Surely, Paul would probably be surprised at the number of different ways Christians have divided. We have divided based upon thousands of different reasons. In the world there are over 22,000 different sects and denominations of Christendom. Classical divisions include Roman Catholic versus Protestant, Orthodox versus Roman Catholic, Arminian versus Calvinist, Charismatic versus non-Charismatic, immersion versus sprinkling, once saved-always saved versus "you can lose it," Trinitarian versus Oneness. The list seems endless. Within these general divisions are many denominations often based on some of the most trivial things imaginable, things as foolish as whether God approves of rubber tires or not (Amish).
As strong as each camp has been throughout church history in their beliefs, even to the point of killing one another over those differences, all of these groups have one thing in common which will ultimately bring them all under the same head. No, that commonality is not Jesus Christ . . . that commonality is the fact that all these divisions believe in a god who is a partialist, a limitarian, if you will. You many ask, "What in the world is a partialist? I have never heard of such a thing." Well, that is surprising, indeed. Perhaps 98 per cent of Christendom is in the Great Partialist Sect and doesn't even recognize it.
A Partialist is someone who believes God is a respecter of persons. He or she believes that ultimately mankind will be divided into two very distinct and eternally-separated denominations: one is with God in eternal bliss, and the other is eternally separated from God either being eternally tortured or annihilated (but still separate). There are thousands of different reasons or sins which could determine one's eternal fate. Each sect of denomination has its various pet sins or errors in doctrine or rituals which will determine the eternal fate of each person. But all Partialists have this in common: Not every human being will be restored, redeemed, returned, drawn or reconciled back to the Creator. There will be an eternal separation between mankind. God has created a thing called "time" in which the single family of Adam will be forever divided into two groups.
Now some Partialists are actually Ultra-Partialists. They believe that God was partial (played favorites) to those who would ultimately be with Him for eternity. He "predestined" the elect to their fate from before the foundation of the world. The dividing was determined at the beginning of time; it was a fixed race. Others, just regular Partialists believe everyone has an equal chance to decide for themselves which camp they want to be in, but somehow most seem to end up separated from Him. Strange, isn't it? Who would want to spend eternity being roasted, and yet somehow most of those who are given a chance to escape this fate somehow don't make it.
If we ask 100 different church leaders from 100 different denominations in the Partialist camp, for a clear explanation with no fine print how one can be certain to make it into the eternal bliss portion of the universe, we can be sure to receive 100 different answers with enough different fine print to keep a battalion of lawyers busy for several eternities. (Now there's a Pauline sentence for you.) So much so for the Partialist division of Christianity.
A Bible-based Universalist is a Christian who believes that God is big enough, loving enough, powerful enough, wise enough, resourceful enough to ultimately be sovereign enough to rule over all His creation, not just a part of it. In the early church, way back when it was still full of faith, believers in Christ used to call themselves Catholics as well as Christians. Catholic is a perfectly good word, if one doesn't add that nasty little "Roman" before it. You see the word "Roman" actually contradicts the meaning of the word "Catholic." What was an early Christian Catholic? Why he was a Universalist, because that is what the word Catholic means. The early church clearly was Catholic, that is, it was Universal and it believed in the salvation of all mankind through Jesus Christ.. (Write for The Early Christian View of the Savior for details) A Bible-centered Universalist believes that Jesus Christ is Who He said He was . . . the Savior of the world, (John 4:42, 1 John 4:14) that is, in Christ the same "all" who were dead in Adam would be made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22); that the same "all" that were subject to unbelief would receive God's mercy, all of them (Rom. 11:32); that all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 18:18); that even Sodom would be restored to her former estate (Ezek. 16:55); that all will turn to the Lord (Ps. 22:25-29); that Jesus will fill all things (Eph. 4:10); that of Him, and to Him and through Him are all things (Rom. 11:36); that Jesus through His Love on the cross will ultimately draw (drag in the Greek) all mankind unto Himself (John 12:32); that when God's plan is perfectly carried out, He will completely be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28)!!!!! A Universalist, then, is one who believes that it is not God's intention that the Universe be divided into good guys and bad. No, He said all were bad, there is none righteous, nay not one, including any of us who think we are. (Rom. 3:10) The same all who died in Adam will be the same all who will be made alive in Christ. A Universalist believes that when God said He will be all in all, he believes Him. A Universalist does not believe in denominationalism, sectarianism, divisions of any kind. There is One God and when Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain for the sin (singular, not plural) of the world completes His work, He will deliver up everything that was lost in Adam. He will subject all things unto Himself and then deliver it all up to God the Father that the Father may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)
Partialists have used the term Universalist to describe anyone who believes that all religions are the same and will lead to God, but that is not true. A Christian, one who truly knows Jesus Christ in a personal way, would never believe that. A Christian who is a Universalist knows that all will be saved because of Jesus Christ's work on the Tree of Crucifixion, not any other way. Most Partialists while claiming they believe in the finished work of the cross, in fact, believe in their dead works in addition to the work of Christ. Universalists base their salvation and the salvation of all people on Jesus Christ who takes away the sin of the world. Notice it is a single sin for a single world of which all are part. (John 1:29) Partialists add something to their own salvation like good works or "deciding" for Jesus, and so rob God of some of His glory. They then go a giant step further and rob God of some of His children which they consign to eternal torment or annihilation. The "part" the partialist robs from God through self-glory is the beam in their eye which prevents them from seeing all of God's Universal Victory.
A Universalist believes that even people like Partialists, who like division, will ultimately see that this divisiveness has got to stop. While Partialists draw circles or walls to keep people separated, divided, partitioned, Universalists draw one circle which includes all. A Partialist sees the Universe ultimately the way the Babylonians see it, divided into eternal good and eternal bad; a Universalist does not eat from the tree of "good" and "evil," like the Babylonians and Partialists, he eats from the Tree of Life from which all of mankind will ultimately eat.
It now seems apparent why most denominations seem to be running back to the Pope. You see all denominations who believe in the universe divided into two will join forces to show that while they have names like Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Charismatic, etc, they really are all Partialists, Limitarians if you please. They limit God's power, love, justice, mercy, saving ability, etc. They all have this in common: that God will fall short of His goal, plan and desire to save all mankind. That is what a sinner is: one who falls short of a goal. That is the Bible definition of a sinner. Look it up in a good Bible dictionary.
But "God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:3, King James Version) And now we see the real difference between a Universalist and the rest of Christianity ... Universalists, in the sense I have used this term, are the only ones who do not call God a sinner, they believe He will accomplish His purpose which is clearly to "draw all mankind unto Himself." (John 12:32) Partialists believe God will fall short.
Please let me make it perfectly clear; a Christ-centered Universalist does not teach that all religions are good, that they all will lead to heaven. The "secular humanism" as taught by denominations such as Unitarian Universalist Association is not what I am talking about. To a true Universalist, salvation is only through Jesus Christ, not through Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism or religion or philosophy. Salvation is in the person of Jesus Christ, not a religion or a denomination or movement or philosophy.
So what are you, a Universalist who believes Jesus accomplished it all, or a Partialist who believes He fell short and became a sinner like the rest of us? What I am really asking is, "How big is your heart?" Quite frankly, the term "Universalist" doesn't really mean very much. A true Bible-believing Universalist doesn't call himself a Universalist, it is a label usually tagged on to him by Partialists. How big is the God in your heart, how all-embracing is He? That is what is most important. But if it is in your heart, if your life is in Christ, it should also manifest outwardly. Our hope and faith that He is able to restore all things unto Himself needs to be expressed. When that expression comes forth, the world will clearly recognize that you are not a Partialist and neither is the God you serve. Our Father is not a respecter of persons; He has hardened all that He may have mercy on all. (Acts 10:34, Rom. 11:32) If you are presently hard about this message, that's OK. Like I said, He hardens all, including you. Maybe you are not ready yet to be able to see the fullness of all He has for them who love Him, but one day you will be. When that happens you will no longer be a Partialist.