Sunday October 16, 2022 | Greg Boyd
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them … in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
In this sermon, Greg addresses the question of how Christ died and gave life to all, but at the same time, people can choose death and therefore reject this life. This is set in the context of the end judgment of God.
In Western culture, the individual person is the primary reality. Relationships are things that individuals do, but they are secondary to who individuals are. The Bible and most traditional cultures have a much more wholistic view. In Scripture, whenever people enter into relationships, it forms a new reality that is more than the individuals who comprise it. Families, for instance, are viewed as more than just a collection of individuals. The individuals who comprise a family stand or fall together.
The same is true of nations. The fate of each individual is tied up with the fate of the whole, for better or for worse. When God blesses a nation, he blesses the entire nation, even though there are guilty people in that nation that don’t deserve it. When God sees no choice but to allow a nation to come under divine judgment, the entire nation suffers, even though there are innocent people and innocent animals who don’t deserve it.
On a larger scale, we can say the same about humanity as a whole. To individualist western mindset, humanity is just a collection of individuals, but in Scripture there is a sense in which God treats humanity as a single person. When it comes to God’s judgments and God’s salvation we often miss the way they work because we only think in individualistic terms.
This is illustrated by Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “… for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” God made a covenant with Adam in Genesis 2 stating that if he disobeyed then he would die. Because of Adam’s rebellion all die. God doesn’t intervene to kill us. Death is the natural self-destructive consequence of turning from the God who is the source of life. The phrase “in Adam” simply means something like “humanity in our rebellious condition.”
But Paul said that all will be made alive in Christ. He says something similar in Romans 5:18-20 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. Just as Adam’s disobedience lead to the vast multitude of all humans becoming sinners, so too, Christ’s obedience will lead to the vast multitude of all humans being made righteous.
What then do we do with the statement that all are made alive in Christ? How does this relate to the final judgment? To answer this question, we need to understand that the wages of sin is death. While some argue that this is about eternal punishment, Greg argues that the concept of God punishing people eternally with no hope of redemption contradicts the revelation that God is other-oriented love.
Scripture teaches that every individual has free will and can always chose to say “no” to God. God will never dehumanize a person by coercing their hearts and minds. If humans have free will that God will not coerce, how can God inspire Paul to say, “As all die in Adam, all will be made alive in Christ?”
First, all are in Adam. This is what’s real. The one exception is Christ who opted out of death. So in Christ all are included except all who opt out by rejecting this life. They have free will because God will not coerce. This is why Paul said that all are already forgiven but not all are reconciled.
Second, this is a statement of the reality of how our falsehood crashes up against the way things really work. It is the natural consequence for ignoring reality. The foundation of Jesus Christ has been laid for everyone, but will we build on this foundation? In the end we will be refined and all that is not built on Jesus will be burned away.
To the degree we can be conformed to the eternal reality of God’s love, we eternally participate in the reality of God’s love. To the degree to which we refuse to conform to the eternal reality of God’s love is the degree to which we suffer loss, because to that degree we can’t participate in God’s love.
The hope is that all will somehow be included in God’s love. God wants all to be saved, and when we wish eternal ill upon people, we are not in alignment with God. Let us pray for others that they might receive the fact that Christ has died for them and that they are included in God’s eternal love.