Basics of the Christian Faith
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
THORN THREE: THE ONLY WAY?
In our inclusive society, increasingly sold out to relativism and an “anything goes” mentality, few topics create hotter debate than Christianity’s claim that a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way a person can go to Heaven.
My first reaction to this controversy is, those who disagree with us must understand we are not at liberty to negotiate this tenet. Jesus clearly stated He was the only way to knowing the Father (John 14:6). We the servants do not have any right to countermand our Master.
Christianity is not a “make it up as you go” religion. Its central tenets, rooted in Scripture, are not subject to change.
My second reaction to the controversy is, the question being asked is not the ultimate consideration. A more basic question is whether or not we have in the death and resurrection of Jesus a reality event that determines truth.
If Jesus is God in human flesh, if His death is a substitutionary sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world, if He rose from the dead, we have a reality event which must evermore be the standard used to determine all understanding of truth.
Is Jesus the only way to Heaven is not the right question to ask. Is Jesus the Savior of the world, based on His life, death, and resurrection is the issue.
THORN FOUR: HELL
The concept of a place prepared by a loving God for the purpose of everlasting retribution for unbelievers is a stumbling block to many. Once again, we confront here a non-negotiable doctrine. Jesus spoke of Hell more than anyone else in the Bible did. On any issue Jesus spoke clearly to, truth is to be discovered, not debated or created.
When speaking of Hell, the first truth we should emphasize is, God will be fair. His decisions are always right and just. Much is hidden from us now, but someday all will be understood clearly, and God will be vindicated before everyone in His every decision and deed.
Some of our misgivings about Hell stem from our misinterpretations, or lack of understanding, of Jesus’ precise teachings about Hell. He did not present it as a “one size fits all” place.
There are gradations of punishment in Hell. We glean this from Jesus’ clear teaching that the religious leaders of His day would receive greater damnation than others. In other words, people with more opportunity to respond to God are guiltier than those with little access to the Gospel.
This understanding helps us when considering those who never hear the Gospel. Will they go to Hell? Yes. But their condition will not be as severe as those who repeatedly heard the offer of salvation, yet refused it.
The God of all the earth sent His only Son to keep people from going to Hell. He loves sinners and will always do right by them. Count on it.