Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

A lot of people believe that all “good” people go to heaven.

“After all, isn’t being good[1] what really matters? If someone is good and sincere in their beliefs then they should go to heaven. Plus, aren’t all religions basically the same?”[2]

“How could a good God allow people to go to hell?”

However, it should be asked, does God want those people to go to hell?[3] And has God provided a way for them to be saved? The answer to the first question we’ll see is no[4] and the answer to the second question is yes.

First, Scripture repeatedly says things like God desires all humans to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Here are three more:

“The Lord is… not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?… For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezek. 18:23, 32).

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).

So, God’s desire is for people to come to a knowledge of the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins and be saved. That is God’s desire. However, that’s not it.

Second, God has also provided the way of salvation. The one God has provided the one way of salvation through the man Christ Jesus who is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).

Imagine we were all on an island that a very wealthy and magnificent man owns. It is on fire and we all have to get off or we will die. Now, imagine that the owner of the island built a very large and sturdy bridge to the mainland so that people could escape. And in making the bridge he himself died.

Before the wealthy owner of the island died he instructed people that the bridge was the only safe way to exit the island. The water is turbulent and infested with sharks; no one can swim or take a boat. And the winds and fire don’t allow planes or helicopters to leave without catastrophe.

What would you think then if some people refused to take the bridge and set off swimming on their own? What would you think if some were dismayed and angry at the owner of the island who died so they could live?

What would you think if people got upset because they wanted options? And were upset that there was only one way of salvation?

I think the correct perspective is being thankful that the owner of the island provided a way of salvation and even at great cost to himself.

As much as we may not like it, some things are exclusive. In the story above there is only one way off the doomed island. It is the only way to be saved. It is exclusive but it is still benevolent. When something is exclusive, or there’s only one way to do something, it highlights the importance. Jesus only is the way, the truth, the life, no one goes to the Father except through Him (Jn. 14:6).[5] Jesus being the exclusive way to salvation highlights His importance.

Further, as Randy Newman says, “There are many areas of life where exclusive answers are what we really need. I want exclusive doctors who only prescribe the medicines that we cure me. Don’t you?”[6]

So, “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Rom. 9:14)

_______________

[1] We could have a whole discussion about this idea. For example, what even is “good”? How is it defined and by whom?

[2] In short, no. All religions are not basically the same. Even if they do have similarities in places. Stephen Prothero has demonstrated and said, each religion “offers its own diagnosis of the human problem and its own prescription for a cure. Each offers its own techniques for reaching its religious goal, and its own exemplars for emulation” (Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World—and Why their Differences Matter, 333).

[3] It should be realized that this is a complex question because it gets into the will of God and human responsibility.

[4] Even if God is glorified through pouring out His wrath that does not mean that that is His desire in every sense (see Rom. 9:14-23). The will of humans is complex. It makes sense that the will of God is even more complex.

[5] There are many other verses that tell us that consciously trusting in Jesus for salvation in this life is the only way to be saved. Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Paul was sent to tell people about Jesus “to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sings and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus]” (Acts 26:17-18). It is necessary that the message of Jesus be shared because “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom. 10:14). This is because people are born again “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

[6] Randy Newman, Bringing the Gospel Home, 86.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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