People sometimes criticize Christianity as being exclusive. How can it be that only Christians find eternal life in their God? If it is exclusive, that means that not everyone can be saved. Such is not the message of the gospel.

In reality, Christianity is not exclusive, but inclusive. Anyone who wants to receive forgiveness and eternal life can find that freely available irrespective of ethnicity, age, economic status, or even the depth or breadth of sinful rebellion.

God’s salvation in Christ is freely available to all. That is what makes the path to salvation narrow. One can only come through faith in Jesus Christ. All can come, but they must come according to God’s design. And that pathway is through faith in Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

Why must we choose? It comes down to love. God loves us and wants us to love Him, but love always requires a choice to love. It can never be forced. To have such choice to love also allows the choice to reject and not love. In short, because God wants us to love Him, He gives us a free choice to do so. That means we can say “yes,” or we can say “no.” When we say, “no,” that is rebellion and rebellion is sin.

In short, God wants us to love him that requires us to choose Him freely. He creates the fact of free will, but we initiate the act. Bottom line: not everyone is saved because not everyone wants to be saved.

The interplay between our free will and predestination has driven sanctified monks crazy throughout church history. We do not seek to unravel the mysteries here, and we do acknowledge the reality that an all-powerful, all-knowing God certainly must determine all things. At the same time, without free will, there is neither freely chosen love and obedience nor culpability for our acceptance or rejection of Jesus.

For those who will not sleep tonight without an answer to this perplexing problem, I recommend that you read Dr. Norman Geisler’s, Chosen but Free. Geisler’s well-reasoned and well-exegeted conclusion is that God “knowingly determines and determinately knows.”

The challenge of the theology aside, salvation is available to all, but not everyone wants to come through Jesus, and apart from faith in Jesus there is no gospel, no forgiveness of our sins, no eternal life, and only eternal separation from our Creator in the flames of hell.

There are other factors at work concerning why many choose not to receive Christ’s free offer of salvation and eternal life. The chief among these reasons is the spiritual blindness that the devil places over unbelievers’ eyes.

The Marketing Department at the gates of hell works overtime to keep people away from freely receiving forgiveness and eternal life. The Bible is clear that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The devil, who is the father of lies, works continually to convince people of a multitude of lies, including— God does not exist. We can work to save ourselves. There is no afterlife. Ae are the masters of our fate. Jesus was never more than a historical figure. And maybe the most effective lie of all— The devil himself is not real.

Believers who collectively make up the church are charged by Jesus to proclaim the good news of the gospel and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). It is an impossible task if all unbelievers are blinded and cannot see the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).

We must never forget that God is the One who saves, not us. It is not our eloquence, devotion, persuasion, superlative apologetics, or persistence. Only God saves. But that does not free us from the responsibility of sharing the gospel and making disciples. We cannot say, “Not my job!” It is true that it is not our job to save, but it is our job to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of Jesus, which is a lifelong process.

Such is our responsibility, so it is necessary to share the gospel and to have that message accurate. We must also understand that the gospel of Jesus addresses our sinful rebellion, His payment of our sins, and his subsequent granting of eternal life. While the broader impact of the gospel throughout our city in the world will often bring transformation leading to healing, justice, and righteousness, no lasting transformation is possible without dealing with the core issues of sin and eternal life.

We must understand the message of the gospel, which includes the death of Christ for our sins and the resurrection of Christ for our eternal life. We must understand that this good news must be individually received by choosing to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man.

Authored by Dr. David F. Ingrassia, Stewarding Pastor of Charlotte Awake