(Below are notes referenced in the above video)
I believe that Historic Christian Universalism is True – because I believe it is plainly taught in the Bible.
Definition: “Historic Christian Universalism is the belief, held by many Christians since the early history of the Church, that the Spirit of God through Holy Scripture teaches us that ALL of humanity will ultimately be saved through Christ.
Taught in the Bible? For example:
“God is not willing that any should perish” – 2Pet.3:9
“[God] doth will all men to be saved, and to come to the full knowledge of the truth… we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things.”
1 Timothy 2:4 , 4:9-11
[NOTE: for the “especially” (Greek: malista) above – compare 2 Timothy 4:13 “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially [malista] the parchments.”]
The questions I seek to answer about Romans 11:25-26 are:
Is a “universalist” reading/interpretation plausible – and, is it the most “plain” meaning of this text?
“25 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in;
26 and so all Israel shall be saved…”
How do we arrive at a faithful reading (the meaning intended by the author) of the text?
Rule #1: “Context is king!”
THE LARGER THEOLOGICAL CONTEXT
The importance of Romans 9-11: It is indisputably the apex and culmination of Paul’s theological discourse beginning in chapter 1. (Some scholars consider it to be, essentially, the “Mt. Everest” of ALL of Paul’s writings).
There is an obvious crescendo in the final paean of praise of the last verses of Romans 11 – then a pastoral redirection – i.e. in view of the truth and revealed theology of Romans 1 through 11, how should we live?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” 12:1
What is THE most important premise of Pauline Theology in which to frame all of Paul’s writings?
God’s supreme will, plan and purpose is to bring Divine Reconciliation and unity to “all things” in the World/Cosmos/Creation
that has been torn asunder by sin and death
(the “works” of Satan).
How does God do this?
Through Christ – the Jewish Messiah, who IS God made flesh: God and Man unified, made ONE!
Our reconciliation to God and creation is through the Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of the God-Man.
In view of this – is it even conceivable that the final state of “all things” will be a world eternally divided and fractured between a heaven and a hell?
What key “flag” alerts us to Paul speaking of this basic driving force of redemption?
The word “Mystery” in Paul’s writings is used around 16 times – It gets us to the heart of the Gospel revealed directly to Paul – often in surprising ways!
“The mystery of God – namely Christ” Col.2:2
“The mystery of Christ” Col.4:3
“The mystery of the Gospel” Eph.6:19
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Jesus.” – Ephesians 3:6
(quote from Markus Barth)
Conclusion: In terms of theological context – the subject of the relationship of Gentiles and Jews is HUGE for Paul’s understanding of the Gospel – and the great purpose of Christ, the Messiah!
What is “the one purpose of God”?
Two places speak clearly to that:
Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1
Eph.1:“8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9he d made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
Col.1:” 9b We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives….19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
And so it is not unreasonable to bring this larger context to bear on our understanding of what Paul says here in Romans 11:
The uniting of ALL THINGS under Christ
The reconciliation of ALL THINGS through Christ
THE IMMEDIATE TEXTUAL CONTEXT
So – How are we to understand “the full number” (Greek – one word – “pleroma”)?
“plḗrōma – “sum total, fullness, even (super) abundance” (BAGD).”
“For in him all the fullness [τὸ πλήρωμα] of God was pleased to dwell,” Col.1:19
“the earth IS THE LORD’S, AND [τὸ πλήρωμα] ALL IT CONTAINS [or “the fullness thereof”]. 1 Cor.10:26
The exact same word already used in the immediate context (11:12) – just a few verses previously
The way it is used: “FULLNESS” anticipates the words “all Israel” and the concluding “mercy on ALL”
“But if their [Israel’s] trespass means riches for the world, and their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”
“He has shut up ALL unto disobedience in order to have Mercy on ALL…”
From Him – Through Him – To Him
Are ALL things!
The greatest hindrance to accepting this?
Failure to believe in the power of God!
In Mark 12:24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?…26 have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ d ? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living [“for to him all are alive” parallel from Luke 20:37]. You are badly mistaken!”
A short phrase is easily missed in Romans 11:23, “for God is able”…
“To men who are not simple, simple words are the most inexplicable of riddles.” – George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons
Conclusion: it is both plausible and “plain” that, if we take the propositions (in verses 25-26) of Paul as directly as possible – without imposing any systematic preconceptions – A “universalistic” understanding of the two verses in question can actually mean what they say:
ALL Gentiles and ALL Jews will ultimately receive Mercy from God!
Is it any wonder why Paul ends this chapter with his greatest hymn of praise?
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.