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It had been a remarkable few days for the Apostle Peter, which had followed a remarkable month and several remarkable years. He had found himself preaching to thousands, with three thousand responding in faith to his preaching. Every day seemingly brought wonderful new opportunities. A man unable to walk from birth was healed in the name of Jesus Christ. The people were astounded, and Peter took the opportunity again to open his mouth and preach. The religious leaders were not enamored of Peter’s message. They were greatly annoyed and had Peter arrested. The rulers, the elders, and the scribes wanted to know: “What right and what authority have you got to be speaking the way you do?” Again, Peter found his voice and declared to them: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” There was astonishment on the part of the religious leaders, but they warned Peter and John to speak no more of this man. They were to keep the only message of salvation to themselves (Acts 2:1–4:22).

The world hasn’t changed. Few things are more offensive to people than the belief that there is no salvation apart from faith in Christ. We’ve all heard people say, “There are many ways up the mountain to God; we all take different paths” or “What really matters is that you are sincere.” In the culture of which I am a part, people believe in “justification by death.” All you have to do is die, and somehow you are ushered into a better place. There is an unthinking assumption of relativistic pluralism, that all religions are basically the same and that we shouldn’t take any of them too seriously.

Tragically, there are those who call themselves Christians, even in churches, who would believe that the one God worshiped by us is the same Lord worshiped in different ways by Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. From our earliest days, our culture tells us that we’ve all got a book, all got a symbol, all got a special day. All religions are the same.

It is helpful for us to think about what we believe about the Lord Jesus Christ in relation to these challenges. We believe that He is the Son of God, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, born of a virgin; He lived a sinless life, was crucified on the cross, was buried, and on the third day rose again to life forevermore. Without these things, we do not have Christianity. Jews are insistent that Jesus was not the Messiah, and they believe that they are still awaiting their Messiah. Islam declares that Jesus didn’t die on the cross and that the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God is blasphemous. At its very core, Christianity is completely incompatible with these other religions.

God has sent His Son in history to find and save sinners, to pay the debts we owed, to face the punishment we deserved, and to forgive—to bring rebels into His family.

The gospel of John particularly helps us with our task of seeing and proclaiming the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. Right from the start of his gospel, John introduces us to “necessary negatives.” We do this in daily life; it is no use saying to your friend “I will meet you by the clock” if there are two clocks. We would say, “Meet me under this clock, not that one.” John again and again gives us the truth positively, and then he states it again negatively to make it clear. For example, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). The negative brings the positive into a sharper focus. John uses this approach constantly: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (v. 18). There is both a positive and negative explanation.

Let me give three examples from John that help us with the question of the exclusivity of Christ.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This beautiful positive gives the message that if you will put your trust in the Lord Jesus, you will know eternal life. Jesus clarifies what He means so that we will not miss it. If we refuse to acknowledge and trust the Lord Jesus Christ, we will not know life, and more than that, God’s anger is upon us even now.

In John 10, Jesus is speaking at the temple of how His sheep hear His voice and His people follow His word. In verse 28, He says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” He speaks of both what He gives us and also what He protects us from. The negative shines light on the positive. The unbelieving response to this is fury, as the Jews pick up stones to stone Him.

In John 14:6, Jesus says these famous words to Thomas: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus gives us a positive definitive statement—He is the way, the truth, and the life—but then He gives an even greater clarity to that truth: there is no other way, no other means to the Father. If you want to know God, the only way is through Jesus Christ.

The world has never been able to accept that message. To use the words from John’s prologue: “[Even though] the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:10–11).

We need to be aware that the doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ is always under attack. The media detests it; comedians mock it; governments may well legislate against it one day. It will probably be at this point that the opposition is most severe from those whom you are trying to reach with the gospel. It is greatly humbling that there is only one way of salvation, which is found in Christ’s person and work. It’s so humbling that many refuse to accept it.

We must not lose our nerve as we speak of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Savior of sinners. The Westminster Shorter Catechism speaks the truth beautifully: “The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever” (Q&A 21).

There is no other Redeemer, no other Savior, no other hope, and in that we rejoice and proclaim Him. This message is the gospel; it is truly good news. God has sent His Son in history to find and save sinners, to pay the debts we owed, to face the punishment we deserved, and to forgive—to bring rebels into His family.

When the world and unbelief snarl at us, as they did at Peter and John, and the world tells us “ ‘to speak no more to anyone in this name’ . . . not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:17–18), we, like the disciples, cannot go down that path. We are called to a more costly and yet joyful path, one that faithful Christians have trod through the ages: to proclaim and announce to a dying world that there is a Savior, Jesus Christ, and that salvation is found in no other name.

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From the June 2023 Issue
Jun 2023 Issue