Inclusivism versus Exclusivism

Inclusivism versus Exclusivism

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
–Acts 16:31

Some people answer the question about who will be in heaven with a view called inclusivism. Inclusivism holds that the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross is the only means by which people can be saved–but inclusivism also says that a person can be saved by Christ without personally trusting in Christ. In other words, inclusivism would say, “People who have never heard the gospel and simply believe in a revelation of God they see somewhere in creation go to heaven.” They also say that people who follow another religion, if it’s kind of close to Jesus and they just call Jesus by another name, those people will be in heaven as well. Inclusivists agree with Peter’s statement in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” The inclusivist would say, “Amen, I believe that.” Inclusivists believe that Christ is the means by which people go to heaven, but they are quick to add there are people who will be in heaven who have never trusted in Christ. In other words, people can receive the gift of salvation without knowing who the sender of the gift is, they say. Here is the problem with that view. In the New Testament, there is always a link between salvation and personal belief. In fact, you cannot find one example in the New Testament of anybody who was saved without personally trusting in Jesus as Savior.

That leads to another view, which I believe is the biblical view of who will be in heaven, and that is exclusivism. Exclusivism is the biblical belief that salvation is limited to those who exercise personal faith in Jesus Christ. Since the time of Christ’s death and resurrection, the only people who will be in heaven are those who personally hear and trust in the message of Jesus Christ. Now, exclusivists say there are two exceptions to that: infants and children who are too young to accept Christ, and those who are mentally challenged and incapable of accepting the gospel. We believe they will be in heaven as well. Many passages in the New Testament connect salvation with personal belief. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” In John 11:25-26, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” In Acts 16:31, Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Jesus, the apostle Paul, all the New Testament writers said there is no salvation apart from a personal belief in Jesus Christ. Now, that raises troubling questions. What about those who have never heard of Jesus? What about those who lived before the time of Jesus? And perhaps the most troubling question of all: Are you telling me that a good, moral person who sincerely believes in another religion will spend eternity in hell while somebody like Ted Bundy, a notorious serial murderer who before his execution trusted in Christ as Savior, will be in heaven? That makes no sense. God’s Word has an answer for every one of those objections. The Bible teaches only those who exercise faith in Christ will be saved.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Sharing an Exclusive Jesus in an Inclusive World” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.