The Inclusive-Exclusive Jesus
Text: Luke 13:22-35 | Listen to Message
The One Door That’s Different
Our culture tends to make two assumptions about the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of God’s salvation:
Assumption #1: If God is inclusive, that means everyone’s going to be saved regardless of what door or path they used to get to him.
There are more than 4,000 religions in the world, and many of them look and sound pretty much the same. So who’s to say which one of them is right – or if there even is such a thing? All religions contain some truth, and no religion contains all the truth, so just believe whatever you want and try to be a good person. We’ll discover in the end that we were all just climbing different sides of the same mountain.
Assumption #2: If God is exclusive, that means only the highest achievers are going to be saved in the end.
Only good, moral, successful people have earned the right to spend eternity with God. After all, God is all things holy and righteous and pure. So only a tiny percentage of people are going to win the salvation sweepstakes and qualify for heavenly citizenship.
Most of our culture accepts Assumption #1 and rejects Assumption #2. We embrace this idea that God – if he (or she) exists – is an all-loving, all-tolerant, all-inclusive pluralist with a “COEXIST” bumper sticker on his (or her) celery green Prius. We despise and ridicule the presumed alternative that God will only save a select few who chose the right path.
So who’s right? Is God inclusive or exclusive? Is the door narrow or wide? Will many be saved or few?
Jesus’ answer in Luke 13 is shocking in its 3 basic parts:
1. Salvation is far more exclusive than you think.
Jesus says the door into God’s kingdom is narrow…it’s closing…and even if you find it, you still can’t get in any way you please.
You can’t just pick a door, any door, and find God. In fact, every door but one leads away from God. And that one door is only open for a short time. There’s no purgatory in which to change your mind: death is final. Most exclusive of all is the fact that there’s only one means of access to this narrow door. Your ancestry, status, religion, church attendance, and good deeds won’t cut it. You’ve got to be invited into this salvation – and you’ve got to come on the narrow way.
2. Salvation is far more inclusive than you could ever hope.
In one breath Jesus talks about the narrow door and in the next he talks about people streaming into it from all points of the compass! When the Apostle John is permitted a glimpse into the worship of heaven, he sees “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages” (Revelation 7:9).
Furthermore, Jesus says he’s going to include all kinds of people you probably thought he was going to exclude. He’s going to save those who are last. The have nots. The foolish. The poor. The weak. The broken. The irreligious. The lost rebel. (See Luke 13:30; 15:24; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; James 2:5)
3. Salvation is deeply personal.
This is where the rubber meets the road for every individual. Jesus says, in essence, “Stop worrying about how many or few will be saved; just make every effort to make sure you’re one of them.”
But how can we know which of those 4,000 similar doors to choose? How can any humble person honestly think he or she has chosen the one right door? Well, what if it’s not like that at all?
You see, Jesus Christ didn’t come to this earth as just another prophet telling you what to believe or how to live. He didn’t come to suggest yet another religion, another door, another path to God. The fact is there was no door to God. There was no access for sinners. In reality, Jesus came to tear down the wall that separated us and to mediate our peace. This is how and why he can say, “I AM the door” (John 10:9), “I AM the way…and no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
So there aren’t 4,000 doors to God. And neither is there a single door that’s open only to the highest achievers or the luckiest guessers. The one door to God, the one access to eternal life, is Jesus Christ himself. Though he has all the power, authority, and righteousness to judge you forever, he offered his life as the payment for your sins. And now he invites you, “Come, repent and believe this good news!”