The first time I encountered inclusionism in the Tree of Life Family, was in one of our churches when a couple were – in a very excited and very animated way – explaining how wonderful it was to me. They brought the discussion around to how inclusionism proves that Jesus is better than Adam, and that the traditional way of understanding salvation makes Jesus worse than Adam!
They explained to me that because Adam’s sin affected every single human without their choice, then obviously Jesus’s redemption must affect every single human without their choice. As I tried to suggest to them the Scriptures that I mentioned in my previous post that we have to choose life and it is not forced on us by God, they then told me that if I believed that I believed that Jesus was not as powerful as Adam. They were very insistent on this point – that for me to say you have to choose salvation is the same as me making Adam more powerful and more wonderful than Jesus.
But are they correct? is this what the Bible actually teaches? It all comes back to Romans 5 (which incidentally is my favourite chapter of the Bible). Let’s look at verses 12-15:
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5.12-15, NIV)
Look carefully at verse 15. It clearly tells us that the gift is not like the trespass. They are not the same. But the inclusionist will tell you they are different because the gift is better than the sin, and that Jesus is so good that just like everyone fell because of Adam and died spiritually without choice, then everyone is given the new birth by Jesus without choice. For the inclusionist, to say otherwise is to say Adam is greater than Jesus and that grace is greater than sin.
But that’s not a “much more” work. That’s the same work! If Adam’s sin brought death to everyone and Jesus’s grace gave the new birth to everyone, that’s not a greater work – that’s the same work. What the work of Jesus did is not the same, it’s so much greater. Let’s compare the two:
Adam’s sin brought death to all humans. Every man suffers from spiritual death because of Adam, without any choice at all. That’s not a good work, that’s a terrible work. We had no choice. Adam, without your choice, brought death to your planet and your family and your spirit. It was forced on you. That’s not a great work, that’s horrible. Now if Jesus did the same thing and forced salvation on you without your consent, that’s two things forced on you without your consent – sin by Adam and salvation by Jesus. That’s not fair, that’s not good. Your free will is more important to the Lord than forcing you into Heaven or the blessings of heaven.
Let’s keep reading Romans 5:
16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5.16-17, NIV)
The gift of God cannot be compared with the result of sin! One is forced on you by Adam’s failure, and one is a free gift, that verse 17 is very clear on: you have to receive it. It is not forced on you – you have to believe it and receive it. You have to choose life. That makes what Jesus did not the same as what Adam did, but so much greater!
Then the inclusionist will say, but look at verse 18. They love verse 18. It might be their favourite verse. Let’s read it:
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. (Romans 5.18 NIV)
“Can you see” this couple said to me, “this verse proves that all people are made righteous by Jesus”. If Adam condemned everyone, then Jesus justified everyone? No – that’s not what happened! The cross does not impose itself on you without your choice. You always can choose life or choose death. The cross opened up the choice of life. True life, abundant life. You have a choice – are you going to believe in Jesus’ work or reject it. To deny that choice is to reduce the free gift of God’s grace and make it a forceful action pushed on us without consent.
Your ability to make choices matters too much to God to force salvation on you, like Adam forced sin into your spirit! God loves you so much He gave His only begotten Son but He also loves you so much that you have to believe to benefit from it, He will not force it on you. God loves you too much to give you His grace without your consent. For God, no means no. He wants you to make a choice for Him, a choice for life, because that’s the nature of love – it lets you choose, it does not force itself on us.
For inclusionists the gospel is not good news to be believed, it’s an announcement that a God who does not care about consent has already secretly forced the new birth on us and all we need to do is find out about after the event. That is not love, that is not grace, and that does not make Jesus better than Adam!
In our next post we will look at the harm that inclusionism does to individuals and the church.