(Continued from last issue.)
Few Old School Baptists, if any, would dare claim they are Universalists. In fact, we are convinced there are no Universalists among the Old School Baptists. It is another case entirely, however, among those that mistakenly call themselves the Old Line Primitive Baptists. Universalism appears to be the norm among them, as can be seen in their writings and from their preaching. To the degree they embrace the noxious doctrine of conditional time salvation, to that degree they are generally universalist in their pronouncements.
When we refer to Universalists and Universalism we do not have in mind anything connected with the created universe. Universalists, in the context of salvation, are those that contend either all, or nearly all, of the human family shall finally be redeemed and dwell in heaven. Those Primitive Baptists that sigh before the idol of conditionalism are especially guilty.
In The Remnant, September-October, 1997, we began an examination of an article by Elder S. T. Tolley, published in his Christian Baptist of March 1997. The title of his article was "What if some do not Believe (Romans 3.3)?" Elder T.'s main thesis appeared to be that Jews and assorted other unbelievers would be in heaven at last, even though they did not believe on Jesus, the Son of God. Elder T. argues for their deliverance based on his shaky assumption that these unbelieving Jews and fellow Pagans believed in God. He offered no real proof, but did scrap together a few flawed premises wrongly drawn from Scriptures that held no trace of support for his wild assertions. Elder T. offered some very questionable guidelines for believers as can be seen in the following paragraph:
"WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST?
To truly believe in Christ is not merely a historical acknowledgment that He lived. Nor is it really summed up in believing that He was the Son of God incarnate through virgin birth and that He truly was crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended into heaven. Even though that much is correctly believed, IF one does NOT believe that Christ DID, in deed and in truth, fully and unfailingly redeem ALL of those for whom He died, they have NOT truly believed in the Savior whom God promised and the prophets said would come. Such a faith is not fully believing in Christ. That leaves too much out. It avows insufficiency and true failure." Elder T.
A more unintelligible statement has not come before our eyes in some time. Even so, we get his drift - and fully disagree. Notice the ambiguities: "To truly believe..." "He truly was crucified,..." "Even though that much is correctly believed..." "they have NOT truly believed in the Savior..." "Such a faith is not fully believing in Christ." "That leaves too much out." And on and on! Scarcely could anything be more ambiguous and indecisive. One either believes or not. Christ was either crucified or He was not. And just what is fully believing? How much may one leave out before it is too much? Brethren, these are not simply grammatical indiscretions. These are vague views that result from Universalism. Test this pitiful statement with a proposition: after several readings, see if you can find in the statement an answer, however poor, to the question at the heading of the paragraph, "WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST?"
To return to the point: Elder T. advances Universalism by denying a Scriptural imperative; the belief in Jesus, the Son of God, in this life, by all that shall live in heaven with God. (We shall not address infant salvation in this article except to say that age, one being young or old, has nothing to do with redemption.) All the elect, no exceptions, shall believe and worship Jesus their Lord after being born again. Belief, a subject to be addressed later, is a sure and certain fruit of being born of the Spirit. We challenge any that may take exception - show us one single person in the New Testament that was a Spirit-born child of God that did not believe Jesus was the Christ. We do not ask for a truck load of examples; one example will do. In the absence of any examples, we contend that boasting of a heaven full of Jews who do not believe Jesus is the Christ is a cut from the cloth of Universalism. Herding off a bevy of other Pagans and unbelievers to glory is just so much additional universalist fabric.
Another citation from Elder T.'s article will show how far one can go in distorting the Word of God when struck with the Universalism craving. The following will be rather lengthy but very revealing:
"THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST"
The question which needs to be addressed is, 'Do we really believe what Christ has said in the Scriptures?' His statement will more fully answer the apostle's question in Rom. 3:3. Christ made it unmistakably clear about how much and what kind of faith one must have to be saved: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life' (John 5:24).
If we truly believe in Christ, we must believe that He told the truth in this statement, as well as many other passages where He affirms the full and complete success of His work in saving His elect people. What is His testimony? He declares: He that believes on Him (God) that sent Him (Christ) hath (already possesses) everlasting life (has already been born again). Notice that it is he who believes in God (the Sender Who sent Christ). This statement does not require faith in the Person of Christ or some proposition made by a so-called gospel preacher. It declares that one who believes in God - Who sent Christ - is already a child of God and is born of the Spirit. That being so, it would be too late to require understanding and belief in Christ in order to be born again!" Elder T.
Except for one observation, our remarks shall be confined to the contents of the second paragraph. Notice that Elder T. drifts about on a subject that allows no digression: "Christ made it unmistakably clear about how much and what kind of faith one must have to be saved." Purely absurd! If a sinner has any faith at all he is positively alive in Jesus his Lord. How much faith makes as much sense as debating how much of "Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 2.28)" is necessary to be saved. As for what kind of faith, we recommend Elder T. review once again Ephesians 4.5. The children of the heavenly King know but one faith; that is the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3.22). This is the same faith spoken of by Paul. "And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead (Romans 4.22-24)." Has an unbelieving Jew or other Pagan ever lived that obtained righteousness for heaven apart from this faith? Who does obtain this righteousness? Those that believe on him [God] that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Say not, Elder T., that a Jew or Pagan can go to heaven simply by believing in God while denying Jesus His Son. The God Paul wrote of was the God we believe raised up Jesus our Lord. Do Jews and Pagans believe in this God? Ask one of them. Do these unbelievers, Jews and Pagans, recognize Jesus as "our Lord"? Never! However, those to whom God imputes faith rejoice to recognize Jesus as Lord.
We look now at the second paragraph. Elder T. here liberally applied his Universalist gloss on John 5.24. This is a blunder among many blunders. The 5th chapter of John is definitely not a passage that proves Jews, or other Pagans, will gain heaven apart from Jesus, the Son of God. Even if all the more glaring errors in this paragraph were culled out it would still require incalculable effort to find even some small portion of truth. The major error, however, is so frightful we are made to wonder if it was intentional. The error? An omission of the greatest magnitude. The omission begins with the quotation of John 5.24, which Elder T. correctly quoted in the first paragraph. In the second paragraph he passes by the first part of the statement of Jesus as if He had never uttered it. Look at the statement once again: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." The words we italicized and made bold face must be considered preliminary to everything else Jesus here said. Why else would He have so begun? He that heareth my word cannot be separated from the remainder of the passage. Those words must be taken in conjunction with and believeth on him that sent me that followed or the whole is falsified. Why do you suppose Elder T. ignored these vital words of Jesus as he waxed eloquent for unbelieving Jews and other Pagans? We say without hesitation - it was either contempt for our Saviour's words or pure ignorance. Let the reader decide. For our part, either conclusion renders all he says on the passage worthless.
Do the unbelieving Jews hear the word of Jesus? Put in the words of John 5.24, do unbelieving Jews hear the word of Jesus, and believe on him that sent him? With no desire to offend anyone, we answer, no unbelieving Jews either hear the words of Jesus or believe on His Father, God. Nothing but saving grace will change their circumstances either.
This fifth chapter of John abounds with other statements fully at odds with Elder T.'s Universalistic sophistry. We offer several examples.
1. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him (John 5.22, 23)."
Do the unbelieving Jews, and assorted other Pagans, honor the Son? No, they do not! Then it follows - they cannot honor the Father. And, mark well, it is immediately after this statement that Jesus spoke the truth of "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him..." of verse 24. How fitting the words of our Lord in another place, "Having ears to hear, they hear not."
2. "And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not (John 5.37, 38)." What is this? Those that believe not Jesus have not the word of the Father in them! Will Elder T. and other Universalists contest this plain declaration? How can unbelieving Jews be born of God, yet not have the word of the Father in them? There is no room for dispute here. This is our dear Lord speaking. Without equivocation Jesus tells the unbelieving Jew that the Father's word does not abide in them, for they do not believe Him, Jesus. Before Elder T. argues still that these unbelieving Jews are born again, he should tell us if Peter was inspired when he wrote that we have been born again by incorruptible seed, by the word of God (I Peter 1.23). Jesus says the Jews that do not believe Him have not the word of the Father in them. Peter says the born again became that way by the word of God. Elder T. says none of this matters. We humbly say that Elder T. is skirting mighty close to blasphemy.
3. "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words (John 5.46, 47)?" It is far more than a simple implied inference that if unbelieving Jews had believed Moses they would have believed Jesus: it is a stated fact. Then it follows, those unbelieving Jews did not believe Moses any more than they believed our Saviour. So, Elder T. would make a case for heaven for these characters that do not believe Moses, do not believe Jesus, have not the word of the Father in them, and yet are, in his opinion, born again because they supposedly believe in God. If Elder T. were a lawyer, we certainly would not want him pleading a case for us. If the Lord wills, the subject of believing as it relates to salvation will be addressed fully at an appropriate time.
The next paragraph from Elder T.'s article leaves no question what heavenly attainments and preferments he promotes for unbelieving Jews and other Pagans.
"Nowhere is the proposition to be found in scripture that one must accept Christ in order to be born again. This would have been the most appropriate time for that proposition to be made. But it was said that those who believe in God possess eternal life. The Jews truly believe in God. And, that being so, it proves that they also have eternal life. Faith in God is evidence of one's spiritual birth, as well as belief in Christ." Elder T.
Notice carefully the first sentence of the above paragraph. Certainly, all that believe in free grace would agree with the statement. But why was it inserted in the paragraph? The subject was not election versus freewill. The subject was if unbelieving Jews, and assorted other Pagans, can go to heaven apart from believing in, or on, Jesus, the Son of God. The sentence is another attempt to prove unbelieving Jews can go to heaven without believing (accepting, Elder T. '5 transmogrification) Jesus is the Christ.
Regrettably, we must cover some old ground again. Notice that twice Elder T. writes of Christ, but not of Jesus. However, the subject of Jews and salvation revolves around whether or not they believe in Jesus, not the Christ. Elder T. must not know there is significant difference, but there certainly is. If any clarification on this subject is needed, contact the synagogue nearest you and ask if those worshipping there see any significant difference between Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ or Messiah.
"The Jews truly believe in God. And, that being so,..." We are not informed by Elder T. of the identity of these particular Jews that he claims believe. His saying so does not make it so. These sweeping claims only weaken the case Elder T. makes for his Jewish friends.
Elder T. selected Romans 3.3 for a text to anchor his article. Just previous to that verse Paul had written the following: "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2.28,29)." If we understand Paul, as well as all other New Testament writers, being a natural Jew afforded them nothing that would advance their hope of heaven. The best credentials they could hope for was circumcision of the flesh, outward circumcision as Paul called it. Having that only, Paul says "he is not a Jew" that is, he is not a Jew fitted for heaven. To be a Jew, one must be a Jew inwardly. He must be circumcised inwardly, of the heart, in the spirit. The question then is this - does the natural Jew evidence this inward circumcision simply by believing in God? Does this belief in God, apart from His Son, Jesus, make him a true Jew; an inward Jew? Not if you believe the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Romans 11.7)! Note well: that election was in our Lord Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world. The election was not to get us finally into Jesus after living in unbelief all our days. No, sir; it was "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world... (Ephesians 1.4)." This election is not an escape hatch for unbelieving Jews and other Pagans at the last. This election was in him, not to get in him.
Ask this question: are unbelieving Jews and other Pagans in, spiritually in, our Lord Jesus Christ while in unbelief? If they are in Jesus then they are born again as Elder T. proposes. But ask yourself this question: what kind of a birth is it that leaves a person ignorant of his deliverer, just as if he had never been born? Is the new birth of so little virtue, so lacking in power, so destitute of effectual change, that one born again is not brought out of darkness into light? Not even after years of growth? Although we purpose to devote a section to the subject of belief, it is needful to here inject a text relating to belief so we may sum up the above. "Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness (John 12.44-46)." Is there a text in all the Word of God that unites Jesus with His Father any more than this text? And does not the Lord say that to see one is to see the other? To believe on one is to believe on the other? Yet, despite this, and countless other texts, Elder T. is totally committed to the unscritpural idea that unbelieving Jews and Pagans will arrive in heaven, having never believed in Jesus. To him, it does not matter that Jesus and the Father are one. He would populate heaven with all sorts of unbelievers, by calling them believers.
Elder T. says the Jews truly believe in God. (Yet they do not believe the truth or Him Who is Truth, itself.) But if so, according to the plain, unmistakable language of the above text, they also must believe in Jesus. Do they? Ask one! Yes, they possibly believe in a Christ to come, but they do not believe in the Jesus Christ of the Scriptures. And, if Elder T. says unbelievers, Jewish, Pagan, or Old Line Primitives, can receive the bliss of eternal life apart from knowing Him, Whom to know is life eternal, neither does he.
"Faith in God is evidence of one's spiritual birth, as well as belief in Christ." Elder T.
It is difficult to determine just what Elder T. proposes in the above. Does he mean faith in God and belief in Christ is evidence of a spiritual birth? If so, much could be cleared up. But, he say elsewhere unbelieving Jews are born again even though they do not believe in Jesus. So then, it appears he is saying faith in God (the Father alone) is evidence that one has been born again and believes in Jesus. If so, he was never more in error. What Elder T. wrote above might be acceptable if he believed John 12.44-46 which we just cited. But Elder T. already affirmed he does not believe such. He writes that Jews, unbelief and all, can be born again and not believe in Jesus. It cannot be both ways. The Bible testimony refutes this wild proposition.
It must be noticed once again, Elder T. mistakenly omits Jesus and uses the word Christ alone. We do not contest that most unbelieving Jews at least think they believe in Christ. We emphatically do contest any suggestion, no matter where it comes from, that unbelieving Jews believe in Jesus Christ. If they did, they would not be unbelieving Jews. It would also be a great contradiction in terms.
"It is a fact that those who do not believe in Christ as the promised Messiah are blinded to the truth of Who Christ is, and they cannot share in the joy of His coming and the redemption secured by Him. They have NOT been saved (delivered) from doubt and blindness which continue to bind those under the law and hold them in bondage. But their unbelief does not destroy what Christ has done for them. They are truly missing out on the greatest joy children of God can share in - the knowledge of their salvation by the sovereign grace of Almighty God." Elder T.
This paragraph is no more than stagnant drippings of distilled conditionalism. It also is another instance of the error Elder T. promotes concerning Jesus, Christ, and Messiah. Read carefully the first sentence of the above paragraph by Elder T. Is it replete with confusion or not? Concerning the unbelieving Jew, he should have said "It is a fact that those who do not believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah..." for Christ and the Messiah are the same. The Jews of which Elder T. writes are not in doubt about Christ and Messiah, and they do not believe in Jesus, the Son of God. Of course they cannot share in the joy of His (Jesus) coming or the redemption secured by Him. None of it was for them - nor for any other unbeliever - unless they are born of the Spirit AND subsequently believe on Him. That fact we expect to fully establish from the Word of God beyond question; at least to those that fear the Lord.
"But their unbelief does not destroy what Christ has done for them." Elder T. has no doubt superficially perused Romans 11.26-32 and concluded that unbelieving Jews have had something done for them. Well, the fact is they may have - and they may not have. All anyone may draw from their circumstances is a current assessment. We cannot know their future any more than we can know our own. What we can know is, if they continue hardened in unbelief and leave this world as unbelievers, then it shall come to pass, even as our dear Lord spoke: "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins (John 8.24)." Stern language indeed! Furthermore, it absolutely dooms the spurious rationale of Elder T. and all other Universalists.
"There is condemnation in unbelief, but that will not send one to hell." Elder T.
Had Elder T. invoked John 3.17, 18 to prove his assertion we would not have been surprised. It has been used often by other Conditionalists in a mistaken belief that it somehow supports their Universalistic claims. It will not, and if the Lord wills, we shall in due time show why it will not.
"No hell for the condemnation of unbelief" says Elder T. Since we cannot learn at this time what the Elder believes about hell, we shall give a fair sample of what the Word of God says about where unbelievers will have their part. "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Revelation 21.8)."
Yes, Elder T. quoted in his article, "Let God be true, but every man a liar." Unbelievers shall have their part in a lake which burneth with fire. Would he spiritualize away the lake which burneth with fire? Then he may also spiritualize away the last expression of the verse, which is the second death. He may say he has no problem there either. Then he shouldn't have any problem spiritualizing away the first death also, and thus eliminate all reality whatever! Much more shall be offered on this spiritualization of all punishment at the proper time.
What this shakes down to is, do we find authority in God's Word to promote the notion that Jews, Pagans, and assorted other unbelievers can go to heaven while denying Jesus as Lord and Saviour? This is a question of considerable significance, and should not be neglected. If we are thus authorized, then where will all this lead but to false hope for many and Universalism doctrinally? To the extent one dismisses the literal force of those verses of Scripture that speak of punishment, condemnation, wrath, judgment and so on, to that extent they are following headlong in the path of Universalism.
The Lord willing, we expect to take up this subject again.
J. F. Poole
Volume 11, No. 6