Who Then Can Be Saved?

Jesus’s disciples asked this question of Him — then who can be saved? A man who stood before Christ declaring that he’d kept all the Law, went away grieving because Jesus asked one more thing of him — all he owned.

Jesus explained it was as hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven as it was for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Then the disciples’ question, essentially asking, Who can give what it takes?

Jesus responded by saying, No one. It really is impossible for you … but not for God.

Who in the world is saved?

In the twenty-first century the question of the day, spurred on by writers like Paul Young (The Shack) and Rob Bell (the soon-to-be-released Love Wins) is this: since God can save, does He save all? The understood corollary is, If not, is he not an ogre? (And since we choose to believe he is not an ogre, then he must save all.)

I am not frightened by the questions. I think they’re valid, even fair. But questions about God should be answered by God, not by people imagining whatever they wish about Him. Consequently, we should look at what Scripture has to say about who can be saved.

First, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that everyone isn’t going to be saved. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. People not accepting Jesus will have no mediator.

Everlasting life is promised to those who believe on the name of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. Forgiveness for sins comes from no other name. Those not believing on His name will have no forgiveness.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
– John 3:18

In addition, Jesus spoke often of a divide — those who follow and obey Him separated from those who don’t. He said this divide would split families, that some would think they were on one side of the divide only to find out on the judgment day that they were on the other, that few would actually be on the road to salvation and many would be marching toward destruction. He told story after story that ended with disbelieving or disobedient people thrown into outer darkness or into a place of fire where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, is God an ogre? I mean, if ALL these people are doomed for eternity, and He has the power to save, then how can He be considered as anything but the cruel being atheists like Christopher Hitchens and emergents like Mike Morrell claim — if the God of the Old Testament existed (which neither of them believe).

Again, I say, that question, is God an ogre — a cruel, terrifying being — needs to be answered by going to the Bible. Within the pages of Scripture, I learn that what God created is good, His acts are good, His words are good, His plans are good, His gifts are good, His promises are good, His lovingkindness is good, His Spirit is good. In the end, Jesus states it outright:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
-Mark 10:18 (emphasis mine)

If those asking if God is an ogre say they believe Jesus, then they should take Him at His word, concluding that God is good, not cruel. [By the way, Jesus as God Incarnate, is also good. That He asked, Why do you call me good? served to show that the guy he was talking to didn’t really think Jesus was God, or good.]

We see from Scripture, then, that not everyone will be saved and that God is not an ogre. How can the two both be true? Don’t we have to believe either one or the other?

This seems to be Rob Bell’s approach, judging from his promotional video. I could stop right here and say, trust in God is accepting what He has revealed, even if I don’t understand how these apparently conflicting elements can both be true.

But in this case, we don’t have to stop because God has given us so much more upon which our faith can stand.

First God doesn’t hide the truth about sin. He stated from the beginning that rebellion against Him would lead to death.

At this point, some might argue that it shouldn’t, that God doesn’t have the right to sentence people to death or that death is too harsh a punishment. Essentially those people are saying God shouldn’t be allowed to be the judge, another way of saying God shouldn’t be allowed to be God. Or they are again accusing Him of not being good. Ironically, what God has done about sin proves His goodness more than anything else.

At the start, God warned Adam about the consequences of doing what He told him not to do. When Adam sinned anyway, God illustrated the consequence right away by making an animal sacrifice. But He also kept His word, and eventually each person except Enoch faced physical death.

God’s work throughout history has been to save Mankind from the consequences of our sin, culminating in He Himself becoming the needed sacrifice. How is it that people miss this when accusing God of wrong-doing?

He died to satisfy the penalty His justice demanded. We don’t have three gods. Jesus is not at odds with His Father. God is not wrathful and Jesus loving.

The penalty for sin was one the triune God required and the triune God paid. The Father’s wrath was the Son’s wrath. The Son’s sacrifice was the Father’s sacrifice. We cannot split God and make Him out to be three individuals operating as if they were independent from one another.

The mystery of God, manifesting Himself as three yet being one, does not allow us to accuse Jesus of being less just or the Father of being less loving. God, in His mercy, went to the cross — the Father sending, the Son dying — to provide reconciliation with sinners.

But reconciliation is not a blanket pardon. God stipulated that those who believe will be saved.

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
– Rom. 10:9

In the end, the matter is simple. We can believe what God said or what some men have imagined.

Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm  Comments (11)  
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