12 ways the doctrine of inclusion misleads

Baby ExpressionsWe have been called to preach the gospel of God’s grace and no other gospel. Why grace? Because only grace can save those who trust in it (Eph 2:8). The gospel is true whether you believe it or not but it won’t benefit you unless you believe it.

For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Heb 4:2)

Grace comes to us through faith. Consequently, if you wanted to make the word of grace unfruitful, there are two ways you could do it:

1. Undermine grace – put price tags on it, make people work for it
2. Discourage faith – tell the hungry they are full and discourage them from eating the bread of life

Inclusionism is a pop-theology that celebrates grace but discourages faith. The doctrine of inclusion is the idea the human race was included in Christ’s death and resurrection. Consequently, everyone of us, right down to the most perverse, God-hating pedophile, is now seated at the right hand of God with Christ Jesus.

I wouldn’t waste your time with this but inclusionism has become something of a hot topic among those who love grace. For my money, grace is inclusive – all are welcome at the Lord’s table – but inclusionism is not grace. It is the nightmare of a God who forces his will on us and won’t take no for an answer.

“Paul, that’s a bit over the top. Don’t we all really want to come home in the long run?” I have no doubt that the desired end is beautiful. Those who preach inclusionism want to see everyone saved, just as I do. But the ends do not justify an ugly means. Love must be freely chosen or it’s not love. The God portrayed by inclusionism is not a God of love. It’s as simple as that.

As I said, inclusionism damages faith. It does this by distorting the revelation of grace given by Jesus and the New Testament writers. Let me illustrate this 12 ways:

12 ways inclusionism misleads

What inclusionism says: “Everybody is saved!”
What Jesus said: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mar 16:16).

Inclusionism: “Since all are in Christ, no unbeliever is under condemnation.”
Jesus: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (Joh 3:18).

Inclusionism: “Faith is not a prerequisite for salvation, but rather a fruit of salvation. Faith is the response of a person who sees that they are already saved.”
Jesus: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Lk 7:50).
Paul: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Inclusionism: “Jesus is the federal head of humanity. What happened to him happened to all.”
Paul: “Jesus is the head of the body, the church” (Col 1:18). Jesus died as our representative. Only those who wish to be represented benefit from his representative death.

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers are neither ungodly nor sinners – they’re just living under a false reality.”
James: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners…” (Jas 4:8).
Peter: “What is going to happen to the ungodly?” (2 Pet 2:6)

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers are justified.”
Paul: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (Rom 10:10)

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers are righteous.”
Paul: “This righteousness from God comes through faith of Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom 3:22). “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone that believes” (Rom 10:4).

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers have Christ living in them.”
Paul: “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his” (Rom 8:9, NKJV).

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers have the Holy Spirit already.”
Jesus: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luk 11:13) The Ephesians didn’t receive the Holy Spirit until Paul placed his hands on them (Acts 19:6).

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers are non-participating members of the body of Christ.”
NT writers: Unbelievers are ungodly (1 Tim 1:9, 1 Pet 4:18) and have no fellowship with Christ (2 Cor 6:14, 1 Jn 1:3).

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers have received new life.”
Jesus: “He who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47; see also John 5:24,40 and 1 John 5:12).

Inclusionism: “Unbelievers are reconciled to God.”
Paul: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).

Inclusionism paints a picture of God and humanity that is fundamentally different from the revelation given by Jesus and the New Testament writers. Consequently, you cannot be an inclusionist unless you rewrite the New Testament and change the words of Jesus.

“Paul, you’re cherry-picking scriptures here. By saying we must respond to grace you are elevating first Adam over last Adam.”

Actually, I don’t think I am but I appreciate why some may feel this way. They hold to what I call the two-Adam argument, which is this: Since first Adam took all of us down when he sinned, last Adam (Jesus) has to save all of us or his is a lesser work.

courageIt is a good argument, but the conclusion is as false as the premise on which it is based.

I’ll respond to the two-Adam argument in my next article.

Check out other Inclusion articles.

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106 Comments on 12 ways the doctrine of inclusion misleads

  1. If I wanted to study inclusion theology for myself, what books would I read, or who would I google search to find their writings? What are some current examples of this being taught or who are some of the most known proponents of this thinking today?

    • I’m averse to naming names lest some conclude our battle is against flesh and blood. However, if you discuss grace on Facebook you will surely encounter inclusionism. For more on how to recognize it, I recommend this note.

      • Keith Clement // September 17, 2013 at 9:55 am //

        You obviously have done a lot of study on the subject, so why would anyone else not want to research the issue themselves and hear first hand what is being taught? I like to study the issues for myself so I am able to address it when questions come up with those I work with. I am not involved with Facebook and prefer to go to the source of the teaching rather than hear a lot of opinions about what people think others are saying.

      • You are welcome to study whatever you like. But you put me in an awkward position by asking me to name names. Some of the “names” are friends of mine. They know where I stand because we talk. But if I were to label them I would diminish them. They are brothers in Christ first, and inclusionists second. So I can’t help you.

      • Keith Clement // September 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm //

        That’s fine Paul. My request and questions are to better educate myself about this subject that must be an important trend for you to spend as much time as you have on it. The proponents of inclusive thinking seem to very willing to share through their writings, publications, books, or podcasts, and have chosen to express their views in the public arena. If I were asked to recommend materials about a particular theology, (Covenant Theology, or Reformed Theology for example) I would be able to give the titles of books, articles, or authors that I found useful in understanding that particular line of thought. That is all I was asking. I certainly was not asking you to label or name your personal friends or encouraging divisiveness.

    • Better to study the bible directly, and read for yourself rather than a counterfeit gospel. It’s really clear that not everyone is saved. Matthew 7:13-14.

  2. In our part of the Southeast U.S., grace teachers are being lumped in with those who teach universalism. Not much on our radar relative to inclusionism. I wonder, how much different is inclusionism versus the Calvinist doctrine of the “elect”? Seems the sovereignty of God is at the heart of the question(???).

  3. This is a great article. Thanks for sharing it! It seems there is a preponderance of scripture that teach that God gives by grace and we receive what He has given by faith. It is one of the most obvious doctrines repeatedly illustrated throughout the entire Bible. I just don’t see how anybody can get around it. Do you think the people who believe inclusionism are also the same ones who are teaching that the Bible in not the final authority and that in fact we no longer need it?

  4. You’ve laid out a very solid case by not taking a single step without basing it on Scripture. Thanks

  5. Excellent article Paul! Beautifully written and very clear. Thank you for addressing this topic on your website. Many of us who are preaching the “Gospel of Grace that the Apostle Paul preached” are being lumped into a category with inclusionists universal reconciliationists and I love the fact that you have written an article that we can share with our congregations and our followers to help them see that we are not being “mean-spirited” to disagree with these people, but out of love for the sheep we want to show the danger of accepting all supposed “grace teaching” (especially when it comes from a “loving minister”) just because it sounds like a “doctrine of unconditional love”. Clearly the truth is what will set us free from error. Thank you!!!

  6. Typo in the first paragraph “if unless.” Also in the sixth, “no for answer.”

    Good stuff though, Paul! Hard to tackle this subject without looking like an anti-grace bad guy, but also hard to argue the verses that blatantly contradict most of the inclusion arguments. lol. So how do you respond to the argument that we are not saved by faith IN Christ, but by the faith OF Christ. I see that one a lot. (Looking forward to seeing how you deal with the two-Adam thing!

    • Typos are now fixed. Thanks Daniel.

      Regarding the faith question – that’s a good one that I need to think more about. But off the top of my head, the “faith of Christ” refers to Jesus’ death on the cross where he entrusted his spirit to a God he could no longer see (in a manner of speaking). It is on account of that faith that we can be declared righteous (Gal 2:16). When we hear about Jesus, who he is and what he has done, we are hearing about his faith. When we say Yes to Jesus, we are saying Yes to his faith. But we still have to receive the gift. If you disbelieve Jesus, then his faith won’t do you much good.

    • troyacrider // June 18, 2014 at 6:04 am // Reply

      Hello D.R. Silva. If you give me your email, I will send you an 18 page article by a professor of New Testamant that is scholarly, technical, and theological on the issue of faith in vs faith of Christ. In the final analysis, this scholar concludes that it should be faith in Christ.

  7. well put brother, inclusionism THE license to sin?

  8. This topic of “inclusion” is of utmost importance to me. I have a family member that believes “all are included”. I appreciate your knowledge on the subject. I’ve been trying to figure the “inclusion doctrine” out for almost six years now. You are helping me with your insight on the topic.

    I must apologize for a post that I sent yesterday, I think I broke “all” of your blog rules…So sorry!

  9. Good post. I didn’t even know this Inclusionism doctrine existed until a few moths ago. It’s one of the most dangerous I’ve ever heard because of the potential to lull 100s if not 1000s into a false sense of security. The idea of allowing a person to continue to believe a lie (because everyone believes in something) is just sickening to me. Why not do what the bible says and tell them the TRUTH?? The bible makes it clear we are saved by God’s grace through FAITH. How can anyone receive something or someone they have no faith in?

  10. i rather like the the “cherry-picked” list of biblical truths vs inclusionist statements…
    inclusionist thought is basically saying that unbelievers are actually going to enjoy spending eternity with someone that they hated and rejected until their last dying breaths… thats a bit sadistic, if you ask me.

  11. so then we should ignore Paul telling us “if one died for all then all died” “christ is all, and is in all” “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” “justification of life came to all men” – there are countless more…. this article is poorly written, as are many of those attacking doctrines they disagree with. problem is, it’s the gospel brotha.

  12. I’m sorry you cannot seem to grasp the simple fact that ALL in 1 Cor. 5 means ALL…

    Peter will pick this same theme up and say “I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28) God made a very clear impression on Peter that ALL men were clean…

    • Please submit any comments on 2 Cor 5:14 to this post.

      Yes, we no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view because Jesus died for all – not just the Jew but the Gentile as well. Racism was institutionalized under the old covenant (eg: Lev 10:10). God was saying, “Don’t be racist any longer.” Got to Cornelius’s house and preach the gospel without raising objections (Acts 10:29). The point is not that all are saved, but “God does not show favoritism and accepts men from every nation” (Acts 10:34-35).

      • How about when Jesus told Peter that He has called the Gentiles clean in the book of Acts?

      • That’s the verse I was referring to – Acts 10:28.

      • Paul, you can’t get away that easy. Concerning Cornelius, Peter was clearly told, “Do not call anything impure that God has made (notice past tense) clean” (Acts 10:15). Christ’s atonement was meant to be inclusive of ALL humanity — and so it was. Peter reluctantly entered Cornelius’ house, but it was NOT Peter’s presence nor his preaching that made Cornelius clean. God had beaten Peter to the punch. And in the same sense all humanity has been sanctified unto God by the cross long before the preacher or missionary knocks on the door.

      • I’m not sure why you would use Acts 10:15 to support the idea that everyone is saved or holy since neither word appears there. I appreciate that scriptures can sometimes be interpreted in different ways, but Peter himself explains the meaning of God’s words in the same chapter. “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Act 10:34-35). Formerly, God had treated the children of Israel with favor. They were his treasured possession among all nations. Through Christ that special favor is extended to all people. Peace on earth and good will to all men. This is the gospel that brings great joy to all who receive it.

        The inclusionist has multiple problems with Acts 10. First, he must insert words that aren’t there. Second, he can’t explain why God’s acceptance is exclusively given to, or received by those who fear him (v.35). Third, he can’t explain how Cornelius came to be sanctified before he received the Spirit of Christ in verse 45. Far simpler just to read it as it’s written methinks.

      • Included // July 5, 2017 at 2:18 am //

        The love of Christ resonates within us and leaves us with only one conclusion: Jesus died humanity’s death, therefore in God’s logic every individual similtaneously died. 2 Cor 5 v 14. The word sunecho (greek) from sun meaning together with and echo, to embrace to hold to resonate. Jesus didnt die 99% He died humanity’s death 100%. If Paul had to compromise the last part of v14 to read” one died for all therefore only those who follow the prescriptions to qualify have also died, then he would have had to change the first half of the verse as well. Only the love of Christ can make a calculation of such enormous proportion.

      • “If we died with him, we will also live with him.” My concern with inclusionism is that it preaches that humanity has been raised with Christ and is now seated in heavenly places. More here.

  13. Wrestling with inclusion and trying to understand what Christ did at the cross. Is it inclusionism to say this: that Christ settled the debt for all humanity at the cross. The Spirit then only convicts non-believers of “unbelief” but not of the sin they may be in currently? Once they believe the gospel (what Christ did for them while they were still sinners) they are then saved. Am I mixing theological terms here? Inclusionism versus Christ paying the debt of all humanity or Christ paying the debt of only the elect.

    • No, inclusionism says all died with Christ and all have been raised and are now seated with Christ. The gospel declares Jesus died for the whole world and whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

      • If Jesus died for the whole world at what point does does the rest become true. Is it already true? Or does it become true when they believe? Are they unaware of what is true and this the porpose of sharing the gospel to awaken them to what is already true does not faith come by hearing. What I’m not saying is everyone is saved what I saying all have been reconciled. Just some open ended honest questions. Your thoughts?

      • Faith doesn’t make the gospel true and faith doesn’t compel God to act – he already did all he needs to do. Faith’s sole purpose is receiving what God has given us. So in a manner of speaking, faith is the means by which we trade one reality for another.

        Think of it this way. When you come home from work, your house is dark and cold. Does that mean that electricity doesn’t exist or that the electricity company has gone bankrupt? No. It means you need to turn the switch on. Electricity is real but your house is presently without it. Flick the switch and electricity comes flooding in, heating and illuminating your home.

  14. Beware of comments that attack the writer and don’t clearly lay out what the Bible says. If inclusionism is a greater truth or the truth, it should not be necessary to attack the messenger. The Biblical proof, clearly laid out, should speak for itself as it does in this post.


  15. If the entire world was saved by Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, whether or not anyone believed it, wouldn’t it be cruel of Him to send out His disciples to suffer and die for proclaiming the Good News? These were people He called “friends” in John 15:14-15.

    But I understand why people want to believe inclusionism because, man, wouldn’t it be awesome if it were true? If we never had to be concerned with the eternal fates of others, we’d never need to have some potentially tough and uncomfortable conversations with family, friends and co-workers. Unfortunately, it’s just not biblically sound doctrine.

  16. Thank you Paul, your article gives me clearly ‘mind’ about inclusionism, so I know where I stand and move forward with this clearly Scripture basis.
    Anyway, I also agree with your comments regarding your inclusionism friends: “But if I were to label them I would diminish them. They are brothers in Christ first, and inclusionists second”… I have several friends who believe in inclusionism and when on discussion with them, we are free to talk about anything because we are brothers.
    Again, thank you Paul.

  17. Marion Carter // September 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm // Reply

    sounds relevant to me! =)

  18. Thanks Paul for presenting scriptural grace.

  19. Hey thanks for posting this. lots of valid points. I think you completely missed the point of “inclusionism” though. When a parent speaks identity over their child they eventually start to believe the truth. When the truth has taken root in them they start to manifest this. Find any study of the impacts of how parents speak to their children and the fruit of those children’s lives. paul even said that faith comes from hearing. I think he was talking about hearing the truth. lol

    I believe all people are included in the atonement, but as we agree not all will believe it. When they don’t believe it they manifest a life of sin and fallenness.

  20. Paul, how do you reconcile the death of the “old man”? What I understand you to be saying is that at the cross, the “old-man” didn’t die and only died as a result of a combination of Jesus dying and our faith? Either, at the cross, every “Old man” died or no “old man” died. If we identity people who don’t believe as still possessing an “old man” and not a “false reality” then we’re actually saying that at the cross the “old man” didn’t die.

  21. Thanks Paul for this article. Not saying whether I agree or disagree – you are still a precious brother and have done much for the grace of the gospel. Appreciate you much. I have many universalist friends, have read many evangelical universalist writings. I wish many more had this attitude of yours here: “But if I were to label them I would diminish them. They are brothers in Christ first, and inclusionists second”.

    I may be a future universalist (LOL) I was certainly a previous legalist bent on stomping on many souls with a crass form of revivalism without live. At the moment I have no idea what I am, only that a love and grace has exploded in my life over the last 24 months as I have never known before.

    I wrestle, not in stress, but in a beautiful conversation with him who is truth, over the very matters you raise. ‘Wrestling’ through this whole process in a way is good for my soul. Discovering the depths of grace is a wonderful journey to be on. Despite my ability to agree or disagree with your words.

    I know what I would prefer to believe in my heart – especially in light of the love and grace so wonderfully being made known – but I have these nagging hangovers from religion that seem to fight against my heart. I guess I am not looking so much for answers (having written two books was the only way I could even begin to explore some of these things and understand myself), but more or less find some consistency in my thought to a God who IS love.

    Maybe we can all be ‘hopeful universalists’ (God is not willing that any should perish) – so at least I should have that exact same willingness and desire…;-)

  22. Gospel of inclusion must be called gospel of exclusion, the exclusion of faith.

  23. Paul, Thank you for staying true to the Scriptures. I loved your article! It was very clear and easy to understand and biblically sound!. I am also a grace teacher and have been saddened by this doctrine that seems to divide and bring confusion. I do pray that we all come to the knowledge of the Son of God and come into unity in the Truth so that we can be more effective in our message to the world about the Good News concerning the finished work of Jesus.

    I do have one question since you stated you are close friends with those who hold to the inclusion doctrine. What do they say is the purpose in this teaching? How is it beneficial and why is it so important to them to convince us that faith in Jesus in not necessary to be made righteous? Why do they spend so much time trying to convince people that faith is not necessary?
    Blessings to you!

    • Regarding their motivations, I can only speculate. But one thing I encounter a lot is a dismissive attitude towards faith. They tend to treat faith, believing and repenting as a work and since grace and works don’t mix…

      The irony is that, to a man, all of them would say that faith is still important. So with one hand they dismiss it and the other they preach it.

    • I believe since we are spiritual destitute,everything for regeneration must come from God,from beginning to end and since even faith comes from God,it is one of the necessary components that helps complete us.

  24. Bro, are you sure that is what they believe? How can someone know who they are if they aren’t told. I actually believe that EVERYTHING is done in Him but that I go out, in relationship with God and people and let them know what has already happened (The Good News). As ministers of the reconciliation we disciple people into knowing who they are in Him, into knowing what has already happened. You dnt do to become, you know (as as in a marriage, as in relationship with God, as in God fully persuading you) and then you act like who you already are. Faith is what happens to you when you hear The Good News.

  25. Seeing there is a picture of baby as the featured image for this post. At least we can probably all agree “Well babies are certainly included. Muslim babies, hindu babies, jewish babies, pagan babies, buddhist babies, heck – even Christian babies might just make it. No sorry, I do not have 12 Scripture references for that, but I know the heart of the Father and that God is love. Nope, the babies could not say a sinners prayer, nor did the do anything nor understand grace. ”

    Phew – at least babies are covered by inclusivism (universalism – or at least infant universalism) and not rejected by it… 😉

  26. “…tell the hungry they are full and discourage them from eating the bread of life”
    “… everyone of us, right down to the most perverse, God-hating pedophile, is now seated at the right hand of God with Christ Jesus.”

    These statements are an example of why I don’t understand how some people are not seeing the negativity of this inclusionism idea. I’d love to tell a pedophile “I’ve got good news! Jesus loves you! There is hope! You can be saved! You can be restored and freed from this forever!” But if inclusionism is true, the pedophile already has everything that God has made available, and this is as good as it will get for them, then they might as well just die. There is no hope for them here.

  27. It is much easier for us to remain silent and just inwardly disagree with the inclusion doctrine. Don’t ruffle any feathers. But, to address biblical error that will bring harm to the body of Christ (and non-believers) is surely motivated by love. We appreciate your ministry.

  28. Hey guys, I’d define my belief system as partially Trinitarian (inclusive), but I still believe in a real hell, that the sheep will one day be separated from the goats. With the guys anti inclusion. When I was a teenager, I said the salvation prayer a number of times, because I wasn’t sure if the previous time was true faith or true repentance. I just knew faith and repentance was my responsibility, and that if it was real then I would be saved, and be brought into union with Christ. For me, this is not ‘saved by grace, through faith’. There’s no true rest here…

    Does that mean your faith is not required??? NO! It means that you have a place to look outside yourself, where union with Christ was accomplished! With this as the foundation, I can now manifest true faith, and the relationship continues on this. Grace always comes through faith when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and not on ourselves (at any point in our sozo)

    So for those who think we say faith isn’t important, it is important. It just comes second, as a response to grace. I can reject Jesus, damn myself to a real hell, but it doesn’t change the fact that 2000 years ago he embraced me, suffered my punishment, and then was raised to life. “For while we were dead in our sins and transgressions, God made us alive together with Christ”. This means NOTHING to me unless I surrender to Jesus, and have faith in him. Just like my already accomplished ‘forgiveness’ would mean nothing to me unless I receive it. This calls us to faith and repentance from a foundation of rest.

  29. A friend of mine asked me what my take was about the 5-point Calvinism. I replied that aside from point 1—total depravity, and point 5—once-saved-always-saved, points 2 through 4 are more like what we think God think who he might save. I think inclusionism is more like point 2 through 4 of Calvinism. They’re good for a theological debate (or maybe self deception?) but not for salvation.

    God gives both Jews and Gentiles laws either on tablets of stone or of their hearts, and they will point them to their need of a savior. Jesus died for all, but his gift of righteousness is only available to those that receive. Paul’s analogy of a light switch and faith is a good one.

  30. Thanks for being one of many who are now speaking out against the false gospel of Inclusionism (also called Trinitarian Universalism by Wikipedia). Let me assure you, Paul, you are not wrong in the conclusions God has given you, and we all should speak out against it.

  31. Thank you Paul for this article. I have seen many of my friends turn to this belief over the last year and it grieves my heart. I’m going to share this and hope that some may take to heart what you say, what I’ve tried to declare but with no success. Keep telling TRUTH Paul! Yes and Amen!

  32. shelby40119Shelby Shock-Marsh // September 21, 2013 at 8:38 am // Reply

    His will is that none shall perish. Why do we think He wont have His way. Although you may be thinking that im talking about forced love, i am not. I am talking about His love being so very overwhelmingly magnificent, that once He overtakes us with it, we would not entertain the idea…we would not fathom the possibility of turning that pure, relentless, unending love away. If God asks us to forgive 7×70 times, why would He not forgive someone who wasnt given the true Gospel? In the bible it says that the lake of fire wasnt created for people, but for satan & his minions. Why do we add a comma instead of allowing the period to stand? that the lake of fire was created for them & only them, no others were ever mentioned. If a loving God really could choose which of His children would be doomed for eternal torment without end, how can anyone trust that kind of Father? Who thought it was OK to change the original words of grave & the other of a physical place outside of Jerusalem into a place of eternal torment? If Hell is real, why didnt Paul warn the people he preached the Good News to about their only other option? Seems kind of misleading of Paul, doesnt it? Not to tell people of the consequences of their choice? We do not know the mind of Christ. Our thoughts are not His thoughts, our ways are not His ways. He will however reveal His truth if we will only trust Him to do so instead of allowing man to do these things. I dont know very much, but i do know that Jesus is Love & there is more to Him than time/space & this place that we are in but not of.

    • Please limit comments to the post above. If you wish to comment on hell, this post is relevant. Incidentally, Paul did preach on eternal consequences (2 Thess 1:6-10 comes to mind), as did Jesus on numerous occasions.

  33. Hi Paul. I believe you’re misusing the term inclusionism to equate it with universalism. They are not the same thing. In fact, it is not simply “pop theology.” It is present throughout Church History from the very earliest time.

    • I have often made the point that universalism and inclusionism are different animals. (See this post or this post. And see this study note in particular.)

      I am regularly accused of over-simplifying inclusionist views and mischaracterizing inclusionists one way or the other. This is unavoidable when writing short posts. I encourage readers to check out my detailed study notes for a fuller picture. I am aware that some inclusionists happen to be universalists but I suspect that the majority are not. I am also aware that inclusionists like to trace their routes to obscure early church fathers. By “pop” I simply meant popular or currently in vogue.

    • troyacrider // June 18, 2014 at 6:11 am // Reply

      Perhaps you can provide an exhaustive list of all figures who believed ‘inclusiion’ throughout the centuries of Christianity.

  34. Paul, I appreciate your sincerity. There are a myriad of verses that put the condition of belief on the acceptance of God’s grace that is freely OFFERED to all men. If, however, we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God to access His grace (which Scriptures teach is true), is that not a work?

    • I don’t believe so. As I explain elsewhere, faith is the end of working. Faith is a rest.

    • If there is a way to salvation, and if it’s the only way that works, I’ll take it. Before I heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I fumbled here and there for decades. My then favorite author was Hermann Hesse who described his feeling in Steppen Wolf, that the weight of the whole world was collapsing on his chest (this I recalled from memory some 30 years ago). This weight I know now was the frantic, desperate search for a way out of the endless cycle of birth and death as he described in Siddhartha, the endless cycle to achieve perfection, to nirvana, to break free from life’s gravity.

      If Jesus didn’t say that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I would have had no hope. So would I if he weren’t God. This work of believing in Him, this I can do, and therefore I rest.

  35. Paul, in I Tim. 2:1-6, gives the answer! “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for ALL MEN … for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” This text is one of rare beauty. It is indeed like a precious diamond, the effulgence of whose radiance dazzles the mind. It is a drop of pure distilled essence, whose fragrance fills the rooms of the heart. It is a joy forevermore and a challenge to everyone who reads it with an understanding heart. It should be engraved upon the heart of every saint of God. There is so much depth to that text that I am afraid that we often do not even perceive it. It is like a beautiful sky of deep rich blue and one cannot even begin to grasp the vast depth above us. So it is with this passage!
    “Look unto Me, and BE SAVED, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I HAVE SWORN BY MYSELF, the word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that UNTO ME EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW, EVERY TONGUE SHALL SWEAR” (Isa. 45:22-23).
    “Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that EVERY TONGUE SHOULD CONFESS that Jesus Christ is Lord, To THE GLORY of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

    • You give emphasis to one word to put across your point of view, then say this is a rich passage.I could just as easily put emphasis on the one ,in ONE mediator between God and man and by this try and validate a point. Your other point , I can assure you that anyone who meets the glorified Son of God will not be able to deny him,Saul,or Paul would be able to testify to this he did not choose to follow Jesus.Your point appeals to our sense of justice or knowledge of good and evil but in my opinion, based on my knowledge of God from scripture it does not aid in defining God, but serves more to judge God against your judgment that all are saved, and I am not saying that all are not saved. Let’s just say I reserve my judgment in either direction.God knows and that is good enough for me.he is the judge.I can recall that we are warned not to say who will ascend or descend .

  36. Jeremiah Johnson // January 3, 2014 at 3:48 am // Reply

    thank you

  37. Grace Seeker // March 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm // Reply

    Hi Paul,

    I know this an older post, but I am surprised at your conclusion. I feel strongly, as other have mentioned, that you have misunderstood the inclusion, ironically, in the same way that people often misunderstand the grace message. I challenge you to read more. I was once greatly offended by this message, thought the same way, but it was like I was born again once I actually realized what it was being said.

    Inclusionists believe that Christs work was Universal and Inclusive, but that the response is not universal (But hope that it will eventually be). To repent is to see the truth of your identity in Christ. One is free to reject the truth, even for all eternity, but to do that is hell.

    Otherwise, I cannot see how faith is just another work when it is up to us to produce it. For me, I became an inclusionist when I started asking, “Well how much faith do I need? What if I don’t have faith in exactly the right thing? What if I lose my faith? Etc.”. Soon, I realized that if being saved was up to me and my faith, I was just as insecure, fearful and condemned as I ever was in a legalistic, law based, religion.

    • How have I misunderstood inclusionism? I sometimes hear that I have misunderstood inclusionism but when I ask people to tell me how I have misunderstood inclusionism, nobody does. Do I infer from your comment that you think I confuse inclusionism with universalism? Because I don’t. I appreciate there are two kinds of inclusionist – those who say all will be saved and those who don’t – but I don’t see the need to repeat this point in every post on the subject. (The last time I made this distinction was in this post.)

      I know some dismiss faith as a “work”, and therefore incompatible with grace, but the Bible describes faith as a rest and therefore perfectly compatible (Eph 2:8).

      • I know i am repeating, and this is already known, but when it comes to faith,I have to constantly remind myself of this definition ………..Faith (4102/pistis) is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people. In short, 4102/pistis (“faith”) for the believer is “God’s divine persuasion” – and therefore distinct from human belief (confidence), yet involving it. The Lord continuously births faith in the yielded believer so they can know what He prefers, i.e. the persuasion of His will (1 Jn 5:4).

      • Grace Seeker // March 14, 2014 at 10:43 am //

        Paul, I’m still navigating a lot of this myself, and while inclusionism seems the most true to me, I am not fully convinced.

        I re-read your posts. I’ll give you some thoughts in the way you asked, the best I can in a short space. I suspect, this is largely a matter of semantics, and that the inclusion message and your grace message are a lot more compatible than you think.

        1. I think you misunderstand the word “Saved”. Inclusionists believe all are saved in the work of Christ. If you reject this though, which we’re free to do, even for all eternity, then you can’t really call that “Saved”. If a poor person is given a ten million dollars in his bank account, but refuses to use it, then he remains poor, at the same time as being a millionaire. The poor person chooses to identify as poor and remains poor, when all he needs to do is repent and believe/accept what is already true before it does him any good. People can be forgiven, saved, etc, but in hell at the same time.

        2. I feel the way you describe faith is circular. Have faith in XYZ, but XYZ are only true when you have faith! You can’t have faith in something that isn’t true (For you) until you have faith. Therefore, XYZ must be true first, and faith/repentance is simply then a response to a reality. Inclusionism says “You’re a son, You’re Holy, You’re complete, you were born again when Jesus was resurrected, now repent and believe!” I feel your message says “Have faith in Jesus (Which then puts the responsibility of faith on us) and THEN, mystically you become a son, holy, complete and born again.” Calling and describing faith as a rest still requires us to get ourselves to proper faith. If you concede and call it a gift, then you’ve got Calvinism. I think inclusionism is really just hopeful Calvinism. Really, the only thing we can do, is reject our true identity in Christ, which we’re free to do.

      • I think I understand perfectly what the inclusionists mean by “saved” – that Jesus provided everything we need for the salvation of everyone on the cross. Salvation is a gift and the gift has been given. However, if someone scorns the gift I would not say they had received it. I think it’s misguided to tell an unbeliever that they are saved or saintly or Christian and it’s certainly not something that ever happened in the NT (where there are 200+ imperatives calling for a response of some kind; full list here). A poor person who refuses to avail himself of the free gift of $1m is both poor and a fool. I would encourage that person to make the withdraw so he come become rich. Jesus said something similar to some poor fools in Laodicea (Rev 3:18). The man who hungers for righteousness is hungry; the man who receives the free gift of righteousness is hungry no more.

        I’m not sure what is circular about believing in Jesus. Jesus is true and trustworthy whether you believe Him or not but if you don’t trust Him He can’t help you. Grace unmixed with faith is worthless (Heb 4:2). Don’t over-think faith. The nature of love is that everybody responds one way or another. Respond positively to God’s love and that’s called faith.

        Describing the kingdom as one where everyone is inside until they’re outside, promotes insecurity and is the exact opposite of how Jesus describes it (John 10:9, Luke 11:52, Mat 21:31).

      • Grace Seeker // March 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm //

        Thanks for your response Paul. I actually don’t disagree with anything you said, thats why I feel more than ever that its just matter of perspective, subtle, but that makes all the difference.

        Last thought, because I know this could go on forever:

        You call the man “Poor and a fool”. I call him an “ignorant millionaire”. I believe both of us are right. He is behaving as a poor fool, which is a false identity, yet one he is stepping into, therefore it is true. A millionaire is his true identity, it is what he was created to be. I’d show him he is a millionaire, knowing that he will repent and become that when he sees it, rather than telling him he is a poor fool as a way to generate faith in him which makes him a millionaire. Or do we only call him a poor fool behind his back, but then soften it up when we’re witnessing?

        Your last paragraph is one I absolutely agree with. It is also something I’ve seen you say quite often. I have said no such thing, and never have I read anything in the inclusion message that says such a thing. There is no in or out. We’re all in, but not everyones experience of the kingdom is the same. For some its heaven for some its hell.

      • Haha, how can we be in agreement if we’re saying contrary things? With respect, this is much more than semantics.
        – A famous inclusionist writes “You’re in until you’re out.” Yet Jesus said, “You’re out until you’re in and when you’re in you’ll never be out” (or words to that effect; see John 10:9, 29).
        – An inclusionist would tell the poor they are rich, when Jesus tells them to “buy from me so you can become rich” (Rev 3:18).
        – An inclusionist provides the illusion of security by telling the lost they are saved, while Jesus says “Come to Me and be saved” (John 10:9). The inclusionist says, “Ah yes, Jesus is telling them to be what they already are. He’s saying, you are saved, act saved.” And if they don’t? Then they become unsaved.
        – Ask the inclusionist when the saved-lost person received the Holy Spirit, and he can’t answer it. Profound new birth experiences like those recorded in Acts 2:4, 10:44, etc. which occurred after the cross do not fit in his grid.

        For these and the 12 reasons listed above, I maintain that the inclusionist has the gospel back-to-front. By preaching a message of “all is well” does more harm than good.

  38. Grace Seeker // March 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm // Reply

    Ha, I said last thought, but I can’t resist! 🙂

    It appears when we say “Saved” we mean different things. I think everyone is “Saved” in the sense that all people are forgiven, reconciled, free from death/sin and included in all the things Jesus has done. You seem to think that being “Saved” means all these things, but also include salvation/heaven as part of “Saved”. Inclusionists believe you can be saved, but that does not mean salvation/heaven, as these are up to our free will. In John 10:9, Jesus is saying, “Come to me and be saved” not “Come to me so you can be saved”. If someone pays you a compliment, “You look pretty”, you can reject the compliment and continue to think you’re ugly, or accept the compliment and allow it to save you from low self-esteem. “Accept the Compliment already!” some say. Regardless, the compliment giver thinks youre pretty, the reality does not depend on how you accept it. God’s opinion of us is Jesus. We can believe it and allow it to produce salvation/heaven, but if we reject it, it is still true, it just does us no good!

    On your last point: I personally have been a “Believer” since I was six and cannot tell you the point in time I received the Holy Spirit. This used to make me incredibly insecure and is what led me to “Ask Jesus into my heart” a million times. I think it’s wonderful when people have an Acts 2:4/10:44 experience, but can you point me to a time the disciples ever referred to these people as having been “Born Again”? Did Paul ever say of his conversion that he was born again? Can you point to where the disciples ever exhorted people to be born again? It’s simply a tradition that we have taken experiences like those in Acts and said “Well they must have received a new birth!”. It’s one that has caused a lot of confusion. Why would we not expect someone who sees Jesus for the first time to have a powerful experience? But when we correlate being “Born Again” with a powerful conversion experience, people like me, who lacked the powerful experience, are forever insecure. No, being born again must mean something else.

    • I understand that the inclusionist has a different definition of “saved, but to say, as you seem to do, that someone is saved “but that does mean salvation” is surely confusing. For my money, to be saved is to be saved, as in, once I was lost, but now I’m found, once I was blind, but now I see. You cannot be lost and found at the same time. If you have been joined to the Lord – if you have said “Yes” to his marriage proposal – you are as saved as you ever will be.

  39. Beryl Ann Laing // March 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm // Reply

    Thank you so much for this clear and simple refutation of the old fallacy of universalism. It is not a new doctrine but suddenly it has become accepted by those who used to be considered “main-line” Christians. The weight of Scripture is against them and so the new tack is to discredit scripture. Dangerous ground! Thank you once again.

  40. As always, you hit a home run with this article, Paul! It amazes me how angry and argumentative the typical inclusionist becomes when their beliefs are challenged.

    After all, if a person is secure in what they believe to be truth, why should they argue and fight with those who believe differently than they do?

    God is love (1 John 4:8), love (God) does not force itself upon others (1 Corinthians 13:5), and salvation comes only by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but not by grace through rape.

    Keep up the great work, my friend!

    • Thanks Tom,
      The anger of inclusionists and especially universalists puzzles me too. I want to say to them, “Hey, you believe that in the end everybody’s saved no matter what I say, so why do you care what I say? According to your thinking it makes not one jot of difference, so why get upset?”

      • John J. Withington // May 9, 2016 at 8:19 pm //

        After I reposted this great post to my page. It’s amazing who many people poped out of their shell and are rebuking me… lol👊

  41. Michelle C // March 22, 2014 at 5:45 am // Reply

    No, it does not make people lazy. Yes, all are reconciled, but without belief, it is of no benefit to them. It’s a great message that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Those of us who believe have been given the ministry of reconciliation – to help people to repent/change their minds about their standing with God. Col 1:21 tells us that those who don’t believe are alienated in their minds. Yes, faith is needed to believe that we have been reconciled to God. The first few verses of Romans 10 tells us what Paul wanted people saved from by believing – saved from their ignorance of God and thus trying to save themselves/make themselves. When people don’t believe that they have been reconciled to God, yeah they remain unjustified and unrighteous in their minds.

  42. Hey Paul, have you read anything from TF of JB Torrance? I like this article along with the other things you’ve written about inclusion theology, but in my mind I think you’ve misunderstood it. I agree with your points and on some level your conclusion, but overall I would disagree with calling inclusion theology “pop theology” or in anyway an error. Most of the inclusionist I know of have been directly influenced by Torrance (Kruger, for example was his student.) If you read Torrance I think he gives the best theology behind inclusionism. Some of the modern writers don’t do it justice, and so I can see why you’d think this way if you’ve only read them. It’s easy to misunderstand without having the full theological scope. Anyways, I don’t think I’ve commented on your blog before, but I’m grateful for your writings 🙂

    Stephen D Morrison

    • Hi Stephen, thanks for your comment. You claim I misunderstand inclusionism. How so? My understanding is that inclusionists claim that humanity rose, ascended, and is now seated with Christ. Does Mr. Torrance have a different view? Do you?

      • By your definition no, you’ve not misunderstood them. But Perhaps the outworking of it, yes. Some of the modern trinitarian inclusionist (that I know of) lack the theological grounding, and so I can see why your response to them is valid. (And like I said, I agree with your response.) I don’t think though that my understanding of Trinitarian inclusionist theology raises the same issues you’ve addressed here. For example, I don’t agree that all humanity is “saved” or “righteous” or “justified” because I believe all of these terms are relational terms. What is salvation if not reconciled relationship with God? So I would agree with you on all these points. I think most of the modern inclusionist have misunderstood Trinitarian theology and added these statements onto it.

        But I do think it’s valid to say that by your definition all humanity was effected by the work of Christ. Torrance would agree (from my understanding of his writings and lectures). Torrance correctly links the incarnation with the atonement and ascension. If Christ came to assume the entirety of human fallenness than humanity as a whole has been altered at it’s core. The whole life of Christ from His incarnation to ascension as one singular motion of salvation is where Torrance is inclusionist. All humanity was assumed in Christ, therefore all humanity is included in the whole work of Christ.

        The distinction Torrance makes is between the enhypostasia and anhypostasia of Christ’s incarnation. When both are taken together, as Torrance interprets these doctrines, the result is: a) all humanity is included in the work of Christ b) not all humanity has personally encountered that work. These two ideas, when held in proper tension, outline the proper trinitarian doctrine of salvation, reconciliation, and inclusion.

        The other side to inclusionism, that gets understated in modern trinitarian writings, is that of personalized experience. Christ came assuming all humanity, but also as an individual man (enhypostasis and anhypostasis). His assumption of all humanity includes all humanity, while His personalized humanity makes personal response necessary.

  43. I love the gospel of Grace, I feel like I’ve been plunged in it, but reading Facebook regarding this article was discouraging. I have joined a number of groups on facebook recently and am very disturbed by what I am seeing. I left my old lifestyle that included cursing, drinking, and watching movies and things that were not wholesome to me over a period of time after I got saved and I have changed so much for the better. I know it is the effect of Christ in me. But on some of these groups that are pushing grace to the brink it’s like they have gone the opposite of Christianity, to where they mock it and there is cursing and generally “unsaved” behavior. There is an arrogance about it. That is not love…. There is no fruit but to replicate more of that type of behavior. I’m not saying that to put anyone down, but to me it is sad and makes the gospel of no effect. Thank you Paul for your understanding of the word and that you stand on the Rock of Christ. I cherish Jesus and the message of grace.

  44. I didn’t see any mention in this article or in any questions about the sins punished in Christ at the cross. Do you believe that ALL the sins of everyone who would ever live for all time were punished in the body of Christ?

    Unbelief/rejection of the Gospel then being the only reason for not entering into God’s rest.

    As always I enjoy your writings.

  45. lovedeverlasting // March 27, 2016 at 9:40 pm // Reply

    Hi Paul…
    I’m reviewing this old post of yours (thank Jesus for this!) because I’ve been seeing some posts from Grace believers/preachers that are sharing about AD70 / Preterism saying all humanity was born again after the death and resurrection of Jesus. That all is in Christ and reconciled to Christ after His resurrection. When I asked them if AD70 is inclusionism – I was told it’s not. It’s confusing in the sense that after AD70 everyone is saved or born again (I’m really confused because I was also told that being born again and saved is different)
    Have you heard of this additional teachings under the gospel of grace? And may I know if this is for real – or should this be considered by believers?
    Thank you and sorry if my comment is long :/

    • Nothing special happened in AD70 other than the Romans destroyed the temple and Jerusalem as foretold by Christ. Jesus did not return, humanity did not get saved, and the old covenant did not become obsolete. The old covenant became obsolete when the Lamb of God was sacrificed nearly 40 years earlier. Remember, the good news of Jesus is simple. If a teaching confuses you or requires a PhD to understand, it’s not the gospel.

      • lovedeverlasting // March 29, 2016 at 3:06 pm //

        You’re absolutely right, Paul.
        Thanks so much for confirming – I had a feeling that AD70 thing is a different Gospel – there’s no peace! 😀

  46. Jonathan Juarex // May 20, 2016 at 3:36 am // Reply

    Thanks you so much these are the exact words Ive been hearing from my uncle and his family but I didnt know what he was learning. Its a great message but its not the truth. And while reading this you said alot of points that I was pondering on to refute what he has been saying. Now the thing that really got me was at the end when you talked about the argument they make by talking about the first adam bringing condemnation and the second one brining justification. He always gets me with that one. Im looking forward to your next post! Thank you so much!!!

  47. Jerry Nendel // August 21, 2017 at 2:37 am // Reply

    I recently acquired the Source New Testament and the author, a Greek expert, said that Romans 8:14 it should be translated as “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they and only they, are the sons of God.”

    • Jerry why do they say that and how do they intepret Romans 8:1? The main argument of universal hope is that Jesus was sufficiently loving and sacrifice for anyone who has and ever will exist to be saved. Will they always act like it – sin has consequences but the believer is turned over to grace right? But if you put condemnation on those who are saved but struggling isn’t that law. How can that be grace? There should be no condemnation because to say otherwise is to create a tier system of qualifieds and second-tier Christians. If you want to run your company like that okay, but the bride of Christ?!

      • momzilla76 // August 23, 2017 at 10:13 am //

        The context clears it up. Back up in Romans 8:9 we are told that if we belong to Jesus we are in the Spirit. So even that translation simply means only the Sons of God are lead by the Spirit. John 1:12 says that those who receive Him and believe in His name have been given the power to be the sons of God. It is not action that leads to sonship but belief in Jesus.

      • Jerry Nendel // August 23, 2017 at 11:20 am //

        Being ‘led by the Spirit’ is true for every Christian. It is like saying every Christian has the Spirit of Christ. It is not some kind of attainment. But I saw it as a repudiation from Scripture to inclusionist who maintain everyone is a child of God. The early Church saw a vast difference between being created and being begotten. Jesus was unique. being the ‘only begotten Son of God’. If being a child of God means being begotten of God, which I believe it does, then it didn’t happen at creation, as they propose, but only when we are united to Christ at the cross, and are then subsequently raised with Him, now Christ becoming the first begotten from the dead, the first born of many brethren.

      • I couldn’t write my comment fully. That was the best I could write it. But to clarify universal hope I don’t mean everyone is saved but forgiven as compassion and logic dictate – see the subject index in E2R for biblical reasoning. Unbelievers have been known to trust God in certain ways. I’m encouraging all people to trust in God, rather than judging people based on good or bad actions.

      • To know who you are in Christ (a saint) and rest in Him.

      • sonofGod, is your security found in a legal definition of the finished work of the cross? or in relationship with Him?
        Inclusionsts preach a ‘general’ salvation rather than a specific salvation, it has the inherent reek of legalism.
        The finished work of the cross is important to understand and extremely important for those who have been ravaged by a works derived legalistic striving, however, it is not the whole picture.
        Sanctification is to be ‘set apart’ which is both a positional reality and a progressive reality. Inclusionists deny this, they see any act of our own will as works thus denying the very mechanism that causes relationship to grow and develop.
        Inclusion theology has viewed the finished work of the cross through a legal lens and then sought to extrapolate that out to an all encompassing doctrine, human free will becomes the primary casualty.
        God in His grace gave us free will, He wants us to choose to walk with Him because we want to, not because some legal interpretation of the cross gives us no choice.
        They talk a lot about “relationship” and then set about to destroy the very thing that makes that possible – free will.

  48. I just saw you on TV preaching the exact message I have been preaching in Arkansas. It was almost word for word. Why? It was from the Word ad led by the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus! Keep it up! Religion had become so polluted with faith plus works it’s sickening.
    I read this post and I saw you quote Mark 16:16. Our faith response to the Gospel of death, burial and resurrection. Where Jesus does the work. Colossians 2:8-14.
    People need to hear, “It is finished!”
    Jesus did it all. Get in Christ!

  49. What about people who are not exposed to the gospel? Who.live and die without ever hearing it or reading it? What is it like to be right about everything? Isn’t your God a small God? As if you could know his every intention? How do you know there are not other dimensions with other Jesus’? Isn’t hell here on Earth?

  50. Jeanette Bagwell // November 23, 2019 at 5:57 pm // Reply

    I watched part of a sermon delivered at MoodyFounder week. The young preacher seemed to be preaching another gospel; one of teaching us to reach out to understand other cultures. To blend and not be individual minded. What a sad experience to tune into Moody and not be lifted up in the Spirit by profound preaching from the Bible through the Holy Spirit.

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