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only Savior of the world. And that is the observed effect of His death in the worship of heaven. We encounter it in the transcendent vision of heaven's praise given to John the Apostle, particularly the song of the 24 elders and four living creatures before the Lamb:
Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth (Rev 5:9-10).Note the language of international achievement in their singing! Jesus did not purchase in His death the nations of the West who presuppose something of a Judeo-Christian heritage. Nor was He slain for Israel alone. Jesus voluntarily poured out His blood for men "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" to make them a new kingdom unto God.
Jesus is the "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) and will deservedly receive the praise from all the nations of the earth eternally. His work was for men and women from every nation.
The exclusivity of Jesus' work and the Gospel is the very thing that establishes its universality. If He is the only Savior of the world, then He is the only way to be saved from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. The Lord God excludes no one from the reach of His grace because of their ethnicity, culture, nation of origin or language.
It is with grief, therefore, that we must acknowledge the Church is not always faithful to the "universal religion" with which she has been entrusted:
Christians should breathe the spirit of a universal religion. A religion which regards all men as brethren; which looks on God, not as the God of this nation, or of that church, but as the God and father of all which proposes to all the same conditions of acceptance, and which opens equally to all the same boundless and unsearchable blessings...When we are encumbered with ethnic, racial, or national overtones, we betray the Gospel. Somewhat counter-intuitively, it is the "hard edge" of the Gospel's exclusivity that supports the Church's mandate to universal love for men. We serve the Savior and Lord of the world, who died for those under death from Adam and those separated into varying languages, tribes, nations, and peoples.
It must be very offensive to God, who looks on all men with equal favor (except as moral conduct makes a difference), to observe how one class of mortals looks down upon another, on account of some merely adventitious difference of rank, color, external circumstances, or social or ecclesiastical connection.
- Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans , p. 351
This, of course, raises a question that is often poorly answered - at least in many American evangelical circles. Did Jesus die for every individual in the entire world - without distinction - or was His death more particular and more definite? Far from being a tertiary point of theological trivia, it is a fount of faith, assurance, worship, and stands as a sentry at the very center of Gospel truth. But, we'll try to deal with that tomorrow.