Terms and Conditions May Apply
We live in a time when the world is more interconnected than ever. We hear news and share ideas instantly with people around the world; technology has enabled us to have a more universal scope than bygone generations. Thankfully, the same Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been preached for generations is universal in scope as well. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). Jesus did not die only for people of a particular class, gender, race, or region; He died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). God’s love for the entire world motivated Him to give His only Son (John 3:16). He invites all to come to Him to find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). His commission for His church is universal: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19), “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). As the bride of Christ, the church invites whosoever will to come (Revelation 22:17).
While the Gospel has a universal appeal, it has an exclusive effect. Only those who believe Jesus is the Son of God and obey the terms of pardon which He has set out in His last will and testament will be saved. God wants all to be saved, but requires them to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). It is not the Lord’s will that any perish in hell, but He requires repentance to escape that menacing destination (2 Peter 3:9). Repentance has never been a popular doctrine, but it is especially repugnant to the masses who pursue permissiveness and lax lifestyles today; yet, God requires all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). There is a strait gate opening a narrow way that leads to life, filtering out the droves who will not do God’s will (Matthew 7:13-14).
Let us use the universal appeal of the Gospel to break the barriers of a divided world, imploring people to obey God’s will, to be united under His lordship. Overwhelming joy comes when one responds to the Gospel invitation through faith and immersion, being born into the family of God (Mark 16:16; John 3:5). However, let us never try to tamper with the exclusivity of God’s terms of salvation. Many will flatly reject Christ’s universal appeal; many others will say they accept His invitation, but, in reality, refuse to conform their wills to His (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus desires to provide rest for us under the shadow of His wing, but many are not willing to come to Him (Luke 13:34). It gets discouraging when so many try to secure salvation on their own terms, but we must always remember that the Lord sets the terms.
We can sometimes feel like Noah, when only eight in the whole world were willing to board the ark to be saved (1 Peter 3:20-21). But even if all the world refuses God’s terms, I must still obey them to be saved. This is the exclusivity of truth: the alternatives are false. As the church, we are the pillar and the ground of the truth, holding it up for the world to see (1 Timothy 3:15). If everyone else rejects it and I’m the only one, what will I say? I pray I have the determination to live as the old song says, “though none go with me, I still will follow.”