Friday, October 26, 2007

All Means All

I remember Dwight Nelson asking the question a few years back in a sermon, "How much of all is all?" Seems like a silly question, I know, but the implications are profound. Believe it or not, there are many people in varying circles of Adventism and Christianity-at-large that debate the all-ness of all.

The question finds relevancy in a passage of scripture that, perhaps, has not gotten enough attention in the debate. I realized the full weight of Isaiah's message last week as I prepared to preach my first sermon in my new district. Isaiah's message in chapter 53 juxtaposes two camps in the atonement drama. There is the "us/we" and the "Suffering Servant" - who Christians have long identified as Jesus Christ.

Sixteen times in vv. 1-6 does Isaiah utilize the first person plural pronoun. He speaks of "our iniquity," "our griefs," "our peace," "our sorrows," etc. No place is this more evident, however, than in v. 6 where he says that "all of us" have gone astray. There is no qualification for the "all." All means all.

I'm reminded of the British theologian G. K. Chesterton, who once responded to an article in The Times of London that asked, "What's Wrong With the World?" Chesterton wrote a letter to the editor, saying simply, "I am. Yours truly, G. K. Chesterton."

How often we like to pass the buck. But "all" means all. We sometimes like to excuse our problems, gloss them over, or even twist scripture to justify our own sinfulness, and say that something or someone else is what's wrong with the world. But "all" means all.

Wonderfully, however, Isaiah's message doesn't end there. The verse is an inclusio in Hebrew, enveloped in the words "all of us" at the beginning and end of the sentence. "All of us" have gone astray, Isaiah writes, but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of "all of us." The "all" who have gone astray, are the "all" that Christ has suffered death for.

There is no qualification for the "all" in either instance. Isaiah isn't simply speaking for Israel or Christians, who would come later. His book addresses not only God's people, but the surrounding heathen nations. Just as all human beings have gone astray, so, also, all humans have had their iniquity laid on Christ, resulting in justification for all. Christ didn't simply have the iniquity of "some" laid upon Him - "some" who would later accept His gift - but He had the iniquity of "all" laid upon Him.

That's good news. How much of all is all? All! Isaiah's message unequivocally declares the infinite reaches of Christ's atoning sacrifice. Christ gave all, that He might save all.

Will "all" be in heaven? Sadly, no. Just as Christ healed ten lepers, only to have one return in gratitude, many will throw away the gift that Christ accomplished on His cross.

Are you one of the nine ungrateful, or would you like to join the one in infinite gratitude?


Rondi said...'re back in New England! You need to come down and do an assembly for us...or a Youth Church! We'd enjoy that...

Chad Stuart said...

Well said Shawn! I struggled with that "all" from that same sermon you are speaking of; luckily I didn't throw DKN away as a heretic but studied it and now see the beauty in the "ALL" that was accomplished at the cross.

Shawn Brace said...

Thanks for your comments, Chad. I'm glad that you have now seen the beauty of the gospel like Dwight (and myself) have seen. I don't know why so many people are violently opposed to the "all" message, especially when the biblical witness is so clear on it. I'm just beginning to see the truth of it in more and more places, though I've understood the concept for a few years. Keep preaching the word, brother!