Jesus said to them, Bring some of the fish you have just caught. So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. – John 21:10-11
One of the unique characteristics of Wesleyan thought is the doctrine of unlimited atonement. Put plainly, it means that the grace of Jesus Christ extends to all people, not just a select few. By contrast, the Calvinist view is one of limited atonement, where the grace of Jesus extends to all but only those who are the elect are saved. Conversely, those who are not in the elect are, by preordained planning by God, not saved. I’m not saying this to stir up a Wesleyan/Calvinist debate, especially since followers of Jesus have far more important Kingdom challenges to focus on. Nor do I want to knock my Calvinist brothers and sisters because, from where I sit, the beginning might be different but the ending is the same, namely that not everyone will be saved, except for those who have said “yes” to Jesus. The Wesleyan view is that people aren’t saved because in their free will they have chosen, sadly, to say no. For Calvinists, it’s because they said no (and couldn’t have said yes, anyway, because of God’s preordination of that soul). It’s a sticky wicket that reveals both how much we know and how much we don’t know about some of the details of salvation. As long as we all don’t get too far ahead of ourselves, remembering that we’re using nothing but play dough to build mansions, we’ll stay humble before God, who is our judge, our lawgiver, and our king — and it is He who will save us (Isaiah 33:22).
In the above passage from John 21, the author is sure to point out that a net has more than exceeded its design load yet maintained integrity. 153 fish? That oughta tear up the net, releasing them back to their undersea home. But the net miraculously doesn’t break. Jesus employs a fishing motif from day one, saying to his new disciples come with me, and I’ll teach you to fish for people. Here the boys have fished for… fish… but the intake is more than they could ever accomplish on their own. But the net can handle it.
This is a perfect example of the unique view of John Wesley. Jesus, the fisher of people, is calling for us, casting for us, reaching for us. And as many as want to can say yes and be saved. The net can handle it.
Sometimes people are afraid to go into a church building for fear that the place will burn down or lighting will strike or both — a fire caused by a lightning strike, caused by their appearance at a church. Nah. All can be saved. There is no fish story, no scaly past, no magnitude that is too much for the net. His grace is available to all. The net can handle it.
I wonder what would happen if we looked to Jesus for direction and He said “fish for people this way — make this one change and watch what I do.” And I wonder if we would be afraid of the harvest because we don’t wanna break the net. The good news of the gospel with the view of unlimited atonement is that the net can handle it. So let’s tell people about Jesus. A lot.
Consider the overwhelming grace of Jesus. Remember the mission of the church. See a world in need. Listen for the guidance of the dude on the beach (John 21:4).
Welp, there I go again, writing something that I’m already not sure about. But this isn’t a book, it’s a blog. Comment if you’d like.
I always go back to John 3:16