Most Protestant church leaders today believe and teach that Christ’s death has actually “made it possible” for all of mankind to be saved, if they will turn and believe in Christ. This is the central and most cherished doctrine of the system sometimes known as Arminianism.
An allegory often used by such preachers has “Jesus” in a lifeboat, ready to rescue people who are drowning at sea. This “Jesus” calls to them, offering and desiring to save them all. He reaches out his hand, offering to grab all of them—but he does not save them all. He does not save anyone—unless they put their hand into his.
I have even heard such a preacher describe this “Jesus” as a “perfect gentleman, who does not force salvation upon anyone against their free will.”
What a strange kind of “Rescuer” this is! In this Arminian gospel illustration, the people of the world are drowning—dying out there. And their would-be “Rescuer” holds back his saving power. This “Jesus” limits his efforts at rescuing to the decision of the drowning people themselves to reach out to him. They say he desires to save all mankind—but he might have saved none. It all ultimately depends upon people making a “decision for Christ.”
So, the underlying message of this illustration is that people must choose to believe in Christ in order to be saved—it is up to them to grasp the Lord’s hand.
What is the foundation of your hope and assurance of salvation, Christian reader? Is the Lord Jesus Christ your Saviour—or did your faith-decision save you? Is your faith resting upon Christ alone—or is your faith resting upon itself?
Many true Christians struggle with this question. The Holy Spirit has convinced them of their sinful state, of Christ’s righteousness, and of his right as Judge to condemn them to Hell for their sins (John 5.22; 16.8; 2 Corinthians 5.10). So, they really do beg God for mercy, and they genuinely look to Christ for salvation.
However, they have attached themselves to a local church where they teach that Christ’s redeeming, propitiating, atoning sacrifice was made on behalf of each and every sinner of mankind, and yet they also also teach that not all mankind will be saved.
Precisely here is the root cause of the deepest distress-of-soul in these saved people.
This “decision for Christ” doctrine throws them back upon their own spiritual resources, which they know are all corrupt, requiring of them to provide faith (i.e. belief) as the essential component in their salvation.
So, they seek to “grasp Christ’s offered hand” by believing in him. Meanwhile, knowing themselves as well as they do, they fear that their faith is not strong enough, or that it is not real enough, or that it will not survive under temptation and the world’s constant anti-Christian propaganda, or that they are not believing in Christ “for the right reasons.”
And so, for a while—perhaps for many, many years—their ever-present but suppressed terror is: “There is no hope for me.” And that is the truth! There is no real hope for any of us if our salvation depends upon anything which we must provide out of our own fallen, spiritually dead, totally depraved souls.
Meanwhile, in reality, there is every hope for them in their Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.