A Universalist Vision of the Church

In the church one finds people from every tribe and tongue joined in one body.  One day it will not simply be people called out from every tribe and nation who love the Lord but the totality of every tribe and nation.  Our calling is to act as a prophetic sign to the nations representing the destiny of all humanity.  When people look at the church, God wants them to see a vision of what redeemed humanity can be — what it will be. . . .  The church is called to be a reconciled humanity that in Christ has transcended all the barriers that fracture human communities.  Paul brings out the socio-ethical implications very clearly in his concern that divisions between Jew and Gentile must be transcended in Christ.  They are united in Christ.  It is a very high calling and both a major challenge and inspiration to our practices.  It is a calling rooted in the realized eschatology of the New Testament — the churches experience this reconciliation now as a sign of the fullness in the age to come, when all humanity will be summed up in Christ and reconciled to God and each other.  Sadly, we model this reconciliation in very imperfect ways in our churches, and this is both a major failure on our part and an evidence that the fullness is yet to come, even for the church….

The vision also connects with the theology and practice of worship.  The dream that inspires the universalist is one in which the whole of creation — all creatures great and small — join together in a symphony of worship to their creator.  The day when every knee will bow and every tongue will worship is what we long for.  To the universalist, the worship of the church in the present age is an eschatological act — a foretaste of the age to come.  When we meet together to worship God we are anticipating the day when all creation will love him.  So Christian worship is an act of hope and a prophetic sign on the part of those who live by the power of the coming age even in the midst of this present darkness….

Christian universalists share with non-universalists many of their motivations for gospel proclamation:  to obey Christ’s command, to save people from the coming wrath, to bring them into living fellowship with the triune God and his church.  However, Christian universalists are perhaps more likely to be additionally inspired by a more unusual reason — the vision that in proclaiming the gospel one is playing a part in God’s glorious purpose of reconciling the whole of creation (Col 1:20) and summing all things up in Christ (Eph 1:10).  Working with the Spirit in bringing about this glorious destiny is a strong motive for evangelism and mission in its broader sense also.

— Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, p. 167-168

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