The following is written in response to an ELCA article in “The Lutheran” entitled “Who Gets Saved” which taught universalism. You can find it here. This article is written by Pastor Paul Fries of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The original of this article can be found here.
A recent article from another church’s official magazine implies that everyone in the world will go to Heaven, regardless of their beliefs. It is a sad state of affairs when a magazine representing a Christian church body allows this false teaching of universalism to be spread to its membership as a valid opinion or as a correct teaching.
The teaching of universalism is not something new, brought about by millennia of evolving thought. It is a heresy that can be traced directly to the beginning of time, to the Garden of Eden, and Satan’s tempting words, “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3)
God loves the people of this world- all of them. Jesus makes it clear that His Father takes care of His whole creation: For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) And He makes it clear that He came to save all people: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
It’s certainly true that God loves everyone. But it is equally true that not everyone will go to Heaven, that not everyone will be saved. Note in the Matthew passage the divisions: “evil and good,” “just and unjust.” And note the condition for salvation in the John passage: “whoever believes in him.” Jesus came to save all people, but not all people will be saved. Only those who believe, through the Holy Spirit working faith in their hearts, will be saved. And that belief is not faith in ourselves, or in a god or in some theistic idea we cannot define or know. It is faith in Jesus Christ alone which saves. We often forget to read beyond John 3:16. The next two verses makes things clear: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:17-18)
I grew up in a Christian home and I thank God that my parents brought me to the healing waters of baptism. That baptism created faith in me. And through God’s Word, heard through many years of Sunday school, confirmation classes, sermons and Bible study, that faith has continued to grow. I don’t write this out of pride or arrogance. It is by God’s grace alone and through the working of the Holy Spirit that this faith lives in me. Knowing that I am His child by grace has caused me to want to bring His saving message to others.
I have watched, firsthand, Hindus praying fervently to stone idols. It is a difficult thing to watch, knowing that a false god cannot help that person. I have talked with Muslims, and even with members of other Christian churches who believe we must contribute, somehow, to our own salvation, knowing that they will always be left wondering if they have done enough, and knowing that they have not. And I have seen, firsthand, the joy the Gospel brings when it is preached in all its truth and beauty to a tribe who knew only a religion of warfare and of appeasing evil spirits.
The exclusive claims of Christianity are not claims created by Christians. They are the statements of God Himself, in His Word. Here are just a few:
- “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)
- “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)
- “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8)
- Jesus said… “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
- “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among menby which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
God wants everyone in Heaven with Him. He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) In fact, because of the work of Jesus Christ, atonement for all sin has been made. This is the great news for all to believe. But, sadly, people do reject Him and are condemned to Hell. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
Believers have the privilege of sharing the Good News of forgiveness and salvation in Christ alone! We have no need to feel guilty or ashamed. The teachings we hold to are not from us, they are the teachings of God Himself. Thank God that He continues to provide faithful pastors, teachers and theologians who stand firm on the truth of His Word, the Bible.
To learn more about the differences between the ELS and the ELCA, click here.
Join the discussion on Facebook.-Rev. Paul Fries
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version(ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.