We have a wide-open and free debate policy at SBC Voices (one which I often enjoy and also very often regret – especially the last couple of days). But recently, every single comment thread has been turned into an interfaith dialogue about whether Jesus is the only way to God, whether other religions are equally valid to Christianity or whether we all worship the same God regardless of our faiths.
I just want to make something clear. The gospel is a non-negotiable, Brick Wall doctrine for me. There are several regular commenters who do not believe the biblically-revealed gospel of Jesus Christ. There are, frankly, several commenters who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and do a lousy job of presenting it. But the gospel is not a negotiable item here.
What is the gospel? It is most clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (and on through verse 8, even the whole chapter).
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Paul identifies this as “first-importance”, non-negotiable, bedrock truth. There are two “Gospel facts.” Note that each of them is buttressed in two ways.
1) Christ died for our sins.
We were hell-deserving sinners who had broken the laws of God, violated the character of God and fallen short of the glory of God – every single one of us. We may be nice people or not. We may be religious or not. We may do good deeds or bad. But each of us fell short of the righteous standard of God. We are sinners and sin cannot enter the presence of a Holy God and must be judged by him. So, we were born under wrath, facing eternal judgment and destined for eternal separation from God.
But Jesus stepped in and did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He lived a perfect life, earning the favor of God and fulfilling the righteousness of God. Not having to die for his own sins, he offered to pay for ours – the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God. He bore our sins in his body on the Cross and made full atonement for them.
Jesus died for my sins. It is a simple statement, but it is also the most profound truth in history. He bore my death that I might have life. He bore God’s wrath that he might clothe me in his righteousness. He suffered hell so I would not have to.
Jesus paid it all.
“My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. O, my soul.”
“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”
2) Jesus Rose Again as Lord of All
On the third day, Jesus rose up from the grave. Philippians 2 tells us that God not only raised him, but exalted him to the highest place and conferred on his the “name above all names” and decreed that at that name every knee should bow and every tongue confess. Jesus is the only rightful Lord of all the earth!
Jesus has every right to demand that I bow before him and acknowledge him as King of kings in my heart. He purchased with with his blood and his right to rule over my life is unquestioned. He triumphed over death and hell and sin and is Lord of all.
“Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose the victor from the dark domain and lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose. He arose. Hallelujah, Christ arose.
It is an amazing truth. A sinner like me – deserving of all the wrath God could pour out on me – is made a saint by the blood of Jesus Christ and his resurrection! I, enslaved by my sin, have been set free and made “more than conquerors” through the work of Christ on my behalf.
Buttressing these Truths
Both of these truths are buttressed in two ways.
First, Paul appeals to “the Scriptures.” The only way we know Gospel-truth is from the Word of God. You do not have to believe the Bible to be perfect and true, but without the perfection of Scripture, there is no Gospel.
Second, Paul appeals to historical fact. Jesus died – that was proved by his burial. You don’t bury living people. Jesus rose – that was proved by his appearance to many people who were still alive at the time Paul penned his letter.
Christianity is not about how you feel. Its not some new age faith based on intuition or theoretical knowledge. The whole Bible is grounded in historical fact. The Creation. The Exodus. The Conquest. The Virgin Birth. The Death of Christ. The Resurrection. These are historical facts – the intervention of God in this world. They really happened. They are not “spiritualized” or symbolic truth. Our whole gospel rests on historical events that took place in real time and space.
Don’t tell me that the facts of the Bible don’t matter. The whole gospel is founded on them.
Experiencing the Gospel
The New Testament witness is clear. We do not experience the Gospel through religious ritual or activities. We do not earn God’s favor by good works. We cannot buy our way into heaven and we cannot approach God in any old way we please.
We approach God one way, and one way only. Repenting of our sins, we trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives. We experience God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
That, and that alone, is the hope of salvation for every man, woman, boy or girl in this world. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Judaism does not save. Islam does not save. Buddhism does not save. Jesus saves. All who approach God by faith in Jesus Christ are given new life, made new creations, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, indwelled by the Holy Spirit who goes to work to transform us from the inside out and are made fit for eternal heaven.
Its the only way.
You do not have to believe the Gospel. I can’t make you. But on this site, it is not up for debate. We can talk about how to better share the gospel. We can discuss how to live out all that the gospel means. But we are not going to debate whether the gospel is true.
We are not going to continue debating whether Jesus is the only hope of heaven. He is King of kings and Lord of lords – the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are not going to waste time debating whether other religions have saving power. The gospel of Jesus Christ is bedrock truth. And it is life-changing truth. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes – Jew or Gentile. It is our raison d’etre. It is our only hope of glory.
I am a gospel man. This is a gospel site. At SBC Voices, the gospel of Jesus Christ is non-negotiable!