Tag Archives: Universalism

A lost sheep – ‘Lost’ Chapter 2

If you want to get to sleep counting sheep can help. But most of us don’t lose sleep over a wandering sheep! In Jesus’ day, though, a story about lost sheep resonated with those listening and certainly they clearly understood the metaphor.

The metaphor of a lost sheep

sheepIn Matthew 12:11 Jesus used the lost sheep metaphor to make the point that saving human life is more important than keeping to rules:

Matthew 12:11 “And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”

Later on in Matthew 18 he repeats the analogy with the story of another rescue – if we didn’t know better, we might have thought the Jesus was a shepherd (well, he was, of course) – the Good Shepherd!

Matthew 18:12 “How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?”

We go astray – just like sheep

The point of all this is that as fallen, sinful human beings we are just like sheep in our behaviour: we constantly stray and do stupid things!

Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

1 Peter 2:25 “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

We do the same sinful things over and over again even when we get the same negative results – insane!

Example: crazy tortoise!

This reminds me of when I was young and had a pet tortoise. It had nice enclosure with a chicken wire fence, plenty of grass, and even a little wooden house to live in. Every day the tortoise did three things: it ate, it slept and every other waking moment it spent climbing the fence trying to escape!

Surprisingly, tortoises are very good climbers but unfortunately they have no common-sense. In fact they have no sense at all, so that, when this one arrived at the top of the wire he just kept going and inevitably fell off onto his back. Ingeniously, he would then put his back legs up against the fence to push himself upright and get out of this scrape. Amazingly, he never learned the lesson – give up – but would begin the whole process again. He didn’t live long and I do wonder whether he died of concussion!

What’s the point?

So, what’s the point of this story? What can we learn? How does my crazy tortoise relate to us? If there hadn’t been sheep in biblical times, might the Bible have used the tortoise as an example?

“All we like tortoises have gone astray (very slowly!).”

Jesus, therefore, is the ultimate pastor or shepherd and his mission is to rescue dumb sheep – or tortoises – out of the mess they get themselves into! Our designation is lost – resistance is futile!

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Parable of the lost sheep of – Luke 15

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.

2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable:

4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders

6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Who are the lost sheep?

As we see in the above passage Jesus further expands and clarifies the parable of lost sheep as told in Matthew 18, intimating clearly, that he views the listening tax-gathers and sinners as the lost sheep! I don’t expect they were hearing this message in their local synagogue – if they attended at all!

This parable is basically saying that Jesus isn’t interested in faithful church-goers -the religious. No, he’s after the black-sheep of the family: the guy who sells crack cocaine; the prostitute; the pervert. It’s these people he’s prepared to risk life and limb for. This shepherd is scouring the outback in search of just one sheep because even sinners, broken and lost have value!

Zaccheus gets found!

This parable is played out in real-life later on in Luke 19 when a real ‘live’ wandering sheep by the name of Zaccheus is ‘found’ hiding in the branches of a tree!

Luke 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.

2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.

4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything,I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

A party!

Therefore, just as Zaccheus cannot believe his luck on being asked by Jesus to put on a party; the shepherd in the parable is so delirious with the success of his mission, that he invites his neighbours around for a knees up – over a sheep! A little crazy perhaps ? Might God be a little more into partying than we thought was decent?

Luke 15:7 “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”

What about repentance, though? – I hear the religious intone. If repentance means saying sorry for your sins – how does a sheep do that? I mean all it does is bleat, right! Of course, Zaccheus showed the fruits of repentance in the over-the-top restitution he made – but how could a sheep?

What is repentance?

I think the answer might lie in understanding that the sinful human condition separates us from God – in other words, we are lost! The moment that sin entered the world, Adam and Eve became wandering sheep and their first instinct was to hide amongst the trees and ‘cover up’ with fig leaves.

Indeed, religion is really an exercise in covering up nakedness and making us feel comfortable with our alienation and separation from God.

Colossians 1:21 “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.”

Separated from God?

This separation, though, is a virtual one. What do I mean? Well, it’s all in the mind; all in our thinking. God isn’t avoiding us. We are avoiding him!

Romans 1:25 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”

Ephesians 4:17 “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,”

Ephesians 2:3 “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

As you can see from these scriptures, sinful thinking leads to sinful behaviour. Might repentance, be not so much about what we do – but rather about a change of mindset? Is it that, when we encounter the pure love of God as we are laid on the good shepherd’s shoulders, we change our minds (repent) and a whole load of sinful thinking that has alienated us from the life of God falls away? Hopefully, the poor sheep learned the lesson: that wandering off equals a night in the dark and a near-death experience!

Chapter 1 – Lost

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The threat of Hell!

Some Arminian preachers claim that you need the threat of Hell to save people. In other words, you scare them to love and believe in God in order to make that ‘correct’ choice! Then, you continue to threaten them to keep them saved!

Is Calvinism fair?

Calvinists on the other hand, believe that God only purposes to save a select bunch – who miraculously seem to live in only certain parts of the world and at certain times in history. Odd that, you would have thought God could have been a bit more even handed – rather than be accused of racism! Indeed, most people have no choice, it doesn’t matter how wicked they are, they will respond because God wills so – according to the Calvinist? Unfortunately, the rest get to be eternally tortured in the flames of Hell. Sounds just like what Jesus would do to me!

In support of Calvinist theology though, the Apostle Paul seems to be a good example of unconditional election and grace as he lies in the dirt face down staring up into the face of the resurrected Jesus (who he didn’t believe in). At that point though, what choice did he have – really?

So, I get Calvinism as far as grace goes. When I was born of physical parents I didn’t  decide to get born. Likewise in the new birth; the decision wasn’t mine. Indeed, no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. That’s called grace.

God has a quota of saved souls?

What doesn’t make any sense though, is that a god of love and infinite power would decide to cap the quota of saved people at a few million in a few nations of the world. In other words, God is like Donald Trump building walls to keep people out of the kingdom! Therefore, rather than us choosing God – as Arminians believe – God chooses to reject most!

Dare I hope?

What if then, the Gospel (Good News) isn’t about saving people from Hell but saving them from a hellish life NOW! Jesus came to deliver us from this present evil age or (eternity) aeon. He delivers us from sin; he forgives all our sins; he fills us with the Holy Spirit; he heals us; he showers his gifts upon us. He wants relationship with us now! That is what (eternal) or life pertaining the age is!

Therefore, people don’t need a threat of Hell to be reconciled to God; they need to taste his infinite love!

What if, dare I believe it or hope, that Jesus does win in the end; that he is in fact the saviour of all men especially those who believe; that he will draw all men to himself and that the coming age will be one full of righteousness when all shall know the Lord? Scripture specifically says he wants to save all so why is it such a stretch to believe that he might get his way in the end? Or, is the devil too powerful and man so wicked, that no matter what God does, all he can do eventually – is whisk a few fortunate souls away in a rapture!

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Previous related post on the topic of Hell:

The first person to preach Hell?

Love never fails (Part 1)

Gods brilliant plan (Part 2)

How big are God’s plans? (Part 3)

God is a universalist (Part 4)

Jesus is God’s plan (Part 5)

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Jesus is God’s plan!

When we are talking about god’s plan of salvation we are really talking about a person: the God man Jesus Christ. His name means God is saviour or Joshua. Jesus the rescuer; He is God’s elect!

When did God come up with this plan?

jesusLet’s think for a moment. At what point in history did God come up with a plan to save humanity? Was it as a reaction to Adam’s sin? Did God have an emergency board meeting discussing what action heaven should take? No, God’s plan is and always will be the cross of Jesus – even before sin entered the world through Adam and Eve.

1 Peter 1:20 “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you”

Inventors of evil things

Incidentally, it seems a bit remiss of God not to warn Adam that if he sinned, not only would his children die but that they would burn for ever and ever tortured in hell? The simple explanation of course, is that it just isn’t true!

Romans 1:30 “inventors of evil things”.

I believe that only the wicked minds of men could invent and plan such horrible tortures inducing fear and control. That’s what religion does best! Look at its fruit: in the past – the inquisition and the burning or heretics. Today? Groups like Westbro Baptist Church and ISIS  (Islam has a similar theology of Hell based on gnostic Roman Catholicism but reserved for all those who don’t believe in Islam!)

Jeremiah 32:25 “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

However, I’m getting a bit distracted here. Just to say that God is a good God and he plans good things:

1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Ephesians 1:4 “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”

Jesus draws all men

Anyway, back to my point. Jesus is God’s plan. He is God’s choice and we are ALL chosen in him. This plan is all about Jesus; he is the focal point of history drawing ALL men and ALL things to himself!

John 12:32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw (pull) all men unto me.”

John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

What is that attraction? It is power of unconditional love! Resurrection power!

Colossians 1:20 “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

Jesus died for all

Anyhow, let’s have a look at what Jesus has done for us all at the cross. Firstly, Jesus didn’t just come to die for mankind. He came to die AS mankind.

2 Corinthians 5 “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again”

Therefore, this means that we should look at lost people around us differently. Not one of them is beyond the grace of God! Our only claim to fame, is that because we believe and are called christians, we now have been given a job to do: we are on God’s welcoming committee!

What about those who don’t hear this good news and die in their sins? Does death mean that Jesus gives up the search? After that point we are a lost cause? Death and the devil won! Just a minute though, Jesus came to save the lost – what can be more lost than missing the final call!

Jesus has the keys of death and hell so if he wishes to preach to the spirits in prison – who is going to stop him!

Jesus paid for all

Secondly, he’s paid everyone’s outstanding debt of sin!

1 Timothy 2:6 “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

John 1:9 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

1 John 2:2 “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Everyone is included! Jesus is the saviour of all men not some exclusive group!

Jesus  – the saviour of all

1 Timothy 4:10 “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”

For fun, let’s rewrite this verse as a Calvinist and then an Arminian:

If the bible was written by Calvinists this verse would say the following: God is not the saviour of all men only those that believe (the elect)

If the bible was written by an Arminian this verse would say the following: God wishes to be the saviour of all men but unfortunately he can only save those who believe in this lifetime.

Fortunately for us, the sentence structure is used identically elsewhere so the meaning is crystal clear with no ambiguity.

Galatians 6:10 “as we have opportunity let us do good unto all men especially those who believe.”

When you put these two verses together it leaves very little wiggle room as to the meaning of ‘all’.  In other words, Galatians 6:10 means that you are supposed to do good to everyone but ‘particularly’ (same Greek word in both verses) those within your sphere of influence: your neighbour, your church family.

Therefore, 1 Timothy 4:10 means: that God saves ALL. We all qualify but of course to experience that salvation we have to believe it! If we substitute other words instead of saviour the meaning abundantly becomes clear: “God is the judge of all men but especially those who believe.” (this is true by the way!)

Conclusions?

Consequently, could it be that Jesus wins all in the end?

Philippians 2:10 “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;”And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (see 1 corinthians 12:3) to the glory of God the Father.

1 Corinthians 15:28 “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

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Previous related post:

Love never fails (Part 1)

Gods brilliant plan (Part 2)

How big are God’s plans? (Part 3)

God is a universalist (Part 4)

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God is a universalist!

God is a Universalist!

universalistWhat is God’s will regarding salvation? Is it to predestine and save only the elect and damn the rest: as the calvinist doctrine of double-predestination teaches?

This flies in the face of some crystal clear scriptures as to God’s will on the matter. I believe, that if you asked God about his plans he wouldn’t sound much like a Calvinist or Arminian! No, he would probably sound a bit like one of those heretical universalists!

In fact, I would be bold to say that what the early church Father Augustine brought in the church, from his greek platonic philosophical roots, was actually gnostic heresy and the basis on which the Roman Catholic Church and much of protestant theology (especially hyper-calvinism) has been founded.

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Therefore, the above scripture clearly teaches that God is a Universalist: in the sense that he wants all men saved! That’s his fool-proof plan! Even the fool ( the atheist who says there is no God) is not immune to God’s desire!

God’s will is…

Consequently, God desires two specific things:

Firstly, that ALL of us are saved from the best to the worst sinner. He doesn’t want anyone to perish.

Secondly, that we ALL repent. In fact, he commands repentance. In other words, he commands you to change your stinking thinking; your paradigm – the strongholds in your mind; your false belief system or maybe even your treasured theology!

Acts 17:30 “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent:”

Therefore, it is quite clear what God wants. Who is going to resist his will? Are you stronger than God! Additionally, If God commands repentance then surely he wouldn’t ask us to do something we cannot do?

By the way, notice it doesn’t say ‘times of sinfulness’ but ‘times of ignorance.’ In simple language, God is saying: “You’ve been ignoring the reality guys. Wake up and believe the truth.”

Why does God delay?

1 Corinthians 13 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us, that love (God), is long suffering or patient. That’s the reason why God doesn’t just wipe us off the face of the planet: HIS LOVE.  He wishes to save everyone!

So, don’t come up with statements like God is love but love is not God. Love is from God. You can spot it a mile off!

1 John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”

His patient love is a bit like the pilot of an airliner refusing to take off on the runway until every last passenger is on board. The gates of the heavenly Jerusalem never shut! Rev 21:25.

Another clear verse that is forthright as to God’s will on the matter of salvation is:

1 Timothy 2:4 “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

So, are we saying along with the Arminians (who at least agree with the goal)  that God wants all men to be saved – that in fact he can’t manage it? In other words, his hands are tied by our free-will so he can’t really be blamed that 98% of the population end up damned frying in their own juices for eternity!

It doesn’t seem very godlike of God to fail so spectacularly! I just don’t believe it!

Or maybe, its really our fault because we just haven’t evangelised and preached enough. That’s probably why Arminians are strongly motivated to preach – God bless them!

Already done!

My firm hope is that God indeed does achieve his stated goal. I’m convinced that God can do it!

In fact, I believe he’s ALREADY DONE it. It was finished by Jesus on the cross.

1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Did you have a choice to be in Adam? No, of course not. How many people on this planet are in Adam. Everyone! What is the result: death. Likewise, through the cross everyone is included in Christ. What is the result: life. There are now no outsiders; we are all insiders!

Is everyone experiencing this miraculous transformation? No, of course not because faith is how we experience and enjoy it. My part, as an ambassador of this Gospel, is to communicate this message of reconciliation. You are in Christ!

Romans 5:18 “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

Look at the next verse:

Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s disobedience MANY (a large number/ all of us) were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall MANY (a large number/ all of us?) be made righteous.”

Again, like 1 Corinthians 15:22 we have two contrasting sentences. Adam sinned. The result  = all of us made sinners. Jesus obeys. The result = all of us made righteous?

Do you see it? How did we become sinners? Was it through our own disobedience? No. It was through the disobedience of Adam!

Likewise, how did we become righteous? Was it through our faithful obedience? No, it was through the obedience of Jesus! 

To finish

To finish, here is a prophetic promise of God’s ultimate victory:

Psalm 22:7 “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.”

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Previous related post:

Love never fails (Part 1)

Gods brilliant plan (Part 2)

How big are God’s plans? (Part 3)

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Love never fails!

1 Corinthians 13:8 “Love never fails”

loveRecently, I spent over three months meditating and praying for revelation and insight on my favourite passage of scripture: Luke 15; the parable of the prodigal son. As I wrote, I found myself thinking radical thoughts – I believe inspired by the Holy Spirit. The result was a book called ‘Lost’ and this article is really my conclusion to what I learnt writing the book.

Indeed, in writing this book I found my heart melting in the face of such unrelenting grace portrayed in these parables. My heart was warmed as I  began to believe that the Father, or papa of our Lord Jesus Christ, is much better than I could ever even imagine. This is a God, a father introduced to us by Jesus in these parables, that never gives up! He doesn’t stop looking for that which is lost until he finds it! Why? Because, the lost belong to him!

I mean, you lost your wallet you would be concerned and search high and low for it because it belongs to you!

My song love never fails!

The Calvinist version:

A humorous thought though, did occur to me while writing; if a Calvinist wrote the first of the parables in Luke 15: the parable of the lost sheep, it would go something like this:

“Jesus the good shepherd had a 100 sheep but only one of them was elect so he left the 99 lost sheep wandering in the wilderness! “

Of course, you have to understand Calvinism to get that one! And, not letting the Arminians off the hook – please forgive me all Calvinists and Arminians (I love you). They would say:

The Arminian version:

“Jesus the good shepherd had a 100 sheep but he only managed to rescue one or two of them (who were therefore elect) because the rest didn’t want to be saved and evaded capture. Therefore he gave up and came home.

No, Jesus the good shepherd is not satisfied with one sheep – he wants to save all one hundred! All the flock!

The Universalist version:

By the way, you know this – if your a collector of anything –  your collection is not complete until you have the last missing piece. Similarly, a jigsaw with even just one missing piece is unfinished! I believe that is how God feels about every member of the human race – no matter how wicked and perverted they are. Not one of them is beyond God’s grace. They are all God’s offspring as Paul declares in Acts 17:29

“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”

Does that mean I’ve become a Universalist. Well maybe and maybe not as I will try and articulate in the following posts!

Next related post

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Further reading:

Christ descended into hell

A hellish confusion

Why don’t we talk about hell

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