I recently had a conversation with a professing Christian who spoke fondly of his “spirituality.” During our discussion he recounted a story from a time in his life when he was still searching out the teachings of Christianity. While we talked, something he said got me thinking. He was Jewish and was raised to observe the traditions of the Jewish faith, but as he got older he effectively discarded those observations in favor of other spiritual pursuits.
He was dating a Catholic woman at that time and regularly joined her in attending services at her parish. During one particular service a visiting Bishop gave the sermon and at the conclusion of his message invited anyone who had theological questions to meet with him after the service. Curious about what answers the Bishop might have, the man tarried and was surprised to see that he was the only person who took the guest Bishop up on his offer.
After he gave the Bishop a summary of his religious background and asked several theological questions, the Bishop told him that he could see that the man was already “close to God,” and that he saw great spiritual awareness and perception in him. The Bishop went on to tell him that there are many paths to God, that he needed no special guidance from the Bishop, and that as long as the man continued on his path he would find God eventually.
I asked him how he came to be a follower of Jesus and he told me how various circumstances in his life eventually lead him to say, “Yes” to Jesus in his own heart. It was clear to me, however, that he continued to cherish what the Bishop said to him, and as we continued talking, it was obvious he considered the Bishop’s estimation of his spiritual proximity to God a badge of honor.
“I guess I’ve always been close to God,” he said with a smile.
This man’s statement raises an important question. Can we be close to God without necessarily identifying ourselves as followers of Jesus? Is there a relationship with the One who made us apart from his Son?
Admittedly, the idea of being connected to God without having to wear the label of “Christian” is an appealing one. There are undoubtedly fewer requirements; fewer “hang-ups,” if we are under no obligation to follow only one path to God. A do-it-yourself faith is one where I can decide for myself what is right and wrong.
The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that it completely ignores the very reason Jesus came to earth and died in the first place. If it was not absolutely necessary for Jesus to come and die; if the way of the cross is only one of a myriad of avenues to a relationship with the God of the universe, this makes Jesus’ death the cruelest of jokes, and God the cruelest of fathers.
Jesus’ excruciating death on the cross is a testament to what the God of the universe actually thinks about sin. He wants to kill it. A good and holy God is not interested in providing a path to him by which our sin is tolerated, sidestepped, or overlooked (see my article: A Good Person’s Most Serious Problem).
Does Jesus himself have anything to say about this? It follows that if the Son of God were not the only way to his Heavenly Father, he would have some insights on the subject. Here are some things Jesus said about his being the only way to his Father:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. …He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
…that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.
Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.
Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
There are many more examples which you can read in your spare time.
John 5:39-40, John 6:53, John 9:35-38, John 10:1-9, John 10:23-33, John 14:6, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 13:25-27, 1 John 5:1.
Of course, this is based strictly on Jesus’ own testimony about himself. If Jesus is lying about his unique and divine relationship with his Father, we would have no cause to believe his words. But let me offer this scriptural evidence of Jesus’ true sonship in the form of angelic testimony prior to his birth and from the mouth of God himself.
Before his birth, the angel Gabriel declared to his mother, Mary, that Jesus was the Son of God: Luke 1:35.
An angel declared to his Father, Joseph, that Jesus would be conceived by the Spirit of God and not by natural conception: Matthew 1:20.
God, by his own words, established Jesus as his beloved Son and that he was most pleased with him in Luke 3:22. If Jesus had lied about who he really was, I doubt God would be pleased with him.
God again testified by his own voice that is was through his son, Jesus’, death that his name would be glorified: John 12:27-32.
Concluding from this scriptural evidence that Jesus is not lying about the legitimacy of his sonship to his Heavenly Father, we can confidently take his words about himself as true.
What about Jesus’ disciples? Do the men who knew him personally have any answers to the question of Jesus being the only way to God?
The next day John (the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
In Acts 16:31, Paul, an apostle of Jesus and author of most of the New Testament, along with his companion, Silas, said:
… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, …”
In Acts 4:10-12, Peter, arguably one of Jesus’ closest disciples, said:
…let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, … has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
So we see from the testimony of God’s angels, from his followers who knew him best, from his own Heavenly Father, and finally, from Jesus’ own lips, that a personal faith in God that does not have Jesus placed at its center, is an imaginary faith that is not grounded in reality or truth.
God didn’t send his only Son to be an option for coming to him. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is the only way to be made right with God. There is no one else who can take away our sin. And if our sin is not washed away, we cannot stand before a holy and righteous God.
So if you have been walking through this life taking confidence in your own self-made spirituality, or resting on your status as a “good person,” let me warn you, in all earnestness and sincerity, that there will come a day at the end of your life, when you will stand before the One whom all of scripture proclaimed as the one-and-only Son of God.
On that day, if He does not personally know you as belonging to him, you will be cast from his presence into outer darkness (what the bible sometimes calls, “Hell”) into eternal torment forever.
As it says in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Please don’t let it come to that. Please put your faith in, and only in, the one, true Jesus Christ this very hour.