Is Jesus the Only Way to God?
Dr. Jim Denison
A friend recently sent me this story by e-mail. It seems an elderly lady finished her shopping and walked out to her car, to find four males in it. She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at them at the top of her voice that she knew how to use it and would if required—so get out of the car. The four men didn’t wait around for a second invitation, but got out and ran like crazy.
The lady proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back of the car and got into the driver’s seat. However, her key wouldn’t fit the ignition. She got out and found her car, identical to this one, parked four spaces down. She loaded her bags into her car and drove to the police station.
The sergeant to whom she told her story nearly doubled over with laughter as he pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale white males were reporting a car-jacking by a mad, elderly woman. No charges were filed.
Now, when her key didn’t work in the car, what was the lady’s reaction? Did she say, “All keys are basically the same”? Did she complain that the car would only accept one key? No, she was grateful she had a key to her car (as soon as she found it!).
In our Yearning 2 Know series, we’ve asked what happens when we die, and what does the Bible teach about heaven and hell. Now we’ll ask the most confusing question of the entire series: Is Jesus the only way to God? Is he the only way to avoid hell and go to heaven when we die? And what practical impact does the answer have for us today?
What did Jesus say?
First, let’s make sure we know what Jesus actually said. Let’s get past all the popular opinion, and denominational differences. What did Jesus really say? In our text he states four facts.
One: he is God (v. 1). “Believe in God; believe also in me,” he says. Later: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). The disciples are troubled about his impending death, but he is not. All is well, he claims—I’m in charge. I am God.
Earlier the Jewish authorities had tried to stone Jesus for blasphemy, “because you claim to be God” (10:33). Make no mistake: Jesus clearly claims that he is God. Other religious leaders claim to reveal God; Jesus claims to be God.
Two: he is preparing a place for us in heaven (v. 2). “Prepare” means to go before and make ready for the arrival of others. Other religious leaders speak of heaven, and even tell their followers how to go there. Jesus says he is going there first, ahead of us, to make things ready. No one ever made this claim before.
Three: he will take us there himself (v. 3). “Take you to be with me” means “to walk alongside of.” Jesus hasn’t gone home and left us directions for finding our way there. He will come back to us and lead us there, personally. Again, no one else ever claimed this.
Four: he is the only way to heaven. Others said, “I know the way, the truth, and the life” or “I teach the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Earlier he said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). He is the only way, truth, and life.
Do you hear these claims to uniqueness? I am God; I am preparing your place in heaven; I will take you there; I alone can take you there. Jesus is the only way to God—the text makes this claim clear.
And this is by no means the only place where the word of God makes this claim. Remember John 1:14: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:18 is dogmatic: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus clearly claims to be the only way to the Father, and the rest of the New Testament says he’s right.
Aren’t all religions basically the same?
Now let’s ask some common questions. First, aren’t all religions basically the same? Don’t they all pray to the same God and teach the same basic ideas? Aren’t they just different roads up the same mountain?
Nearly two-third of all Americans think they are. 64% say they all pray to the same God. And 56% say that you can work your way to heaven by being good, no matter what religion you claim.
Hindu temples have increased 1000% in America in the last ten years. There are more Muslims than Episcopalians in our country. And they are people of reverence, too. I’ve seen Buddhists burn a year’s salary in paper money at the grave of an ancestor, and Muslims leave their mosques with their foreheads bleeding from praying on their rugs so fervently. What about them? Are they all the same? Decide for yourself. Consider these very basic facts:
Hinduism teaches that there are many “gods” but no “God”—no personal Creator who is Lord of all. We are “atman,” part of “Brahman,” and “moksha” or “salvation” comes through multiple reincarnations when we are absorbed into ultimate reality. No eternal souls or independent existence—we cease to be.
Buddhism affirms the four noble truths and eightfold noble path, by which we can come to “Nirvana,” a “blowing out” where we cease to be. No such thing as God in the sense of Lord; no heaven where we live personally with God forever.
Islam believes in “Allah,” the sovereign God. But he has no Son, and “salvation” comes through obedience to the Koran, their Scriptures.
Judaism worships our Jehovah God, but refuses to believe that he has a Son or that he is the Messiah, crucified for us. Of course they would not accept John 14:6, or any other claim that Jesus is God.
To say that all religions are the same would be like saying that all keys are the same—it doesn’t matter which one you use, so long as you’re sincere. The religions are each different, and mutually exclusive. If one is right, none of the rest can be.
The uniqueness of Christianity lies in the idea of grace. The world’s religions center in our works, by which we strive to earn acceptance from God, the gods, or experience enlightenment and Nirvana. We climb up to “heaven,” whatever it is. But only in Christianity does God climb down to us, to be one of us. Only in Christianity does God take us to be with him, by grace through faith.
In India during World War I, people of different faiths decided to meet together in an act of mutual worship and encouragement. However, the idea had to be abandoned because they couldn’t determine how to begin the service. They had no common ground whatsoever. The Christians suggested that at least they could all repeat the Lord’s Prayer. But it begins, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” and none of the other religions agreed.
The different religions teach very different ideas. They hold very different keys. You must decide which one works.
What about the “ignorant”?
What of those who have never heard of Jesus? Who don’t know what we’ve said this morning? Those who, like Thomas, don’t know or understand? What of them?
The fact is, our Lord never intended there to be any “ignorant.” He didn’t tell us what to do about them, except to tell them. If we know someone who doesn’t know about Jesus, tell them.
Note that this is a speculative, rational problem, not a practical issue for us. If you can ask the question, it doesn’t apply to you. And no theory exempts us from telling the “ignorant” about Jesus.
The most popular answer is, “God judges people according to the light they have.” Then why give them more light? Why do missions? Yet we are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.”
Others say, “God knows what they would do, given the chance.” Then why give them the chance? Others say, “All are saved through Christ, whether they believe or not.” Then why do missions? And what of John 3:16: “whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Still others say, “They cannot be lost if they’ve never heard.” Then we shouldn’t tell them, for they might reject Jesus. But Jesus told us to tell them. And still others say, “God knows if they’re sincere.” But we can be sincerely wrong.
Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”; Romans 6:23 adds, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What will God do with those who haven’t heard? The only answer the Bible gives us is: tell them. Trust the Lord, and tell them.
And we can. If we tell people, who tell people, who tell people, the world can know. By multiplication, one a day, the world’s population can know of Jesus in 31 days.
What about the ignorant,those who don’t know about the key to heaven? Tell them.
Why is there only one way?
One last question: why would God insist on only one way to himself? Many people say, “A loving God would never be that narrow.” But here are the facts.
One: God gave his best for our salvation. He gave his only Son to pay the debt for our sin. No other religious leader died for his people, but Jesus died for us.
Two: through Christ, salvation is free and open to all people. You don’t have to go through years of ascetic discipline, or obedience to holy writings, to hopefully come up to God. God has come down to us. Every person on earth is free to come to God through Christ, today.
Three: this way works for everyone. The key works, no matter who uses it. I don’t need another key if this one starts the car. I don’t need another chemotherapy if this one kills my cancer. Jesus is sufficient for us all.
What does all this mean to you this morning? First, make certain Jesus is your Savior, this morning. He is the only way to God you need, but he is also the only way to God you have. All gifts must be received. Receive the gift of his grace and love. Take the key and use it.
Second, give it to those who don’t have it. Pray for those you know; talk with them; invite them to Jesus. This is your responsibility, and mine.
Last week I spoke of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. A scene on a calendar depicts Colonel Booth, out on a rough sea at night in a small lifeboat. As the waves rage, Booth is reaching out his hand to pull in a survivor who is lost at sea. A small vignette in the corner shows Booth’s granddaughter asking her grandmother, “Grandma, is granddaddy trying to save that man or only shaking hands with him?”
What would your friends say you’re doing for them?