ONE ROAD OR MANY ROADS?
I was staying with a missionary in Egypt when he shared his doubts. He had met a Muslim man whom he felt was about as righteous in his life style as one could be. Surely that righteous Muslim would be saved if he died without accepting Christ?
There is much talk about respecting peoples of other religions and not trying to convert them to Christianity. After all, the reasons go, aren’t there many ways to God? That is a good question and the answer affects how we view the need to tell others about Christ. In fact, if we should support missions that have the goal of ‘converting’ people of other religions.
Instead of starting with does man think there are many options in seeking God, we should ask it from God’s point of view: why would a loving God demand only one way to approach him?
We have to accept two basic premises: there is a God and that God is holy. If he is holy then that is his primary attribute that everything else must yield to. For example, he cannot permit injustice to go unpunished. To do so would jeopardize or undermine his holiness. He is a God of love and yet while he can display his love in acts of goodness he cannot bypass his holiness nor his sense of justice because of his desire to show love.
The scriptures tell us that God is not willing that any should perish and that because he loved the world (the people in it) he sent his son Jesus not to condemn but to save. It also says that he does not find any pleasure in the death of the wicked.
Is there a logical reason why God would give us but one way to come to him? First of all, we need to realize that we must come to him on his terms, not ours. God sets the standard for right and wrong, not humankind. Society may think that sleeping around is okay if no one is hurt but God says it is sin. God’s standard goes across cultures and applies to every person —those who claim to be Christians and those who don’t.
Those who say there is no God (atheists) and also those who don’t know if there is a God (agnostics) still are accountable to live by a certain standard (God’s standard and definition of right and wrong).
If there is a standard then there is also the possibility of violating that standard. That is where sin comes in. Sin happens when we do wrong. Wrong can be an action or attitude and even can occur in ignorance or through omission. Not doing a right action when necessary can be sin. (An example of this is when a man knew a girl was being raped and murdered and did nothing because he did not want to be involved, that man was guilty according to the scriptures.)
So when wrong occurs justice must be satisfied. God cannot let it go. Actually, we ourselves have within us the desire to see justice satisfied when another wrongs us. In a sense, when sin occurs the universe gets out of balance. The only way to bring it back into balance is to “pay the piper” and pay the penalty for sin. One Muslim man said that God is great and can overlook sin. No, this is not possible. If justice is not served then God’s very holiness is affected and that is not possible because the central core of his essence is holiness. Everything gives way to his holiness.
So God loves us and wants to bring us into fellowship with him but sin stands in the way. Sin must be paid for; justice must be served. So how can God satisfy justice and, at the same time, allow us his presence and fellowship? (How can he allow us to come to him as our heavenly Father?)
Since the beginning of time humankind has felt a need to satisfy God through a sacrifice when they have sinned. Most often the sacrifice involved blood the killing of an animal or a person. Also there has been a recognition that payment needed to be made to offset the sin that occurred. Often man who beat himself, starve himself or otherwise try to atone for the sin, he had committed. My point here is that we have always recognized God’s need for satisfying justice even when we knew very little about God.
The problem is that nothing we can do will ever satisfy God and equal out the scale that is now unbalance because of sin.
So any sacrifice or way (road) to God can only be approached on God’s terms. The problem is that God is a unique being, one of a kind. We are like him but he is not like us — he is God. So any sacrifice or payment for sin that would allow us access to God (with justice satisfied) cannot come from our level. Even the best that we can do or pay is not enough by his standard of holiness and justice. The scriptures tell us that our righteousness is like filthy rags. This does not mean our righteousness is not worth something; just that in comparison to God’s standard it doesn’t count for much. It isn’t enough to balance out anything.
So God recognized that if he was going to provide a way for mankind to come to him without sin (or with the sin payment satisfied) it was going to have to start with him — at his level. In other words, the only sin payment, the only way justice could be satisfied, must be a God-level payment. A human-level payment would never be enough.
So this is where Jesus Christ comes in. God says to himself, “I will send a part of myself He will be both God and man. He will live as a man but without sin. When the time comes, he will die on a cross and that will be the payment needed for sin.”
In this way God’s holiness and justice is satisfied and he is freed to hilly express his love. Now he can see us (in or through Christ) as holy because our sinful has been put on Christ. “He was made sin for us who knew no sin that we might be the righteousness of God through him.”
Peter said, “Only one way.” He lived and walked with Jesus over a three year period and knew what he was talking about when he made such an absolute statement. For some reason modern scholars seem to think that can know more than Peter did and they can reinterpret what he said. But he is only saying what Jesus himself said, “No man comes to the Father except by me.”
A pastor wondered why a couple were going to convert Jews in Russia – if they are God’s special people then maybe God has a special plan for them in terms of salvation. This ignores the facts. Jesus was a Jew. The first Christians were Jews. Christianity began as a Jewish movement and involved a great many Jewish religious scholars (the Pharisees). It only became dominated by the Gentiles after the fall of Jerusalem and the general rejection of Jesus by the religious and governmental leaders of that time.
Is the Jews for Jesus movement valid? Of course it is. It is bringing Jews back to their roots.
copyright 2000 Richard D Smith