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Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Universalist Argument, Part 1

In the book of Matthew, chapter 16, beginning at verse 13, the Bible says;

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Notice that Jesus says, "I will build My church". It is His church, and He is the One who built it. It was not built by John the baptist, (who by this point in the chronology was already dead, Matt. 14:8-10), nor was it built by some guy named Wesley, Luther, or Smith. Notice also that the foundation upon which He would build the church is the fact that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

As I pointed out in my last post, there are some 38,000 different sects of the Christian religion globally, each differing from on another in doctrine, practice, and traditions. The situation begs the question; which one is the one that Jesus built? To the universalist, the answer is; all of them. They reason that since they believe that Jesus is the Christ, they all have the common foundation, and therefore, are all His. They are all part of the 'universal church'. When Jesus said, "I will build My church", He was speaking of the church in a 'universal' sense. The reasoning of the universalist is sound, as far as it goes.

It is true that the scriptures speak of the church in both a universal sense (Eph: 3:21 & 5:24; Phil. 3:6) and as individual congregations (Gal. 1:22; 2 Thess. 1:4; 1 Cor. 11:8). It is true that the foundation of the church is faith that Jesus is the Christ. Where the universalist argument falls short is that faith in Christ is but the foundation. Jesus said that He would build His church on that foundation. By using the word build, Jesus is implying the erection of a structure of some sort on that foundation.

In the construction of anything, there is a foundation, yes, but there are also building blocks, mortar to bind it together, a method of construction, and a design or blueprint. We know from the scriptures that the building blocks of the church are individual Christians, (Matt. 18:20; Rom. 16:5; and Col.4:15). The word 'church' in the Greek New Testament is 'ecclesia', which literally means 'an assembly'. The 'mortar' that binds them together is 'faith', 'hope', and 'love', Heb. 11:1; 1 Cor. 13:13). The method of construction is the plan of salvation, (Acts 2, note especially verses 38-47). To these things the universalist readily agrees. But, as to the design, the blueprint; this is where the universalist argument begins to fall apart. It is the blueprint that determines the form, the shape, the appearance of a structure. The universalist must admit that the various denominations certainly do not conform to the same blueprint.

The universalists dismiss this as unimportant. There is diversity throughout all of God's creation, why not the church? Is it not also God's creation? We intend to show in part two of this series, that there is one blueprint for the church, and that it is quite important to the identity of the church as the body of Christ ( Col. 1:8).


Greywolfe said...

You are absoulutely correct. The watering down of the Church should be corrected. I will be standing by and keeping an eye on this one.

The universalist is the worst kind of religious person. At best he's sincerely wrong, at worst and most common he's an apostate. Unfortunately, this is the state of affairs and ultimately, a sign of the times.

da patriot said...

Always a pleasure to have your imput, Greywolfe, and I am pleased that you find the new focus of this blog of interest.

Whether you label it apostasy or religious liberalism, the tendency to water down the gospel and rationalize the divided nature of christiandom in a 'can't we all just get along' effort does not result in actual unity or common fellowship. It is time to get back to unity on God's terms, not our own.

Greywolfe said...

Here's what I see behind this relativistic view of Christianity. We live in a Nihilistic society. Everyone wants to do what makes them feel good instead of what IS good.

In order for them to do this, they can't very well subject themselves to a religion that is, to borrow my grand father's phrase, going to make people "pull their toes under the pew."

The moral relativism that infects our society must be integrated into Christianity if "they" are going to be able to push the idea that there is no "absolute truth".

There is an absolute truth. Our Lord laid it all out for us. No one gets to the Father except through Jesus. That is a gift by God to Man. Only by the acceptance of that Grace, through faith can we make it.

This belief is anathema to the nihilists in this world.

Sorry to hog oxygen on your site. I get on a roll sometimes.

da patriot said...

Do not apologize. You and I are on the same page. The notion that 'no man can know the truth, and the rejection of authoritative objective truth has permeated every level of society, scientific diciplines, and the religious communities. We have become accepting of the notion that everyone has an opinion, so believe what you want to, and to hell with the truth.

When it comes to selecting a religion, people make the decision based on what feels good, as you said. "I like this doctrine, but I don't like that one". "I like this religious practice, but I don't like that one." Like they are choosing a garment. What is the truth? Do they even think about it anymore? I don't think they do. That is why I am doing this. To try and make people think more about following God, rather than themselves.

Jennifer Becker Landsberger said...

Love this! And agree completely!

davedol said...

I don’t believe we can underestimate the importance of Corinthians 13. Salvation does not come from dogma and theology. What does Corinthians 13 hint about salvation thru dogma?

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Universalism is actually closer to the truth about salvation then Born-Againism. Salvation comes thru love, and love is universal. Jesus did not die just for Christians. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, all know love. Those who argue against salvation thru love…sound like clanging cymbals to me.

Greywolfe said...

davedol, you disregard Christ's words when he gives direct instructions on how you obtain salvation in John 14:6-7, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.'”

You are no doubt sincere in your belief, but Christ himself said that there is only ONE way to be forgiven and enter heaven. And your feel good everyone is worthy methods are in danger of sincerely damning you.

I don't say this to be an attack. If you don't know any better, and I don't tell you, I'm guilty in your failing. However, if you hear and just reject, you alone are guilty.

John 12:48-50, "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”