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Christ Alone, Part 2

A Message by R.C. Sproul

As much as we try to be good and to do good things, how far will it get us? Scripture has made it clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, making it so that "there is none righteous, not even one." So what do we do with our sin? What will God do with our sin? In this message entitled "Christ Alone," Dr. Sproul explains some important inner-workings of the plan of redemption.

From the series: God Alone

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Christ

  2. devotional

    Jesus Alone

  3. article

    Jesus: The Only Savior

The Christ

Over the past few weeks, we have been studying Hebrews 9 and its contrast of the old covenant sacrificial system to the work of Christ. One thing we have noted is that it is Christ’s shed blood that qualified Him to receive the title of new covenant Mediator (v. 15).

“Mediator” is but one of the titles indicating Jesus’ superiority over all things. In order to gain an even better appreciation for Christ’s superiority, we will spend the next two weeks examining the titles of Jesus with the help of the series The Names of Jesus, by Dr. R.C. Sproul.

Throughout the Bible we see the importance given to the names of people. Oftentimes, biblical characters were given new names by God after going through some type of crisis situation (for example, Gen. 32:28). These names often indicated the disposition of the person or pointed to the role that they would fulfill in the plan of God.

Titles are another source of information about people. This holds true even in our society today. People spend years and thousands of dollars in order to get a title that will give them status, reflect a level of knowledge, and/or open up job opportunities. Respected titles like “doctor” tell us things about a person’s skill level and role in society.

The same holds true in the Bible. God gives men and women titles in order to describe their role in His plan. This is especially true of Jesus. His titles reflect His majesty and the nature of His work.

The most frequently used title for Jesus by the New Testament authors is “Christ.” This title becomes a virtual substitute for His name in passages where He is called “Jesus Christ” or simply “Christ.”

The title “Christ” comes from the Greek word christos which means “anointed one” or “one anointed by God.” This title is actually used to describe several people in the Old Testament because many are anointed by God to perform certain functions including prophets, priests, and kings. Even the pagan king Cyrus is given the title, since he was anointed to return the exiles of Israel to their land (Isa. 45:1).

In this general sense, anyone anointed by God is a “christ.” Nevertheless, throughout the Old Testament, the people of God looked forward to the day when the ultimate Christ would come and fulfill all of the covenant promises. In calling Jesus “the Christ,” the New Testament authors tell us that Jesus is this Promised One.

Jesus Alone

For the past year, we have been privileged to spend concentrated time in the epistle to the Hebrews. Our journey has been long, and we pray that God has used this study of His Word to strengthen our faith for the journey ahead. The magnificent themes and difficult issues grappled with will serve us well as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

This study has attempted to emphasize the original context of Hebrews so that our modern application will be based on the author’s original intent. A broad look at the epistle informed us that while we may not be sure of the exact circumstances surrounding the original audience of this letter, we do know that this audience was well-versed in the Old Testament and was thinking of leaving Christ and returning to the old covenant system because of heavy persecution.

Seeking to avert this, the pastoral heart of the author shines throughout his letter. He began by arguing for the superiority of Jesus over the angels and Moses, who were key figures in the old covenant and its revelation (1:1–3:6). In light of the superiority and finality of Christ, were this audience to leave Him, they would never be able to find God’s rest. Rather, they would be like the faithless first generation of Israel who grumbled in the wilderness and were therefore cut off from the Promised Land (3:7–4:13). This is not to say that the author believed that God’s elect are not secure in their salvation. After all, Jesus is the perfect and eternal High Priest, appointed by God to save His people through the sacrifice of Himself and through making continual intercession for all covenant members with true faith (4:14–10:18). This Jesus, who saves all of God’s people both in the new covenant and in the old, is the one for whom the old covenant saints waited and to whom we must draw near in order to persevere in our faith (10:19–12:2). This Jesus ever moves to ensure our faithfulness by disciplining us and by working through our worship and sanctification to keep us pressing toward the goal (12:3–13:25).

Though we demonstrate our election through our obedience to Jesus, He alone has done all the work necessary to secure our eternal redemption. If we trust in Him truly, if we look to Him truly and to Him alone, we will persevere. So look to Jesus, and finish the race!

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.

Since the beginning,

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