Today's Broadcast

Is the Exclusivity of Christ Unjust?

A Message by Alistair Begg

One atheistic website raises the question: "Did the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust go to hell?" The obvious implication of such a challenge is that it is unjust to say that those who die as a result of gross injustice and aren't Christian will not be saved. In this lecture, Dr. Alistair Begg explains what the Bible teaches about the exclusivity of Christ and answers the emotionally provocative challenges raised by inclusivists and pluralists.

From the series: Tough Questions Christians Face: 2010 National Conference

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Why Only One Way?

  2. devotional

    A Narrow Gate; a Hard Way

  3. article

    Jesus: The Only Savior

Why Only One Way?

Modern pluralistic people like to argue that there is something wrong with the God of the Bible because He does not save everyone. "Why is God so narrow-minded?" they demand to know. "Why has He only set up one way? This Christian God seems to delight in punishing people. He only wants to save a few people."

When we survey the history of the Bible and see the patience of God, we have to wonder at people who think God has not done enough for us. When we read the New Testament and comprehend even a small part of what the Son of God went through to provide the only way of salvation, we can hardly fault God for not going far enough to redeem humanity.

God humbled Himself to be born in a low estate. He allowed Himself to be mocked and reviled by the "politically correct" establishment in Israel for three years. He went further and allowed them to beat Him, torture Him, and crucify Him. Jesus was God, and He willingly went through all this. The Father is God, and He stood by and let it be done to His beloved Son. God the Spirit stood by and let this be done to His eternal friend. And God has not done enough?

The reason unbelievers have so many problems with the God who is revealed in Scripture is that mankind is terribly wicked, and we don't understand what a holy God is like. Until we begin to understand how holy God is, we will never begin to understand how gracious He has been in putting up with us. Because we have such a high opinion of ourselves, however, we continue to sin against Him in our presumption that He owes us more grace than He has given us.

If we understood what the Gospel is saying, we would understand that this problem is not an intellectual one but a moral one. It raises a question about God's integrity that simply reveals our own lack of integrity.

The question we should be asking if we are really concerned about God's ways, is not "Why is there only one way to God?" but "Why is there any way at all? How is it that God would be so merciful as to grant us repentance after we have repeatedly rebelled against His authority and His majesty?" That is the real question.

A Narrow Gate; a Hard Way

Good preachers typically offer an application of the content they have delivered in their sermons. Often, an exhortation is given and the congregation is called to make a decision based on what they have heard. People need to be encouraged to act after God’s Word has been delivered. Once we have heard what the Lord demands of us, we will be held responsible if we do not obey.

Pastors follow the model of Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount when they call upon their flocks to make a decision. In today’s passage, our Savior makes final application of all that He has said in Matthew 5:1–7:12. Now that we know what He demands of us, we must choose to follow Him. Ultimately, 7:13–27 shows us we have only two options. We will either follow Christ wholeheartedly or we will go down the path of destruction. There can be no half-hearted commitment to Jesus; if we are not on the narrow road of discipleship, then we are on the wide road to eternal damnation (vv. 13–14).

This call to decide does not mean we are able to choose the right path before we become Christians. Salvation is by grace through faith, a gift to God’s people chosen from the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:8–9). However, those whom the Father transforms by grace inevitably choose to serve Christ. Good works, including our confession of Jesus and our obedience to His commands, follow necessarily from a changed heart (v. 10). Moreover, we still need this grace even after it first sets us on the true way of Christ in our conversion. We must daily turn to the cross and seek Christ in order that we might finish the race. Our Creator gives more grace to all who humble themselves, admit their weaknesses, and ask for strength (James 4:6–10). As Matthew Henry writes: “We can neither go in, or go on, without the assistance of divine grace; but it is as true that grace is freely offered, and shall not be lacking to those who seek it and submit to it.”

Our Lord echoes the great prophets and leaders of Israel when He calls us to choose the narrow path of godliness (for example, Josh. 24:14–15). Lest we apostatize as the nation of Israel did, let us commit ourselves each day, by His grace and Spirit, to live out the kingdom ethic as Jesus has commanded.  

Jesus: The Only Savior

R.C. Sproul

I cannot imagine an affirmation that would meet with more resistance from contemporary Westerners than the one Paul makes in 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”This declaration is narrow and downright un-American. We have been inundated with the viewpoint that there are many roads that lead to heaven, and that God is not so narrow that He requires a strict allegiance to one way of salvation. If anything strikes at the root of the tree of pluralism and relativism, it is a claim of exclusivity to any one religion. A statement such as Paul makes in his first letter to Timothy is seen as bigoted and hateful.

Paul, of course, is not expressing bigotry or hatefulness at all. He is simply expressing the truth of God, the same truth Jesus taught when He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Paul is affirming the uniqueness of Christ, specifically in His role as Mediator. A mediator is a go-between, someone who stands between two parties that are estranged or involved in some kind of dispute. Paul declares that Christ is the only Mediator between two parties at odds with one another — God and men.

We encounter mediators throughout the Bible. Moses, for example, was the mediator of the old covenant. He represented the people of Israel in his discussions with God, and he was God’s spokesman to the people. The prophets in the Old Testament had a mediatorial function, serving as the spokesmen for God to the people. Also, the high priest of Israel functioned as a mediator; he spoke to God on behalf of the people. Even the king of Israel was a kind of mediator; he was seen as God’s representative to the people, so God held him accountable to rule in righteousness according to the law of the Old Testament.

Why, then, does Paul say there is only one mediator between God and man? I believe we have to understand the uniqueness of Christ’s mediation in terms of the uniqueness of His person. He is the God-man, that is, God incarnate. In order to bring about reconciliation between God and humanity, the second person of the Trinity united to Himself a human nature. Thus, Jesus has the qualifications to bring about reconciliation — He represents both sides perfectly.

People ask me, “Why is God so narrow that He provided only one Savior?” I do not think that is the question we ought to ask. Instead, we should ask, “Why did God give us any way at all to be saved?” In other words, why did He not just condemn us all? Why did God, in His grace, give to us a Mediator to stand in our place, to receive the judgment we deserve, and to give to us the righteousness we desperately need? The astonishing thing is not that He did not do it in multiple ways, but that He did it in even one way.

Notice that Paul, in declaring the uniqueness of Christ, also affirms the uniqueness of God: “There is one God.” This divine uniqueness was declared throughout the Old Testament; the very first commandment was a commandment of exclusivity: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).

So Paul brings all these strands together. There is only one God, and God has only one Son, and the Son is the sole Mediator between God and mankind. As I said above, that is very difficult for people who have been immersed in pluralism to accept, but they have to quarrel with Christ and His Apostles on this point. The Bible offers no hope that sincere worshipers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul said in Athens, “The times of ignorance God has overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). There is a universal requirement for people to profess faith in Christ.

Perhaps you are concerned to hear me talk in such narrow terms of the exclusivity of Christ and of the Christian faith. If so, let me ask you to think through the ramifications of putting leaders of other religions on the same level as Christ. In one sense, there is no greater insult to Christ than to mention Him in the same breath as Muhammad, for example. If Christ is who He claims to be, no one else can be a way to God. Furthermore, if it is true that there are many ways to God, Christ is not one of them, because there is no reason one of many ways to God would declare to the world that He is the only way to God.

As we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ this month, it is good for us to remember the uniqueness of Christ. May we never suggest that God has not done enough for us, considering what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.

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