There are seasons in the life of every follower of Jesus when they feel a strong desire for a fresh word from God. That inexplicable desire lies latent and frequently unrecognized within everyone. Such was the case for the people who were around when Jesus began his earthly ministry.
In the roughly 400 years between Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, and Matthew, the first book in the New Testament, the spiritual landscape was dry and silent. The people were thirsty and ready for a fresh word from God.
Then John the Baptist appeared. The message he brought sent shock waves throughout religious establishments and the entire region. The indifferent, the wanderers, the skeptics, the idolaters, the spiritual dry and thirsty all came to listen to this unconventional forerunner of Christ. His message resonated loud and clear. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:1-2). “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). “For this is He who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3)
John the Baptist’s words pierced through the dryness and rhetoric of the day and resonated with power in the hearts of every listener. “…Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordon went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” (V:5-6)
Did you notice the word “all?” In the original Greek, the word “all” meant “everyone; no exclusions.” All meant all! How often we are tempted to dumb down these “universally inclusive” terms and cheapen God’s grace. Let me give you a couple of examples. The Bible says that He was not willing that “any” should perish but that “all” should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9) Did you notice the words “any and all?” They mean exactly what they say. In John 3:16 we find another of those “universally inclusive” words. The word “whosoever.” It says, “who ever” believes in Jesus will be saved and have eternal life.” Acts 2:12 states, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Whoever means just that – whoever!
God’s love is for ALL. Jesus came to die for ALL. Not one person is outside the scope of his grace. Let us guard against dumbing down the “universal inclusiveness” of God’s heart for all people. His free gift is offered to all.
The Apostle Paul boldly addressed the people of Athens amid idol worshippers and disputers of all kinds. This was his message. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. …he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 16:24-27)
The universal nature of God’s call continues right to the final verses in scripture. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” WHOEVER is thirsty, let him come, and WHOEVER wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:17)
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group / Loads of Love