Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis
(Php 3:15) Therefore as many as are perfect, [let us hold this opinion], and if you think anything differently, God will reveal this also to you.
(Php 3:16) Only to what we have attained, to the same hold on.
(Php 3:17) Become fellow imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who walk in this way, just as you have us as an example.
(Php 3:18) For many live, of whom I spoke about to you many times, but now speak about even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ,
(Php 3:19) whose end is destruction, whose God is the stomach, and whose glory is in their shame, the ones who think on earthly things.
(Php 3:20) For our commonwealth exists in heaven, from which also we eagerly await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
(Php 3:21) who will transform our humble body to be conformed to his glorious body, in accordance with the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Paul here explains that “the many” are enemies of Christ. He says their end is destruction (meaning ruin or loss). They will be ruined or suffer much loss. That Paul is referring to physical things is given since the next clause states as much. They are ruined by following after their own appetites, whether in food or in licentious behavior (whose God is their stomach and whose glory is in their shame). And, so no one will mistake what he is speaking about, Paul states that these ones are thinking on earthly things.
Paul is contrasting the believers who should be focused on heavenly things rather than the unbelievers whose focus is on earthly things. Why do so many teachers of the Word try to squeeze out of these verses that the destruction is spiritual? I think it is because far too many Christian teachers have an agenda that they must fit these teachings into, to make their theology work. How unfortunate this is, as I have so often stated in this review!
1 Tim 4:16
Although this passage has nothing to do with final destruction, it does bring out a point that I am emphasizing in this book review. Read the following few verses from this chapter and you will get my point.
(1Ti 4:4) For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving.
(1Ti 4:5) For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.
(1Ti 4:6) If you instruct the brothers of these things, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed.
Here Paul is saying that the false teachers who will spring up will not teach these things. This is how to identify them. But believers will teach what these verses say. Godliness, Paul says, is profitable for everything (vs. 8) and that statement is trustworthy and worthy of believing (vs. 9) Then we read verse 10, which is passed over by most Christians today because of what it teaches (universal salvation!).
(1Ti 4:10) For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Why should the believer be striving toward or acting godly? Because, God is the Savior of all people! Paul emphasizes that the subset, especially those who believe, are a subset of all people. God will one day save all people, but there is a special set of people who in this life believe, and that subset, especially should practice godliness NOW because they believe NOW. Others will come to belief after this life when sin will not be a present issue for them, yet they were still not hearing or understanding salvation in Jesus. One day God’s love will penetrate their hearts and convert them.
Then Paul finishes this teaching by commanding that this be taught (godliness should be pursued by those believing ones and that God is the Savior of all people, vs. 11) . Practice godliness (vs. 15) that others may see your actions. By doing these things (godliness), you will save (deliver, protect, preserve) yourself and those who you are around and teaching. (vs. 16) There is no talk about salvation in Christ, or being saved and believing versus not being saved and being an unbeliever. It is about practicing godliness and recognizing that God is the Savior of ALL PEOPLE! It is about things going well with you by recognizing who God is and honoring that with our lives. It is not about FINAL DESTRUCTION!
I will say this. I am very glad that God rescued me out of the denominational, institutional churches that I was a part of, that had taught me so much error in regards to God and salvation. I am now seeing God in a much more glorious way than ever before and beginning to understand that all the works that we do, thinking we are pleasing God, were nothing more than filthy rags. God is never disappointed with me or you because of what we do or don’t do. He loves us because He knows who we are and what His purpose was for us all along, and He looks forward to the day when He will be all in all and all His image bearers will be worshiping Him!
1 Tim 5:24
Real quickly, this passage does not speak about final destruction either, but a quick comment is in order.
(1Ti 5:24) Some men’s sins are evident, preceding them to judgment, and some also follow later.
This judgment is a temporal judgment in this life. Some sins get judged in this life and even after the judgment and apparent penalty is paid, the effects go on afterwards. The evidence of sin does not always disappear with the remediation of the sin. The consequences of sin may be evident throughout this life. This is all that is being spoken of here.
1 Tim 6:9
(1Ti 6:1) All those who are under the yoke as slaves must regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, lest the name of God and the teaching be slandered.
(1Ti 6:2) And those who have believing masters must not look down on them because they are brothers, but rather they must serve, because those who benefit by their service are believers and dearly loved.
(1Ti 6:3) If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not devote himself to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness,
(1Ti 6:4) he is conceited, understanding nothing, but having a morbid interest concerning controversies and disputes about words, from which come envy, strife, slanders, evil suspicions,
(1Ti 6:5) constant wrangling by people of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who consider godliness to be a means of gain.
(1Ti 6:6) But godliness with contentment is a great means of gain.
(1Ti 6:7) For we have brought nothing into the world, so that neither can we bring anything out.
(1Ti 6:8) But if we have food and clothing, with these things we will be content.
(1Ti 6:9) But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge those people into ruin and destruction.
(1Ti 6:10) For the love of money is a root of all evil, by which some, because they desire it, have gone astray from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.
Paul, again, takes up the topic of godliness here, just like he did in chapter 4 and 5. The ruin and destruction of verse 9 are again, temporal (this life). I need say nothing more about this passage, other than my opinion, that it is pretty ridiculous that teachers of the Gospel (like Packer and all who have written articles for this book!) get so much of Scripture wrong following after there own presuppositions and/or to continue to be paid for their labors. Being paid for laboring in the Gospel falsely is abhorrent to me and should be to you. God sees the motivation of their hearts and I pray that He corrects them in this life and spares them much pain in the life to come. Friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord, pay close attention to what you are being taught. As Paul warns, there are many deceivers and false teachers who have gone out into the world. Don’t buy into their ungodly teachings!
I will stop here for today. The next few verses will come from Hebrews and Peter and will take a few pages in themselves. I trust the Lord will bless you through the study of His Word and pray that He will use what I have written to bring glory to Himself and praise for Him into our hearts. I look forward to your comments and suggestions to this post.