Let’s take a test.
I stumbled upon a grace test yesterday. I say “grace test” because it’s a hypothetical question that indicates a lot about what a person understands about grace depending on how they answer it. Just by thinking about the question, I believe you can find out something about yourself.
The question arose from a study I was doing with my friend, Arnold, on 1 John chapter 2:1-2, which reads, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins — and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”
If Jesus has atoned for the sins of the whole world, then hypothetically, the whole world could be saved if everybody believed, repented and accepted God’s sacrificial offering for sin by Jesus Christ. And this raises an interesting question: What would we feel about that? I decided to ask Arnold how he would feel if God ended up saving everybody? He said immediately, without question, that he’d feel good about that. I think that’s the way it should be.
But then I thought about abusers, rapists, drug dealers, murderers, mass shooters, and a long list of undesirables that I wondered if I would be very happy seeing in heaven. Well, then, the key to this would be how I see myself. If I match up well with these folks in relationship to my own sin, then there shouldn’t be any problem. I am among fellow saved sinners, and it doesn’t matter what we’ve done; God’s grace is the same for all of us. But if I think of some people as worse sinners than myself and less desirable to have in heaven, then something is going to be askew in my knowledge of God’s grace.
The apostle Paul believed he was the worst of sinners and least desirable of God’s favor and a place in heaven. Does that mean Paul was an exceptionally bad sinner? I don’t think so. I think it means that Paul was so aware of his own sin and so overwhelmed by God’s grace, that he was convinced that no one was more undeserving of God’s kindness than he was, and I believe that this should be a universal feeling for all of us when we truly see our sinfulness and God’s grace.
The other side of this would be the Pharisees whom Jesus derided for standing by the gates of heaven, keeping people out. “For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either” (Matthew 23:13). Self-righteousness is just what it says it is … you keep it to yourself. What a tragedy.
If you think you are the worst of sinners and least deserving of heaven, then if you get in, you will most likely throw the door open to everybody. This is the essence of grace turned outward. Once you have it, you want everyone to have it.
So go ahead, take the grace test. How would you feel if God ended up saving everybody? Your answer might tell you something about how much you understand about God’s grace and grace turned outward.