Jesus is the Only Way to God
by Derek Gentle
Southern Baptists have been criticized in numerous places for believing that Jesus is the only way to a real relationship with God. Similarly, their prayers and evangelistic efforts have been called into question. Religious Tolerance.org is one such example.
To read all this intense material, one would think that this was some new development... "Can you believe it? Those narrow minded Baptists now believe they are the only ones going to heaven! It must be the result of the 1980's takeover by the Fundamentalists."
However, the belief that Jesus is the exclusive mediator between God and humanity has been the teaching in all of christiandom throughout church history. It is only in the last century that mainline denominations have forsaken this foundational truth of the Christian faith. And now many of them -- and their secular fellow-travelers -- are offended that Baptists won't join them in the process of reinventing their beliefs.
It reminds one of the story of the time Ma and Pa rode into town in the pickup. They pulled up behind a car with Just Married still painted on the window. The young bride was close beside her new husband and the young husband had his arm around his wife. From her place beside the passenger door, Ma asked Pa, "Why don't we sit like that any more? From his usual place behind the wheel, Pa answered, "I haven't moved".
Where would Baptists get such an idea? From the Bible, including some words from Jesus' own mouth:
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus
John 3:16-18 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 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.
Here is a sampling of confessions of faith from various denominations, all affirming that salvation comes only to those who place their faith in Christ:
The 1530 Augsburg Confession
Article IV - Of Justification:
"Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4."
Luther's Little Instruction Book
(The Small Catechism of Martin Luther)
II. The Second Article: On Redemption
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried, descended to Hell, on the third
day rose again from the dead, ascended to Heaven and sat down at the
right hand of God the Almighty Father. From there He will come to
judge the living and the dead.
Q. What does this mean?
A. I believe that Jesus Christ is truly
God, born of the Father in eternity and also truly man, born of
the Virgin Mary. He is my Lord! He redeemed me, a lost and
condemned person, bought and won me from all sins, death and the
authority of the Devil. It did not cost Him gold or silver, but
His holy, precious blood, His innocent body -- His death! Because
of this, I am His very own, will live under Him in His kingdom and
serve Him righteously, innocently and blessedly forever, just as
He is risen from death, lives and reigns forever. Yes, this is
The Westminster Confession
Chapter 11 - Of Justification:
"...pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone... by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith..."
Chapter 35 - Of the Gospel of the Love of God and Missions:
4. Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace faith cometh by hearing the Word of God, Christ hath commissioned his Church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of the Christian religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.
The Westminster Catechism - Larger Version
Are there more Gods than one?
There is but one only, the living and true God.
Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?
The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fulness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.
How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ has procured?
We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ has procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.
Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ has purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?
They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.
Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?
All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible.
Anglicans and Episcopals
The Thirty-Nine Articles (1571)
Article XI Of the Justification of Man:
"We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings."
(The assent of this statement is still required of clergy in the Church of England. They form the basis of the Articles of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America.)
The Episcopal Catechism
Commonly called the Catechism
The text below is taken from the Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal (USA)
What is the mission of the Church?
The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
How does the Church pursue its mission?
The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
United Methodist Church
The Twenty-Five Articles
Article IX—Of the Justification of Man:
"We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort."
Wesley's Explanatory Notes
The founder of the United Methodist Church, commenting on 1st Timothy 2:5:
Verse 5. For-The fourth verse is proved by the fifth; the first, by the fourth. There is one God-And they who have not him, through the one Mediator, have no God. One mediator also-We could not rejoice that there is a God, were there not a mediator also; one who stands between God and men, to reconcile man to God, and to transact the whole affair of our salvation. This excludes all other mediators, as saints and angels, whom the Papists set up and idolatrously worship as such: just as the heathens of old set up many mediators, to pacify their superior gods. The man-Therefore all men are to apply to this mediator, "who gave himself for all."
-- John Wesley's commentary on the whole Bible was produced between 1754 and 1765.
Roman Catholic Church
Baptists (along with protestants and other evangelicals) view the appropriation of salvation differently than Catholics. Baptists confess, "Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone." Catholics see grace as enabling good works and these good works, in turn, help merit salvation -- "without grace we can do nothing to merit heaven" (see below). Salvation to them is by faith and works. To Baptists, Protestants, and Evangelicals, the new birth is the root and good works are the fruit. Salvation is recieved as a free gift, and is not in any degree earned. The free gift of salvation includes a new heart and a changed life.
This is where Baptists and Catholics differ -- but that on which they agree is that Christ is necessary for salvation.
Catechism Of The Catholic Church
To believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God
151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his "beloved Son", in whom the Father is "well pleased"; God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples: "Believe in God, believe also in me." We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." Because he "has seen the Father", Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.
The Baltimore Catechism - Larger Version
By a committee of American bishops of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Lesson 10: On the Effects of the Redemption
Which are the chief effects of the Redemption?
The chief effects of the Redemption are two: The satisfaction of God's ' justice by Christ's sufferings and death, and the gaining of grace for men.
What do you mean by grace?
By grace I mean a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for our salvation.
Is grace necessary to salvation?
Grace is necessary to salvation, because without grace we can do nothing to merit heaven.
2000 Baptist Faith and Message Statement
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
XI. Evangelism and Missions
It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.
1963 Baptist Faith and Message Statement:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, sanctification, and glorification...
XI. EVANGELISM AND MISSIONS
It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man's spirit by God's Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by personal effort and by all other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.
Why do Baptists take such a stand? It's not because we consider it good public relations. It is not because our seminary presidents think it's fun to have viewers phone in to television news-talk shows and call them names. And it is not because Baptists are neanderthals. To the contrary, Southern Baptists are on the bold cutting edge. They are willing to swim upstream; to base their beliefs and practice, not on convenience nor the current culture, but on the Bible. This isn't a new idea, as we have shown. The other Christian denominations were founded upon Scripture. However, Baptists have fought with themselves to stay there. They have, without embarrassment, called on the culture to adapt to Scripture instead of lazily floating down the cultural stream. It takes courage. But, hey, no guts, no glory.
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