I would assume that if you were to take a poll, most Americans (Christian or not) would tell you that if there is a God, then all people are welcome to Him (IOW: He loves everybody). And for the ones claiming to be Christian, the Scripture they would appeal to as their support wb (Joh 3:16).
Here however is the problem w/that: God loving (or opening the way of salvation to all races of people – versus only the Jews) – which is what Joh 3:16 is talking about when it mentions God loving “the world”, is not the same thing as saying all people are welcomed to God.
There is criteria for coming to God beyond just your ethnic background. In this case, there is the requirement of also believing – or receiving the gospel message, which begs this important question, who are those people? or (better yet) how do we identify them? How do we identify those who are truly believing?
Before we pursue this any further, allow me to share w/you why this matters (or should matter to you) = B/C Jesus doesn’t want you wasting your time attempting to make disciples out of people who are not welcomed by God (Mat 7:6) = w/o getting into who exactly represents hogs and dogs (we will do that here in a minute), notice that – at the very least – there are people (those fitting this description) who Jesus instructs us not to “give what is precious/valuable” to – no doubt referring to salvation; IOW: there are certain people Jesus doesn’t want us wasting our time on (as it re: to salvation).
In similar fashion, Jesus instructs His disciples before sending them out to evangelize (Mat 10:1-7, 14).
John the Baptist also understood this and it affected the way he treated those who came to him for baptism (Luk 3:4-7).
Does this mean we don’t evangelize people? NO. But it does mean we understand that not everyone who says they believe when they hear the gospel is welcomed by God – or truly believing (even though they may say otherwise).
BTW: if you haven’t noticed, I am using these two terms synonymously – to truly believe is to be welcomed by God and vice versa. And when we identify that somebody is NOT – we move on; we stop wasting our time (until they are).
SO HOW do we identify WHO that is? WHO are those welcomed to God – to receive His salvation by coming into covenant relationship w/His Son? What makes them something other than “hogs” and “dogs”? What identifies them as those truly believing and ripe for salvation?
HERE is the criteria (and therefore who we sb focusing our attention and time on versus “kicking the dust off our sandals and moving on”) In its antithesis, this list (therefore) also identifies who Jesus is referring to as the hogs and dogs (meaning if they don’t meet this criteria – even though they may claim to believe or want to be saved, then they are the spiritual hogs/dogs of this world who we are NOT to continue wasting our evangelistic efforts on). The CRITERIA wb delineated as FOUR ATTRIBUTES (and all are necessary – iow: they need to be possessing all four to be welcomed by God and ripe for His salvation – otherwise what you wb selling to them is a fire insurance policy that will NOT pan out).
- They of their own volition (versus being pressured by others) seek to know God or be saved (Act 16:11-15 and 25-33; This is where it starts but is not all that is required to be welcomed by God – see Luk 12:22-24).
*The remaining 3 are not only also necessary (but also) what it means to be repentant – which is quite often the way being welcomed by God is summarized in Scripture. Repentance also represents the prerequisite to believing (Mar 1:15). Keep that (therefore) in mind as we go thru these remaining points (they are what must define repentance if it is to be true and welcomed by God).
- They (those welcomed by God) love righteousness/God’s Law (versus those who mock it, bock at it – or are always looking for loopholes or demonstrate behavior that shows they still hate it – ) (Mat 5:6 “righteousness”) = The principles est’d by God’s Law. This is a person who desires (again, “hungers” or “thirsts”) not only for things to be righteous in the world (and is grieved by its wickedness), but also longs to understand God according to His Law. That kind of person is “blessed” since they are welcomed by God – or ripe for receiving salvation. (e.g. Mar 12:28-34; Act 8:26-38). This is likewise (then) a person who also fears God since fearing God is associated w/His Law (Act 10:1-5, 22, 34-35; See Psa 19:7-9).
QUESTION: What about Paul before he was converted? Wasn’t he a person hating righteousness in his persecution of Christians? NO – 1Ti 1:12-15 = Jesus came to save sinners – even the worst! BUT (as Paul makes clear from his own life) that still requires being a sinner whose heart seeks to be righteousness or not opposed to God’s Law. This too was Paul – Phi 3:6; Paul’s problem was Christological not Soteriological – i.e. he didn’t possess a problem w/the mechanics of God’s salvation – which has always been about righteousness/law. He failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah – which was fixed by Jesus on the Damascus Road – Act 9).
The point NOT to miss = People who are welcomed to God are only those who (again) are not opposed to righteousness or His Law. They are people who long (“hunger” and “thirst”) for such things in their life (they desire to live a righteous life though that may not be how they are currently living).
- They love justice and therefore want to make their wrongs right (Luk 19:1-10) = Notice Zacchaeus comes to Jesus (not the other way around). He is the one doing the seeking/inquiring. Notice also his desire to make things right thru justice (what he offers to do is according to God’s law in regard to defrauding others and not caring for the poor).
(Luk 22: 39-43) = The thief that Jesus is willing to take to heaven is the one who embraces the justice he is receiving as confirmed not only by his confession (“we justly are being punished, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds”) but also his rebuke of the other thief (“Do you not fear God?”…This man has done nothing wrong”). As w/the other points/examples, notice he is also the one seeking Jesus (of his own volition) – versus Jesus seeking him – or attempting to convince him. No doubt, this man’s embrace of justice and willingness to pay for his sins was a position he had come to before his actual execution. And like Zacchaeus, it made him welcomed to God (for salvation).
Those welcomed by God are (therefore) NOT those always playing the victim – or making excuses for their bad behavior. They are (instead) those demonstrating (of their own volition!) ownership for their actions.
- They love God’s people and the authority He has given to His leaders (or the church) (Luk 7:2-9) = The man is this account is viewed as possessing the kind of “faith” welcomed by God unto salvation bc of two things: 1) his love for God’s people (v5), 2) His love for authority – most specifically, the authority found in God’s church or in His leaders (v7-8 – Notice it is this that most blows Jesus away – v9).
Paul reveals his authority as God’s leader (or to dispense salvation) to be the reason he was legitimate and the Corinthians could have (real) comfort/confidence in their salvation (2Co 3:1-4). People welcomed by God are not only thankful for such authority on earth, but comforted by it. They see and happily embrace that God has established such authority. Hence the reason they are (also) not turned off by His Law. Only rebels – those not welcomed by God, hate authority and laws.
This is what James is referring to in (Jam 5:14-15) = Notice those eligible to be “forgiven” and “raise[d] up” on the last day – i.e. those welcomed by God for salvation – who are on their deathbeds (“sick” as in dying), are only those who understand that such authority has been given to God’s people – or more specially, the church’s “elders” versus something they can do by themselves (or their Christian friend/family member) thru prayer (the evangelical view = you save yourself).
If we meet people who bock – or are offended at the church (or her leaders possessing such authority), then this sb a sure sign they are not those God wants us wasting any more time w/. They are not welcomed by Him (2Pe 2:10 – false teachers and false professors “despise authority”).
CLOSING CONTEMPLATION = Evangelism and making disciples is about finding those people welcomed by God – not keeping people out of hell. As such, the only people we sb endeavoring w/after our gospel communication (to them) or evangelism of them are those who demonstrate the “soil of a right heart”. A person whose life manifests those attributes just discussed.