There is a lot of talk in religious circles about “universalism.” What does the word “universal” mean? (Relating to, extending to, affecting the entire world.) Is there such a thing as the universal fatherhood of God? But didn’t the God create everyone? Is there such a thing as the universal brotherhood of man? But didn’t we all come from the same human parents? Is there such a thing as universal salvation? Are there people who preach it?
Now think about these next questions: Is Jehovah the universal God? Is the worship of Jehovah meant to be universal? Should Biblical evangelism be universal?
Generally speaking, the Old Testament is considered to be about God’s relationship to the nation of Israel. It’s in the New Testament that the Lord began to open wide His arms toward the Gentiles. What does the Hebrew word “gowy” (go’- ee) translated “gentiles” literally mean? (The nations.) In the New Testament we see the gospel being sent not only to Israel but also to the nations. Generally speaking is that perception of the Old Testament being primarily Hebrew primarily true? Moses said to Israel: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” – Deuteronomy 7:6. In Psalm 147:19-20 David said, the Lord “sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” In contrast to this, from the outset of the New Testament era the gospel was ordered sent throughout the entire world. Does this mean that we never see the Lord reaching out to the nations in the Old Testament?
Which Testament is the true revelation of God? Does that mean that they are both equal revelations of the heart of God? Had God changed somehow during the 400 years between the two Testaments? When Peter said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him,” could that have been an Old Testament statement as well as that of the New? Did God create the Gentile as much as He created the Hebrew? When the Lord made His first hint and promise of a coming Messiah in Genesis 3, was that promise made to Israel alone? Was Noah a Jew or a Gentile? Was Abraham an Hebrew? (Hebrew as a descendent of Eber.) Was Abraham an Israelite?
In what Testament do we hear the words “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord”? (Deuteronomy 6:4). Is that greatly different from I Corinthians 8:5-6 – “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” In what Testament do we read: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else”? (Isaiah 45:22.) Isn’t that similar to I 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”? To whom was the prophet Jonah sent? Why?
Does the Old Testament have anything to say about the coming universal reign of the Lord? Will the Millennium be a national, or a universal, kingdom? Upon whose flesh will the Lord pour out His Spirit? In what Testament do we read about that?
Whether the New Testament says anything about the subject, the Old Testament clearly teaches that the Lord’s dominion is universal. Does this mean that some subjects of that kingdom can come to God without passing through Christ? Can anyone come to Christ without a proper Biblical faith in Him? Can anyone come to God through Christ without repentance of their sin? How important does this make the preaching of the gospel? Can it be said that the universal dominion of God over His creation demands Biblical evangelism?
Universalism and Christ.
Biblically speaking (Galatians 4), when was the Lord Jesus born? (“In the fulness of time.”) Does that mean that God kept His eye on the deteriorating condition of the world, and when things reached such and such a degree of wickedness, He determined that it was time for the birth of Christ? The Lord had foreordained from eternity the precise time of the coming of the Lord.
Theologically, what is divine providence? (The outworking of the eternal plan of the sovereign God.) Providentially, at the time of the Lord’s birth what city was the capital of the western world? How much of the world was under that government’s control? Providentially, at the time of the Lord’s birth what was the prevailing culture of the western world? (Greek.) Providentially, at the time of Jesus’ birth what was the common language of the western world? Providentially, where could the Jews and their scriptures be found at the time of Jesus’ birth? Was it possible for someone with the right citizenship to freely travel the entire western world? To how many continents could the Lord’s first evangelists freely travel? If you had to guess, why did the Lord providentially arrange the world in this way? Christ Jesus was born on the threshold of a day in which the gospel could be preached universally.
There was at least one aspect of Jesus’ birth which suggested that it had a universal nature. What did the angel say to the Shepherds during the night of Jesus’ birth? “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Just because the Messiah came out of Israel, should we assume He is nothing but a Jewish Messiah?
Not only did the Lord’s birth suggest a kind of universalism so did His death. Turn to John 12:21 – “And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” What kind of people were they that came to Philip asking to see Jesus? The Lord’s reply to Philip and Andrew was that as a corn of wheat He was to die and produce much fruit. Under the circumstances of the Greek’s visit, could that “much fruit” be a suggestion of their salvation? Now skip down to verse 32 – “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL MEN unto me.” Was this a statement that only the lost sheep of the house of Israel would be drawn to Christ?
Fill in the missing words from I Corinthians 1:23 – “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the ____________ a stumblingblock, and unto the ______________ foolishness.” Was Paul an obedient servant and Apostle of the Lord Jesus? As far as you can determine from the Bible, did Paul exceed the commission which was given to him? Why did he preach Christ to the Gentile Greeks? Why did Paul preach the gospel to the Romans? I Corinthians 1:24 goes on to say, “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
According to Philippians 2 how many knees shall bow and how many tongues shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father? Will those bended knees and confessing tongues be members of Israel only? Will these who acknowledge Jesus’ divine authority and supremacy all be true worshipers of the Lord? Can we say that some of those who will worship the Lord in that day, will be true worshipers of Christ? Will any of them become true worshipers of the Lord without first repenting of their sin and accepting by faith the Lord’s completed work on Calvary? How important is evangelism in someone’s salvation and his worship of Christ? Don’t these things imply universal evangelism?
How correct is it to say that the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was the commencement of the Churches’ work of Biblical evangelism? Just a few days prior to that the Lord told His disciples that they would soon receive power. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” Is it proper to think that Pentecost was the day to which the Lord was referring? What else did Jesus say in Acts 1:8? “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH.” Is it correct to say that the Day of Pentecost was the commencement of the Churches’ work of universal evangelism?
How quickly did the Jerusalem church set out in the work of universal evangelism? I hinted at this a little last week – I don’t know that any of us can properly put ourselves into the sandals of those first disciples. First, their nation was not highly respected in the world. Second, the disciples were not highly respect even in their own nation. Third, they didn’t naturally have a great love or interest in the souls of the heathen around them. And they probably had a particular hatred toward the Romans who had dominion over their lives. And yet the Lord commanded these few weak men and woman to take the gospel to the entire world. It began slowly, first to the Samaritans, whom the Lord had evangelized just a bit during His life. Then it spread to Jewish communities in the heathen countries around them. And finally, through Paul, the gospel was given more directly to the Gentiles. But who preceded Paul in the evangelization of the Romans? (Peter.)
Universal evangelism today.
As far as you know, has every soul in the world been approached by a Biblical evangelist? As far as you know, has the gospel been translated into every world dialect? Even though the gospel is available to every person in the United States, one way or another, have all the people of this country been personally evangelized? Have you ever met anyone in your neighborhood, who has never been evangelized, and who doesn’t really understand the gospel? How would you explain that deficiency? Could it be that those who profess to believe in true Biblical evangelism aren’t as Biblical in their obedience as they ought to be? Is it sufficient to say that those whom the Lord has chosen to salvation will eventually be saved whether we give them the gospel or not?
One of the problems and sins of modern Christians is our generalized evangelism – non-specific evangelism. We may believe that we are theologically correct in our approach to evangelism. But if we aren’t implementing the practical aspects of our commission then are we really Biblical? It’s not just those who come through our church doors, who need to be evangelized. In fact, those are probably the people who need it the least.
There is a place on planet earth that is diametrically opposite to the place where you are at any moment. The person who is nearest to the front door of our church needs to hear the gospel. And so does every other person between him and that one who is on the exact opposite of us on the other side of the world.
This the universalism of Biblical evangelism.