It would have been unbelievable many years ago to think there were people who believed that there is salvation outside of obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ. Yes, people had many differences over such matters as how one is saved from his past sins, how he stays saved, the meaning of the Lord’s supper, how Christians are supposed to observe the Lord’s supper, the nature of the Lord’s second coming, and such like, but they almost all agreed that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. Preachers and theologians believed and preached that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, that no man can come to God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Today there are thousands of people who no longer believe that Jesus is the only way to God. These preachers and theologians still claim to be Christians. They even claim to find support in the Bible for their false position. One person who has taught that salvation can be found outside Christ affirmed that “it is possible to appreciate positive elements in other faiths, recognizing that God has been at work among them” (p. 112). , “We must not conclude, just because we know a person to be a Buddhist, that his or her heart is not seeking God” (p. 113). Does a person who believes this not know that Buddhism is atheistic—it does not believe in the one true God. How can an atheist be acceptable in the sight of God?
There are three terms I must define before we continue our examination of the topic, “Jesus Christ, Our Only Savior.” Those terms are pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism (sometimes called “restrictivism”). Religious pluralism–not philosophical or political pluralism–says that all major religions or worldviews are valid as ways to salvation. The pluralist may believe there is only one Ultimate Reality, but we can understand that Reality in a variety of ways. Pluralists develop fellowship with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Marxists, and humanists, as well as with Christians. They cannot see much difference between the moral values of these various groups and those who called themselves Christians. They accept all other religions as worthy human responses to the Ultimate.
Millions of men and women who call themselves Christians have developed comradeship with people who belong to the various world religions and to different philosophical world views. The real question: Has God revealed himself in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone?
Inclusivists believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior, but one need not to have heard of him, believe in him as the Son of God and obey his commandments. If you are a good person, devoted to your convictions, Jesus will save you, even if you are not a Christian. Recently the Pope told the world that just about everybody is saved, Christian or not. What the Pope has been teaching is very close to inclusivity. Our current president is an inclusivist. Inclusivists believe the love and grace of God are so extensive that sincere people in all religions will be saved. They not above twisting scripture to try to prove this point. Often, teachers of this idea applies the term, “other sheep,” to people outside Christianity. They think we can have a greater appeal to people throughout the world if we cease being so superior and chauvinistic, or exclusive.
Exclusivism means that accountable human beings must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. They must repent of their alien sins and obey the gospel to be saved. One American author, a law professor at Yale–Stephen L. Carter–rejects the notion of Christian exclusivism. In 1993, Carter wrote a best-selling book entitled, “The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion,” in which he wrote there is “nothing about the nature of religion” which “requires either exclusivity or universality”. He seeks to affirm that exclusivity is in the nature of each individual’s faith, “not in the nature of religion itself”. Carter expresses outrage at those who would wipe Jews off the face of the earth by converting them or by other methods.
My friends, genuine Christians are not trying to wipe anyone off the face of the earth. Neither are we being chauvinistic and arrogant when we tell people that Jesus Christ is our only Savior. If we accept the Bible as the word of God and Jesus as the Son of God, we have no choice about honoring our Lord Jesus Christ as the exclusive Savior of the world. It is not possible to read the Bible intelligently without coming to that conclusion. The pluralistic and inclusivistic views must be rejected and vigorously refuted.
Let us examine one of the simplest, most powerful passages in all of God’s word dealing with the topic at hand. I am referring to Acts 4:12. Peter and John had healed a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb (Acts 3:1-2). They also performed other miracles in the vicinity of the Jewish temple. Some of the Jewish leaders were upset by the apostles’ teaching and actions. The Jewish rulers asked Peter and John, “By what power, or by what name, have you done this? The apostle Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto 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, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at naught by you builders, which has become the head of the corner,” (Acts 4:7-11). If you had any doubt about the Bible’s teaching on the exclusiveness of the Christ as Savior, please note this verse. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). How language could be more exclusive I cannot imagine.
An analysis of this text should be helpful. Peter plainly affirmed: “Neither is there salvation in any other.” If that verse does not teach the exclusiveness of Christ as Savior, how could the apostle have taught it? Through the ages, there have been thousands of different religions promising salvation, but none can bring salvation to man except New Testament Christianity. Judaism at one time regulated human behavior, but the law of Moses has been nailed to the cross. Only Christ and only Christianity have come from God for men today.
“There is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Did Peter really mean “no other name”? That means, dear friends, not Mohammad, not Krishna, not Baha’u’llah, not Zoroaster, not Confucius, not Shirley MacLaine, nor anyone else will do. The adherents of these religious philosophies may be honest and sincere in their convictions, but salvation is in no other name. That is the reason committed Christians must evangelize the world. I know we will be considered intolerant, bigoted, and unwise by some, but I would rather have the approval of God than the praises and good wishes of the world.
For those who claim to find “nothing about the nature of religion” which “requires either exclusivity or universality,” it makes one wonder if they ever read Peter’s powerful proposition that “there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” No other name under heaven. That expression requires both exclusivity and universality.
An honest reading of the gospel according to John will convince anyone that Jesus Christ is our only Savior–that if we reject him we are rejecting God and turning our backs on eternal salvation. Where is a better place in John to sustain that point than in John 3? “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” Why was it necessary that the Son of man be lifted up if there is salvation in any other? The Son of man must be lifted up that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but hat the world through him might be saved. He who believes on him is not condemned; but he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:14-18).
Christ’s willingness to converse with the Samaritan woman completely astounded her. Why would a Jewish man speak with a Samaritan woman? “For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). Jesus explained his relationship to all people when he said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give me drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Who else in the world could furnish the “living water” of which Jesus spoke? Jesus and Jesus alone could make that kind of claim and sustain it. Jesus further explained: “Whosoever drinks of this water (that is, the physical water from Jacob’s well) shall thirst again. But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).
John 4 presents Jesus as the living water. John 6 affirms that Jesus is the living bread. The Jews wondered who Jesus thought he was. They asked, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he says, I came down from heaven?” Jesus responded to their questions by saying, “No man can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every man therefore who has heard, and has leaned of the Father, comes to me” (John 6:42-45). Our Lord then affirmed: “I am the living bread which comes down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). The Jews were shocked at such teaching. Jesus further enlightened them. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat of the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).
Unless one has been blinded by the world or by Satan, he cannot avoid seeing what Jesus was teaching. Jesus alone is the living bread. If we do not partake of the blessings he has provided through his life and death, there is no possibility of one’s being saved. This truth leaves no room for salvation in any other. Stephen Carter to the contrary notwithstanding, this teaching of Jesus is as exclusive as it could possibly be.
Toward the end of John 6, we learn of the disciples abandoning Jesus. Could his claims to exclusiveness have contributed to their leaving? Jesus asked the twelve, “Will you also go away?” The apostle Peter answered, in words which establish the exclusiveness of Christianity, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66-69). If you have not committed yourself to Jesus Christ, please obey his gospel today. There is no other way.