17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
There is a growing sentiment within the American church toward the all inclusive message of universalism,
What is the Universalism?
In a nut shell, Universalism is the theory that God has reconciled every person, having forgiven every person’s sins, and everyone is going to be saved and live happily ever after. 2 Corinthians 5:18 -19, referenced above, is one of the main “go – to” texts for those who teach and for those who accept universalism.
The universalists zeros in on certain words and phrases at the expense of the context, emphasizing certain portions of a text to create a theological narrative not supported by the whole counsel of scripture.
For example the words, God was in Christ, RECONCILING THE WORLD UNTO HIMSELF, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES UNTO THEM, is used to advance the ideology that God has already forgiven everyone; and everyone is already reconciled to God.
However, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul’s intent is not that all humanity is already reconciled to God with all their sins forgiven. Rather Paul’s message is, in Christ, God has provided atonement so that all who will believe the gospel will be reconciled to God. This is why we are to make appeal to people to “be reconciled to God” as Paul says in verse 20.
In Christ alone there is the forgiveness of sins for those who humble themselves in repentance.
When Paul says God was in Christ reconciling the world, not imputing their trespasses unto them, he is referring to the work of God in Christ as the offering for our sins. Jesus gave himself as our sin offering and was accepted by God on the behalf of all who will believe and repent.
No where in scripture, neither in the old testament or in the new, will you ever find any servant of God preaching that God has done it all, and you are right with God no matter what your response is.
In the new testament, we see John the Baptist preaching repentance and warning of the wrath to come. Jesus preached the gospel and called men to repentance. Throughout the book of Acts, the gospel was never preached as an announcement that “you are already forgiven and reconciled to God.” In Acts, the gospel message was preached with a calling to faith and repentance.
Universalism is predicated on random biblical texts taken out of their context, which creates a theology which can not be supported by the whole counsel of scripture. It is, instead, condemned by the whole counsel of scripture.
The Universalist believes that God holds nothing against anyone even though this is inconsistent with the words of Jesus to the church at Pergamos:
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things AGAINST thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. REPENT; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will FIGHT AGAINST THEM with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:13- 16)
It doesn’t take a theologian or a scholar to understand that Jesus held things against those in the church at Pergamos.
When Paul says God was in Christ reconciling the world “not imputing their trespasses unto them” he is not teaching God will never hold people accountable for their sins. On the contrary, Paul is preaching Christ as the gift of God for all who believe. We will all be held accountable, and without Christ, all will be condemned.
This is why Paul says: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
Paul never preached that God had foregone the judgment of the ungodly. Paul believed that we are called to come out from the ungodly and live for God to be accepted by God.
Consider Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 6:
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14- 18)
In universalism there is no difference between the godly and the ungodly. There is no difference between the children of God and the world. Therefore the world, rather than the church, is sanctified and made holy.
Someone actually told me recently, “Jesus made the world holy,” but nothing, could be further from the truth.
According to Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 6 (which is found in the very next chapter after the text which tells us that God was in Christ reconciling the world not imputing their trespasses unto them) we are commanded to come out from among them and be separate, AND THEN, we will be received by God, AND THEN, we will be the sons and daughters of God.
If all people are already reconciled to God, and all people are going to be saved, because everyone is already forgiven, and no one will be judged, there would be no differentiation made between God’s people and those who are not God’s people in the scriptures.
There would be no differentiation between those in the light, and those in darkness. There would be no differentiation between the church and the world. Yet the Bible repeatedly makes a differentiation.
According to 1 John 2:15-16 we are instructed: love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
In 2 Peter we read that through our union with Jesus Christ we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4)
Peter then tells us that if after having escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, people are again entangled therein, and overcome by the world, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that the devil is the god of this world and has blinded the minds of them which BELIEVE NOT, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
1 John 5:19 tells us: the whole world lieth in wickedness. And in Ephesians 2:2, we read that the prince of the power of the air (Satan) is behind the course of this world.
We can see from these references above that the world is in opposition to God, and in opposition to the the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 1 John 2:17, we are taught that the world, along with its lust is going to pass away, but those who do the will of God will abide for ever. John also says the following, contrasting the children of God from those in the world: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)
John also tells us to “marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” (1 John 3:13)
In 1 John 4, the apostle John tells us how that many false prophets have gone out into the world, having the spirit of anti-Christ. John tells us that we have overcome them because we have the Spirit of God.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:4-6)
The world is not holy. The world is under the influence of the wicked one, and is the spirit of error. Only those who know God, through faith in Jesus Christ, have overcome the world.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)
The new testament writers make a clear distinction between those who have the Spirit of God and those with the spirit of this world.
Consider the words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 2:12: Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
In John’s gospel, Jesus made a clear distinction between his followers and the world in his prayer in John 17.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I PRAY NOT FOR THE WORLD, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. (John 17:8-9)
Jesus also says: I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:14-17)
James tells us that pure religion and undefined before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
James rebuked the recipients of his epistle for their wordiness, saying: Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4)
If God has made the world holy, how does friendship with the world make one and enemy of God?
The world is not holy, on the contrary, Jesus gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. (Galatians 1:4)
In Titus, the apostle Paul tells us that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ… (Titus 2:11-13)
Through Jesus Christ, God has called out a people from the world. Only those who obey that calling – believing on Jesus and following him – are made holy. Through the cross of Jesus Christ, God has revealed that the world’s wisdom is foolish, for through his wisdom, God has chosen to save those who believe through the preaching of the gospel (see 2 Corinthians 1:20-21).
The message of universalism is worldly. It is in no way Christian. Everyone is not saved, and neither will they be.