Surprisingly, American Christians are becoming increasingly more tolerant in their views on salvation. A 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life surveyed 35,000 Americans, and found that 70% of respondents agreed with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Even more remarkable was the fact that 57% of Evangelical Christians were willing to accept theirs might not be the only path to salvation. Even as mainline churches had become more tolerant, the exclusivity of Christianity’s path to heaven has long been one of the Evangelicals’ fundamental tenets. The new poll suggests a major shift, at least in the pews.
Thankfully, HCC Theological Survey produced completely different results. 98% of those that responded to our internal survey disagreed with the statement: There are many ways to get to heaven. Woo Hoo! Way to go HCC family! I am proud of the fact that the great majority of our church family got this one right.
In a country that is becoming increasingly more pluralistic, it is important for us to recognize the exclusivity of the Gospel. By exclusivity, we mean there is only one way to heaven. Let us be clear – that is not something Evangelical Churches made up; it is the teaching of Jesus. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That certainly doesn’t sound very inclusive, does it?
- The exclusivity of the Gospel recognizes the severity of sin.
Unfortunately, many religions today ignore, minimize or even condone the practice of sin. Adherents are not challenged to change their sinful ways, to reject sinful attitudes and leave behind a life that does not glorify God. It is only the Gospel that sees the gravity, the depravity and the fatality of sin. Sin is not an alternate lifestyle; it is a road that leads to death.
Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
Romans 6:24 – For the wages of sin is death…
- The exclusivity of the Gospel magnifies the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
If, as many promote, there are many ways that lead to heaven, then the death of Jesus is irrelevant. Why would Jesus have gone through the physical suffering if one could travel the road to the Sun as expressed in the Bhagavad – Gita and reach heaven? Why would Jesus have experienced the shame of public execution if one can reach Nirvana by escaping the Karmic cycle? Why would Jesus have endured separation from the Father if a person just needed to practice the Five Pillars of Islam? If any of these paths lead to eternal life, then the death of Jesus was pointless. He died in vain.
I Corinthians 15:20, 21 – But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
- The exclusivity of the Gospel gives glory and honor to God alone.
If we can reach Nirvana, Moksha, Paradise or heaven through our own self-improvement, the Karmic Cycle, obedience to the Five Pillars or any other means, then such an accomplishment is based upon human merit. Man has elevated himself. He reached the eternal goal. He, then, is worthy of praise, honor and glory.
However, we know that is not the case. Man cannot make it on his own. It is only the Gospel that recognizes man’s inability to save himself. It is the Gospel that recognizes man’s desperate need for God. The Gospel alone provides salvation in a way that only God is glorified.
Ephesians 1:12-14 – So that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in Him, were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.
Yes, God’s Word is clear, there is only one road that leads to heaven. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Salvation is through Jesus and Jesus alone!