The world is full of paradoxes – propositions that contain contradictory elements but prove to be true. There is Galileo’s paradox: though most numbers are not squares, there are no more numbers than squares; the Archer’s paradox: an archer must, in order to hit his target, not aim directly at it, but slightly to the side; and the paradox of Hedonism: when one pursues happiness itself, one is miserable, but when one pursues something else, one achieves happiness. In the second chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy there is another paradox, which I will call the exclusive inclusivity paradox.
“… [God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:4-6a
The truth of the gospel is, if nothing else, perfectly inclusive. God wants all people to be saved. God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth. God’s desire is that every person – irrespective of gender, class, ethnicity or age – would know Him. God’s wish is the every person in all creation over all time would have intimate understanding of His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. The truth of the gospel is available to all.
The truth of the gospel is also, if nothing else, perfectly exclusive. There is only one God and one mediator between God and mankind. When it comes to the gospel , there are no choices but one: believe in the God of the Bible and the sacrificial death of Jesus as a ransom for sin…or do not. There are not many pathways to paradise, but one (the road to Calvary). There is no diversity of positive alternatives in one’s eternal future, but one true God (whose wrath against sin is mediated solely through Christ).
This is the paradox of the gospel: that God desires that everyone know Him and that the truth that He wants everyone to know about Him is extremely specific. The good news is that God wants everyone to be saved; the challenge to mankind is that salvation comes only through Him. Some of us like exclusivity: memberships in an elite club, offers that only we can accept, relationships with that one significant other. Some of us gravitate toward inclusivity: neighborhood block parties, open houses and free samples. The wonderful thing about the gospel -driven church is the exclusive inclusivity of the truth she espouses.
There is room for us all before the cross of Christ. The longing of God is that all people trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The longing of God is that we all know that there is only one name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:22). If you know the exclusive inclusivity of the gospel, share it with those who have yet to hear the truth of God. If you do not know the exclusive inclusivity of the gospel, consider accepting these words and going to church this weekend.
The one true God longs for all people to know Him.