People are often surprised when a Christian is honest enough to declare that Jesus is the only way of salvation. You can see it in their faces and hear it in their tones. They ask incredulously, “Are you saying that, unless I believe what you believe, I’m going to hell?” For many, the offense is not in whether or not Christianity is true, but whether a Christian would have the audacity to suggest that someone outside the faith could be lost. Many treat Christians as if we delight in demanding that others adopt our own ideas or else.
The thing that we need to consider as we look at the exclusive claims of Christianity is this: Is it true? Of course it is offensive for a person to look at you, say you are wrong, and say that your beliefs and commitments are damning. Nobody wants to hear that. If a person says to you that their beliefs are better than your beliefs, it is hurtful and frustrating. But the bigger question is whether or not your beliefs, my beliefs, or another’s beliefs are true. The bigger question is whether or not our beliefs have truth as their foundation.
Consider this passage in Isaiah:
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
11 I, I am the Lord,
and besides me there is no savior.
The Lord here makes a simple claim. It is not a claim of opinion, but of pure fact. And the world changes based on whether or not it is true. If these words are false, then all that Christianity claims must be false too. If this claim is true, regardless of how offensive the claims of Christians may be, they are true.
What does the Lord claim? There is no god before him. There will be no god after him. There is only one true God. And as the one true God, there is only one way of salvation.
Can you stop for a moment and think about this without emotion? Stop and consider the repercussions of this claim if it is true. What if there really is only one God? What if that God is clear that no sinful human being is rescued apart from him, his way, his standards, his plan? What if no other god exists before him or after him? Is it really an offense for a person to say that all must come to that God according to his word in order to be saved?
Imagine a house with only one door. Also imagine that it is about to rain. I tell you that you should get in out of the rain, or you will get wet. I tell you that the only way for you to get in out of the rain is to enter through the one door of the house. Have I belittled you? Have I been cruel? Or have I simply offered you the truth. There is one door and one dry place. I cannot change that, no matter how much you want for there to be other doors, other houses, or other circumstances.
The reason a claim of exclusive salvation by grace through faith in Christ is offensive to people has to do with the fact that it is in opposition to a primary worldview doctrine of our modern society. Many pride themselves on the belief that there are many ways to spiritual goodness, whatever that means. Many have, as a core belief, that no one religious road is better than another. These same folks fail to acknowledge the contradiction at the core of their beliefs. They demand that all belief systems are equally right. They are upset, however, by a belief system that says that all are not equally right. But one cannot be consistent, claim all views to be equally acceptable, and then be offended by another belief system because it disagrees.
Even more important than the logical inconsistency here is the question of truth. Is God telling us the truth? If he is not, then he does not matter, and we should not concern ourselves with his claims. If he is telling the truth, then he is the only one that matters, and our entire existence is for him.
There is one God. He has made one way of salvation. That way of salvation is provided by the one, true, holy, triune God. The way of salvation is that our sins must be forgiven in Jesus. We must come to Jesus in faith and repentance to be saved.
No, I am not smug in that claim of exclusivity. I do not claim to be better than anyone. Nor do I claim to be smarter than anyone. I am simply in agreement with the claim brought to all by holy Scripture.