When you understand the Gospel, it breaks down your preconceived ideas of who is acceptable to God and who isn’t; who will be saved and who will be lost. Jesus went out of his way to show that the love of God and his saving power knows no boundaries.
Jesus showed grace to a despised Roman centurion by healing his servant. When the people saw it, they were amazed, because he wasn’t Jewish, and he was an officer within the army of the cruel occupiers of their land. They thought that only people of their “church” – the Jewish religion – would be saved. They thought that the grace of God was only for people like themselves. That’s when Jesus made this remarkable statement,
I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 8:11–12, NIV).
In other words, Jesus was saying that the people who thought they were in, were left out, and the people they thought were left out, were invited in. That was one of the teachings of Jesus that was so shocking to the religious people of his day, and it should be shocking for us as well.
Don’t ever challenge God by trying to restrict salvation to people just like us.
After the resurrection, the disciples had to decide how to approach the mission that Jesus had given them, of spreading the Good News about Jesus to all the world (Mark 16:15–16). They met together in Jerusalem to decide what to do about the Gentiles who wanted to be saved. In the midst of the debate, Peter stood up and said,
Why… are you now challenging God by placing a burden on the shoulders of these disciples that neither we nor our ancestors could bear? On the contrary, we believe that we and they are saved in the same way, by the grace of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:10–11, CEB.)
We are not to place barriers in front of those who wish to be saved, nor are we to make distinctions between “us” and “them.” To do so, according to the apostle Peter, is to “challenge” God. In fact, the word that Peter uses here for “challenging [God]” is the same word that is used in 1 Cor 10:9 to refer to the apostasy of the children of Israel in the wilderness, when, as a result, they died by being bitten by serpents. So, this issue is serious business to God!
We must never challenge God by trying to restrict salvation only to people just like us. That’s what the Jewish people tried to do, and their “house” was left “desolate”. If you have understood the Gospel you will never try to limit salvation to people just like you. Salvation is for all who trust in Jesus, even if they’re nothing like you.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.