(July 1, 2015)
I love the language in these chapters when the people rejected the message of the Gospel. They didn’t reject or oppose Christ, nor did they reject or oppose Paul. They opposed themselves. I think that I lose sight of this sometimes, but ultimately we are each of us fully and completely responsible for our own salvation. We cannot take ownership for the salvation of others.
We may do things to help or hinder others, and by so doing we are either working out our own salvation or heaping destruction to our souls. But we cannot force anyone to Heaven, nor can we preclude anyone from Heaven. That is something that is simply impossible to us. We cannot own that result either way.
The other thought that I had was with the disciple of John who was powerful in the faith and ready to be converted. It struck me how similar that is to many in our day. I think of those who have accepted the Gospel, but not the fullness or the Restoration of the Gospel. Powerful advocates for Christ, even as they stand in opposition of His Church. People like C. S. Lewis in the past or William Craig today. But it isn’t just the well-known believers – the world is full of good and righteous people outside our faith.
Much like this disciple of John, they are worthy men and women and our allies in the work. We should greet these people as brothers sharing a common goal. We should try to bring them the further light and knowledge which we know, but at the same time we should never forget that the Savior which they worship (often better than we do) is the very same Savior that we worship. Protestants often say we worship a different Christ, which offends us. But in our treatment of believers of Christ who are not of our faith, sometimes I think we act as if they were the ones believing in a different Christ – which is no more true when we say it than when they do.