Soteriology 52, Acts 11:14
March 19, 2016
And the only thing really left on the agenda is number 8, the final part of our big outline on soteriology which is faulty views of salvation. Now there are some faulty views of salvation that we’ve already introduced earlier in the course, like Lordship salvation and things like that so I’m trying to cover things that we haven’t covered yet or ever introduced. The two faulty views of salvation under Roman numeral VIII are universalism and inclusivism. Universalism we went over last time, right. That’s the belief that in the end everybody will be saved, or Christians. And I tried to show you that there is a few verses that hint that way but that’s not what the whole counsel of God’s Word says. The Bible never says everybody in the end will be saved, which is a tragic thing but that’s just what God is revealing to us in His Word.
Universalism, probably of the two, is not the most dominant today; the most dominant one that you’re hearing more and more about outside the church and inside the church (tragically) is inclusivism which is not the idea that in the end everybody will be a Christian. What it’s saying is all that’s necessary to be saved is sincerity. Have you ever heard this before? So inclusivism says all sincere seekers will be saved regardless of whether they know the name of Jesus Christ.
So the issue for inclusivism is are you seeking God to the best you know how in your own tradition. And they like to bring up, and you’ll hear this a lot as a Christian, people will ask you, well what about the person in some remote part of the earth that has never heard the name Jesus Christ? Certainly God would never send that person to hell, would He. And actually we’re going to get into that subject a little bit later. But they like to use that as an example and they always manufacture these hypotheticals, you’re in some deep dark jungle somewhere and there’s no missionary presence and you’re just seeking God the best you know how. I mean, why would God, why would any loving God send that kind of person to hell without adequate information. Have you guys heard this argument? You hear this all the time and I’m going to try to show you today how to think through that.
And just like with universalism in the doctrine of inclusivism there’s always Scriptures that seem to teach this. If there weren’t Scriptures that seem to teach it these false doctrines would have zero traction. So that’s why I had you turn to Acts. But before we even get to Acts 10:2 I have several quotes that I used last time to show you how dominant inclusivism is in our society.
This is the theology that Oprah Winfrey is heavily wrapped up in. This comes from a You tube exchange that you can find very easily on the internet with an audience member. She says, “…one of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way…There are many ways…many paths to what you call God. …It doesn’t matter whether she called it ‘God’ along the way or not…There couldn’t possibly be just one way!…There couldn’t possibly be only one way with millions of people in the world!” [www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb2RUpMDk34] And then she goes to this argument that I introduced a moment ago, “…if you are somewhere on the planet and you never hear the name of Jesus” are you telling me you cannot get to heaven.” So that’s the hypothetical that they always use to promote inclusivism.
And I want to give you two names of people that I respect, I give you these names not to denigrate their ministries because both individuals have been a blessing to me, the latter individual, my own mother was saved through his ministry. I bring these quotations up just to show you how close inclusivism cuts to home when our guys start to sound like inclusivists it shows you the power of inclusivism.
Tony Evans, in a book called Totally Saved, says, “In a class I once taught at Dallas Seminary, I inadvertently asked an exam question on material I had not covered in class. One of the students brought this discrepancy to my attention. To be fair, I had to rescore all of the test papers because I could not hold the students liable for information they had never been given…So the premise is that God will not hold people accountable for a decision they cannot make, based on information they have not received…And people in faraway lands” so where are we going again? Back to the example of the guy in the jungles of Africa that’s never heard of Jesus. “And people in faraway lands who have never heard the gospel still have their own sins to answer for. This means we need to talk” now that’s a big buzzword today, when people don’t like something in the Bible they always want to start a dialogue about it, so today in the body of Christ everybody is dialoguing with everybody, Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists in dialogue. So you get this dialogue mentality. To me dialogue is what got us into trouble in the first place because the serpent wanted to dialogue with Eve. Think if Eve had turned down the invitation to dialogue, think how different the human race would be today. Anyway, I’ll get off that. “This means we need to talk about the provision God has made for those who cannot believe.” [Tony Evans, Totally Saved: Understanding, Experiencing and Enjoying the Greatness of Your Salvation (Chicago: Moody, 2002), 355, 359.]
Here’s the spiritual principle at work: When people respond to what they do know of God, He takes personal responsibility for giving them more information about Himself…” Now I agree with that and I’ll show you proof of that from the Bible in just a little bit. “In the case of a person who never hears the gospel and never knows the name of Jesus, but who responds to the light he has, God, treats that person like an Old Testament saint, if you will. That is, if the person trusts in what God has revealed, God deals with that person based on the knowledge he has, not the information he never received. I call this transdispensationalism….” And here’s really the part of this that is, in my opinion, inclusivism and heretical. He says, “By this I mean if a person is sincerely” doesn’t this sound like Oprah, I’m not quoting Oprah here, I’m quoting a prominent evangelical teacher. “By this I mean if a person is sincerely seeking God and desiring to know Him, and is responding to the truth he knows, if there is no missionary or direct manifestation of God, then God judges that person based on his faith in the light he has received. And as in the case of Abraham, God will retroactively count this person as righteous by applying the death of Christ from the dispensation of grace.” [Tony Evans, Totally Saved: Understanding, Experiencing and Enjoying the Greatness of Your Salvation (Chicago: Moody, 2002), 359-361.]
Translation: you can actually get to heaven without knowing or believing in the name Jesus Christ. That is inclusivism; that’s the doctrine of inclusivism.
And this actually, to give you the context, this came out in Tony Evan’s book, Totally Saved, towards the end of the book in the first edition. Now when they republished the book in the second edition there was such a human cry over this that they took this excerpt that I just read out. So you won’t find it in the second edition, you’ll find it in the first edition. The problem is when they came out with the second edition they never apologized for this statement, they just acted like he never said it. And so you wonder if that sentence or paragraph would still be in there had there not been some kind of outcry against this.
But this is Moody Publishers here, this is not a fly-by-night operation, this is one of the standard bearers of evangelicalism. And inclusivism is so strong that it even can come out in books that we would consider household names and household publishers.
Now this is an exchange, you can find this very easily on You tube, with Dr. Billy Graham and the reason I bring him up is again not to denigrate his ministry, obviously millions of people get saved through Billy Graham, my own mother was saved through his ministry. But like Tony Evans Billy Graham spoke a word of unguarded heresy in a conversation with Robert Schuller and here’s the way the conversation went:
Now Dr. Schuller is a product of Norman Vincent Peale. Norman Vincent Peale was, and by the way, well, maybe I shouldn’t get into that, well maybe, okay… when Donald Trump was running for President of the United States everybody was saying Donald Trump is a Christian, Donald Trump is a Christian, Donald Trump is a Christian. Now I voted for Donald Trump because I was voting against his opponent; you guys understand that, right? But everybody was saying Donald Trump is a Christian and then they asked him, well how did you come to Christ, what’s an influential theologian in your life, Donald Trump quotes Norman Vincent Peale as his spiritual mentor. Norman Vincent Peale was all about positive thinking, self-empowerment, these kinds of ideas and they asked the late Walter Martin one time on The Bible Answer Man show, Walter Martin was, I think, one of the greatest apologists Christianity has ever produced, they asked Walter Martin what do you think about Norman Vincent Peale, and Walter Martin’s answer was classic. He says, “Paul is appealing that Peale is appalling.” In other words when you get into the subject of Norman Vincent Peale you’re talking about someone who is completely devoid of biblical truth; it’s all positive empowerment and things of that nature.
So Schuller, of The Hour of Power, is interviewing Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist probably of the 20th century, maybe the 21st century, on his show. So Schuller asks Billy Graham, “Tell me, what is the future of Christianity?” Now look at Billy Graham’s response. “Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there’s the body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups.” Hmmm… “I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not,” see that, they’re members of the body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time…and that’s what God is doing today. He is calling people out of the world for His name.” Here comes inclusivism… ready? And why put quotes up? People get mad at me for it, don’t get mad at me, get mad at the person who said it, I’m just the mailman here. “Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world,” oh-oh “they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus,” see that? That’s inclusivism, if you’re a sincere seeker you’ll be saved, it really doesn’t matter whether you know the name Jesus or not, “but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.” [Hl9Aps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrf60-zHl9A]
Now Schuller, when he got the greatest evangelist of Christianity to say this could hardly control himself on his interview, he was ecstatic. And Schuller says this is fantastic! I’m so THRILLED to hear you say this, there’s a wideness in God’s mercy and it kind of closes with Billy Graham saying yes there is, there’s a wideness in God’s mercy. Now is this what Billy Graham teaches all the time? No. Is this what Tony Evans teaches all the time? No. But it seeped it at some point into their thought pattern and it comes out every once in a while in their public teachings.
So that is the definition of inclusivism and those are some key examples, whether it’s from Oprah or people that we know within our own circles.
Is there a biblical support for this idea that if you’re a sincere seeker you will be saved, it doesn’t matter if you know the name Jesus? Yes, there is Scriptural support; Scriptures read out of context at first glance. And if there wasn’t some, at least the appearance of Scriptural support these ideas would never captivate the minds of people. So the key verse they use over and over again is Acts 10:2, that’s why I had you turn there, this is the conversion of a man named Cornelius, he was converted by, obviously the Lord but the Lord used Peter to reach this man with the gospel in a place called Caesarea. And this is a description of Cornelius before he believed the gospel, and look at what it says here. “Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.” [NASB, Acts 10:2]
Now this is before the man was touched with the gospel, and your inclusivist looks at this and says look at how he’s described? He’s “devout,” he “feared God,” his own household” was in some kind of spiritual discipleship of some kind, he “gave alms to the Jewish people,” he prayed “continually.” Now it doesn’t say God listened continually but it does say he prayed continually. Now this is before the man was touched with the gospel or believed the gospel. And so your inclusivist says the way this is described here what the Bible is teaching is if you are a sincere seeker you’re in. It doesn’t matter if you know the name Jesus or not. So that Acts 10:2 becomes probably exhibit A in terms of evidence cited by inclusivists.
So let’s see if we can think through this biblically. What is the Scriptural refutation to the idea that you don’t need to believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved? Acts 10 is followed by Acts 11. Are you guys with me on that? First comes Acts 10, then comes Acts 11. Look at Acts 11:14. [Acts 11:14, “‘and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’”] See, acts 10 is the conversion of Cornelius. The early church leadership which was primarily Jewish, in fact, it was all Jewish, Cornelius is the first Gentile converted in the church age. The early church leadership which was all Jewish was stunned… you mean a Gentile can actually get saved? So they had a council meeting about this in Acts 11. So Acts 11 is the first Jerusalem Council meeting.
Now they’re going to have another one in Acts 15 related to what do you do with all these saved Gentiles, I mean, do they come under the institutions of Judaism or not? That’s an Acts 15 issue; the Acts 11 issue is is it really true that a Gentile can believe in the name Jesus and be saved? And they’re getting together in Jerusalem to authenticate the legitimacy of Cornelius’ conversion and in the process the story of how Cornelius got saved is retold. And these are the words that God gave to Cornelius before Peter arrived with the gospel, not according to Acts 10 but Acts 11.
And look at what it says, “and he” that’s Peter, “will speak words to you by which you” what? “will be saved,” see how “saved” is in the future tense, “you and all your household.’” In other words, when you factor in Acts 10 and Acts 11 together what you discover is yeah, Cornelius was a devout man, he feared God, he gave many alms, he prayed to God continually, but in that condition he was still unsaved because he had not heard the gospel. And I know that because “saved” is in the future tense when the story is retold in Acts 11:14. The inclusivist just wants you to look at Acts 10:2 but they don’t want you to look at Acts 10:2 in light of Acts 11:14. See that. So this is true with anybody that promotes a false doctrine, they want to build it on one verse or two verses but your job, when you’re building doctrine, is to look at all the verses, and when you compare Acts 10:2 to Acts 11:14 you see very clearly that Cornelius was not saved before he heard the gospel.
So that becomes a key piece of Scriptural evidence to refute inclusivism. Some other pieces of evidences to refute inclusivism (and some of these verses you know) would be John 14:6, you remember that verse? Jesus is in the Upper Room, He’s talking to Philip (primarily) in this conversation and it says this: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life;” see the definite article in front of “way,” truth” and “life”? Jesus is very clear that He’s just not one of many options. And if that weren’t clear enough He said, “no one” now who does “no one” mean? It means no one! “No one comes to the Father but through Me.” I mean Jesus never taught inclusivism, you all are saved if you are a sincere seeker in your own tradition. He says you’ve got to come to the Father through Me.
This is what makes Christianity hated so frequently in our world. And this is why the Christian church today is under tremendous pressure to give ground here, because gosh, we’d get along so much better with the world if we would just say Jesus is “a way.” But we can’t say that because that’s not what Jesus claimed, He said He is “the way.”
Now look at Acts 4:12, Acts 4 is in the same book as Acts 10, right? Look at Acts 4:12, this is Peter speaking, and he says this: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other” what? “name” see the word “name” there? Apparently believing on the name Jesus is a bid deal because he mentions the “name,” “there is no other name” it’s the Greek word onoma, “there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we” what? “must be saved.” Now you notice in brackets there translated “must,” dei it’s transliterated in English dei, and that word “must” is a big deal in Luke/Acts, because Luke wrote Luke and he also wrote a sequel called the book of Acts. And when you start tracing that word through Luke/Acts what you discover is that word indicates something that 100% absolutely has to transpire.
So for example, in Luke 4:43, “But He said to them, ‘I must” that’s the same Greek word that we have in Acts 4:12, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.’” So just as it was 100% absolutely necessary for Jesus to preach the kingdom of God in His ministry and if He didn’t preach the kingdom of God in his ministry He would have failed the purpose for which He was sent, just as He absolutely 100% had to preach the kingdom of God in his ministry Acts 4:12 is saying a person must absolutely 100% with no wriggle room at all believe in the name of Jesus Christ to be saved. That’s the significance of that word “must.”
Just to give you another example of the usage of must in Luke and Acts, Jesus, at the end of Luke says this: “Now he said to them, these are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, but all the things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” here’s our word again, “must be fulfilled.” [Luke 24:44, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”] Christ’s life was lived in such a way that He was a fulfillment of the Old Testament. That had to happen; there is no wriggle room at all, it’s an absolute 100% essential necessity. This is how Luke, when you study this out, uses this word “must.” So when Luke, who also wrote Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved,” he is saying believing in the name of Jesus Christ is non-optional if you want to get to heaven. Sincerity of being a seeker is irrelevant and this is how God set things up.
So when you have Oprah and prominent evangelicals saying believing in the name of Jesus Christ is not absolutely required that goes directly against the Word of God. And at some point you have to make up your mind who you’re loyal to. A lot of people will attach their loyalty to a popular ministry but what do you do when that popular ministry, that happens to bless a lot of people, happens to deviate at parts or portions of God’s Word? When a ministry departs from God’s Word I depart from that ministry, my loyalty is not to that ministry ultimately. I want to be a team player and all that stuff but my loyalty is to the Word of God. And this is an example where people have to choose, I believe.
So Acts 4:12, John 14:6, Acts 11:14, these are all verses you can add to your arsenal, to put it that way, that inclusivism is a false doctrine.
1 Timothy 2:5, Paul writes to Timothy and he says “For there is one God and” how many mediators? “one mediator,” now what’s a mediator? It’s a go-between. There’s not two mediators or three mediators, “there is one God and one mediator between God and man,” and who is that man? “the man Christ Jesus.” Here’s the thing to understand; only Jesus can qualify to be the mediator. Why is that? Because to be a mediator you have to have something in common with both parties, don’t you? A mediator between who? God and man. Well, how can you be a mediator between God and man unless you’re both God and man. Now how many people do you know out there in the world that are both God and man. Last time I checked there’s only one. That’s why Jesus can only be the mediator between God and man.
This is the issue that Job raised, I think it’s around chapter 19, Job of course being the oldest book of the Bible. Did you know that? That Job is the earliest book of the Bible? And Job raises this fundamental question, I have no mediator, I’m having all these problems and I want my case represented before God and Job says I need a mediator that’s going to lay hands on me and God. I need a go-between. So Job sets up this issue, where is the mediation, and the rest of the Bible answers that very old question recorded in the oldest book of the Bible. So unless someone is both God and man, other than Christ, only Christ can be the mediator. See that? This is why this issue of getting to God without Christ is a big deal.
And here’s another one that I like to use, Galatians 2:21, and this is something most people don’t think about when they say there are many paths to God. Paul writes and he says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law,” now Paul is dealing with legalists, legalists generally think they can either be justified or sanctified without the power of God and faith in God and they have some kind of path towards it in the law. That’s who Paul is arguing with here in the book of Galatians, and Paul makes this statement, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died” what? “needlessly.” If righteous can be attained through another path, other than believing on the name of the Lord, if you can get there through Buddha, if you can get there through Islam, as long as you’re a sincere seeker, if you can get there through legalism by obeying Law, if that other path is open then why did Christ die? It’s not necessary.
And essentially what inclusivists are saying is gee Jesus, I really appreciate everything You went through for me and I really appreciate You being beaten to a millimeter of Your life, I appreciate the 39 lashes on Your back, I appreciate the nail marks in Your hands and feet, I appreciate the spear that was thrust into Your side, I appreciate the fact that You were told to carry the cross and the ordeal that You went through, and I appreciate Your death and I also appreciate Your resurrection. But you know what, it’s not really necessary that You did all that because righteousness can be attained another way. Now talk about an insult to God. That is an abject blasphemous thing to say, there’s another way, because it makes the sufferings of Christ nice but not absolutely essential.
And this is the whole point of Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was going to, in just a few hours, be the bearer of the world’s sin. And remember what Jesus prayed. I can’t remember the exact words but if it’s Your will let this cup pass from Me. [Matthew 26:39, “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’”] In other words, is there another way, I think, is what Jesus is asking in regard to Gethsemane.
Well, the bottom line is there is no other way. That’s why Jesus went through what He went through. But exclusivists come along and say you know, at the end of the day there was another way. So the more the church starts to sound exclusivist, the more they imitate the world and sound inclusivist the more it’s an attack on the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. So I believe Galatians 2:21 is also a refutation to inclusivism.
Another verse that I think refutes inclusivism is in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-14 which says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” So the five lane wide freeway is the path to destruction. The little access road on the side is the way that leads to life in this imagery. So Jesus talked about two gates, didn’t He? He talked about a gate that was wide and He contrasted it with a gate that was small. He talked about a path that was broad and He talked about another path that’s narrow. He talked about the travelers on one road which were many; He talked about the travelers on another road which are few. And he’s contrasting the world’s way to salvation versus Christ’s way to salvation and this whole statement here would make no sense if all that matters is sincerity without knowing the name Jesus Christ.
So what is the definition of inclusivism? All sincere seekers will be saved regardless of whether they know the name Jesus Christ. What is the Scriptural support for inclusivism? It is Acts 10:2. [Acts 10:2, “Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.”]
What is the Scriptural refutation for inclusivism? Acts 11:14, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5 and Galatians 2:21. [“Acts 11:14, “‘and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’” John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” and Galatians 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”]
But that begs the question everybody is using to promote inclusivism. The issue they always raise is what about that person in some part of the world, they usually like the 10/40 window which is an area of the world that missionaries, for whatever reason, haven’t been able to penetrate yet with the gospel. What about a person that’s sincere and wants to know God but doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to be saved? Are you telling me God is going to send that person to hell. And when that question comes up I like to point out that that question has two incorrect premises. The first incorrect premise is that God has never revealed Himself to the world. I’ll show you in a second why that’s not true. God has spoken to everybody. And the second incorrect premise is that mankind is searching for God: Oh God, just give me enough information and I’ll convert. That’s not the human heart at all. And when people ask this question they typically build it on two false assumptions and I want to kind of reorient our thinking and show you why these two assumptions are wrong.
First of all, the idea that God has never revealed Himself is to misunderstand the difference between general revelation and special revelation. What is general revelation? Things where God has already spoken, like nature and conscience. What is special revelation? It’s something more specific, like the incarnation of Christ, the Scripture itself and miracles. General revelation is available to the whole world; special revelation is available to some. What does general revelation do? It makes one accountable to search for truth. God expects the whole world to search for Him because He has already revealed Himself in general revelation. Special revelation, by contrast, is the specific information a person needs to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. General revelation is typically in non-written form, it’s a message from God but it’s not necessarily written. Special revelation, like the Bible, is typically in written form, linguistic form. General revelation is considered natural, it doesn’t really require a miracle of any kind to receive it. Special revelation, whether you talk about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the recording of the Bible, is something that is supernatural and miraculous. And what is the expectation of God? God expects people to respond to general revelation and to search for Him.
Now everything that I know about God, God is not willing that any should perish, all these types of verses, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:5. [2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”] If a person is responding correctly to general revelation I honestly believe this, from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, that God moves heaven and earth to get a person the special revelation that they need to be saved. God can do it through a missionary but you know God is a pretty big God; God doesn’t need missionaries either, He can do it through a vision, He could do it through a dream.
And I have two examples of this, you have in Acts 8 the Ethiopian eunuch who was unsaved, traveling to Jerusalem and what was his Old Testament (that was the only testament at that point) open to? Isaiah 53. This is a guy searching for God; he doesn’t have all of the pieces yet but he is responding to the information that he has. And through a series of events God has Philip, the deacon, stand near the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch and he sees the Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah 53 and Philip says do you know what you’re reading? And what was the response of the Ethiopian eunuch? How can I know unless I have a teacher. So Philip goes into the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch and explains to him who Isaiah 53 is speaking of. The Ethiopian eunuch gets saved; the Ethiopian eunuch is baptized, the Ethiopian eunuch goes back to Ethiopia and that’s how Christian got into Ethiopia. So here’s a seeker that’s honest and God sends the appropriate information. See that?
The same thing happens in Acts 10 with Cornelius, I gave you the quote earlier that Cornelius was fearing God, seeking God, praying. In other words, he knows God exists, he knows God has spoken, he’s searching for truth, he doesn’t have all the information yet and who does God send along the path of Cornelius? He sends him who? Peter, Acts 10. And that’s how the first Gentile got saved. Do you see the pattern of God here when you look at these two chapters? You get someone that responds to the message God has given and searches for truth and God sends the appropriate information necessary to be saved.
So under this rubric the idea that God has never spoken is completely wrong; God has spoken to everybody, not necessarily through special revelation but through what? General revelation. God has spoken to every person through conscience. Paul says in Romans 2:14-15, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,  in that they show the work of the Law written in their” what? “hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”
Every culture on planet earth knows that murder is wrong. Now many times they chose to reject what conscience has revealed but instinctively they know it’s wrong. Every culture on planet earth knows that rape is wrong. And every single day of people’s lives they do things which vindicate their conscience because they live consistently with it, or they do things to violate their conscience because they’re accused by their conscience. Now where did this conscience come from? Everybody knows this and they may never even have read the Bible. They may not even know the Ten Commandments but the Ten Commandments are instinctively knowable because of this issue called conscience. So God has revealed Himself through general revelation in something call conscience. And since their thoughts alternatively accuse and defend them they know instinctively that they are guilty before a holy God. That renders them accountable to search for truth, that knowledge of guilt. And if you want to test this out take two of your kids at home or two of your grandkids and say to kid one, if you mow the lawn I’ll take you to Denny’s. And you say to kid two, if you mow the lawn I’ll take you to Disneyworld. What’s kid one going to say? “That’s not fair!” Well, where did you get the idea that everything was supposed to be fair? Who taught you that? Well, that’s the work of conscience.
And that’s why when you get to the trial of the Nazi’s, for their war crimes in Nuremburg trials the Nazi’s, many of them used the excuse well, we were just following orders, all we were doing is following orders and that didn’t fly. You’re still guilty because you should have known the truth because of something called what? Conscience. The whole Nuremburg trial wouldn’t make any sense if there wasn’t a belief in something preexisting called conscience. So this idea that God has never spoken is incorrect. See that?
Now look at Romans 1:18 and following. God has not only spoken through conscience He’s spoken through creation, which says, “For the wrath of God is” what? “revealed” that’s the Greek word apokalopsis, which is the same word used in the book of Revelation, which means an un-veiling. What does this mean? God has spoken! “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen,” see that? “being understood through that which He has made, so that men are without” what? “excuse.”
God expects people to respond to this, it’s an obvious revelation of God in creation. I mean, how do you explain the fact that no two fingerprints of the seven billion people on planet earth are exactly alike? How do you explain the fact that when you examine snowflakes under a microscope no two snowflakes… think of all of the snowflakes that have ever fallen, no two snowflakes are exactly alike. How do you explain the fact that as I am speaking here in our heliocentric solar system that the earth is orbiting around the sun at just the right length away from the sun so that we don’t freeze to death (although it sometimes feels like we’re freezing to death with our air conditioning issues), and we’re not so close to the sun that we burn to death. How do you explain the fact that we orbit around the sun at exactly the right length to sustain life? That’s inexplicable unless you have in your mind the idea of a designer.
So as far as God is concerned people are without excuse. This idea that God has never spoken, He’s spoken to everybody through conscience and through creation. Now in the Psalms, I think this is a psalm of David, David says, [Psalm 19:1] “The heavens are telling the glory of God, the expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day it pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” You say well I don’t watch Christian TV or I don’t listen to Christian radio. Well, it doesn’t matter, God is sending you the same message many times, just through creation. Every single day of your life there’s a message, God is speaking over and over again. It doesn’t matter whether you now the name of Christ or not, in any part of the world, you don’t even have to be an American to experience this. There is no speech nor… in other words, God around the clock is preaching sermons through general revelation. There is no speech nor are there words where their voice is not heard, even in a 1040 window, their line has gone out through all the earth, their utterances to the end of the world and He has placed a tent for the sun.
Now that’s premise number 1 that’s wrong—God has never spoken. Premise number two that’s incorrect is people want the truth. The general disposition of sinful man is not to search for God the way God expects and desires but it so suppress His voice, thus Paul says, “For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who” what? What do they do with the truth of God? Suppress it.
Paul goes on and he says this in Romans 1:21 and following, “For even though they knew God,” now how do they know God? They know God because of general revelation. When you’re Richard Dawkins and you’re fiercest atheist stand before God in judgment they’re not going to say I never knew You were there because the Bible says they already know God; they just choose to suppress what’s obvious. Every human being knows that’s God, that’s what your Bible teaches.
Verse 21, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” This is why Paul in Romans 3:11 says, “THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO” what? “SEEKS FOR GOD;”
So the image that these inclusivist draw of this poor guy in the 1040 window that wants to know the truth is an unbiblical image. (A) God has already revealed Himself to that person, and (B) that person doesn’t want what God says. So you send a missionary to that person and it really wouldn’t do any good, would it? What were Adam and Eve doing after the fall? Hiding, they weren’t searching for God, they weren’t seeking God, they were hiding from God. They hid themselves.
So the reality of the situation is humanity is not seeking for God at all. This is why John 3:19-21 says, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
So Jesus, the Light of the world shows up and the world said what? Yeahhhhh! [Andy claps] He’s here! It’s the opposite, they didn’t like the Light because Light by definition does what? It exposes. And yet if you reject general revelation what in the world would you do with special revelation? You would reject that too, wouldn’t you. And yet special revelation is what is necessary for salvation because salvation is found in no other name under heaven. [Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”] You need special revelation to be saved; general revelation is not enough. General revelation, the way it functions is it gives you the accountability to search for truth but that in and of itself doesn’t save; you need something additional. You need the Scripture, and that’s why Paul writes to Timothy “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” [2 Timothy 3:15]
You can’t get saved by looking at rocks and trees; rocks and trees and the solar system and the universe and studying biology shows you oh my gosh, there’s something bigger than me out here, I’d better get right with that person. And I know I need to get right with them because He’s already put His laws where? In my heart, which sometimes I obey and other times I violate which tells me that this being that created everything I’m guilty before. So God says aha, you got those two clues, now search for truth. Be intellectually honest, don’t suppress what you have, search for truth. And as in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch Philip shows up. As in the case of Cornelius, Peter shows up, and God gives you the Scripture which you need so as to be saved. See how this works?
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” You have to have special revelation to be saved. You remember the story of the rich man that went + into hell and he said you know, I’ve got five brothers that are on the same course of life that I’m on, in unbelief, and I want you to go back there and I want you to spread the gospel to them, or actually rise from the dead, I think he’s talking to Abraham here, isn’t he? So they can believe. Remember Abraham’s response? “for I have five brothers– in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’” They need a miracle.  “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
The revelation of God in Scripture is complete and yet if a person is not responding to the light of general revelation why should God even send them a missionary; they are going to reject that too. And if they’re not responding to this what’s a miracle going to do? One of the great myths out there is miracles create faith. If miracles created faith how do you explain the wilderness wanderings of the Exodus generation that had so many miracles they couldn’t even keep track of them all and yet they couldn’t trust God to enter Canaan. Miracles do not create faith; the preached Word of God in a cultivated heart produces faith. What does Paul say? “Faith comes hearing and hearing by the” miracle of Christ… it doesn’t say that, “by the word of Christ.”
So this inclusivist mindset that (A) God has never spoken and (B) human beings in general just need more information, both premises are wrong and yet that’s the primary paradigm that people use to construct inclusivist theology.
Now why would I care about this? Because theology is like dominoes in a row; you knock over a single domino and the rest will fall quickly. And if you go soft or unbiblical on the idea that faith in Christ alone saves then you just have thrown a wet blanket over missionary activity. I mean if we’re all saved by sincerity why go to the trouble to get the gospel to the 1040 window, assuming there are even seekers of God in the 1040 window. There’s no need to put up the money, there’s no need to put up the sweat to do that, there’s no need to learn another language or two or three languages to get the Bible translated accurately. And so if the church becomes inclusivist and I’ve shown you some key voices in the church that seem to be opening up to this idea then you’ve just demolished the whole incentive for world evangelization.
Anyway, that’s inclusivism, its definition, its scriptural support, its scriptural refutation and the two incorrect premises that it’s built on, which concludes our soteriology class. Which means you guys have to take a final exam, which I have distributed to you, you have five minutes to compete it… no, I’m just kidding. Just take it home and have fun with it, there’s obviously no grades on it. We might kick you out of Sugar Land Bible Church if you don’t get a C… NO, I’m kidding. No grades, it’s just for your own edification. This has been 52 weeks of teaching so that the test will force you to go back into the cobwebs and remember some of the things we talked about. And we’re actually going to go over the final next Sunday morning. So it’s there as a learning device for you, not to create fear and that kind of thing.
I’m one minute over so I’m just going to go ahead and close in prayer and when we go over the test next week there’s going to be plenty of opportunity for Q & A. Okay. So enjoy the test, have fun with it, use it as a study tool and it’s just there to kind of touch your memory a little bit and help you remember some of the things we talked about. The questions are very straightforward, they are all things we’ve gone over and of course you have all of the archives and everything that you can go back and review.
Father, we thank You for today and we thank You for sound doctrine. We thank You for the provision that You allowed to be accomplished in our place, Jesus Christ. And I pray You’ll make us good students of this great doctrine of soteriology. Thank You for leading us through this class, getting us through it. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.