I’ve been looking into commentaries regarding Matthew 21:28, the parable of the two sons. One commentary used this parable to explain how it does not necessarily matter the name an individual worships, as long as they are worshiping, connecting, and acting on the principles and power of universal love. As Christians, we happen to call this universal love Christ, but that is not as important as participating in His love. I found this take on the parable confusing (though, personally, I would like to believe it). I can understand God saving people who do His work but don’t accept the structural nuances of religion. But it led me to think…does God save people who do His work, but don’t accept or acknowledge Jesus? Could someone interact with God’s love, truth, and hope and live out those actions but not accept Jesus as Lord?
Jesus does say that He is the way (John 14:6), so I find it difficult to believe God save someone who has committed their heart, mind, and soul to God (or another name they may give god i.e. universal omniscient power, universal love, etc.) without acknowledging Jesus? Am I taking these versus to literally?
A parable is a specific kind of writing. Parables should be interpreted within the genre. We should read the parable and ask what the basic message is. I believe that when we do so, neither the interpretation about the two names, nor your more broad interpretation is justified.
So, what is the message of this parable. I say let us just read it and ask the simple question. What is the point? The message of this parable is that those who do what God says will be justified, but saying that you will do what God says is of no value. Let me spiritualize this just a bit. Using religious words counts for nothing. What counts is obedience to God and love for him. Like Jesus said here, “For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. In the parable “you” is the religious and supposedly “righteous” Jews. In the context of Matthew 20, Jesus is talking to “the chief priests and the elders of the people.” Jesus is saying that having a high religious position or saying the right things has nothing to do with whether one is saved. What matters is believing the message, doing what God says, and repenting.
Therefore, I conclude that those who use this passage to teach that “it does not necessarily matter the name an individual worships, as long as they are worshiping” is to totally abuse this parable. Jesus is not even discussing the proper name of God in this passage. Whether or not the name we use to worship God is important may be established by other passages, but Matthew 21:28 is irrelevant and should not be used in this connection.
You interpret the parable in terms of “connecting, and acting on the principles and power of universal love.” Again, whether your thought is true or not, the parable of the Two Sons is not relevant to your point. The point of the passage is that true belief, true obedience and true repentance are the basis for salvation and for a relationship with God, not being religious.
Again, your question raises important and necessary theological questions about salvation (the fancy word is soteriology), but this passage is probably not the place to raise these issues. Perhaps it is relevant to some extent. Is “universal love” sufficient? Not according to this passage. Belief in Jesus, obedience and repentance are prerequisites for salvation. Will God save someone who “has committed their heart, mind and soul to God,” but do not believe in Jesus be saved? Peter said that “there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Will God make exceptions? Perhaps, but since we know about Jesus and since we have opportunity to worship him and to be saved by him, I suppose that is the principle question. I will leave ultimate judgment to God and will simply obey and trust him. If there is person who “has committed their heart mind and soul to God,” then you ought to introduce them to Jesus Christ. Surely, if they have truly committed their mind and soul to God, then when they hear about Jesus they will become a Christian!!!