All Alone in the World

  • Question from JM, United Kingdom

    How accurate is the illustration that says: if you were the only person on this planet God still would have sent Jesus to die for you?

    This is quite a popular phrase among evangelists and it tends to be used to press home the point of God’s love for every human being. However, it is not a phrase used in the Bible and could be considered as yet another indication of the triumph of individualism in modern Christian thought.

    Christianity is a corporate religion, in that Christians come together to form a Christ-centred community. The subjective nature of post-Enlightenment Western thought, with its empowerment of the individual through the proclamation of ‘rights’ (whether the ‘rights of the citizen’, ‘human rights’, ‘consumer rights’ or whatever) is not entirely new, but it has had a major impact on Christian belief.

    One way is in the application of Scripture. It is quite clear from their context that most of Paul’s letters are addressing the corporate activities of the churches he wrote to. Obviously the presence of the Spirit in corporate life would have knock-on effects in the lives of the individuals who made up those ‘bodies of Christ’, but the way in which Christians take the Pauline lists of Spiritual gifts and fruit on an entirely individual level runs counter to Paul’s understanding (for further on this see Gordon Fee: Paul, The Spirit and the People of God, published by Hodder & Stoughton 1997).

    Jesus was sent, according to the famous verse in John’s gospel, for the whole world as a mediator between human beings and God (1 Timothy chapter 2, verses 4-6). The Bible does not address ‘what ifs’ and hypothetical scenarios. As an argument, this phrase is technically unprovable. The point is that any human being is not the only person on the planet, even though their sin might cause them to act as if they are. The good news is that, despite there being millions of people in this world, everybody who chooses to enter the Kingdom of God is wanted, is valuable and has a unique role to play, which might sound even better news.

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