An agnostic friend of mine confessed that he rejects the biblical account of Jesus Christ, preferring instead the false choice of a “hippie Jesus” who doesn’t judge. Not surprisingly, his favorite account of Jesus is the gospel of Thomas, which isn’t included in the modern canon.
My agnostic friend professes to believe that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection has automatically secured salvation for all nonbelievers as well as believers, rendering faith in the one true God unnecessary. Consequently, this liberal Jesus doesn’t condemn anyone to hell but instead promotes a peace-loving, can’t-we-all-just-get-along, love-conquers-all ministry.
Unfortunately, the liberal Jesus my friend has described and wishes for is very different from Jesus as he is quoted in the Bible.
Consider whether a can’t-we-all-just-get-along Jesus ever would have said:
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:49-51)
Jesus certainly taught about his authority to judge and to condemn people to hell. A few examples, all in Jesus’ own words:
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:26-27)
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9)
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” (Luke 16:25-26)
I understand the temptation to imagine a hippie Jesus who preached only love and peace and tolerance and that everybody goes to heaven, but that’s simply not consistent with the documented evidence we have of Jesus.
Indeed, Jesus did die for all humanity, including the nonbelievers – see Romans 5:15-17.
As Paul taught the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
But as I pointed out above, Christ himself required the faith component, that “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned…” Only grace through faith can produce salvation, not merely the gift of grace.