, , , ,

Yesterday, one of the folks I interact with on Twitter re-tweeted a statement that I found intriguing.

RT CrystalLewis Someday, we will realize that it’s more productive to serve God than to debate doctrinal positions about Him.

Knowing that the guy who RT’ed it meant people of any religion, period, but not knowing what Crystal meant, I asked her. She responded,

I’m talking liberal and conservative Christians. But I do think we should push for interfaith unity as well.

I responded, “Ok. Do all faiths worship the same God, just in different ways, in your view? (Just feeling out what you believe).”  She replied,

Wow-controversial question. I don’t think any faith (including ours) has an exclusive claim on the path to God.  I used to believe in “1 way” until I learned that only 7.5% of the world are evangelicals. 92% could be lost if we’re right.  Many don’t seem 2 care that our theology makes God a tyrant who plans 2 destroy most of mankind but I think it’s misguided.

So I asked a follow-up: “How do you read the passage about sheep & goats in Matthew 25?”

If ur asking me if I think the “sheep” in the sheep/goats parable could be non-Christians, yes I do. John 10:16.

I was intrigued by this answer, so I replied, “Except…he’s talking about non-Jewish people, not non-Christian people…so what makes someone a sheep or goat?”  She replied,

Yes, he’s talking about the Jews, but I think the lesson is greater than Jew-wrong/Christian-right. We get so lost in that.  How do you read John 10:16?

So, this post (and the next) is to answer that question.

First, let me say that I think Crystal has some valid concerns.  Oftentimes, people who claim Christ are disturbingly unconcerned about the 92% Crystal says we are going to lose who aren’t evangelicals.  Assuming that all evangelicals are, in fact regenerated, 92% is a staggering number, given the world’s population.  Even so, 50% would be a staggering number.

Too little regard has been given to this large number of people who we say are without hope.  So what hope do we have to offer?  The Gospel…which is, that Christ, acting outside of me, apart from my will, died for me in history and that he rose again, giving me his righteousness which covers me like a robe would. His righteousness is always and always will be alien to (outside of) me.  Anything not rooted in this Gospel is not, in fact, good news.

Second, it would seem to me that the second statement Crystal makes in terms of God seeming to be a tyrant who plans to destroy most of mankind neglects an understanding of the holiness of God.  God is not a capricious tyrant who makes things up as He goes along.  He punishes the wicked and diligently so…just open up the Psalms: it’s all over the place.

If we, as followers of Christ, discount the holiness of the Father who sent Him (and indeed, Christ’s holiness), then things begin to fall apart.  We end up not knowing what Christ was doing on a cross and statements He made as to His purpose begin to make no sense whatsoever, “I came to give my life as a ransom for many,” &c.  If He did indeed come as a ransom for many, then why did we need to be ransomed?

Because we’d sinned against that holy God.  Writing to Christians, The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

If people have not sinned against the holy God of Sinai, if their condemnation is non-existent, then these words make no sense whatsoever.  The Good news, however, is not that God has passed over sin: He has paid for it, removing our guilt.  Our repentance is a result of this gift of salvation!

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The good news, as detailed by Scripture is not that “everyone is in,” but that people have been purchased, redeemed from their rebellion against God.  And not only redeemed, but given Christ’s own righteousness before God–“brought near by the blood of Christ,” &c:

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers tothe covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access inone Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of theapostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Now, there’s a ton in the chapter I’ve cited that I haven’t addressed and one blog post is really insufficient to do so.  I’m certain I’m getting close to losing anyone who was reading this, if indeed they’ve made it this far.  I will approach my interpretation of John 10:16 in the next post, having now laid some groundwork here.  Stay tuned for part two.