God is not Exclusive

God is not Exclusive

By Georead

During ages past, the church claimed exclusive rights over heaven.  It was claimed that Saint Peter had the keys of heaven. The popes, who claimed to be his successors, professed to able to open or close heaven to men. If men disobeyed they were excommunicated, shut out of heaven, debarred from that eternal bliss. Men were careful to have a priest at their deathbed to be sure they would not be prevented from entering the pearly gates of heaven. These ideas were challenged by the rise of Protestantism.

There are many religious groups today that claiming that we must conform to them in order to enter heaven. They profess to have a monopoly on heaven, exclusive rights to heaven. These claims are not unusual, for similar claims were made in the days of Jesus. The Jews claimed exclusive rights to heaven. They professed to have a monopoly over it. The Gentiles were shut out. They were lost. There was no hope of salvation for them. Even fellow Jews were shut out depending on profession or class.

The Pharisees and elders refrained from associating with any class but their own. They held themselves aloof, not only from the Gentiles, but from the majority of their own people; and their teaching led all classes to separate themselves from the rest of the world, in a manner calculated to render them self-righteous, egotistical, and intolerant. This rigorous seclusion and bigotry of the Pharisees had narrowed their influence and created a prejudice which Christ would have removed, that the influence of his mission might be felt upon all classes.  {2SP 107.1} 

The Jews had created a society with different classes with the Pharisees at the very top and the publicans at the very bottom. The publicans, although they were Jews, were considered a class of people excluded from heaven and shut out of the mercies of God. The publicans were loathed. They were considered awful sinners. They were traitors to Israel and collaborators with the Gentiles. On the other hand Jesus did not exclude the publicans from heaven.

Matthew 9:10-13. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?  But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.  But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 

 Indeed the publicans were sinners. They were thieves and unscrupulous men. Yet Jesus did not exclude them from heaven as did the Pharisees. Jesus sought to work a reformation among them. In Matthew chapter 9 we learn that the publicans were more open to the message of Jesus than were the Pharisees. In Luke chapter 19 we have an example of Jesus bringing about a reformation in the life of a hated publican called Zacchaeus.

It’s interesting how Jesus even uses term “publican” as an example of exclusion Matthew 18:17. Indeed there are cases where people are to be excluded from the church. Yet this was not to be something done in an arbitrary manner. Various appeals were to be made beforehand and when a soul is finally excluded from the church we should never presume they are forever lost. He who rejects this united overture has broken the tie that binds him to Christ, and thus has severed himself from the fellowship of the church. Henceforth, said Jesus, “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” But he is not to be regarded as cut off from the mercy of God. Let him not be despised or neglected by his former brethren, but be treated with tenderness and compassion, as one of the lost sheep that Christ is still seeking to bring to His fold.  {DA 441.2}

 Luke 18:10-13. In this story publican came away from the temple justified but not the Pharisee. In his prayer the Pharisee labels the publican a sinner excluding him from the possibility of God’s mercy. The publican is shut out of heaven according to the Pharisee. What makes the Pharisee think that he has more right to heaven than others?

He fasted twice a week. Did God require this of him? The book Desire of Ages on page 276 quotes this verse in Luke and there it tells us that the Pharisees had an ‘erroneous conception of fasting.’ Also in 1st Testimonies we read: It is true that there are unbalanced minds that impose upon themselves fasting which the Scriptures do not teach, . . . which God has never required. . . They have a pharisaical religion which is not of Christ, but of themselves. {1T 556}

God requires tithe of the increase but what about tithing as Pharisees did? They tithed even small herbs. They carried the requirements of the tithing system to extremes, making them embrace such trifling things as anise, mint and other small herbs which were cultivated to a limited extent. . . . While they were so exact in things which God had never required of them, and were confusing their judgment and lessening the dignity of the divine system of benevolence by their narrow views. . . {3SP 63.1}

The Pharisees did these small things. They professed to be doing the requirements of God more closely and sharper than everyone else. Yet God did not require these things of them. These small things were also points of exclusion. Their mentality was that by keeping these small requirements they were closer to heaven than others. This narrow mindedness led them to shut others out of their exclusive fellowship.

Even the disciples of Jesus suffered from a mentality of exclusiveness. Look at the intolerance of the disciple John. Mark 9:38-40 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.  But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. John was thinking they had some kind of monopoly on Jesus and his power, some exclusive rights. Now this other person was using the power of Jesus to heal. John thought that he had no right to do it and forbade him. Jesus had given the disciples power to perform miracles and sent them out two by two. John now showed his intolerance toward others who were doing the same thing as themselves. Within the same ministry their can be a lack of acceptance of others, even though they promote the interests of the same church. Like John, some think they have the exclusive right to promote the ministry, that others should be forbidden.

There is a precautionary note we must make about these texts (Mark 9:38-41). In these words Jesus is not talking about those who are “against us”. The Pharisees were looking for pretexts and inconsistencies against the ministry of Jesus all the while seeking to promote their own interests. In Mark 9:38-41 Jesus is not giving license for his followers to accept those working at cross purposes.

If John was intolerant towards others promoting the same ministry, the ministry of Jesus, he was even more intolerant of those rejecting it. In fact he didn’t even think those people should remain in existence. He thought they should be utterly cut off and blotted out of existence. Luke 9:52-54 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? In this request James and John were extremely vindictive. They wanted to call fire down from heaven on these poor unsuspecting Samaritans. Jesus rejects their intolerance. Luke 9:55,56 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. God does not cut off people in moment when their prejudices cause them to initially reject Him.

After His resurrection Jesus gave the gospel commission for the disciples to actually evangelise the Samaritans. Jesus didn’t give up on them. In fact the gospel was to go to all the Gentiles. The wall of exclusiveness was to be broken down. Apostle Paul says “salvation is come unto the Gentiles”. The disciples had to change their attitude toward the Gentiles. Before they had considered them shut out of heaven and now they saw that God accepted them. This involved a whole change of thinking. Acts 10:34,35 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

The Jews alone claimed to have a certain knowledge of God, and they were so exclusive, both socially and religiously, that they were despised by every other people. The high wall of separation which they had raised made the Jews a little world to themselves, and they called all other classes heathen and dogs. But Jesus committed to his disciples the scheme of making known their religion to all nations, tongues, and people. It was the most sublime enterprise ever intrusted to man–to preach a crucified and risen Saviour, and a full and free salvation to all men, both rich and poor, learned and ignorant–to teach that Christ came to the world to pardon the repentant, and to offer them a love high as heaven, broad as the world, and enduring as eternity.  {3SP 237.3} 

Concluding Thoughts

We should learn from the example of the disciples. Take care not to judge people and presume to exclude them from the possibility of salvation. We are not God and we don’t know the final outcome of the individual lives.

We should learn from the example of the Jews. They were God’s chosen people. “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). They claimed the exclusive right to heaven. Yet in this they presumed too much and in the end most of them were eternally lost.

We should not build ourselves up in pride that we are better than others because we do extra works. Does God really require these extra things? Have we missed the point of salvation as did the Jews?

There are religious groups that maintain a tight mental grasp over individuals. They claim an exclusive right to salvation and those that dare to leave their group they deem to have rejected salvation. God’s church will never use this sort of mind control tactic over individuals.

Last of all, we believe being baptised into God’s true church and obeying the truth we have a strong hope of salvation. In saying this, let us never ever become presumptuous in our attitude. Always remember that God is no respecter of persons.  God can give grace and his Holy Spirit to one person as well as another.

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One Response to God is not Exclusive

  1. Simon O'Rourke says:

    Since the establishment of Christs church there have been men who have sought to monopolise and own salvation. They seek to implant themselves as another intercessor between God and man, exalting themselves to positions which seek to usurp Christ. They go about this by preaching ‘exclucevity’, saying that their way is the only way, and that they have a more complete understanding of, and the authority to understand and dispense Gods will.

    ” Gods servant knows better than ordinary men” John Theil

    From the Papacy to the Moonies the modus operandi is always the same, Implant in the minds of the people that there is only salvation in the group, and that those outside the group are lost.

    “What should you do with them? They are lost, turn away. Don’t waste your time. Don’t throw your pearl among the swine, they are swine. Why you are so judgemental people will say? I didn’t say this. This is not the decision of God’s word. It is very harsh but it only appears harsh as this is simply a reality. This is God dictating. This is a place of no return. If you try to work with these people that will not return, you are wasting your time. If you are trying to bring them to church, you will not succeed. If you want to have bible studies with them, you won’t succeed. How do you know their probation is closed? You will read it, you will know.” John Theil

    There are those who profess to be humble servants of Christ, yet they seek to gather his precious jewels so as to set them in their own crown to their own glory.

    Matthew 23:13
    But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

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