ONE WAY ONLY, OK?
In our post modern culture, the question frequently arises, “Why do you say Jesus is the only way?” or “Who are you to say Jesus is the only way?” We can expect the culture to ask questions like this, but in the last few years the Christian church itself has begun to ask these same questions. I watched an interview on MSNBC with a very prominent ex-politician who has always claimed to be a Christian. In an answer to a question he stated that all religions served the same God in different ways.
We have all heard similar statements – all roads lead to the same God and all religions worship the same God in different ways. One illustration was made popular a few years ago by a Buddhist parable. Men who were blind from birth were gathered together in a room with an elephant. Each man was led to a different part of the elephant – one felt the head, one the legs, tail, ears, and trunk. Afterward they were asked, “What is an elephant”? They began arguing when one claimed it was a plowshare, or a tree trunk, a brush, etc. The conclusion is that they all saw one part of the greater whole. In other words, we who argue about truth are arguing about the same god that has been revealed to us in different ways.
It is a very clever parable but holds one truth that I’m sure the author did not intend. Each one of these men was blind and each one was wrong. Until God reveals Himself to us, we all grope around in the darkness vainly searching for some semblance of truth. However, as long as we are blind, we remain in the darkness and what seems true is complete error. In Christianity, God reveals Himself to us and we receive His truth and experience a relationship with our Creator. In world religions, man seeks his own truth and creates his own god. He may call the thing he worships a god, but that does not make it God. As we will see shortly, the Bible gives concrete pointes of reference that place it squarely in contradiction with all world religions. Two contradicting points cannot be one in truth. Let’s take a moment to look at three points which show scripturally that Jesus Christ alone can offer salvation.
All sin is against God alone.
There is not a religious leader on earth that can forgive sins. Only God can forgive because we only sin against Him. Look at Psalm 51:
2, Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
3, For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.
4, Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight -- That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
This is the prayer of King David who was mourning over his own sin when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed to cover his transgressions. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David and he repented. Even though David committed the transgression against Uriah, the Bible makes it clear that the sin was against God alone. The reason is that all sin is based on God’s law. When we break God’s law, we are challenging God’s authority.
This brings up the interesting question – why are certain actions considered to be sin at all? When we say certain behaviors are sinful, those practicing these behaviors inevitably ask, “Who are you to say this is wrong?” Of course, we are upholding what God has said but I believe it is also good for us to have a reasonable understanding as to why God said certain things are wrong.
If we look back at the ancient Israelites, we see many laws that don’t seem to make sense today. However, if we look closely we can see a clear purpose behind every law. In Leviticus God delivered many laws to govern the lives of Israel. Many of these laws were related to worship and the penalty was very harsh for violating these laws. Keep in mind that Israel was the light that God chose to reveal salvation to the world. Many of the worship laws were direct prophecies to Christ and the laws that did not seem to have a purpose at the time were clear teaching tools for what was revealed in Christ and in His crucifixion. The laws were necessary so that the revelation of Jesus Christ would be received and understood. It should be a serious offense to nullify the work that God was doing to reconcile the world to Himself.
Other laws were related to sanitation. If someone touched a dead body, they were unclean and had to cleanse themselves and could not eat until they washed their whole body. Today we understand why washing was important, but the ancient world that had no concept of microbes could not understand anything but the law. The same is true for declaring certain animals clean and others unclean. It is because that man was not able to understand the reasons that God issued the commands. God commanded that man could not drink the blood of any living thing because blood-borne diseases are a very real threat.
Curbing behavior and protecting the culture also creates a need for the law. God set a standard of ethics for his people in business, marriage and everyday life. It is ironic that the world calls the handful of laws in the Bible burdensome, yet we have thousands of laws in our culture which attempts to restrain our citizens from harming themselves or violating the rights of others.
The most important aspect of the law is to imitate the character of our Creator. Each man, woman and child has been created in the image of God. We were all created for a purpose and the Bible tells us that purpose – to know and love God and to reflect His glory. Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3 also says:
10, As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
11, There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
12, They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."
Not one single person has fulfilled their calling. Not a single person truly seeks after God, none of us practice righteousness in and of ourselves. What we call good and profitable is not what God calls good. Anything that does not have eternal significance is not profitable. What good does it do to build something that will soon decay or even be destroyed? What is good only comes from God. When a person does a charitable deed, it is still self-seeking. We often hear people say that helping someone in need makes them feel good. There is nothing wrong with this, but the true reason behind our so-called goodness are self serving motives. It is easy to love your neighbor when there is no personal cost, but how many are willing to love those who hate them and will give to those who will not acknowledge appreciation?
Our primary reason for existence is to seek God and to love Him, however, our primary motivation for our lives is to seek our pleasure and live a self-centered life. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and all are in need of forgiveness. God is holy and the Bible calls Him a consuming fire. Sin is a direct challenge against God’s law which is based on God’s own character and nature. Anything that is against God’s nature will not stand in God’s presence. Therefore, our sin must be handled if we are to have our place with God.
Jesus paid the debt - not forgave only.
I have also heard the question, “Why doesn’t God just forgive everyone’s sin and take us all to heaven?” Sounds reasonable, right? If we think this question through, even the critics against God would not agree with this approach to justice. Why doesn’t our legal system just do away with all violations of the law and set everyone free? Would it be just for a murderer to be forgiven and walk away contrary to the law? When the law is not upheld, we get angry at the perversion of justice, yet we then want God to pervert His own justice.
The standard of measure for perfection is God’s own nature and everyone falls short of His glory. God issued the law and offered a blessing to those who obey and the curse against those who disobey. Unfortunately we have all disobeyed at various times in our life. When it is inconvenient, we lie. We call it a white lie but it is still a lie. We may call stealing ‘petty theft’ but it is still stealing. Jesus said that if you violate one command, you have broken them all. Why is this? Because once we violate God’s law, we are then in opposition – or rebellion – against God’s nature. Jesus also brought reality to our personal struggles with sin. He said that it is taught that you should not commit adultery, but anyone who has lusted has already committed adultery in his or her heart. The greedy has committed theft; the one who hates is guilty of murder; the one who covets is an idolater. The Bible teaches that all sin comes from the heart and God examines each one’s heart. The fear of consequences may restrain our outward behavior, but the law can never repair the sin in our heart.
To make matters worse, the Bible tells us that all sin will be avenged by God. Sin is a violation of the law and the wages of sin is death. Forgiveness is not enough, the debt is still owed. If I fall behind on my bills, the bank may empathize with me, but I still have that debt. The debt cannot be forgiven, it must be paid by me or someone else. Even bankruptcy does not wipe out the debt, it just transfers it to others. Someone will eventually pay.
This is why Buddha cannot forgive sins, nor can Mohammad, Gandhi, Dali Lama, the Pope or any other religious leader. A religious leader can’t forgive sins because he too is in debt to sin. You can pay the penalty of your sins by entering into God’s judgment, but you can never satisfy the debt. Without anything to pay, how can we ever get out of debt? The Bible says that all our righteous acts are filthy rags in God’s site (Isaiah 64:6). What can I offer God that He does not already possess? If my best falls so short that it is filthy in God’s site, how can I pay down my debt? I can’t. Only Jesus Christ can pay the penalty of my sin. Look at these two passages:
1 Timothy 3:
16, And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
1 John 3:1, Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
2, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
3, And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
4, Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
5, And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
Remember, only God can forgive sins because all sin is against God alone. Also keep in mind that God forgives you for your sins, but God’s forgiveness does not nullify sin. In spite of the forgiveness, the debt must be paid. Instead of requiring the penalty at our hands, Romans 5 says:
8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9, Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
Only Jesus can forgive sins because only Jesus Christ was God manifested in the flesh. While we were dead in our transgressions and the corruption of our flesh, Jesus took the written account of our debt that was against us and took it out of the way by paying for it and nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). The Bible tells us that Jesus bore the penalty of our sins in His own body. God poured out His wrath against our sin on Jesus Christ on the cross. The judgment for your sin was laid to the account of Jesus Christ and nailed to His cross. You are forgiven because the debt has been paid. After bearing the burden of your sin, Jesus cried out, “It is finished” and died (John 19:30). The Greek word translated into ‘finished’ is ‘tetelestia’ is an accounting term which means ‘paid in full’. Jesus declared from the cross, “The debt is paid in full!”
All must come through Christ alone .
Only Jesus Christ paid the penalty of our sin, therefore salvation can only come through Jesus Christ. Look at John 14:
6, Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me".
This one statement sets Christianity and the Bible apart from all other religions. Either the Bible is right and there is no other way to salvation, or the Bible is wrong and all other religions are right. If all roads lead to God then the Bible is a false book and does not have any reliability. Anyone claiming to be a Christian and says that other religions are equally valid is contradicting the Bible, declaring that Jesus is a liar, and is undermining his own faith. Jesus’ statement about being the only way does not stand alone, look at Acts 4:
10, "let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.
11, "This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.'
12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
It is the Bible, not Christians that excludes all other paths. Jesus said that He is the door and if anyone attempts to get on the path by any other way, that person is a thief or a robber (John 10:1-9). The Bible also spells out that thieves and robbers will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The only way is through Jesus Christ. If there was another way to salvation, it would not have been necessary for God to be manifested in the flesh and to die in your place. Why should God humble Himself for you if any way will do?
It is because of our guilt that Jesus Christ came, was condemned and had our sins laid to His account. Look at Isaiah 53:
4, Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5, But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
The message of the gospel is that God so loved the world that He gave His own Son. The way of salvation is that our iniquities were laid on Him. We were dead in our sins but have been made alive together with Him (Colossians 2:13-14) and He has healed our broken spirit by His sacrifice on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5 explains:
20, Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.
21, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
He became our sin by being credited with our debt and we become His righteousness by being credited with His righteousness. We don’t become righteous by our actions, we become the righteousness of God. We are given a foreign righteousness because God, in His mercy, credits us with His own righteousness. Remember that our righteous acts are filthy in God’s site, but His righteousness credited on our behalf makes us acceptable. Now look at Romans 4:
2, For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3, For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
4, Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
5, But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Abraham did many righteous acts, but the Bible states that he could not boast before God. It wasn’t his acts that justified him, it was his faith. He believed God and he was credited with God’s righteousness. We also must believe God. God said that justification can only be found in Christ. All our works are dead, but we are made alive by what Jesus has already done for us by His life, death and resurrection. Salvation can never be obtained by our efforts because works and deeds of the law can never justify us. We are justified in Christ alone. If we don’t believe and try to make our own way, we remain dead in our sins; but if we believe God, we are credited with His righteousness.
13, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it”.
14, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”.
Only one road leads to salvation and there is only one door – Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that the greatest punishment is due to those who count the blood of His covenant as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29). Do you hear the world declaring that Jesus is a common thing and no better than all other religions? The truth is that God was manifested in the flesh to pay the penalty of your sin. What religion can equal this? What person can disregard the act of love their own Creator paid on their behalf?
In conclusion, look at these passages:
8, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
9, that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10, For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11, For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
12, For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
13, For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
37, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
Have you called on the name of the Lord Jesus and received the free gift of salvation?
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