Inclusiveness is emphasised as part of political correctness, all sorts of documents claim that one must be inclusive. Recently various Christian speakers and authors have been claiming that because the gospel is inclusive at its heart this can justify behaviour that no Bible believing Christian would have accepted in the past. I do not want to discuss the individual issues but rather examine how the Bible is inclusive and how it shows in one sense an exclusivity.
1The Gospel message shows that all humans are under the just judgement of an almighty, gracious and holy God. This part of the gospel message is often watered down but is central to the apostolic preaching of the gospel. We cannot read the sermons in the book of Acts without recognising the truth of this statement. For instance on the day of Pentecost Peter showed the people of Jerusalem their sinfulness and then invited them to come to Christ. The same pattern can be seen in the preaching of the Apostle Paul see for instance his speech before the Areopagus in Acts 17. The apostles also set forth clearly the universal sinfulness of humankind in the teaching of their epistles, this is perhaps mostly clearly demonstrated in the first three chapters of Romans. Here, we see Paul declaring his gospel and he starts with the fact that all humans are under the just judgement of God. Here is something which is really inclusive,
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
What is surprising is that this sort of inclusivity is not stressed by many in today’s Church, to talk of sin and the bondage it causes is unpopular, but this should not cause us to back off from proclaiming this as part of our gospel proclamation.
2 The invitations of the gospel are universal to all mankind, but even here we notice that the apostle included repentance as part of the gospel invitation. All people are offered the good news of the gospel because as John’s gospel so clearly says,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16–18).
Notice that these words stress that salvation is available to those who believe, but those who continue in unbelief are still in their sin. The grace of God is available to all but is only effective in the lives of those who believe. Many want a God of love, but they do not want the God of the Bible because he is a Holy God. Today we see a watering down of the claims of the gospel, but this only causes bewilderment and for many to miss the path of salvation through Christ alone. A full declaration of the gospel must include the command to repent and to put one’s faith in Christ.
3. The Bible makes it clear that belief affects behaviour, this can be seen throughout the bible.
The redeemed people of Israel were given God’s laws so that they could live a new life pleasing to God, the same applies to those who have been born again and this causes division because it shows that some are in the family of God and some are not. Paul describes the difference the gospel makes in these words,
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Co 6:9–11).
Here, we see that the gospel has transformed the believers at Corinth, Jesus and the Apostles expected to see this change in the lives of all believers. The believing community welcomes all repent and believe and want to live their life in submission to the will of God. Many believers will battle with sin and will need the help of the community. The gospel creates a new community set apart from the world, and we must not allow the world’s standards distort the Biblical message.