We 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.
I’ll respond to the two-Adam argument in my next article.
Check out other Inclusion articles.