Andrew Klavan, Abraham’s Children Believe in Jesus

Update: Andrew Klavan has helpfully clarified some of his comments, which you can find here. In light of this, the author provided an update at the conclusion of the article.


For those of you not chronically online, you may have missed the recent controversy over saying Christ is King. Due to her criticism of Israel’s response to the October 7th Hamas attacks, Candace Owens found herself in sharp conflict with Ben Shapiro, the co-founder of The Daily Wire. During the course of their months-long conflict, Owens tweeted, “Christ is King.”[1] Many have taken Owens’ comment as a potshot against Shapiro who, being a religious Jew, denies that Jesus is the messiah or Lord. I don’t listen to Candace Owens and am ignorant of much of what she has said during this conflict, so I don’t have the knowledge necessary to discuss her specific statements. But I feel compelled to address how Andrew Klavan, another Daily Wire personality, responded to the controversy.

Klavan said,

Christ is the King and one day every knee will bow and recognize that he is not just my king, but he’s king of the universe. But when you use that phrase to mean that God has abandoned his chosen people the Jews, through whom he came into this world incarnate, and that he has broken his promises, his covenant with the Jews, you are quoting Scripture like Satan does in the Bible…

I look at Ben’s life and I think if Ben were to embrace Jesus Christ it would cause devastation to his family, to the people who love him, to the people who listen to him, to his position in the world. I just have this feeling that God has put this guy where he wants him, to do what he wants him to do, and, as you know, I feel the Jews were not abandoned by God. I feel the same way about Jordan [Peterson]. Jordan struggles with this stuff [and] his struggle is inspiring to other people. And I think God wants his boys where he’s got them and there’s no thought in my mind that God is going to send these guys into battle and then turn his back on them when they come marching home.[2]

This is a stunning thing to hear from a professed Christian, and it is serious. In his attempt to defend Ben Shapiro, Klavan has inadvertently contradicted all the New Testament has to say about salvation and has preached a false gospel. Paul says that anyone who preaches a gospel other than the one preached by Jesus and his apostles will be condemned by God (Gal. 1:6-10). I believe Klavan’s error is mortally serious if he persists. Unfortunately, his sentiments are becoming all too common in the Church due to a complete misunderstanding of the relationship God has with Jews in the new covenant.

First, I will address his characterization of Ben Shapiro’s (and Jordan Peterson’s) need for Jesus and, second, I will provide a sketch of a portion of what the New Testament has to say regarding God’s relationship with Jews who reject Jesus.[3]


Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me

Jesus has a great deal to say about the suffering and persecution that will come from following him and he does nothing whatsoever to remove that burden. Klavan raises the concern that if Ben Shapiro were to embrace Jesus, it would “devastate his family, his listeners, and his position in the world.” Jesus agrees—and he demands that Ben suffer exactly those things if he wants to be saved:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 10:34-39).

Jesus didn’t come to bring us worldly comfort or peace (though he probably doesn’t need to help encourage conflict between in-laws, but I digress). He came to bring division. It’s not that Jesus relishes conflict itself—he said the peacemakers are among those who will be blessed—but he came to call men to repentance and faith in him, while promising that everyone who rejects him will also reject those who follow him (John 15:18-25).

But we can’t have it both ways as Klavan suggests: either we will seek to find our life here and now by rejecting Jesus unto our own damnation, or we will lose our life here and now in order to gain salvation through Jesus. In order for anyone—Ben Shapiro included—to be saved, they must be willing to lose whatever it may cost, including relationships with family, for whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter or anything else over Jesus is not worthy of Jesus. As Jesus asked, What would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, but lose his soul? (Matt. 16:26).

We can’t have it both ways as Klavan suggests: either we will seek to find our life here and now by rejecting Jesus unto our own damnation, or we will lose our life here and now in order to gain salvation through Jesus.

I don’t begrudge Klavan’s desire to defend his friend Ben Shapiro—friends defend one another. But the dreadful irony is that, in his attempts to do so, it is Andrew Klavan who has become guilty of quoting Scripture like Satan. Satan’s work, the Scripture says, is to “blind [the] minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). That’s what Klavan is doing—contradicting Jesus himself by telling Shapiro, Peterson, and all his followers that men can reject Christ publicly and still be saved. Jesus, whom Klavan claims as Lord, says the opposite, “[E]veryone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33).

Klavan says there’s no thought in his mind that God, after “send[ing] these guys into battle” will “turn his back on them when they come marching home.” Jesus said that’s exactly what he will do to all those who persist in denying him before men.


Who Are Abraham’s Children?

Klavan’s view on this stems from his confusion over God’s relationship with the Jews in the new covenant. He suggests that all those who happen to have Jewish blood and seek to follow the law have a good relationship with God because they are the children of Abraham. But he seems to have missed perhaps the most significant question in the New Testament—Who does God count among Abraham’s children?

The universal teaching of the New Testament is that ethnic background is irrelevant to God and that Abraham’s children only include those who have faith in Jesus. This isn’t a rejection of God’s people, however, but is the very fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham.

Paul labors to clarify this very point in many of his letters because there seemed to be a problem: most Jews had rejected Jesus rather than following him, and yet the Gentiles were coming to embrace Jesus in droves. It would seem that God’s promises to Israel had failed. Paul laments over his Israelite “kinsmen according to the flesh,” saying,

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen (Rom. 9:2-5).
Paul exults in the heritage of the Israelites. They were given all of God’s promises, the presence of God in their midst in the tabernacle and temple, and the covenants. Exactly as Klavan said, they are the people through whom Christ became incarnate! Yet Paul says his ethnic kinsmen are “accursed and cut off from Christ.” How can these seemingly contradictory ideas be held together? Paul continues:
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (Rom. 9:6-8).
This is fully consistent with what Jesus said: “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did… Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day [for] before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:39, 56, 58). Paul, echoing Jesus’ teaching, says that just because someone is related to Abraham by blood doesn’t mean they “belong to Israel” or that they are Abraham’s “children” or that they are “children of God.” There are many who are only Abraham’s kinsmen according to the flesh. That is, Abraham has children who aren’t his sons, but those whom God calls Abraham’s true offspring are those who have faith in Jesus as Abraham did. Paul explains in Galatians, “Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’… So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:6, 9).
To explain further, Paul uses the metaphor of a tree to describe God’s people, Israel. Paul says that those Israelites who reject Jesus are like “branches [that] were broken off,” but Gentiles who embrace Jesus are like “a wild olive shoot [that has] been grafted in” (Rom. 11:17). God removed the unbelieving Israelites from among his people “due to their unbelief,” like a man pruning dead branches, but Gentiles are grafted into God’s people in their place “by [their] faith” (Rom. 11:20). As Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6).
But this does not indicate that God has rejected his people—by no means:
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at this present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace (Rom. 11:1-5).
Paul explained that what was happening in his day was the same thing that happened during the time of the prophet Elijah, when God’s people rejected God’s covenant and began worshipping false gods. That is, Paul says those Israelites who reject Jesus are treated by God as those covenant breakers who worshipped Baal in disobedience of the covenant. But this isn’t God being unfaithful to his promises in the least; He’s doing precisely what he promised to do.
Circumcision, which was the covenant sign given to Abraham, was a bloody promise that came with a warning repeated throughout the Old Testament: keep my covenants or you too will be cut off from my people (Gen. 17:14, Lev. 18:29, Num. 15:30-31, etc.). What Klavan is missing here is that God is faithful to all his promises, including his promise to cut off all covenant breakers. With the  coming of Christ and the establishment of the new covenant, God has been faithful to his promises to judge those who have rejected the covenant, and he has been faithful in his promise to save those who keep covenant with him—the “remnant, chosen by grace,” which only includes Israelites who trust in Jesus.

With the coming of Christ and the establishment of the new covenant, God has been faithful to his promises to judge those who have rejected the covenant, and he has been faithful in his promise to save those who keep covenant with him

Klavan goes further in his error by suggesting that Ben Shapiro or Jordan Peterson might be saved by their own works, even apart from Christ, because they are fighting on the side of moral order. He says,

I think God wants his boys where he’s got them and there’s no thought in my mind that God is going to send these guys into battle and then turn his back on them when they come marching home. Christ is love, Christ is truth, Christ is the Logos of the moral order. You follow love, you follow truth, you follow the moral order, you will find yourself ultimately at Jesus Christ’s door. I don’t worry about Ben and Jordan Peterson one little bit. And so, when you spit “Christ the King” at them to insist they have been rejected by the one who sent them to do the work that they are doing, no, no, no, no, no. That just doesn’t sit with me in the least.

It may not sit well with him, but his gut isn’t the measure of truth—Jesus is. We must not allow our political commitments or temporal alliances to obscure eternal matters. Both Shapiro and Peterson may well be co-belligerents with Christians against various elements of moral chaos in our day, and we ought to be glad for many of their efforts. But that’s not the same thing as saying they will be accepted by God at the judgment. Paul is clear—faith in Jesus is what saves a man; works of the law, or some measure of external obedience apart from Jesus, will save no one:

[A]ll who rely on works of the law are under a curse [because] no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith”… Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we [all] might receive the promised Spirit through faith…

The promises were made to Abraham and to his [seed]. It does not say, “And to [seeds],” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your [seed],”[4] who is Christ… [I]n Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:10, 11, 13-14, 16, 26-28).

Don’t miss what Paul is saying. The promise God made to Abraham and to his “seed” wasn’t referring to all Israelites indiscriminately, but to One—Jesus. The nations would be blessed in the one seed of Abraham, Jesus, through whom the blessing of Abraham and the gift of the Holy Spirit has now come to the Gentiles, too. Indeed, Paul says that God’s covenant with Abraham was, in fact, the promise of the gospel of Jesus centuries before Christ arrived: “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Gal. 3:8).

Anyone who relies on their own obedience or works of the law for their salvation is cursed by God, but those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ and have had the curse removed by his atoning death—he is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world. Now, as a result, there is no longer any Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. All worldly or fleshly distinctions have been altogether abolished as it concerns salvation. Paul concludes, “[I]f you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). God’s covenant with Abraham wasn’t about what God was going to do with a specific ethnic group, but was about how he was going to save every nation in Christ, the One seed of Abraham, by dying on the Cross and rising again from the dead. This is how God has fulfilled, not broken, the covenant promises he made.

Under the old covenant, God did divide humanity along national lines—his people in Israel and all the rest. But because of what Christ accomplished, humanity has been transformed—there are no Jews or Gentiles any longer, those distinctions becoming meaningless as a result of Christ’s work. Paul says that, in the coming of Christ, God has revealed a great mystery not known in former generations: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). The mystery of the gospel is that while Gentiles were once “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” now they have “been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

God's covenant with Abraham wasn't about what God was going to do with a specific ethnic group, but was about how he was going to save every nation in Christ, the One seed of Abraham, by dying on the Cross and rising again from the dead.

The division between Jew and Gentile that was operative under the old covenant has been abolished in the new covenant because Christ abolished that division on the cross, making all who believe in him to be sons of Abraham and the living temple of God (Eph. 2:11-22). Now, as a result, we are commanded to “regard no one according to the flesh” because God doesn’t either (2 Cor. 5:16).

But all this means that, according to what the God of Israel has done in Christ, God’s people “Israel” includes all Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus, and no one else. This also means that there is only one way for anyone to be saved, whether Jew or Gentile—all who would desire God’s acceptance and membership as one of God’s people Israel must proclaim that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead:

[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:9-13).


Antisemitism and the Gospel

All who follow Christ are duty bound to tell the truth about what God has said and done. Because of this, all who tell the truth about Jesus are in danger of being accused of antisemitism. So be it; but the critical point is that we also must not dishonor God by actually giving in to antisemitism. We should not shrink away from the telling the truth because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, regardless of how they might distinguish themselves according to the flesh (Rom. 1:16). But we must be careful to speak with the attitude of Paul, who spoke of the Jews with great grief and unceasing anguish over their loss, desiring earnestly that they would be redeemed. He loved them in Jesus’ name.

Paul warns any who would become puffed up against the Jews, saying,

Do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again (Rom. 11:18-23).

We stand in God’s mercy, purely according to the grace and kindness of God—and that should cause us to tremble. The good news is that Ben Shapiro can be saved—he can be grafted back onto the tree of God’s people, but only if he does not continue in his unbelief. We should pray that God would continue to redeem those who are Abraham’s kinsmen according to the flesh, in order that they would be counted by God again as Abraham’s children alongside those who believe in Christ. But in our fervor to oppose antisemitism, which all Christians ought to oppose, we must also be careful not dishonor Christ.

Andrew Klavan has preached a false gospel and has sought to remove the offense of Christ. But Jesus is the stumbling block that God himself has laid in Zion, and Jesus said, “[Whoever] falls on this stone will be broken to pieces” (Matt. 21:44). Proclaiming the gospel includes honestly announcing God’s judgment, in order that people might be confronted with the truth and be saved. We must not revel in God’s judgment but must preach the truth with loving intent that we might save some (Rom. 11:14). But we also cannot preach a false gospel of salvation without Christ for Jews, and salvation with Christ only for the Church.

Andrew Klavan has preached a false gospel and has sought to remove the offense of Christ. But Jesus is the stumbling block that God himself has laid in Zion, and Jesus said, “[Whoever] falls on this stone will be broken to pieces” (Matt. 21:44).

As the apostles said to the Sanhedrin, “Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12). God has done this not in rejection of his promises to his people, but in fulfillment of them. Klavan, for the sake of the gospel, must publicly acknowledge his errors and correct them, lest he continue to lead his listeners into confusion and face judgment for preaching a false gospel.

All glory be to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love to a thousand generations who fear him—Yahweh incarnate, Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Seed of Abraham, the Root and Seed of David.



I am glad to say that Andrew Klavan did clarify his comments (and thank you to the attentive reader who directed us to Klavan’s clarification). You can watch that segment here (it’s about fifteen minutes long, so I will be largely summarizing, rather than quoting everything at length). Klavan said,

The thing I was unclear about—and this is my fault—I could feel a little tingle in the back of my head when I said it, so I probably knew I was being unclear. I said at one point that Ben Shapiro is in such a network of relationships that finding Christ would tear his life apart, and people took that to mean that I thought he shouldn’t do it, or that you shouldn’t risk that for Christ… that was not what I was saying. If I was unclear, my fault, because good people mistook me too… [T]hat was my personal observation that, Ben, in this network he’s in of relationships, he’s doing great work, and I deduced from that [that] God had put him in the place for a purpose… and is not ready for him to leave.[5]

This is helpful. Klavan has made clear that he is not suggesting that Ben has no need for Jesus, or that he can be saved apart from Jesus. Rather, he was rather suggesting that, according to God’s providence, Ben remains where he is for the time being to do the things God would have him to do. Nevertheless, he remains hopeful that Ben will not remain in this place forever, saying that it is God who is “not ready for him to leave” the place he’s in. He likewise said the same about Jordan Peterson. Perhaps God will save them—we should pray that this will be so.

He goes further, however, doubling down on some of his comments, which I believe continues his error. Klavan read at length Matthew 7:21-23 (Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven), Matthew 25:31-46 (Jesus separating the sheep from the goats, saying that the sheep are those who fed him when he was hungry, gave drink to him when he was thirsty, etc.), 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (If you speak in tongues, understand all prophecies, but have no love, you gain nothing), John 4:22 (telling the Samaritan woman at the well, you worship what you don’t know), and Luke 10:29-37 (parable of the good Samaritan).

He concludes by saying,

I believe there will be those who come before the King and will say, “We called you Lord, we cast out demons, we had faith that moved mountains, we posted Christ is King on X” and Jesus may say to them, “I never knew you.” [But] I believe there will people, there will be some to whom the King says, “Inherit the kingdom because you served me” and they will say, “Served you? We didn’t even know you!” And the King will say, “You remember when you spoke up for the women who were raped to death on October 7? Remember when you used your powerful voice on the Daily Wire to stand up for babies who were killed and their parents who were killed in front of your children? Remember when you did that? That was me. You were talking for me. You were speaking up for me… There may be a Muslim guy behind him and he says, “While you were speaking up for the children dying now in Gaza… you were speaking up for me.” So I’m not going to judge because I’m not the judge…

I’m not worried about Ben or Jordan or many of my other friends who are in a different place than I am religiously. The righteous in the end may not look like what you think. The saints may be people you despise—like the Jews despised the Samaritans, like many people who are Christians, or who call themselves Christians, despise the Jews. They might have met Jesus on the street and not known it was him, but gave him what they had to give him. They reached out to him, they gave him what he needed, they served the least of men, and there will come a time in his good time when he speaks their name and [like Mary Magdalene] their eyes will be opened and their knees will bow to the King.

Many of the original issues remain, despite this clarification, and that’s because his interpretation only works if you take these passages out of context.

In the first case, the Samaritans were true worshipers of God. They didn’t follow the law perfectly and did not have access to the Temple, but they still had the living and true God as their object of worship. When Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman, he is not discussing the question of whether non-believers will be saved, but is directly addressing the Samaritan woman’s comments about how to worship God correctly. This was central to the division between the Jews and Samaritans and this is the context.

She said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” (John 4:20). Jesus tells her that the time of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem, or at the sites holy to the Samaritans, had now come to an end because he had come,

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”… The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:21-23, 25-26).

As referenced in the earlier portion of this piece, Jesus was fulfilling the covenant with Abraham, through which the Gentiles would become members of Israel through Christ and receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit. The Samaritan woman was just such a person—the first Gentile missionary who, when she discovered Jesus was the messiah, immediately rushed to bring everyone to meet him and be saved themselves. This is not addressing the salvation of non-believers, but is instead the most powerful demonstration in Jesus’ ministry that he was bringing salvation to those outside the bounds of Judea. By faith in him, they became members of the same of sheepfold of Israel, which now includes Jews and Gentiles in the new covenant. As Jesus says later in John,

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd… [Y]ou do not believe [what I have said] because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:14-16, 26).

Important for our conversation, Jesus defines the sheep clearly—they are those who hear his voice, believe in him, and follow him. He’s not talking about non-believers or addressing the question of the salvation of those who are ignorant of him altogether.

Similarly, the parable of the Good Samaritan was also given for a specific, contextual reason—as a rebuke to the Pharisees and priests, in order to highlight the fact that, although they believed themselves to be righteous, were actually guilty of great evil. Yet the very sort of people they hated would be redeemed because they repented and believed. As he said prior to condemning the Temple to destruction, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). They were men who were faithful to what God commanded only when it served them, while spurning the “weightier matters of the law.” They were those who “br[oke] the commandment of God for the sake of [their] tradition” (Matt. 15:3).

His point isn’t that pagan non-believers are fine as they are, so long as they are willing to serve people in need, but that those who thought themselves righteous were actually guilty and would be condemned. By contrast, “tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you [Pharisees and scribes]. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him” (Matt. 21:32). The critical thing here is that the prostitutes, tax collectors, and even Samaritans are received into the kingdom because they repented and believed, by contrast to those who did not. Again, as John said to the pharisees,

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt. 3:8-10).

Those who will be saved are those who bear fruit in keeping with repentance, embracing Jesus by faith and living out that faith with deeds that bear witness to the authenticity of their profession.

Finally, Klavan quoted at length Matthew 25, wherein Jesus speaks of the judgment and says that the sheep will be those who served Jesus by serving “the least of these my brethren.” Klavan applied this in his conclusion to Ben Shapiro, who has spoken out in defense of those who were slaughtered on October 7. He applied it to Muslims who speak out against the unjust killing of innocents in Gaza. He argues that there will be sheep who inherit the kingdom who didn’t know Jesus at all, but nevertheless served Jesus by serving those in need in their midst.

He makes a critical error here. Although this is a common error in the Church, Jesus is not speaking about serving people generally—the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, as if he means anyone who is poor or sick or imprisoned. Rather, Jesus is talking about those who serve “the least of these my brethren.” Jesus didn’t say that the sheep did not know or follow him, but that they were ignorant of the fact that when they served other believers they were, in fact, serving Jesus himself.

Jesus is clear about who his brethren are—they are those who believe in him. Jesus, “stretching out his hand toward his disciples, [said], ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt. 12:49-50). And what is the will of God? “[T]his is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

There’s a reason these sheep were hungry, thirsty, naked, and imprisoned. It’s because they were cast out of their families, rejected by their synagogues, and persecuted, as Jesus was, at the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Romans. I hope this point is clear, so I say it again—these chapters are not abstract and don’t apply generally, but are intimately connected to their context. Jesus was speaking about the times of tribulation that would come upon the Church immediately after he ascended into heaven (it’s good to read Matthew 25 after reading Matthew 23-24). Those who stand with Christ’s brethren, acting to serve those in the Church who have little or are being persecuted, are those who will be regarded as his sheep. Jesus made a similar point to Paul when he is converted, “[W]hy are you persecuting me?” And [Paul] said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5). To serve Christians is to serve Jesus directly. To persecute Christians is to persecute Jesus directly. This is because we are one with Christ, members of his very body.

This also provides the immediate context for Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 13 about the need for love. This is part of his larger rebuke to the Corinthians that began in the preceding chapters. When the Corinthians gathered at the Lord’s Supper, the rich were getting drunk on the wine and they were sending poor believers away without anything to eat or drink from the Lord’s table. They were creating divisions in the body of Christ, using the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which was given as a sign of our union with Christ and one another, as the means by which fellow members of Christ’s body were mistreated (it’s helpful to read 1 Corinthians 13 after reading 1 Corinthians 10-12). For this, Paul even says that Jesus had killed many of the Corinthians in response (1 Cor. 11:30). Paul extols the Corinthians to abandon this divisive practice and to remember that demonstrating love within the body is the most important part of following Jesus, more so than supernatural gifts or knowledge.

Neither Paul nor Jesus were speaking about people generally or service generally, but about Christians and how they are treat other members of body of Christ. They are not saying that those who publicly deny Christ will be saved because they gave food to the poor. They are not saying that many Muslims will be saved because they had proper concern for the deaths of innocent Palestinians, though they publicly deny that Christ is God, deny that the crucifixion and resurrection occurred, etc. They’re talking about faithful Christians serving Christ by serving his body, the Church.

Klavan is correct that those who claim Christ, but who do not demonstrate their faith through their deeds, should tremble. Many are mere professors of the faith without any substance to their faith. Claiming Christ, while living out lives marked by hatred and disobedience, isn’t going to save anyone. On this he’s right.

Likewise, it’s one thing to suppose that those who are ignorant of Jesus may yet be saved by Jesus. That’s a common enough view in Church history and there are a number of passages that suggest that possibility. If this is as far as Klavan went, I wouldn’t have much of a problem. It’s a far greater error, and something altogether different, to suggest that those who do know about Jesus, but consciously reject him, will be saved. Jesus denies that entirely.

Regardless, these passages are only useful for his particular argument when they are removed from their context. As a general rule, we should not be reading one verse or one passage and think we have understood. Verses and passages must be read in light of the entire chapter they are in, and one chapter needs to be read in light of the chapters that came before and come after. Only when we are attending to the full context will we come away with proper understanding.


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