What if there really is only one way to get where you need to go? When you get your GPS out and put in a destination, it will ask if you want to walk, ride a bus, or drive. It will want to know if you want to avoid toll roads, take the interstates, or take the scenic route. Then it will want to know exactly which path you want to take. It will usually give you three options. We have options as to get where we are going. We get to decide which way we want to go.
But is it that way with getting to Heaven? Can we please God by doing as we please? In Acts 4:12 Peter said, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This is an exclusive claim. Many will reject it. To accept this claim means that all other options are ultimately wrong and ineffective.
In an age of religious pluralism, this radical claim is rejected outright by some (Hick and Knitter 1987). Others will admit the uniqueness of Christ in the objective accomplishment of salvation, but they say this text does not teach that it is essential to hear the good news about Jesus’ saving work and consciously “name the name” (Sanders 1988). Such a bifurcation of the accomplishment and application of salvation runs counter to the explicit thrust of this verse. Peter makes his universal claim by explicitly asserting that this name has been given to humankind as a means by which we must be saved (compare Lk 24:46; Acts 11:14). Appropriation of the name is an essential part of God’s salvation transaction. To be true to Peter and Luke, we must never water down the fact that apart from Jesus there is no salvation for anyone—neither its accomplishment nor its appropriation.
This truth is difficult for pluralistic societies. This reality is difficult for all of us when we begin to think about those whom we love who have chosen a different path. One of the cruel attributes of truth claims is that when one is correct, all others must necessarily be wrong.
WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY?
The message of the Gospel is unique. It stands out in all of history as being special, but it is described as unique for another reason. It is unique because it is exclusively true. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Since we believe the message of Jesus and the Bible to be true, we must therefore also believe that all other “religious expressions” are false. Non Christian groups can be very sincere, devout, make great contributions to society, and do great things. However, if Jesus is correct, then only Christianity is true.
The Uniqueness of Jesus
The Gospel is for all. Whosoever will come may come to salvation in Christ. Yet salvation is limited to those who are “in Christ.” Remember what Paul wrote about those outside of Christ in Ephesians 2:12, “you are…having no hope and without God in the world,”
The book of Romans is a presentation of the Gospel which is available to both Jews and Gentiles. There are to be no social, racial, or economic divisions or exclusions among God’s people. There is only one line of demarcation—are you in Christ or outside of Christ. Paul maintains that all are without excuse for not knowing there is a God because of his self revelation in the world around us—Romans 1:20. The terrible reality is that we most often choose to worship ourselves (the creature) rather than God (the Creator). Therefore, we are all under the power of sin—Romans 3:9-12. This problem extends to all people. The solution must also, therefore, extend to all people.
The only solution to our sin problem is Christ. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). It is Christ who “died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It was through Christ that “God shows his love for us” (Romans 5:8). It is through Christ death that Christians are “reconciled to God” (Romans 5:10). It is act of the one man Jesus which redeems all people from the penalty of sin (Romans 5:18-19). It is only by being united with him in baptism that anyone can have hope in him before God (Romans 6:3, 5). Therefore, only Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
The Uniqueness of His Church
Furthermore, the saved are described as being one group. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus described one identifiable group of individuals who were saved by grace through his death, lived under his rule, and expected the one home in Heaven.
We see the oneness of his church as we understand that God places all his people into the same group. “We are all the children of God through faith” we read in Galatians 3:26. We are adopted into that family of God when we are “baptized into Christ and put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Paul is able to speak of the uniqueness of the church in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “for by one Spirit, you were all baptized into one body and were all made to drink of the same spiritual drink.”
The uniqueness of the church is also demonstrated in its peculiar beliefs. Ephesians 4:1-7 lists some doctrinal markers which Christians are expected to believe. Jude exhorted his audience to “contend earnestly for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Paul tells us all to “hold to the traditions” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Timothy was exhorted to “preach the Word” or the singular message (2 Timothy 4:2). We are to teach the same message that was taught—2 Timothy 2:2. The uniqueness of the message and practice of the church is essential to being the church—Galatians 1:6-10.
The Uniqueness of Evangelism
We have all seen commercials asking us to buy one product or another. We see political ads suggesting one candidate over another. We have friends to make great suggestions or awful suggestions. In some ways evangelism is like those pleas. However, there is one major difference. Christians are not just “advertising a product,” we are saying “this is the only way.”
The uniqueness of the church is seen in the unique nature of the Christian plea. Mark 16:15-16 is a command to spread the opportunity of salvation to all people. It is also an example of Jesus and his message being the only hope of salvation. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, he who does not believe will be condemned”.
Evangelism is important because there is no middle ground. All accountable people are either saved or lost. All people are either in Christ or outside of Christ. All Christians have the responsibility to share the message of hope but also the exclusivity of that message.
The Important Mission
The exclusive hope of the Gospel demands we be devoted to the mission of God. Like Jesus, we must “seek and save the lost.” The Great Commission can no longer be omitted. Rather we must respect the truth of God and his message. We must also respect our responsibility to share the message with the lost world. The world will not be lost because God wants it to be lost. The world will be lost through the apathy of the church or the lost choosing to remain lost.