As I look back at my old self who once believed in hell, I realize how many terrible consequences such a false doctrine has had on me and even all of mankind. One such consequence is pride and arrogance. I can easily think of at least three important expressions of arrogance that arise from such a doctrine.
1. I am responsible for my salvation. This notion only applies to advocates of “free will” for salvation (as opposed to Calvinism that only a select few are saved not by their own will, but by God’s predetermined will). Most free will advocates are going to balk at this suggestion, but let’s face it. If I have to be responsible for choosing Jesus over hell, I have already given myself the God-like power to determine my own fate. Even making a choice is a form of self-effort and attempt (and one that most people in the world never even have the opportunity to make, I might add). This is not what the Bible teaches.
“So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it” (Rom. 9:16).
“You did not choose Me but I chose you” (John 15:16).
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (lit. drag) all men to Myself” (John 12:32).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works (including decisions), so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
At this point, some people will say, “Yes, but you see that even Paul said that we are saved THROUGH FAITH. So right there, it is a choice!”
Let’s reconsider these old lenses. Sadly, through the mistranslation of one little word in many of the newer Bible versions, “in,” we have missed something very significant. We are not saved by our faith in Jesus, but by the faith OF Jesus. Consider the following passage as rendered more correctly in the KJV:
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST unto all and upon ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE…” (Romans 3:21 22).
Notice the faith of Jesus is imparted BOTH to all, AND to those who believe! You might also take note that most modern versions omit the part about “unto all” before the part about “and all them that believe.” Worth looking into why it was omitted!
2. I am responsible for the salvation of others. Of course I’m not suggesting that you are Jesus and you can possibly or actually save anyone. But isn’t it pretty arrogant to believe that you are at least partly responsible for keeping people out of hell? Why bother telling them about Jesus as a ticket out of hell unless you feel responsible? Why send out missionaries unless we think we are somewhat responsible for the eternal fate of others? Again, this puts us on a throne of sorts, suggesting that we have any power over the destiny of others. What a grave responsibility that would be if we truly had this much power over real lives and fates.
3. I must play “God” in the lives of people I love. If we really believe in hell, and hence we really believe that most people for all time are going to be sent there, and we really think we can intervene on behalf of or influence others to any extent—we come to the obvious conclusion (sometimes unconscious) that we must play God to make sure that our loved ones know the truth and are prevented from mistakes, wrong beliefs, dangerous paths, and ultimately damning unbelief. We end up believing that we have to control our universe or sphere of influence because it is crucial to keep our loved ones from choosing a wrong path that could lead to hell.
In this belief system, the world is not a safe place for our friends, our children, our families, and our spouses. In fact, it is not even a safe place for us to question our beliefs, such as the doctrine of hell and where it actually came from and IF it even occurs in the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures (which it doesn’t)! On this throne, God can’t fully be trusted and it is up to us to steer them in the right direction and to ultimately keep them out of hell.
But is this the “god” of the Bible—one who is largely subjected to the will and actions of man? Are we that powerful that we can possibly determine the destiny of ourselves and others? Can we change or interfere with the will of God?
“I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, `My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…‘” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
What is His will and good pleasure? He has stated it over and over. Here is one example of thousands:
“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who WILLS all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4).
Relax. Step down off the throne. Bask in the truth of your Father’s full control over and intent of GOOD for all his creation! He would no sooner banish and eternally punish any of His children than you would yours. He has spoken, and it is finished. Love. Does. Not. Fail. (1 Cor. 13:8).