“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
The Bible begins by introducing us to God. What comes to mind when you hear the word, God? Are you happy? Scared? Indifferent?
What does God mean? According to Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary, God and good are written the same in the Saxon language. This leads some to infer that God was named, in the English language, from his goodness. God is good.
Adam Clarke wrote, “Many attempts have been made to define the term God: as to the word itself, it is pure Anglo-Saxon, and among our ancestors signified, not only the Divine Being, now commonly designated by the word, but also good; as in their apprehensions it appeared that God and good were correlative terms; and when they thought or spoke of him, they were doubtless led from the word itself to consider him as The Good Being, a fountain of infinite benevolence and beneficence towards his creatures.”
Among cultures that worshiped different gods than the God of the Bible, Webster notes that the name of those Supreme Beings were taken from his, her, or their supremacy and power. Their names were equivalent with a concept that signifies the exertion of force. These gods considered mankind a mere plaything and desired no enjoyable union with them – they just wanted mankind to submit. The gods were presented as requiring from man acts of worship, some of them vile and violent, in order to win the gods’ favor.
The God of the Bible, however, is completely different. He is the creator of mankind and his environment. Both mankind and his environment are the objects of God’s affection. “God hates nothing He has made, and could have made no intelligent creature with the design to make it eternally miserable.”
God is powerful, to be sure. God is just, to be sure. But his power and justice are directed toward the ultimate good of mankind.
John’s gospel reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave…” I didn’t finish that verse for a reason. I want you to ponder this. “For God so loved the world that He gave.” God is love. God is a giver. Love is defined by giving, and God is the greatest giver of all.
I asked you in the beginning what comes to mind when you hear the word, God? I hope you can say with joy, God is Good.
What comes to mind when you hear the word LORD?
The Online Etymology Dictionary confirms this meaning: mid-13c., laverd, loverd, from Old English hlaford “master of a household, ruler, feudal lord, superior; husband,” also “God,” translating Latin dominus, Greek kyrios in the New Testament, Hebrew yahweh in the Old (though Old English dryhten was more frequent). Old English hlaford is a contraction of earlier hlafweard, literally “one who guards the loaves,” from hlaf “bread, loaf”.
I asked you in the beginning what comes to mind when you hear the word, LORD? I hope you can say with joy, the LORD is the great giver who gives me everything I need both now and forever.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”
Notice that Paul does not say that God is the Savior exclusively of believers, but especially of believers. All mankind will be saved, but believers have something special. What does that mean? Here is an explanation written by Phil Scranton.
The Special Salvation of Believers – By Phil Scranton
“This a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For, therefore, we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Tim. 4:9, 10).
One of the most common objections to the teaching that all will ultimately be saved is that it makes believing in Christ in the present pointless. If everyone is going to be saved, then why believe, why preach the gospel, why try to live a good life for God? These questions show that the salvation enjoyed by believers today is not understood. Many people today think their salvation is the key to an escape from hell to an eternal state of bliss. That is not what it is. Believers will be raised from death, or changed while still alive, into a condition of immortality. They will no longer be subject to death. In this immortal condition they will live during the coming ages of the kingdom, and participate in kingdom rule. That is their special salvation. And in the final times of God’s plan of the ages, the believers will be the ones who lead the unbelieving into peace with God.
Eonian life (not eternal life) is the life of the coming kingdom ages. It is a life enjoyed by believers in which they will live to see the ills of this world corrected and the world come under subjection to Jesus Christ. Paul was speaking of this time when he wrote to the Romans: “For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God…Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom 8:19, 21, 22).
Creation has a premonition of deliverance through those who, by believing now, become the sons of God. And it is in the revelation of glorified believers that the unbelieving will come to salvation.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he prayed for them to come to a realization of God, the Father of glory, by realizing three things (Eph. 1:18, 19): (1) the hope, or expectation of God’s calling; (2) the gloriously rich enjoyment of God’s allotment among the saints; and, (3) the exceeding greatness of God’s power for believers. The first of these, God’s calling of believers, is that they would be His sons (Eph. 1:3-6). The second request is to realize how glorious it will be to have God in us and among us in the coming ages as we bring all the heavens and earth under the headship of Christ and in submission to Him (Eph. 1:6-12). The third request was to grasp the greatness of God’s power for believers. This Paul refers to in verses 19 of chapter 1. Then he gives the example of God’s power operating in Christ as it will be when all the universe comes under His feet (1:20-23). Then Paul delineates how the display of God’s power in Christ will be fulfilled in believers also in 2:5-10.
The special salvation of believers today is: (1) to become sons of God; (2) to be the administrators through whom God will work in the coming ages to bring all under the headship of Christ; and, (3) to become the powerful actors through whom God will accomplish His purpose. Believers are not saved to sit and blissfully twiddle their thumbs. Believers are saved to save the universe by God working through them.
Thank you Mr. Scranton. If I may add additional testimony to his words from Rev. I. D. Williamson:
“It is often remarked by those who oppose the doctrine of universal salvation, that if God is the Savior of all men, then there is no difference between the saint and the sinner, the believer and unbeliever. Those who make this remark, seem to forget, that while God is declared to be the Savior of all men, he is also said to be ESPECIALLY the Savior of the believer. Though it is true, that God is the Savior of all, yet a little more attention would teach you, that all along, in Scripture, there is a salvation held forth as the SPECIAL PROPERTY of the believer, in which the unbeliever can have no part or lot. Though all shall be saved with an everlasting salvation, yet the believer ALONE can enjoy this special salvation.”
The Nature of Salvation, 1840
From Elhanan Winchester to George Washington
London August 15. 1791.
Dear and most renowned of men,
I send you with this a sett of my Lectures upon the prophecies that remain to be fulfilled; which I present to you as a small token of that sincere respect which I, among many millions of the human race, feel towards the deliverer of my Country, and the friend of mankind. I have mentioned your name and Character with the highest respect in this work (see vol. IV. page 390) in a connexion that will be no disgrace to your very exalted merit.
It has pleased the Great Supreme, the Sovereign of the Universe, to raise you to the greatest dignity that any Man on earth enjoys at present; the happiness of presiding over a free and united people, the object of their free unbiased Choice. You do not only preside over them, but like him whom you so much resemble, you rule in their hearts, and feel in yourself the sublime pleasure of making a considerable portion of mankind happy.
I believe firmly that the blessed period will at last arrive when the glorious Redeemer shall subdue, humble and restore all his Creatures; when every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall swear allegiance to his name and Government and confess him to be Lord, to the Glory of God the Father. When the morning Stars shall sing together, and all the sons of God shall shout for joy! When the Whole Creation shall be delivered from the bondage of Corruption, into the glorious liberty of the Children of God. These are the sentiments which you will find dispersed in the volumes before you; they have been well received in this Country, and I hope will not be altogether unacceptable in my native Land.
May the blessings of God attend you all your days, and when you shall be called to depart from this mortal stage, whereon you have acted such a glorious and conspicuous part, may you have the Approbation of the Great Judge of all, and in the bright and blooming morning of the resurrection be raised in the likeness of your Saviour, and receive from his hand a Crown of righteousness, life, and Glory, which shall never fade away.
This is, Most Respected Sir, the sincere wish, of your most Humble servant – Elhanan Winchester
GREAT man of merit, influence and might,
Enjoy thy country’s honours to the end.
When God Almighty gave creation birth,
And laid the firm foundations of the earth,
Settled the laws which all his works obey,
He saw, and he appointed thee thy sway ;
In that choice land where freedom first arose,
Nor fear’d, nor fell before her numerous foes ;
Gave an example which shall always shine ;
There wast thou born, fair freedom’s land is thine.
On thee hath Heav’n caus’d glory to descend,
Nor will it fail to crown thy happy end.
Preserve, O Lord, a life to man so dear,
Regard that chief, who doth thy laws revere,
Enthron’d within our hearts, he rules by love,
Supremely favour’d by the God above ;
In him, with joy and wonder we behold,
Disinterested love, contempt of gold ;
Engag’d his country’s welfare to pursue,
Now are its highest honours all his due
There let them rest, nor envy dare to view.
Of all his toils, America to raise
Friends of true greatness, all will give him praise.
The wond’rous man who wielded sword and pen,
How great a benefactor he hath been !
Endear’d his name to all his countrymen.
United in himself at once we view,
Nice judgment, prudence, patience, valour too ;
In his fam’d character, at one we find,
Those virtues which are sing’lar in mankind,
Engaging mildness, join’d with martial skill,
Determin’d resolution to fulfill ;
Serious devotion, and benevolence,
Truth, probity, sincerity, good sense ;
Alike prepar’d for closet, cabinet, field,
The same in war or peace, his country’s shield.
Enjoy, O favour’d land ! this blessing lent ;
Such is GEORGE WASHINGTON, your President.
O land of freedom, plenty, happiness,
Forever may the Lord thy dwelling bless :
Newly discover’d land, where freedom reigns,
Over thy hills and vales, and fertile plains,
Revere and love the God who made you free,
That rais’d a Champion for your Liberty,
Happy, O land, in such a Chief as he.
Awake my noblest strains, and hail the day,
My heart is warm, and all my words obey ;
Enchanted, I could dwell upon the song,
Rich with enliv’ning scenes ; a glorious throng !
In that delightful country, we may find
Comely religion with fair freedom join’d,
And every blessing that can bless mankind.
The world was ruined by human selfishness. The world is being restored by selflessness – by GIVING. God is a GIVER, Christ is a GIVER, Believers are exhorted to be GIVERS. Religions present the gods as TAKERS, but the Bible reveals the True and Living God as the Great GIVER. Love is defined by Giving.
“For God so loved the world, that he GAVE… If thou knewest the GIFT of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have GIVEN thee living water… the Son of man shall GIVE unto you… my Father GIVETH you the true bread from heaven…For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and GIVETH life unto the world… the bread that I will GIVE is my flesh, which I will GIVE for the life of the world… I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd GIVETH his life for the sheep… For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who GAVE himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Thomas Cahill, in his work How the Irish Saved Civilization, made this wonderful observation.
“The Romans are the rich and powerful who run things their way and must always accrue more because they instinctively believe that there will never be enough to go around; the catholics, as their name implies, are universalists who instinctively believe that all humanity makes one family, that every human being is an equal child of God, and that God will provide. The twenty-first century…will be spiritual or it will not be. If our civilization is to be saved – forget about civilization, which, as Patrick would say, may pass ‘in a moment like a cloud or smoke that is scattered by the wind’ – if WE are to be saved, it will not be by Romans but by Saints.”
In that spirit, enjoy this incredible poem which will encourage us to walk in Love as Christ loves us and GIVES Himself for us as an offering and sacrifice to God. Love is defined by GIVING.
Christian history “shows at once how Christianity spreads over the world, and how it penetrates, transforms, and sanctifies the individual and all the departments and institutions of social life…
From Jesus Christ, since his manifestation in the flesh, an unbroken stream of divine light and life has been and is still flowing, and will continue to flow, in ever-growing volume through the waste of our fallen race; and all that is truly great and good and holy in the annals of church history is due, ultimately, to the impulse of his spirit. He is the fly-wheel in the world’s progress. But he works upon the world through sinful and fallible men, who, while as self-conscious and free agents they are accountable for all their actions, must still, willing or unwilling, serve the great purpose of God…
With the crucifixion of Christ his resurrection also is repeated ever anew in the history of his church on earth; and there has never yet been a day without a witness of his presence and power ordering all things according to his holy will…
The kingdom of Christ, in its principle and aim, is as comprehensive as humanity. It is truly catholic or universal, designed and adapted for all nations and ages, for all the powers of the soul, and all classes of society. It breathes into the mind, the heart, and the will a higher, supernatural life, and consecrates the family, the state, science, literature, art, and commerce to holy ends, till finally God becomes all in all…
Christianity has thus passed through many stages of its earthly life, and yet has hardly reached the period of full manhood in Christ Jesus. During this long succession of centuries it has outlived the destruction of Jerusalem, the dissolution of the Roman empire, fierce persecutions from without, and heretical corruptions from within, the barbarian invasion, the confusion of the dark ages, the papal tyranny, the shock of infidelity, the ravages of revolution, the attacks of enemies and the errors of friends, the rise and fall of proud kingdoms, empires, and republics, philosophical systems, and social organizations without number. And, behold, it still lives, and lives in greater strength and wider extent than ever; controlling the progress of civilization, and the destinies of the world; marching over the ruins of human wisdom and folly, ever forward and onward; spreading silently its heavenly blessings from generation to generation, and from country to country, to the ends of the earth. It can never die; it will never see the decrepitude of old age; but, like its divine founder, it will live in the unfading freshness of self-renewing youth and the unbroken vigor of manhood to the end of time, and will outlive time itself.
This article contains excerpts from Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church Volume One.