It’s a wonder that any Christians ever run for President. There are just too many things that they need to be honest about and that therefore would seem to disqualify them in a pluralistic culture like ours. And the big religious question that trips up politicians at the national level is this: “Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven?” It’s kind of hard for the Christian to win the Jewish vote when he answers that one honestly.
But we average ordinary Christians feel that it disqualifies us too, even if we aren’t running for office. Who wants to tell their secular neighbor, their football-watching-buddy, that Jesus is the only way? You’re not trying to win his votes, just keep his friendship, and the statement seems so…unfriendly. In fact, saying that Jesus is the only way to God is tantamount to telling a non-Christian that he’s going to you know where, and that doesn’t make such good half-time conversation.
And for this very reason, many people who call themselves Christians have a hard time proclaiming this truth. I know of a Christian mom who just couldn’t bring herself to tell this to her children, so she said…something else, I suppose. I’m not sure why she did this, but I can guess – she probably thought it would turn them off to Jesus. You see, we have such a hard time with the idea that we begin to wonder if there is another way to Jesus being the only way. We muse, what if we left this part out? Is it that important to the gospel?
Maybe we should let Peter answer the question. In his sermon recorded in Acts chapter 4, the Apostle didn’t leave it out. He proclaimed the truth boldly. But why?
Here’s the simple answer: if you believe that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, that Jesus paid the penalty for your sins by taking your place on the cross, and if you believe that God honored and accepted that sacrifice by raising His Son from the dead, then there is no other way to God. To paraphrase Pastor Erwin McManus, “You can believe in another Savior…but no one else is coming for you.”
In his short statement in verse 12, Peter himself gives the rationale:
“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 4:12 (ESV)
Why is Jesus the only way? For, Peter says, there is no other name. Only Christ has died. Only Christ has been raised. And ultimately, if Islam and Christianity and Buddhism are simply different paths to the same God, then the path of working for salvation is AOK because that’s how all these other religions are planning to attain salvation, or nirvana, or the place with all the wine and “girls”. Then you can indeed be good enough to get into heaven. Just do it the Muslim way, or the Hindu way. Or, why not the “good guy” secular way? Take your pick because apparently…God is not picky.
Or is He? Well, of course He is. And we know why – because providing salvation for you and me came at a great cost – the blood of His dear Son. And though there are many very sincere people trying to work their way to God all over the world, in the end, they too will need the blood of Christ. And if you tell your children that there are other ways, and if you tell your neighbor that there are other paths, then what you are really subtly saying is that they can be good enough to get to God on their own, and even worse, that the cross of Christ was pointless and unnecessary.
And therefore, when you say that there are other ways to God, you deny the gospel; and in the end, you mislead the one you love on the true and the only way to heaven. And when you come right down to it, that doesn’t seem to be a very neighborly thing to do.
For Monday, February 16: Acts 5