‘Universalism’ is a position that would suggest we have something when we have nothing or very little. Universalism might have us believe that since the cross is for all, then all are saved. Then again it may be applied to our understanding of salvation to suggest that we can have any gospel – even a gospel produced by our own manufacture and choosing so that we belong to the one loaf - even if our gospel is ‘another gospel’ as Paul defined it. Or it may suggest a ‘gospel’ that robs us of genuine sonship and leaves us in a sonship of the kind that Paul called ‘No gospel at all.’ We are talking the kind of gospel that Jesus warned about in the parable of the tares that identifies sons of God as distinct from sons of the father of lies.
There is nothing orthodox about universalist theology and its imputations and it cannot rightly be called the ‘gospel of the Kingdom’ or the ‘apostles teaching’. Dr Joseph Tkach writing in support of the apostles doctrine observes,
“Our theology is .. Biblical and historically orthodox. Our understanding of this theology has been greatly aided by the writings of several of the patristic fathers, including Irenaeus, Athanasius and the Cappadocians. We have also found helpful the writings of several 20th‐century theologians who, in the providence of God, contributed to a resurgence of interest in this ancient Trinitarian theological vision in many parts of the body of Christ over the past six or seven decades.
These theologians include Karl Barth, Thomas F. (TF) Torrance, James B. (JB) Torrance and Ray S. Anderson—men whose faith and understanding traces back to the Bible and to the early Creeds of the church. Their understanding also aligns with the central concerns of the Protestant Reformation.”
Indeed Thomas Torrance succinctly summarises the orthodox gospel in these words, “What Christ united to himself in this way he redeemed and saved, for from beginning to end, from his birth of the Virgin Mary to his resurrection from the empty tomb, the whole incarnational assumption of our human nature was at the same time a reconciling, healing, sanctifying and recreating activity. Here we are talking Christ our life..
“In making himself one with us he both took what is ours and imparted to us what is his. In his great compassion he did not reject union with our nature, fallen though it was as the result of sin, but gathered it up in himself in order to purify it and quicken it in his own sinless life-giving life.” (1)
POSSESS THE REAL
This is as good as you can get as a summary of the at-one-ment and the application of Christ our life to our everyday living. It is exactly what it means to belong to the Body of Christ. Yet this belonging not ours because it is there and not ours if the treasure has not been dug up from the field and possessed. We must respond to it and respond to it personally and accurately so that what we are joining ourselves to is Christ’s gospel and not some cunningly contrived variation in which we are not joined at all.
Paul writes, ‘Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf’ 1 Cor 10.17 NIV. We could if we chose, assume that this scripture means that we are at liberty to please ourselves about what we choose to believe as Christians. In many things we are - but we are not free to choose a gospel of our own or mangle what we call the gospel so severely that it is not what God in Christ accomplished for us. The preceding scripture indicates that the ‘one loaf’ refers to our participation in the one person of Jesus Christ as His one gospel of the atonement and incarnation.
RELEVANCE AND IRRELEVANCE
Don’t let assumptions about the law and its abstraction cloud your understanding. The law is relevant as a barrier to your participation in belonging and irrelevant in that God united us with Himself in a living way that has nothing to do with the law.
‘But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify’ Rom 3.21 NIV.
Dr Garry Deddo observes that, “To avoid making unfounded inferences, it is important to note that when the Bible speaks about reconciliation (inclusion), what it is referring to is a relationship that God, by grace, has established in the God‐man Jesus Christ between himself and all people. That relationship is personal in that it is established by the person of the eternal Son of God, and it involves human persons who have agency, minds, wills and bodies. This reconciliation involves all that human beings are—their whole persons. Thus this personal relationship calls for, invites, and even demands from those who have been included the response of participation. Personal relationship is ultimately about interaction between two persons (subjects, agents), in this case between God and his creatures.”
It involves interaction between ourselves and the truth, who is Himself a person and our grace.
FANTASY AND REALITY
Reality is never fantasy or futility. Reality is Christ. We are in the real when He is in us and He is our life.
Jesus lived from His Father. Jesus Christ was and is one with His Father and in Him so are we. Jesus came as the Revealer of the Father and as the Representative of who all of us are. He did not represent the law and was not under the law. Had He been He would not have been God or our Saviour. The law would. Have been God. It can neither save or transform.
To construct Jesus as a law supporter is to form in our minds a false christ and a false gospel. This kind of misguided impression cannot link us to the Christ of God or make us one with His Body – certainly not in spirit and in truth. As Paul warns. It leaves us in ‘this body of death.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’ John 6.53 NIV.
Christ is for you. Christ is in you. By His Spirit He manifests as you, so that you are truly you as a son. He becomes us because we are not distracted by junk food. We eat His flesh and drink His blood in the Spirit and thus manifest Him in our flesh.
(1) Torrance, Thomas F.. The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (T&T Clark Cornerstones) (p. 162). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.