He Does Right
He Does Right
Centuries ago as Abraham was seeking to understand the limits of God’s mercy, he noted, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). To Moses God would describe Himself as, “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin… ”(Exodus 33:6-7). Using those passages as a starting point I want to address some questions that arise in the minds of some people:
Could Not God have Made a More Inclusive System?
In response I would say that God made the most inclusive system that His merciful, righteous and holy nature could allow:
- Repeatedly the Bible informs us that God takes absolutely no pleasure in seeing people end up lost: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord God. Therefore, repent and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).
- We are equally told that Jesus died for all men (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4 “who desires all men to be saved”; 2:6 “who gave Himself a ransom for all”).
- It is stressed that God is no respector of persons, rather, that anyone who desires to do His will, will be acceptable to Him (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11).
- Even during the time of the Law of Moses, God considered His Law to be incredibly accessible and within the reach of all: “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it… But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
Romans Chapter 4
In this chapter Paul makes the point that God deliberately designed a method of salvation which requires what all men and women are capable of providing. I do not have to provide the sacrifice, God did that already. I do not have to invent the moral code, God already did that as well. I do not have to design the church, that was all taken of care of (Ephesians 3:10-11). What I need to provide is my faith and trust in Jesus:
“For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). Thus, God’s plan of salvation that includes hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17), faith in Jesus (and He provided plenty of good reasons to believe in Him), repentance (Acts 2:38), confessing Him (Romans 10:9-10), and baptism (Mark 16:16) are conditions that everyone fulfill.
What Sort of Inclusiveness are You Talking About?
From what we have all just read, it would be very inaccurate and unfair to describe the Bible as not being inclusive. Usually when I hear such an accusation it goes back to the fact that someone is unhappy that the Bible condemns something they are doing and they are upset that they cannot keep their sinful practice and be accepted by God at the same time.
- Yet, it would not be “inclusive” for God allow you or me to keep our sin and yet at the same time demand that others must forsake the particular sin or sins that they find alluring.
- A person might not like reading the verses that list a number of practices that God condemns, such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Timothy 1:9-10, or Revelation 21:8. Yet it is clear that God treats everyone alike. If you must repent and I must repent, if I must forsake my sin and you must forsake yours then the playing field is fair, level and very inclusive. All who repent are welcome, and all can repent (Revelation 2:20). And, if I can walk about from my sin, then you can walk away from what is tempting for you.
Is This Unfair?
Some people have a problem with the idea that the good moral person who does not believe in Jesus ends up lost in eternity while someone who may have caused a lot of harm ends up saved simply because they said they were sorry and believed in Jesus at the end of their lives. Yet there are a number of problems with such a scenario:
- No one is truly a good moral person (Matthew 19:17). We all sin, not once, but many times (Romans 3:23). Even a “good” man like Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2) still needed Jesus and still needed to obey the plan of salvation to be saved (Acts 11:13ff).
- It would be inaccurate to describe the process of being saved as simply saying you are sorry and believing at the last possible moment. A person needs to truly repent (Acts 2:38), and this is more than just sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10). In addition, baptism is required in all situations (Mark 16:16). The decision to be baptized is a decision to die to self and live for Christ (Romans 6:1ff).
- The “good moral person” who refuses to obey Jesus is actually doing a lot of harm. Their pride is just as damaging as the person who is living recklessly.
In the above parable, Jesus does address a similar issue. In the context Peter had just asked the question, “Behold we have left everything and followed You, what then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27). Jesus then reminds them that they will be rewarded (19:28-29), but then also reminds them that other believers who may not suffer as they will suffer, will equally be rewarded (20:12 “You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and scorching heat of the day”). It is noteworthy how God reasons with us in this section:
- First, salvation, the forgiveness of sins and heaven are not ours to give. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” (20:15).
- If I am tempted to complain about someone ending up saved who did not have to remain faithful as long as I needed to, I must remember that I have in no way, shape or form endured as much as the early Christians did.
Matthew 20:15 “Or is your eye envious because I am generous?”
When we grumble or complain about something we supposedly see in God or His Word – there is something wrong in us. They grumbled, not because the Lord had deprived them, but rather, that He had been merciful to others. The last man was as needy as the first worker. There should have been rejoicing that the landowner was generous and provided for the needs of the 11th hour workers. The families of those men would not have to do without tonight. The parable encourages humility for the advantaged and encouragement for the disadvantaged.
Service, not seniority, counts with God. People who did not go through what the Apostles or early Christians experienced can also be saved. Non-martyrs get the same reward that martyrs received. For even such human suffering does not earn eternal life. Every Christian receives the same reward. We must learn to rejoice at the salvation of every person who comes to Jesus Christ.
Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a frantic harvest, in which every laborer is desperately needed. Fowler notes: “This man continues hiring workers all day long! The point is clear: he is fully as interested in the needs of the people who need employment as he is in getting his own work done. God accepts every man who is willing to serve Him, even those who begin quite late with respect to others” (p. 894). “No matter when a man enters the Kingdom, late or soon, in the first flush of youth, in the strength of the midday, or when the shadows are lengthening, he is equally dear and precious to God” (Barclay, p. 247).
All faithful service ranks the same with God. One cannot earn or merit his or her salvation (Luke 17:10). As in the parable of the Talents, we are not rewarded on the basis of what we accomplished, rather we are rewarded on the basis of what we did with the opportunity we were given. “Each man hired had been true to the only opportunity to work offered him. Each is paid, not on length or supposed importance of his labors, but upon fidelity to opportunity” (Fowler, pp. 895-896).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017