We live in an age where interfaith relations matter a great deal. It is important to love and respect our neighbour from another faith. We must strongly oppose racism and antagonism to religious groups. But love and respect don’t mean we have to agree with one another. Jesus taught that he is the only way of salvation and the apostles taught the same thing.
Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Peter made a similar statement: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). So for Christians to say there are other ways of salvation, other ways of receiving eternal life is to contradict Jesus himself.
But why is Jesus the only Saviour? Here is an outline of the Christian gospel which answers that question:
God is love
God is not just loving – he IS love (1 John 4:8). He loves each one of us infinitely and perfectly.
God is the judge of all mankind
According to the New Testament we will all face judgment after death (Heb 9:27). We must all give an account of our lives to God” (Heb 4:13). We have to answer for ourselves individually.
God’s law must be obeyed
Jesus was quite clear that ‘not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law … Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:17-19).
Perfect justice demands that sin must be punished
God “Does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7).
Perfect holiness will repel sin as light repels darkness. But, since God is the source of life, this repulsion of the sinner means death (physical and spiritual). This is the required and inevitable result of sin.
Paul states: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). “Death came to all people, because all sinned” (Rom 5:12). It is a principle throughout Scripture and fundamental to Christianity that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22). This verse summarises the whole message of Hebrews and shows that a penal death (death as a judicial punishment) is required for human sin. So the whole of humanity deserves a penal death. It is evident therefore that:
Because of the perfect justice of God, human sin demands the death (physical and spiritual) of all humanity, unless there is some way of transferring the guilt and its punishment.
It is clear that God alone can save humanity from sin, because he alone is free from sin and its condemnation
But God cannot die – he is immortal
Paul teaches that God alone is immortal (1 Tim 6:15-16 cf 1:17).
So God must become man (without ceasing to be God) in order to suffer a penal death
This is the reason for the incarnation of Jesus. He came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He was cursed on the cross for human sin and so “redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal 3:13)
“Such a high priest truly meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Heb 7:26-28).
This is God taking upon himself the punishment for all human sin. His death is equivalent to the death of all of us (2 Cor 5:14). So the legal penalty has been paid – by the Son of God.
God is love and love desires a free response from the person loved, so God lays down repentance and faith in Jesus as a condition of receiving salvation
John is quite clear: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). See also John 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:47; 17:3. The person who puts their trust in Jesus has eternal life. John is quite clear: whoever has Jesus in their life has God in their life (1 John 2:23).
So the only way to “have” or “know” God is to trust in Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God incarnate.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER RELIGIONS? [See also “Jesus the Only Saviour”]
Other religions don’t save in themselves because they do not trust in Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God incarnate.
However some awareness of the eternal power and divine nature of Yahweh is possible to any human being through the created order (Rom 1:20). This awareness underlies the various religions. However Romans 1 (especially verses 18, 21-13) speaks of how man has suppressed the truth of the general revelation through creation and created gods of his own. Paul specifies idols.
But what about the monotheistic world religions who also condemn idols? The problem is that they specifically deny the Trinitarian nature of God as revealed through the New Testament and they also deny the concept of God requiring and providing atonement through the cross of Christ. Thus their concept of God is very seriously inadequate. Having rejected the revelation of God in Christ they create their own image of God.
The wages of sin is death.
Therefore the God-Man died for all.
But only those who accept him receive salvation.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction