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 Arminianism1.
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 them all—but he does not save them all, nor does he save anyone—unless they put their hand into his offered hand.
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! For in this illustration, the people are drowning—dying out there. And this would-be “rescuer” restricts his saving power and limits his efforts at rescuing by the decision of these dying people themselves, to reach out to him. 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 “gospel 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?
Have you been saved by the Saviour?
Is the Lord Jesus Christ your Saviour—or did your faith-decision save you? Is your faith resting upon the Lord Jesus Christ—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 sins2 (John 5:22; 16:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10). So, they really do beg God for mercy, and they actually look to Christ for salvation.
However, they have attached themselves to a church which teaches that Christ’s redeeming, propitiating, atoning sacrifice was made on behalf of all mankind, and yet which also teaches that not all mankind will be saved.
Precisely here is the root cause of the deepest distress-of-soul in these saved people.
This doctrine throws them back upon their own spiritual resources—which they know are all corrupt, requiring of them to provide faith (i.e. belief)3 as the essential component in their salvation.
They seek to “grasp Christ’s offered hand” by believing in him. But, knowing themselves as well as they do, they fear that their faith is not strong enough, or that it is not real faith, 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 years, they tell themselves, “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 actual Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.