I have heard many people quote this verse recently. I love this verse. But what some have been interpreting it to mean is what I am not so sure of.
So what does this verse mean? I believe it means exactly what it says. Jesus took the sin of the entire world away. Every person who has ever lived or will ever live, has had their sin taken away already. Forgiveness is a choice, but it was God’s choice and He made it without your input. Now some people are drawing the conclusion that because everybody’s sin has been taken away already, that Jesus has thus already saved all people, they just don’t know it yet. This is called trinitarian inclusion theology, or historical reconciliation, and is one branch of the deceptive universal/ultimate reconciliation theology.
They propose that since all people’s sin has been taken away, that there is no longer anything separating people from God. Since sin caused the problem, its removal must obviously solve the problem, right? Logical yes, but true, I am not so sure for a number of reasons.
Reason 1: Righteousness
The historical inclusionist view proposes that since sin makes one unrighteous, that its removal makes one righteous. And because Jesus removed all the world’s sin, that all the world is righteous. That still makes logical sense, but I believe there is huge difference between being righteous due a lack of sin, and being the righteousness of God in Christ.
Mat 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
What Jesus just said here is one of the reasons why I don’t believe universal forgiveness = universal salvation. According to Jesus, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you need righteousness, and not just a little, more than that of the Pharisees actually. Now the Pharisees where a group of people who made it their life’s purpose and their job to be as righteous as possible. It was what they were known for. According to the people of the day, the Pharisees were as righteous you can get.
Now let’s quickly get back to our no sin equation. Before the entire world’s sin was taken away, they were fallen short, or in debt. Then Jesus came and took it all their sin away. That cleared their debt (sin), but cleared debt and credit (righteousness) are to different things. If you have credit card debt and I clear it on your behalf, I have only brought your balance to zero. You are no longer in debt, but you are also not in credit. You are still at zero. For you to be in credit, you need to be on the positive side of zero. You need to have loads of credit, more than that of the Pharisees, according to Jesus. Read more on this here and also here.
So how does one go about getting more righteousness than that of the Pharisees? Do you work as hard as you can, trying to keep all 613 laws? Do read your Bible, pray, go to church, fast, worship, soak or evangelize enough people? Nope. You receive the free gift of His righteousness BY Grace THROUGH Faith. (Eph 2:8-9). Salvation comes by grace through faith. If Jesus already included all people in salvation, then faith would be totally useless.
Reason 2: Old vs New Creations.
When Jesus forgave the world’s sin, all the world merely became forgiven old creations. Old creations aren’t saved, it is only new creations that are part of the Divine family, included, adopted, and accepted. All old creations are at zero on the credit line. They used to be on the negative side, then the cross brought them to zero. The invitation is there for them to freely go over into credit, into true righteousness, to become born-again as new creations. But as long as they don’t accept the invitation, they don’t join in the inheritance of the saints.
Gal 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
Only the new creation avails anything, and that happens only IN Christ. This is why Jesus spoke so often of being born-again. If all people have already been saved, it means all people had to have been born-again since birth. It would mean you were born with the Holy Spirit inside you already. If this were true, what was the point of Pentecost? If every single person were already saved after the cross, united with the Holy Spirit and sealed with Him, why did the disciples only receive the Spirit 50 days after the cross? Why is the book of Acts full of accounts of people being told to believe in order to be saved, to become new creations? For example:
Act 16:30-25 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
2Cr 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
New creations are only found IN Christ. The entire world has been forgiven, but the entire world is not IN Christ. That happens by grace through faith.
Reason 3: Faith
In my opinion, Trinitarian inclusion or historical reconciliation is merely attempting to remove faith from the salvation invitation as mentioned above. This means they are merely preaching the law in a very deep undercover operation. (The law is not of faith and whatever is not of faith is sin – Gal 3:12 & Rom 14:23).
If faith is not necessary, then what is the point of Rom 10:17? What is the point of even preaching? What is the point of the Great Commission? If everybody was already saved, why didn’t Jesus just take all mankind with Him when He ascended? What are we waiting for if all people are already saved? Why does He want us to proclaim His good news?
Good news is not living out life in a fallen world telling people who are already saved they are already saved, but the have to live out life on this fallen world telling others they are already saved also. That is just dumb. If all are already included and saved, what is the point of it all? For this exact reason, faith was and still is an important part of the salvation invitation.
Hbr 4:2-3 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ “although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”
Yes, Jesus said ‘It is finished’ and meant it. Yes, His works were done. Yes, He forgave us all. But that good news does not profit you one single bit when not mixed with faith. And don’t get worked up on faith either. The smallest amount removes the largest of obstacles. It is not a work to believe, it’s a joy!
To be continued… (But in the meantime, read my friend Paul Ellis’ post on the same topic!)