Although only the most daring (read stupid) among us preachers will take on the task, one has the opportunity to preach the scandal-of-the-particular-versus-universalist controversy this Sunday. I say daring (stupid) because it will invariably get you in hot water, but you could, the texts are there, the opportunity is available, but the nuance is tough. In many ways it sounds like they are saying the same thing.
In favor of the particularity of Jesus is Acts 4:12: There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.
In favor of the universality of Jesus is John 10:16: I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
In both cases, it is Jesus who saves. In Acts it tends to sound very individualized; I am saved because of my faith in Jesus. In John it sounds more corporate; we are saved because of the faithfulness of Jesus. It is an age-old problem, this battle between individual particularity and corporate universalism. Truth be told, I think you can read scripture to argue both. Heck, even the preposition that gets translated “in” as in “faith in Jesus” was also used in Greek to mean “of” as in “faith of Jesus.” Are we saved by our faith in or the faith of Jesus? Historical systematic theologies tend to point to the latter, while more modern interpretations tend to point to the former. If you are planning to preach the universalism controversy, I wish you good luck and God’s speed. Just remember…