Refuting the Universalist
The Bible is not a difficult book to understand. God created everything (Gen 1–2; Heb 3:4; 11:10). Angels and men rebelled against God (Gen 3). God judges rebels (2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:11), and they are accordingly punished (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). God has chosen to have mercy on some (Rom 9:16), and He sent His only begotten Son into the world to pay the debt of sin owed by the elect objects of His everlasting love and to give them eternal life (Jn 3:16; Col 2:14). He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have eternal life (Jn 3:36; 1 Jn 5:11–13).
In their sin, men endeavor to judge God for being cruel and unjust. The Bible assures us that God is righteous and always does what is right. Another perversion of sinners is to claim that God loves everyone, just as they are. The Bible corrects this wrong view of the Holy God, who hates those who do iniquity (Ps 5:5; 11:5), daily expressing His righteous anger (Ps 7:11), in displays of His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom 1:18).
When people distort doctrine, they will select certain passages to support their view, and they will ignore other passages that contradict their wrong interpretations. In other words, one must be thorough in correlating Bible verses used to support a doctrinal interpretation. Simply put, the Bible does not contradict itself.
In formulating a doctrine, we are asking the Bible, “What do you say about this subject?” There are numerous subjects discussed on the pages of Scripture, but the subjects vary in terms of how much they are discussed. Love and money are voluminous subjects, while God’s election and reprobation of people is discussed less. No subject in the Bible, regardless of mentioned frequency, is unimportant. Still, the Bible reader is limited in her study of the characteristics of heaven, while having no shortages of references to sin and sinners.
When someone has wrong doctrine, the correction is always found in a further study of the Bible. For instance, a Universalist will declare that God loves everyone, and therefore, everyone is saved from the consequences of their sins against God. Of course, a student of the Bible will say to the Universalist, “That is not true of God, who is revealed in the Bible.” Therefore, the Universalist must decide whether she will hold to the truth of the Bible, as God’s revelation to man or whether she will persist in creating her own god from her opinions.
All arguments, as they pertain to false doctrine come down to one’s position regarding the Bible. One who holds to the authority of the Bible (sola Scriptura) must honestly represent the Bible. Universalists, by definition, do not hold to the authority of the Bible. Stated another way, people who claim God loves and saves everyone hold these ideas apart from the Bible because the Bible does not teach these false notions.
Universalism is not a matter of interpretation. It is a matter of scriptural authority. The Christian must say to the Universalist, “Sir, we are not debating the God of the Bible or His salvation of His chosen people, we are debating what the Bible says and whether it is true.” So, the issue is not salvation when it comes to the Universalist, it is the doctrine of the Word of God (Bible) itself.
One surveys theologians who have written systematic theologies and finds the doctrine of God’s Word as Chapter One in those works for the simple reason that if you err in what the Bible is and what it says about itself, then all the doctrines that follow Chapter One are meaningless. One must believe and adhere to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible, or the discussion/debate on other topics (e. g. hell, eternal punishment, destruction of the earth, etc.) are pointless.
Unpopular biblical themes have been unpopular for thousands of years. They are not new, nor are they the product of a particular culture or ethnic tradition. The reverse is true. Cultures and ethnic traditions are influenced by the teaching and practice of the Bible to some degree. When the Universalist eliminates eternal punishment in the lake of fire from his teaching, it removes the fear of God from his listeners. Where men do not fear God, they do not fear sin and its consequences. Then, they live like devils.
The Bible teaches people to fear God and keep His commandments (Dt 6:2; 8:6; Eccl 12:13), but it also teaches that sinners do not fear God nor do they keep His commandments. Lawless disobedience by rebel sinners warrants justice from a righteous God. The Bible is clear that God delivers exacting justice, which includes consequential punishment.
My dear reader, you must get your belief and reverence for the Bible sorted out, first. How will you ever believe the Bible if you do not read it? Upon reading it, how will you ever believe it to be God’s Word that is to be revered? The answers are actually found in the Bible. Apart from Christ, you will never accept the authority of the Bible (Jn 15:5). Simply put, the Universalist does not have the Spirit of Christ as her Teacher, who alone guides one into all truth (Jn 14:26; 16:13). Without the work of the Spirit, illumining the Word of God, the erroneous, speculative theologian remains in error.
If you are a Christian, in the position to bear witness to the truth, as it is in Jesus (Eph 4:21), please do so, first, as a labor of love unto God. Unless your partner in discussion is born again, she will never receive your arguments for biblical truth. Evangelism and apologetics do work together but presenting Gospel truth is ineffectual without the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Spirit of Christ who opens the eyes of the spiritually blind (Jn 9; 1 Cor 2:14–15). It is the Spirit of God who opens the heart of the hearer of the Word so that person can and will respond in faith to biblical truth (Acts 16:14). To get a person to believe the Bible, the best strategy is to get them to read the Bible for themselves. The best strategy to get a person to read the Bible is for a preacher to preach the Bible. Truth is the perfect allure for one who is weary and heavy laden in a world of lies. Also, we must remember that God only intends to save a remnant of the whole of humanity (Rom 11:5), so most people will not believe the Christian witness (Acts 1:8).
God is drawing His elect to Christ (Jn 6:44), and all that the Father gives to Christ the Son will come to Him and be kept by Him (Jn 6:37; Rom 8:31–39). He will lose none of His own (Jn 10:28–29), and the Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim 2:19). The blessed assurance of a perfect salvation is the promise of the Bible. So, Christian, God is working to draw His beloved to Himself. He will not fail to do so; therefore, your task is to faithfully and accurately present Christ. Some will receive and some will reject your report. Do not grow weary in doing good (Gal 6:9)!
It is important to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15), by refuting the false teaching of false doctrines (2 Cor 11:3–4). The common response of the Christian is, “Well, that is an interesting view, friend, but that is not what the Bible says.” Repeated statements of fact such as this one will eventually redirect the conversation from endless hypotheses, to why people can trust the Bible.
In conclusion, pointing people to the truth, Christ Jesus our Lord, means pointing them to the Bible. In the Bible, it is the Spirit’s work to illumine the heart and mind of His chosen ones (2 Cor 4:6). They turn from false teachers and teachings to truth (repentance and faith), which is the Bible and what it says about the contents found therein. The reprobate, however, will never repent and believe in Jesus or the Bible, but the elect are predestined to do so. With that hope and promise, the Christian bears witness and teaches what he can, wherever he can, to whomever the Lord puts before him.
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 14, 2022