You know one of the things that I've had to learn so well since coming into revelations of New Covenant Grace over the past few years is the art of "double talk." So when I am asked a question such as, "Is salvation universal?" my answer is double talk: "Yes and no!" How's that for a load of politically correct talk? Lately I am finding that there are not a lot of absolute issues that I can wrap my thinking and eventually my doctrine around these days. Over the past 3 years I have begun to see things completely different than the way I used to see them. That means my doctrinal views have been radically changed. I believe that this has been for the better too!
This is my take on the universal salvation issue. I come to this place after years of research and heart searching. Is salvation universal? Yes....from the stand point that God is love! Christ came for the world to be saved. Even in John 3:16 Jesus said that He came for the world to be saved! When He died on the cross the Law came to a screeching halt! Therefore all sin ended! He eradicated all sin; past, present and future sin, because he ended the Law. Galatians and many other passages clearly indicate that sin is only in existence where the Law still stands. I teach that where there is no Law there is no sin! After all, it is God's will for all to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) The word, "all" simply relates to everyone! So, yes, all of mankind is saved through the death of Christ! I cannot ever come away from this important point! However, saying this, the Bible makes it very clear that there is still something that man must do in order for this salvation to be fully accomplished. Romans 10:9-10, which are Paul's words on the subject state that we must confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Christ was raised from the dead in order for God's universal salvation to be manifested in our lives.
In Acts chapter 15, at the first Jerusalem council, dealing with such issues, Peter makes it very clear that, "He made no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), for he cleansed their hearts through faith." I see this is an action that we must do in order to obtain the fullness of Christ's wonderful gift!
To me, this is how it all works: It is like I give you a free gift, a debit card attached to a bank account that has unlimited amounts of money in it. I give you the card and tell you that you can use the card anyway you would like. There is no limit to the amount of money you can spend using this card. You take the card and on the way home you decide that you need to purchase a loaf of bread. You go into the local store, pick up the loaf of bread and proceed to the check out. There you hand the clerk your unlimited funded card to pay for the bread and immediately the card is rejected! You are perplexed! I told you the card had unlimited funding attached to it. Yet it is rejected! You contact me, "Larry I tried to use the card to purchase a simple loaf of bread and it was rejected!" You then ask me, "What's going on with this?" I then ask you, "Have you activated the card?" You answer, "No!" Any credit or debit card requires activation in order to use it! So you see the problem with the unlimited debit card is not the card itself, but rather your issue of not activating it!
This is the exact way salvation works! All of mankind are in principle saved, yet it takes faith in Christ to activate that salvation!
Can you now understand why when asked if salvation is universal I state, "Yes and no?"
I believe that this is the Gospel that Paul, and others preached! I hope this helps some, at least in understanding where I am coming from. This is the Gospel that I preach as well!
Grace and peace!