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How Do We Respond?
Given the contexts of our time, what do we do with the question, “Is Jesus really the only way to God?”
As we respond to this question we need first of all to note that Jesus thought himself to be unique and the only way to a personal relationship with God. In Jesus’ teachings he made very direct claims about himself and his work that clearly reveal his own identity:
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son…. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Mt. 11:27-28).
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent” (Jn. 6:29).
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never thirst…. My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (Jn. 6:35, 40).
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).
I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die (Jn. 11:25-26).
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well (Jn. 14:6-7a).
Such statements may not sit well with a postmodern mindset that is squeamish about the whole idea of truth, and particularly any claims to truth. As C.S. Lewis once pointed out, many are willing to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but not his unique claims to be God. Lewis responded with these memorable words:
That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God (Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3, pp. 50-51 in The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics edition, New York: Harper One, 2002.).
Not only did Jesus himself believe that he was the only way to God, being one with God the Father, the early followers and apostles believed the same. Peter, in one of his early sermons said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The apostle Paul had hated Christians before he became one himself. After his conversion he spoke frequently about Christ with clear conviction that he was the only way to salvation. Speaking of Jesus he said, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10, 11).
In similar fashion the apostle John wrote, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God.… God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn. 5:1, 11-12).
Since the days of the apostles, the historic Christian Church affirmed the uniqueness of Christ in his identity and in his role as the only savior for human sin. There has, of course, been substantial variation with regard to particular doctrines among the various families and denominations of Christianity. But Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism have historically been in agreement that salvation is found in no other than the person of Christ. The recent trends are contrary to those convictions.
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