Do We Teach Universalism?
Occasionally, people ask me if Grace Communion International teaches “Universalism.” Universalism is a belief that everyone will be saved, regardless of whether or not they are good or bad, have repented of their sins, or have accepted Jesus as their Saviour.
The answer is “no,” we do not teach that. The Bible teaches that there is salvation only in Christ. It also tells us, for instance in 2 Peter 3:9, that God desires all to come to repentance, and he has created and redeemed humanity for true fellowship with him. In Jesus Christ, who is God’s elect for our sakes, all humanity is elect in him as the new Adam. By this, I mean that everyone is eligible to receive God’s offer of forgiveness of sin and eternal life extended to them by the Holy Spirit. But that does not necessarily mean that all humans will accept that gift.
We also believe that in Christ, God makes gracious and just provisions for all, even for those who at death appear not to have yet believed the gospel. So careful students of the Bible recognize that, whereas the scriptures do not enable us to determine ahead of time the final state of everyone, we need not rule out the power and grace of God to fulfill his desire to save everyone.
However, there may be some who remain stubbornly hostile to God. Repudiating grace, rejecting their Savior, they would not enter into their salvation. It’s hard to believe that anyone would make a choice like that, but if we are to be faithful to scripture, we must allow it as a possibility. The important thing to remember is that it is their choice–not their destiny. As C. S. Lewis shrewdly observed, “the doors of hell are locked from the inside.”
God has done everything possible to save us from the terrible and horrific condition that is hell. He has given us his Son, Jesus, as our representative and substitute to stand in for us as our High Priest. And the Spirit works to draw us, so that we can share in all the benefits held for us in Christ. Yet in the end, we cannot presume upon the grace of God, and dogmatically declare that God will indeed violate the deliberate choice of those who willfully and persistently reject His love and turn away from Him and his Spirit.
So, even though we cannot say for certain that all humans will ultimately accept God’s gift, surely, we can hope that is the case. That is, after all what God has said he desires, and surely, wanting what God desires does not make you a heretic.