Must God save everyone?

crossFollowing up on yesterday’s questions, I want to think about God’s obligation in terms of salvation. To what extent would it be a “character flaw” if God didn’t save the vast majority of people? Is it enough that God has given mankind life or must he also extend that life beyond the grave in order to be seen as just and loving?

Is Jesus’ act of atonement a failure if only a minority of people are saved? Does God have to save most if not all? Is the condemnation of some a sign that God’s design was imperfect?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas or yesterday’s questions.

Lost or found

heavenly skyIs salvation a right or a privilege? Is it something that people should receive unless they do something to disqualify themselves? Or is it something that God gives to some and not to all?

Do we gain eternal life or is it something we have and possibly lose? Are humans born to live forever? Or does God grant unending life to some? Does God take away eternal life from the lost or does he bless the saved with eternal life?

Some questions for a Tuesday morning. How do you see it?

Image by exis on Pixabay.

The Bible wasn’t written to tell God what he has to do

gavelAs we continue talking about baptism (I’ll get back to Acts 2:38), there is something important that needs to be said. The Bible wasn’t written to tell God what he has to do. Whether it’s about salvation, end times, heaven/hell, or the sun rising in the east, God continues to be God.

Specifically, God will have mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy. He will have compassion on whom he will have compassion. When someone asks, “Can a person in ___ condition be saved?”, answer is always yes. They can be saved. God is still God.

God has revealed to us that he cannot lie. He also does not change. But he does “repent” from punishment. It’s the story of the book of Jonah. He also forgives sin when the heart is right. Isn’t that the story of Aaron’s sons Eleazar and Ithamar? God can accept those who don’t meet all the requirements, like when David ate the showbread or when Hezekiah prayed for the people who weren’t ritually clean and God allowed them to participate in the Passover.

We need to remember how God described himself in Exodus 34:

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7)

Slow to anger. Quick to forgive.

And also a God who punishes. Even as we recognize the right people have to throw themselves on God’s mercy, we have no right to preach the exceptions. Jonah preached doom in Nineveh, despite being convinced that God would show mercy. We don’t get to decide when God will extend mercy beyond what he has revealed. God retains that right. Will he do it at times? Most probably. But only when he chooses; not when I choose.

The Bible wasn’t written to tell God what he has to do. Human logic doesn’t have that power either. In the end, we have to let God be God.

Please God or suffer the consequences

My wife is coming back today from a mission trip to Costa Rica. Knowing that she’s coming back, I tried to do a bit of straightening up around the house. I’m laundering not only my clothes but the sheets and towels as well. And I’ve got a brisket in the crock pot, so she won’t have to worry about cooking for a couple of days.

I do all of that, of course, because I’m afraid she’ll divorce me if I don’t. That’s the only reason people in a loving relationship think about pleasing the other, right? When she gets home, she’ll take care of many of the chores around the house, knowing that I’ll toss her out on the street if she doesn’t.

Hopefully by now you realize that I write in jest. Yet this reflects the way many talk about our relationship with God. Those who believe in salvation by works often say that if you take out that element of fear of condemnation, people won’t want to do good things. Some who are assured of their salvation will mock any attempts to discuss what is pleasing to God, saying that the only thing that matters is that we have eternal life.

For many, that’s the bottom line: am I going to an eternal reward or eternal punishment?

Just as the relationship I described in the first two paragraphs is far from healthy, so such an attitude toward God is sick. Back in January, I wrote:

Neither do I believe in a mere transactional relationship with God. That is, I think that my relationship with God isn’t just about getting what I want from Him (in this case, salvation). In a relationship of love, you seek to please the other, not because of what you might get by doing so, but because you love the other.

And I fully agree with myself. :-)

I seek to know God’s will, to know what pleases Him, not because I’m afraid He’ll toss me in the lake of fire when this life is over. I do it because I love Him and want to do what He wants. I want to be like Him, more so every day.

Am I misguided in this view?

The pursuit of holiness

Regarding what we discussed yesterday about good and evil, I think that a big problem that Christians have is that they have no sense of the need to pursue holiness. Part of that goes back to something I referred to before, the transactional view of God. That is, people only see their relationship with God in terms of what they can get from Him, the primary “good” to be gotten being salvation. All that matters is whether or not your are saved or lost, according to this view. Therefore, the only concern about sin is whether or not it will “keep us out of heaven” or not.

It’s that viewpoint, for example, that fears teaching about grace. If people are only focused on doing enough to get saved, then any teaching about grace will remove their motivation for doing what’s right. You’ve got to preach fire and brimstone, or people will become complacent.

The New Testament, of course, teaches that grace motivates us to work all that much harder. Because of the grace we’ve received, we pursue holiness. Even as we acknowledge that we will never be perfect, we imitate He that is perfect, becoming holier in the process.

With that sort of view, we begin to look at right and wrong in a different way.That’s where a study of the Old Testament concept of holiness becomes helpful. We choose to do things not only because they are prescribed or proscribed but because they reflect the nature of God. Admittedly, it’s an advanced way of thinking, one that’s not easy to teach to children, for example. But as we mature, I think we have to start looking at things in terms of holiness.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1Peter 1:13-16)