to England to visit the queen? Jesus wasn’t saying that all worship of any god or thing is really worship of God; that is nothing but scripture-twisting. He was simply saying that how people of that time treat His followers shows their attitude toward Him.

Such wild interpretations can only be sustained by ignoring the many scriptures that teach against them and show that salvation must be by faith in the Jesus who died for our sins and rose from the dead, and that He is the God not of every religion but of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob— which unmistakably distinguishes Him from even the so-called god of Islam, for not all of Abraham’s descendants are children of promise (Rom. 9:6-8). And even the Jews of the first century had to accept the crucified and risen Jesus as Messiah (Acts 2:38), for no one can have the Father without the Son (1 John 2:22-23, 5:10-12).

If everyone who worships something is really worshiping the one true God, then of what purpose is the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20)? And what sense can we make of the words of Paul in Rom. 10:9-15?

If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

If in fact people can be saved by sincerely practicing their own religion, then it would be better to never send out missionaries to them! But the predictable objection is raised, Then what about those who aren’t told? There are several ways to answer this, but I think it really boils down to whether or not we trust God to be just and fair and merciful, that all who sincerely seek Him (Acts 17:27, Hebrews 11:6) will be told the gospel. The God who knows the number of hairs on your head and sees when a sparrow falls to the ground (Luke 12:5-7) cannot send someone to hell on a technicality. And no, rejecting the gospel one hears is not a technicality (or cold doctrine), but rebellion.

That reference in Acts 17 is very applicable on another level as well. Look at vs. 16 through 31 and note especially the last two verses:

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
In the past God overlooked people worshiping God in ignorance, but now He does not. In fact, He COMMANDS all people everywhere to repent. And of course, the Greek word repent doesn’t tell us what is to be repented of, but only the context. And what is the context? Ignorance of the one true God. Certainly, Paul was using the unknown God inscription as a hook or way of introduction, and not validating their worship as having merit before God. But even if some take it that way, it seems obvious from the command to repent part that this age in history is one where worshiping in ignorance just doesn’t count.

God has stated clearly that He will not share his glory with another (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11), that He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5, 34:14, Deut. 32:16 etc.), and that there is no name besides the Jesus who rose from the dead by which anyone can be saved (Acts 4:10-12). If there were no other gods, then God Himself spoke nonsense in the very first of the Ten Commandments! Worshiping anything or anyone but the God who sent Jesus His Son to die for our sins and rise again is worshiping an idol, and those who do not know God by name/identity are lost. That’s scripture. That’s the gospel.

* To my husband John: you know I’m being facetious. :-D

Posted 2010-09-03 under Jesus, salvation, God, evangelism, religion