I was floored; completely broadsided by a statement made. "Jesus died for the church". That was it. Jesus died for the church. I wanted further clarification so after the service, I asked the speaker to elaborate and he stated with no hesitation that Jesus died for the "elect." "What about John 3:16, I asked; what about "the world?" His response was that the "world" doesn't really mean everyone; it's a figure of speech. It's not literally "the world". Wait, I thought to myself, "so we are applying contemporary American slang to ancient Greek?" He then referred me to Paul's writings in Romans 7, 8 and 9 to further clarify his position which I read later on in the afternoon. I also did some more research and here is what I found.
According to www.blueletterbible.com, the term "world" used in John 3:16 in Greek is kosmos. Among the many parts to the definition is this one, "the human family" and "those alienated from God." Jesus did not die for "the church" alone. He died for all, for those alienated from God. John 3:17 goes on to say "so that the world (kosmos) might be saved through Him". In fact, Jesus said that he came for the sick, not those who are well, Mark 2:17. Interesting also to note in the gospels that his beef was usually with the religious teachers and leaders, but I digress.
As I looked at the Romans passages, I noticed something interesting. Romans 11 is a beautiful passage where Paul clearly identifies the Jews as "the elect" and that God saw fit to "graft" in the Gentiles for salvation. So, it seems that "the church" has taken this concept of the elect out of context from which Paul originally intended and the result has been catastrophic. It has created divisiveness and this culture of "you're in and you're not" which has hurt the cause of Christ.
The problem I see is that the church has created a "gospel" of exclusion which flies in the face of Jesus' clear gospel of inclusion. In fact, this "exclusive gospel" is contrary to many of the prophets of old which spoke often to the idea of reconciliation of ALL things to God. Further, It is clear in Colossians where Paul asserts that "he (Jesus) reconciles all things to himself through the cross." Unless of course ALL THINGS is really slang and doesn't really mean, all things.
So to summarize, for some, Jesus died only for a select few, the few that God had chosen in eternity past and the rest will go to hell in the proverbial hand basket because of their sins. But is that Jesus' gospel? Did Jesus really die a brutal death only for a select few? Did his cry of "It is finished" and forgive them Father for they know not what they do" only extend to a select bunch? What about the people who lived pre-Christ? Are they excluded because they didn't have a chance to "believe"? Or did he sacrifice all so that he could redeem ALL that had been created by him and through him and for him... Colossians 1:15-20.
Jesus' gospel is inclusive. For God so loved the "world", the kosmos; the human family, all creation and all of creation would benefit from his act of love, redemption and reconciliation on the cross. THAT is the Good News of the gospel.
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