Jesus and the starfish

A starfish lay dying on the burning sand. A universalist walked by and saw the starfish’s plight. “What’s up little starfish?”

“I’m dying on the burning sand. If only someone could throw me in the cool, cool ocean.”

“I’ve got good news for you little starfish. No one dies on the burning sand,” said the universalist. “Everyone ends up in the ocean. Chill out.”

The universalist walked on leaving the starfish to sizzle on the hot sand.

After a while, an inclusionist walked by. “What’s up little starfish?”

“I’m dying on the burning sand. It’s hellishly hot down here and I can’t save myself.”

“I’ve got good news for you little starfish. The burning sand is not real. You are already in the ocean – you just need to wake up and believe it.”

Before the starfish could object, the inclusionist walked on leaving the starfish to sizzle on the hot sand.

The sun rose higher and the sand got hotter. The starfish began to lose all hope. Then Jesus walked by.

“Help me, Jesus,” cried the little starfish.

“What do you want me to do for you?” said Jesus.

“I’m burning up on the hot sand and I have no way of getting back into the cool ocean…”

“I am the way,” said Jesus.

“These two guys came along with contradictory truths and I don’t know who to believe…”

“I am the truth.”

“…but since neither of them would lift a finger to help me, I’m dying here.”

“I am the life,” said Jesus as he gently picked up the little starfish. “He who believes in me will never die. Do you trust me little starfish?”

“Oh goodness yes. You’re the only one around here with something good to say. You’re the only one lifting a finger to help. I’m with you Jesus!”

And Jesus laughed and walked into the cool, cool ocean holding the starfish gently in his hand.

Why did I write this story? There is a debating raging among my friends regarding the question of whether all people are in Christ or only Christians are in Christ. Regardless of which side you take in this issue, I trust you will agree that not all have new life. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me has crossed over from death to life” (see John 3:16,36, 5:24, 6:40,47, 11:25). Not all believe so not all live.

The gospel is not two contradictory truths held in tension. The gospel is a revelation of Jesus who came that we might have life.

Telling unbelievers they are “in Christ” makes as much sense as telling sick people they are in good health. Such a message promotes pride among the self-righteous and conveys a false sense of all is well to the lost. Fact is, the unbeliever is worse than sick; he’s as good as dead (Joh 3:18). And when you are dead it makes no difference where you live.

On the cross the grace of God was revealed to all people. God’s love is unconditional and universal and freely available to all the Mother Teresas and Hitlers of this world. But not everyone receives his love. Some prefer to keep God at arm’s length. They prefer the independence of the hot sand to the cool touch of his loving embrace.

The good news is not “Jesus will violate your will and force his love upon you.” There’s a word for that sort of behavior and such a word cannot be used to describe a God of love.

The good news is that the Lover of your soul stands outside the door knocking and waiting to be invited in.


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58 Comments on Jesus and the starfish

  1. Jim Monteleone // October 1, 2012 at 10:52 am // Reply

    Amen, great post! What a thrill it would be to be present at one of those debates. Maybe you could record one and send me a copy. 😉

  2. and Jesus said He was the door – whoever enters through Him will be saved (john 10:7&9)…
    which implies an “entering through” on our part – its our choice to go through the Door….

  3. I sort of agree with you but I guess I am an inclusionist, the issue is that the barrier to knowing god is down as far as God and the Believer is concerned. Telling people they are included in the reconciliation of mankind is the Good news, the revelation that shows them it is true is between them and Jesus, and this is where his Grace and help come to carry them to the ocean, if we stick with the starfish analogy. Universalism does not play as it implies no revelation and is simply not the Gospel.The Joy of Jesus and the “drink” that is Grace, is Jesus, someone asked the question why does Jesus not appear drunk or intoxicated, it is because He Is The Drink, my pint does not get drunk except by me! The Joy of the Lord is your strength, peoples expectation of strength and Joy simply is not big enough, the joy and laughter is not the point, in itself, it is a result of imbibing Him, He is big enough and In Him we live and breathe,and Have Our Being.

    This revelation of the finished works has changed my entire relation to Jesus and church I am satisfied with His works and freed from self effort. I know the law is satisfied also and that He is my righteousness and I am His!! we are clean because of the truth, his Gospel, the end of religion. It is not an academic doctrine filed and agreed with in some academic manner it changes your thinking and you have to dispense with all the post charismatic quackery of the so called prophetic wing of the church where so much imagination has mislead many. It certainly does not stop you doing what He wants you to do. Bliss of Christ to all.

  4. I am shocked that there are people who leave out the importance of faith in receiving from God. It must be folks who have heard about Grace but do not have a foundation of the integrity of His Word. The nearly too -good to-be-true Gospel is available to all. And it is accessed simply by our believing it. Universalism is truly a perversion of the Gospel.

    • Hi Ann, those who preach historical reconciliation do not consider themselves universalists. They argue for the importance of faith in making real in our subjective experience what they believe to be objectively true. They argue that everyone is in, but not everyone stays in. I’m with you – grace must be mixed with faith to be of any effect (Heb 4:3). But the typical inclusionist would strenuously object to being called a universalist. I’ve written more about that here.

    • Forgive me, but why is it “important” to have faith? I guess what I mean is – in any discussion of the “faith” – it needs to be clear what it is. I’m a blind person. Help me see.

      • Rick Shafer // October 11, 2012 at 8:23 am //

        You are blind. If that is so, even if not, would you trust your own ears, your own finger tips, your own smell or taste? If you can do those simple easy things, that is faith. For you, my friend, are the most blessed here; you cannot see; and when you cannot see, you must trust all around you; you must believe; if you did not do these simple things you would never leave your house. Therefore, just ask and you will find all the faith you need for Jesus will answer; and then you will have all that He is. I would give my eyes to you to “see” what you “see” for my eyes see the evil; your eyes feel the Grace.

      • Roshan, Im careful with the truth, forgive me if yr question was humour and Im not getting it!
        I translate faith as ‘hoping, beleiving and trusting in Jesus'(from amplified bible) To receive anything from God one must first beleive that he exists and that he rewards those who come to him.
        If the trust in him does not exist nothing else can follow. Faith is essencial.
        Paraphrased from Hebrews chap 11 verse 6.
        The authority I use this verse is because God whispered it to my soul when I was drifting away from him, it brought me back :0)

      • The reason I asked this question was that for years I missed grace. No one ever defined it to me, and most of my experiences were not that positive. I was rewarded for good work and penalized for imperfection – if this was God I wanted nothing to do with it, it was hyper-legalism. I did have family that loved me, but somewhere along the way it seemed there was a switch or constant emphasis re-emphasis of works. We’re all learning here. I think there is a difference between blind faith and faith in the (free) goodness of God.

        This helps me make sense of thanksgiving too. We don’t give thanks for nothing, but for Something. In The Lost Secret of the New Covenant, Malcolm Smith points out that it is impossible to live the Christian life (of selfless care) apart from the Spirit. Which Spirit? Of fear? No, of grace. That’s something I pray loved ones can appreciate.

  5. …….and a church goer passed by and dropped to his knees and prayed for that starfish. He even determined to fast and pray 40 days si that God would save that starfish. Next he called his friend the glory preacher/healing evangelist and they organised a meeting to call God down to the starfish. The invites went out and the donations poured into the donate here buttons. The ministry was flourishing under the name “save the starfish” satire for short. A book was even written giviny 10 steps to save a starfish and 5 things not to do. But the starfish still ln the hot sand begging for water…….

    • …and then they started a Facebook group for Starfish Savers and got all their friends to “Like” it. Starfish conferences soon followed and there was talk of a movie deal.

      • LOL Keep writing those 10 step posts. Us inclusionists love a good laugh while traversing the globe with the Gospel of Grace, carrying the very presence and glory of God, seeing starfish walking into the depths of His love. 🙂

      • I appreciate your good humor Paul. Humor has been lacking in a lot of these debates. Stay blessed.

  6. Love you Paul. I didn’t realise I was funny but my wife hasn’t stopped laughing since she read the thread. 🙂 I was just in Manila last week with a group from around the world and I asked one of the Filipino hosts what the difference was with our group compared to others ministering in the Philippines and her answer was: ” Your team is always happy, even when things don’t go according to plan you are still very happy”. I thought about her answer and wondered, what plan!!! LOL it’s nice to be in His plan, and enjoy the ride. Blissings. 🙂

  7. Tom NeSmith // October 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm // Reply

    Ground control to Major Paul: God forced His Love upon me… without my consent… without my asking for it…leaving me totally discombobulated. I got over the shock… and decided against filing charges. Turns out… He’s really cool. And boy… is He ever cute when He’s desperate!

    • When the lover of our soul meets us, it can be irresistible…. I think when it happens like that, we are overwhelmed and just run to Him. It’s not forced, but more like the old song, Something’s Gotta Give….

  8. this is something similar to “the Parable of the good Samaritan”
    the only difference is “the good Samaritan didn’t ask the dying man. didn’t said a word, ”
    He saw the need and went immediately to take care of the dying man.

    • Good point, but a good story needs dialogue. Just ask Shakespeare. Besides, there were plenty of sick and blind people to whom Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” It seems like a “Duh” question – I mean, he’s the Son of God and he already knows the problem. But it’s like he invites us to articulate our need for a Savior. He doesn’t ask out of ignorance but to activate our faith. Something good happens when we cry, “I need grace and mercy!” Jesus never forced healing on anyone (except dead people?); people came to him. They asked, they reached out, they cried to him from the side of the road.

      • good point. I see that “will” is what gets in the way. preventing people from receiving grace.

        i am trying to figure it out, “if a person who received Jesus in their, decided out of his “will”, to turn his back on Jesus, is he still saved”?

        do we lose justification if we go back to the Law , out of your own “will”?

      • That’s the $64,000 question isn’t it. I guess if it’s possible for a new creation to become what it once was – for butterflies to turn back into caterpillars and bullfrogs into tadpoles – then it’s possible. If it’s possible for those who are born to climb back in the womb and become unborn, then it’s possible.

        I guess you can tell that I don’t think it’s possible. Just as there is a difference between a sinner who sins and a saint who sins, there is a difference between a sinner who tries to live by the law and a saint who tries to live by the law. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s committing spiritual adultery. It’s a sin. But it’s a sin that, like all sins, has been paid for.

        But I don’t claim to have this all figured out.

      • indeed!
        once saved, always and hopelessly saved! cannot be undone too late. 🙂

    • Saved by grace; if one turns their back on the saving grace of Jesus crucified then there is nothing more God can do to save their souls. If onereceives the redemptive work of christ and then rejects, his soul is left to judgement (their sins counted against them; not covered by sacrifice of Jesus)

  9. Hey Paul, I love your site and I have been really blessed by reading your posts. I understand your logic with the article, I was wondering if you could help me understand verses like Col 1:20, Jn 12:32, etc…. I’m sure you have read them all before. But if you don’t look at it in the since of Jesus reconciling all men at the cross, how do you look at it? I’m not trying to get people heated, I just want to understand.

    • Hi Ryan,
      There are dozens of relevant scriptures on this topic and I look at most of them in my detailed study notes. Col. 1:20 comes up in Part 1; John 12:32 comes up in Part 2. I encourage you to download them and study all these scriptures for yourself. They reveal some exciting stuff that I don’t have space to go into here.

  10. Any Believer would share the Good News of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice, (the only door to salvation/reconciliation), with the starfish and offer to carry him into the Living Water. The issue is what happens to that starfish if it refuses my help now, or does not understand what is truly being offered, or does not even know it needs help at all. AND there is a big distinction between the new age universalism and the last century universalism (or “reconciliation of all things”, “the greater hope”) that chooses to believe God’s Word that:
    God will be All in All through Christ’s work (I Cor 15:20-28, Eph 1:17-23, Rom 11:32-36, Heb 1:2-3 etc), that as in Adam all died even so in Christ will all be made alive but each in his own order (1 Cor 15 again, Rom 5:17-21, etc – and was it not a ‘violation of my free will’ to be born in sin with a mind alienated to God and a heart of stone?), that God’s will is that ALL men be saved and come to a knowledge of the be testified in due time (I Tim 2:3-6 etc – and whose will is the greater, His or mine? what created being can stand against His Will, Love, Majesty when truly face to face..), that Every knee shall bow (Paul uses the same Greek word for himself) and EVery tongue confess (used about Jesus toward his Father) that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11 etc), that Jesus Work was to save the World (John 3:13-17, John 12:32, John 4:42, I john 2:2,, Col 2:14, Rom 11:32-36d, Col 1:20 etc etc – and did Christ fail? is His work not sufficient? my puny will can ultimately subvert the work and love of God, He only walks away with <1%), that the LAST enemy to be conquered is Death (which death? the first, the second, the wages of sin death?…I Cor 15:54-57), that ALL Israel shall be saved (Rom 11:26)Heb 8:10-11), and that is just the tip of the iceberg. It becomes even more interesting when you address the Greek word aeon/aeonian which the KJ translates as eternal/forever, and if you research the Greek/Hebrew words translated as hell. I just know that Jesus is THE WAY, that His Work on the cross was SUCCESSFUL and God's will will be victorious, that all of creastion will be restored unto Him (Hab 2:14, Rev 5:13 etc etc) Have to go. It is Jesus Christ, alpha and omega, who is victorious, whose sacrifice is all sufficient, who is the desire to seek water, the hand that carries to water, and the water itself for that starfish. For every starfish. For all of a broken creation. How He accomplishes that is His business, and I trust Him. I trust that Father God's judgement is redemptive, disciplinary, and rooted in love. Amen. 🙂

  11. Jesus’ death and resurrection has provided a “lifeboat” (Jesus Himself) for every single person. but captain satan doesn’t want anyone to know about it… and he doesn’t want anyone to know that his ship is goin’ down! the point is, just because you’ve been given a lifeboat, it doesn’t mean that you are automatically saved by it. you have to take a step of faith and get into it for it to save you…
    Jesus carried me to the lifeboat, but i could have chosen not to get in… but it was harder for me to deny Him and reject the truth, than it was to trust Him and get in!

    and i have to say, this inclusionist theology is not much different than the mormons believing they can do proxy baptisms for the dead… they do it so that everyone, who didn’t accept the “gospel” while they were alive, can get the opportunity to become a mormon and live in “some level of heaven” for eternity.
    setting aside the fact that mormonism is a total perversion of Christianity, the only difference i’m seeing between the two, is that mormons want everyone to be included in heaven by their works… and Christian inclusionists want everyone to be included in heaven by God’s grace…
    perhaps i’m stirring the pot – but being raised as a mormon to be saved by Christ – i’m just calling it how i see it

  12. Patrick KWH // October 2, 2012 at 7:22 am // Reply

    Hi Paul! Just order your books from Amazon for myself & my pastor. Patiently looking forward to reading it as it only scheduled to arrive between 30/10 – 30/11. Do you go around preaching the grace gospel beyond your territory? We would like to have you preaching to us if you do come by this part of the world (Malaysia). I believe the gospel is unstoppable now but I wonder how did the early church lose it in the first place?

    • Hi Patrick – don’t pay too much attention to those Amazon delivery dates. Some folks are finding the books are coming quicker than they’ve been led to believe. Thank you for your kind invitation to come and speak. I preach all over the world – but only through my writings. 😉 Seriously, I am doing no travelling these days. Your last question is a good one. I don’t know.

  13. One person wrote to me privately to tell me he was upset that I had portrayed inclusionists as passive. (I wanted to know why he identified with the inclusionist in the story – I thought I had made up that word – and not with Christ, but hey.) I’ll grant that those who identify themselves as inclusionists or universalists may be just as busy or fruitful as any believer. But no one can deny that inclusionism – the idea that all are already in Christ – or universalism – the idea that one day all will be in Christ – leans towards passivism. How could it be otherwise?

    If you believe all are reconciled to God you won’t preach, as Paul did, “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). Why would you? If you believe all are saved you won’t challenge people, as Paul did, to “Believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved” (Acts 16:31). So I maintain that these two doctrines, aside from any Biblical merits you may think they have, promote a passivity that is contrary to the Great Commission given to us by Jesus and modeled by Paul.

    • Hey Paul! 🙂 Always enjoy reading your articles! At this stage in my journey, I am leaning more toward the idea that all are in Christ, whether they believe it or not and just wanted to say why I don’t think this leans toward passivity…
      I don’t think having Christ’s life is just about being saved from hell later or whatever. I believe it is experiencing His life HERE and NOW and when I see people who don’t know His love for them, living in the painful destruction of sin and broken/empty lives, I am compelled to want to share it with them! Salvation is to know God, and I think this promotes a welling up inside us to want to share that knowledge of God’s unconditional love for them, with them.
      How terrible to reject so great a love then spend an eternity with Him – could that be a kind of hell? Could the fire of His love be so consuming, to people who didn’t want anything to do with it?
      Just thoughts, am still learning so much!
      In response to your article itself, I think that a father showering love upon his children can never be seen as forceful. God’s love is perfect. Even if your son decided to hate you – would it mean that you stopped loving him? God doesn’t force His love upon anyone , but I believe He woos everyone with the love He has for them, and that’s different.
      And another thought – what if the starfish was never on the hot sand to begin with? What if God loved his little starfish so much that He provided a way into His life before the starfish even ‘fell’ into the hot sand?
      I think the approach of ‘you have to believe for what has happened to become true’ (which doesn’t really make sense when you think about it) means that the good news is stuck as a forecast – IF you believe, THEN it will make what Christ achieved true. But that’s not good news. Good news is declaring the joys of what has already been accomplished 🙂
      With great respect, from your fellow journeyer!

      • Thanks Jemma, I totally agree that we must give grace to the hurting, as Jesus did. Love is meant to be shared, otherwise it’s not love.

        My issue with universalism/inclusionism is both send a message to the self-righteous that will do nothing to challenge their self-righteous beliefs. Can you imagine Jesus telling the Laodiceans, “You are already seated with me in high places”? Can you imagine the NT writers confronting the Judaizers and false teachers with “You are already saved?” Instead they say things like “You are sons of hell” (Jesus to the Pharisees), “blackest darkness is reserved for them” (Peter of false teachers), “You’re living a lie and walking in darkness” (John, probably to the Gnostics).

        I totally agree that God showers his love on the just and the unjust. His love is universal and indiscriminate (Rom 5:8). However, the universalist and the inclusionist say something different. They say God forces his will on the unwilling. In the universalist’s narrative the prodigal is forced home against his will. In the the inclusionist narrative, he is already home even while he sits in the pig pen. I find both views at odds with any sort of reality the prodigal knows.

        I agree the good news is not an invitation but a declaration. It is an announcement that invites a response. Everybody responds, but not everybody responds positively. The gospel is true whether we believe it or not. We don’t make it true by believing it. But the truth of what Jesus accomplished won’t benefit us unless we believe it (Heb 4:2). I have written more on the issue of whether all are in Christ here and here. Thanks for your comment.

  14. The starfish did not know he was created by a creator and loved him so much that he sent his Son to die for him. Heck, he didn’t even know he looked liked the star that led the wise men to their destination.Until…he heard how he was loved by the one who created him and what his purpose for being a starfish was among all the grains of sand on the shore in which he lay.then the lonely and scorched starfish light came on and shined.The starfish was never the same.

  15. What a fine illustration to show truth! Nice work Paul!

  16. Rick Shafer // October 3, 2012 at 3:37 am // Reply

    Brilliant! Best story of the truth that not all who cry “JESUS” is IN or OF Jesus; nor the movie lies that we all go to heaven. Millions upon millions and thousands upon thousands of Pastors, Evangelists, TV preachers will on that last day cry out “Lord, but we did…..” only to hear I do not know you; depart from me. The best writing Paul in the whole blog to me. (imagine I kept it short too)

  17. lance durham // October 3, 2012 at 4:17 am // Reply

    most unbelievers i know believe this:
    1) i am already OK with God
    2) i can experience a better life (peace, joy, love) if i just get my act together, start thinking the right way, doing the right thing, etc

    the inclusionist theology is basically the same thing; it goes like this:
    1) you are already OK with God
    2) you can experience a better life (peace, joy, love) if you just open your eyes to the truth of #1, rely on Jesus, renew your mind, walk by the spirit, etc

    • Mike Jarvis // October 5, 2012 at 7:33 am // Reply

      Revelation is not academic, you all seem to think it all happens in your head via deduction but it does not, revelation starts with Jesus bringing something to you, it does not rely on our efforts but his.

      I was an unbeliever at one time ,I never felt OK with God until I trusted his sacrifice christianity is relational and personal not doctrinal and academic, despite the religious attempts that make it appear that way. Grace is Jesus Faith is Jesus salvation is Jesus we are included in the crucifixion and resurrection we are made to be in Jesus, it is a gift and it is grace to receive it , what part of it did we achieve ? inclusion is a fact as far as God is concerned, and is revealed to us when we trust what he says faith is received not manufactured it is part of the rest we enter into. a free gift is effortless
      Mike Jarvis

      • Rick Shafer // October 6, 2012 at 3:10 am //

        Never said better Mike! For some reason we humans who also happen to be Christian still have that inbred seed of curiosity to dissect everything AND THEN we will FINALLY understand. My little children why are you still on milk; why are you not on meat? I loved your phrase Jesus bringing for that is exactly what He does. Remember Melchizedek bringing bread and wine (Holy Communion) I AM the bread and my blood is shed for you. We can debate everything and it is exciting and strengthens one’s faith; but this ONE thing I know: In that Garden Jesus had a choice, and He chose me; got up went to the whipping post for me; carrying his cross beam almost 2 miles naked, bloody beyond human for me, He laid down on that Cross for me; He let them slam 8″ nails into Him for me; when the Cross was picked up and fell into place putting joints apart, He said not a word for me; He continued to teach with each word from the Cross so I would know it had all been planned since before the first Garden; and finally, He died FOR ME!

  18. Thanks Paul! I’m glad to be in Christ!

  19. Jesudian Sylvester // October 4, 2012 at 4:18 am // Reply

    I think ppl are confused between…redemption and Salvation…. Redemption is something that is TOTALLY the work of GOD without our involvement but Salvation calls for our faith!! Am i right Paul???

    • Jesudian, I think you have nailed it. Jesus commissioned Paul to preach to Gentiles. Why? “So that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). Paul encouraged the jailer to “Believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved” (Acts 16:31). Those who have no faith in the Holy One are neither sanctified nor saved. Neither have they received the forgiveness of sins.

      Those in the inclusionist camp are rightly offended by the idea that our faith compels God to forgive us. It doesn’t. At the cross the sins of the world were remitted whether we believe it or not. The gift of grace has been given. It’s on the table. But scorn the gift through unbelief and grace will do you no good. Grace has to be received to save us. That’s why I think it is dangerous to tell the unbeliever that they are saved, righteous, and sanctified. Aside from the fact that Jesus and Paul said the exact opposite, it dulls the challenge to repent (change your unbelieving mind) and believe the good news. The grace of God has appeared to all men, but not all receive it.

      • listening to a sermon yesterday, this verse jumped out at me: “for when you were slaves to sin, you were free from righteousness” (rom 6:20)…
        righteousness is a definite article, because it has “the” before it in the greek, and the greek word for “free” also means “exempt”…
        even though the teaching was about how believers have been set free from sin and have been made righteous… this verse also states a truth for unbelievers:
        when you are slaves to sin, you are exempt from the righteousness

  20. Nice story Paul. It’s something I am working through as well. On your last comment in order for something to be lost it must have first belonged?
    Christ’s finished work was complete, He represented mankind, nothing else to do from His side, ones mans offense brought condemnation to all, one mans act of righteousness brings innocence to all. The part I struggle with is what else is there to do for a non-believer than to believe? I also think that the statements in the story are pretty brushstroke, indicating that all “inclusionists” would leave the poor old starfish drying up on the sand? If someone has had revelation of who they are in Christ and what they possess because of Christ it would be impossible to walk past the starfish without offering help and love to it’s current situation. If they do then they haven’t had a revelation of the gospel. (hopefully the above makes sense)

    • Hi Philip,
      One of my key points of difference with the inclusionist/universalist view, is their view that Last Adam undid the the damage of first Adam and that we are back where we started. If this were true, then Last Adam did not do a greater work, but a comparable work. In framing the argument in terms of “what happened to us through Adam reveals what has now happened to us through Last Adam,” we set ourselves up for an inferior conslusion; we head backwards (to the Garden) rather than forwards (to the City). Something of the “how much more” is lost. God’s redemption and restoration always leaves you better off than when you started. I have written more about that in my post What was Last Adam’s Greater Work? and in the related study note.

      • The inclusionists that I know don’t believe we go back to where we started. If we did, we’d get messed up all over again. Those I know say that we are all headed ever onward and ‘upward’. This is the problem when all who seem to be saying the same thing get lumped together. All are not saying the same thing.

      • Pat, you are right. I didn’t express myself well. The inclusionist/universalist argument that I was referring to runs like this: Just as we had no choice but to fall when Adam fell, we had no choice but to rise when Last Adam rose. This seems perfectly logical but, as I say elsewhere, it’s not well supported by scripture. (Every time Paul says “we died,” he is addressing believers. The one time he says “all died,” he immediately follows with a qualification.)

        This argument – that just as we had no choice with one we had no choice with the other – comes up again and again. But for my money it diminishes the glory of Last Adam’s work. Rightly or wrongly it conveys the impression that redemption is a fix-it job and that Christ’s redemptive work is comparable with Adam’s. BTW, being messed up again is a very real possibility in the inclusionist world view. Capon famously says that everyone is in until they’re out (or something like that). So someone who’s in today could be out tomorrow. This is why Trinitarians are not universalists and why they preach the need for faith. All well and good but to my mind I don’t know why you would consider anyone “in” if they are not filled with the Spirit or if they lack any assurance of salvation. I would say someone who does not have the spirit of Christ and no guarantee of eternal life might just as well not be considered “in” at all. Such a person needs to get saved.

  21. Hi Paul! Question: Once Jesus puts the starfish back in the cool ocean, will there be no way for it to get swayed back into the hot sand?

  22. Question: What do you have to DO TO BECOME God’s child, to be adopted by God, and to have God as your Father?

    • Just ask. Thank Him would be courteous; but all you do is just ask for there is nothing left for you to do for Christ has done it all FOR you. When there is a discussion, and I am asked “what would you do…..” I just find a chair and sit down and rest. For I know that all I have to “do” has been done and by believing and asking for whatever I need, and believing He is faithful in giving, I just rest, go to sleep some times. But it is over as far as I am concerned. I would not dare to once again declare and ask for forgiveness for Christ paid that complete, full price 2000 years ago and should I ask that again, I would, in fact, be asking Him to get back up on that Cross. So I just sit down and take a deep breath and thank Jesus and rest in His activity.

  23. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I have heard many teachings lately from grace folk who are also inclusionists. I have been pondering these things and have to say that your insights really were helpful in distinguishing what the Bible says about grace from some teachings that have some biblical backing, but aren’t supported by the entirety of Scripture. My personal conclusion is this: Christ’s finished work was performed for us and as us, but isn’t automatically performed in us. This is what the Holy Spirit does after we believe. God does call things that are not as though they were, but He doesn’t call things that are as though they are not. The NT still refers to some people as void of the Holy Spirit and unsaved when describing their condition. Peace

  24. I just had a debate with a universalist. Here are my conclusions.

    Universalism: The belief that everybody is saved and no hell. This is
    1. Ant- Cross… They do not believe God took the judgment that we deserved on the cross on our behalf.
    2. Anti-Christ… They reject the one thing that saves us to “believe in Christ”
    3. Anti-Christ righteousness… They do not believe they deserve or anybody deserves Gods judgment for their sins. This is self righteousness at its worst because they are assuming they are more righteous than God.

    This is a Ant-Grace teaching that comes from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

  25. Tom NeSmith // March 5, 2013 at 6:55 pm // Reply

    One night, in late December 2009, God reached down and intervened in my life… without my asking… without “repentance”… without an incantation for salvation.

    When God does a miracle… He just does it.

    • chrisvanrooyen // May 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm // Reply

      Hi Tom God done the same thing to me , I am another walking miracle. Changed my life in an instant.

  26. Nimblewill // May 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm // Reply

    Christian universalist would not believe that there was anyway for the starfish to get back into the water other than Jesus. Your parable simply doesn’t describe what I believe. You wrote as if the universalist or the inculsionist could do something about the plight of the starfish. Jesus is the Only Way, Truth and Life. He is Savior of the World. Jesus could raise the level of the ocean saving every starfish!

    • They can do something. They can proclaim the good news and encourage people to believe in it. It’s called the Great Commission.

    • chrisvanrooyen // May 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm // Reply

      Jesus was the most radical universalist, Read Romans 5 He died for sinners , Now I wonder who that could be, maybe EVERYBODY. Yes everybody is saved they just need somebody to tell them before they return to dust.

  27. So, as I have always wondered, all the mother teresas in the world are depending on their own abilities.
    Doing stuff which any human can do.

  28. alright, this is very outdated.

    can we add…

    “there is a mystery hidden for ages. Christ in you starfish. Even if you suffer here in the burning sand, He never leave you nor forsake you. The good news is… Your union in Christ empower you to enter the throne of grace and cool ocean with confidence.”

    Colossians 1:26-27

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