What did you think about the June weather over the weekend? It’s supposed to turn cool now. It’s inescapable; the seasons are changing!
There is one more passage that I think we should cover before moving on to a summary answer to “What about those who have never heard?” This one comes from what is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.
John 17:20-24 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
This was Jesus’ prayer right before he was arrested and subsequently crucified. The ‘these’ he speaks of at the very beginning of verse 20 are his disciples. But notice who he prays for next – ‘those who will believe’. Notice also who he doesn’t mention – those who will not believe. This is an important point because Jesus then goes on to ask the Father that he grant the believers unity within the body of Christ, God the Father, and God the Son. He also prays that ‘those who will believe’ will be with Jesus, in his location, to see his glory. This, presumably, is in heaven. Furthermore, it is in the last verse that Jesus further describes ‘those who will believe’ as those ‘whom you have given me’.
This should be very troubling to all of us. Why? Because he isn’t praying for the entire world. He’s only praying for a select few, those who are hand-picked by the Father. Jesus is intentionally being very, very specific in whom he prays for and whom he excludes by default.
Doesn’t that bother you? This was not mistake, friends. He also said something very disturbing at the Sermon of the Mount at the beginning of his ministry.
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
I guess that pretty much eliminates Universalism as a valid worldview, doesn’t it? It also reinforces the notion that all humans reject God (Romans 1-3) and that only a few will be granted access to heaven. Furthermore, we have seen that those few will be personally selected by God the Father.
Do you see how the entirety of scripture points to this? Let’s step it back further. Wasn’t (and isn’t) Israel itself a hand-picked nation? Did they earn this status? Was it because they followed God well? Were they so smart that they could see the benefit of choosing right over wrong? Was it because they were so faithful? Hardly. Here’s a perfect example of their unmerited reward from the hand of God as he speaks to them before they enter the Promised Land:
Deuteronomy 9:4-6 “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.
I don’t know about you, but this passage seems to be talking about me. It is also a worthy way to wrap today’s lesson. You and I have nothing in us that we may call good and for our benefit in entering our promised land. In reality, everything about us demands that we should be excluded. The only thing that is righteous about us is that which is imputed through the substitutionary death of Jesus. He died as a propitiation for our sin. We have no inherent righteousness. None. We have no reason to claim a right to eternal life nor do we have a reason to claim it for anyone else. God owes us nothing. We condemned ourselves.
Yet, to the few he chose, he gave the free gift of eternal life. Yet, we think this is unfair?
Father, please open our eyes to scripture so that we may no longer stumble and fumble as we speak of salvation. Plain and simple, I don’t deserve any consideration and neither does any one else. I am simply and utterly and eternally grateful that you showed me mercy. I shall dedicate my entire being to you for whatever purpose you please. Amen.
Copyright © 2017 Scott Powers