Jesus, The One and Only Savior
December 8, 2002 © 2002, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
Proponents of the worlds religions suggest that one can reach heaven by following their leaders, doing good deeds, and/or practicing the teachings of the respective religions. Without exception, these religions teach that one can reach heaven through their own efforts.
Why is it so easy for people to accept such a teaching? Our culture is a works-award society. We get paid for that we do, good and bad. It is easy for us to expect to be rewarded for doing good things, and to be punished for doing bad. Therefore, most of the people of the world think that their eternal reward follows the same model. If our good deeds outweigh our bad, we will be rewarded with heaven. Those who share this viewpoint have no problem assuming that individuals like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin will surely spend eternity in hell. Even evangelical Christians have concerns when we hear that the likes of serial killer Ted Bundy is reported to have accepted Christ after he killed anywhere from a dozen to several dozen women. It is difficult to find forgiveness for such a person, and the thoughts of such an individual being granted God's grace can be difficult. We want people to be rewarded based upon their works.
Consider some of the world religions: Islam, the fastest growing religion teaches that heaven is the reward for keeping the law of the Koran. If a Muslim should die in a Jihad, a holy war, he is instantly given his heavenly reward without regard to any other deeds done in life. That's why Saddam Hussein wanted the world leaders of Islam to declare his invasion of Kuwait as a Jihad. The world leaders would not make such a declaration, and Hussein's army refused to fight, choosing instead the security and improved treatment of their American captors. Buddhists follow the teaching of Buddha, who claimed that living a life of integrity and good works would reward one with eternal bliss. Hindi believe in a cycle of reincarnation, where one comes back as another person or animal who's state is an indication of the reward based upon works that are consistent with the Hindu teachings. This cycle continues until one finally reaches eternal rest in a place of nothingness. Mormons believe that good works will lead one to be like Christ, to be Lord over one of the many created planets. They are adamant about the works. For example the tithe is mandatory, and all young men must spend two years in a missionary role. Consequently the church is profoundly rich and is growing fast. Jehovah's Witnesses also believe that heaven is the reward for good works, though they see celestial heaven as the home for only 144,000 with the remainder of the faithful staying on Earth for Jesus' eternal reign. Their door-to-door canvassing is part of the works they are required to perform.
All of these world religions have one thing in common: A single man is credited with starting them. He created a following that was documented and well-defined, resulting in the spread of his teachings over the world.
Jesus was also a man who, according to many, is credited with starting the religion of Christianity. What is the difference between these other leaders and Jesus? How can we know that Jesus is truly the only way, and all of these other religions with their millions of devout and sincere members are in error and destined for eternal separation from God? The Universalists solve this dilemma by teaching that all of these ways are correct and any effort to seek heaven will be ultimately successful. According to their theology, all are each free to choose our own way to get to God.
The concept of grace is a distinctive of Jesus' teaching. There is no work that Christians can do to deserve salvation. Any true good works that we do are a fruit of our existing faith, not the basis for attaining it. Christianity is not a religion that makes man worthy of heaven through good works, but rather it is a faith that God reaches to man, where he is, offering salvation to all who will place their trust in Him. +
The scripture passage of this study finds Jesus and the disciples in the upper room on the night that He would be taken prisoner. They had finished the supper, and Judas Iscariot has left on his quest to betray Jesus to the Jewish leadership. This was Jesus' last chance to prepare the disciples for his death. At this time, the disciples were prepared to take Jerusalem with Jesus as the new King. In Chapter 13, Jesus used the illustration of washing the disciples' feet as an example of true greatness, contrasting this servanthood with the style of leadership they had assumed. Even after three years with Jesus, the disciples did not understand His teaching. In the 14th chapter of John, we find Jesus teaching His disciples about the true way of salvation.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
What is the place that Jesus was going? In one of the most comforting statements Jesus makes to His disciples, He is attempting to help them to understand the nature of the Kingdom that He will establish. Rather than overthrow the government of Jerusalem, Jesus is preparing another place. The nature of this place is beyond the disciples' understanding, so he describes it as "many mansions," or a large place of many abiding places, far greater than their expectations of a mansion in Jerusalem. Jesus has repeatedly told the disciples of where He is going, and how it will take place, but it would take their witness of his death and resurrection for it all to make sense. Then, with the coming of the Holy Spirit after His resurrection, their understanding would be complete, and their lives would never be the same again. The disciples each changed from prideful and ignorant apprentices to bold, determined, and knowledgeable leaders of the new church, with each one carrying the mission to their persecuted deaths. As we look back upon the ministry, teaching, and passion of Jesus, we have an advantage that the disciples did not have prior to the passion of Christ, as we know the nature of Jesus' teaching to have been fulfilled, and we also see the testimony and works of the disciples following the well-documented and witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus' promise here is simple and encouraging. The place of final and eternal rest is prepared, and Jesus will return to take to it all who are faithful.
Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
What do you think of when you consider your knowledge of the Apostle, Thomas? He is mentioned in seven verses in the book of John. In John 11, Jesus is returning to Bethany to the grave of Lazarus, back to where he was almost stoned. Thomas says to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (Vs. 16). We see a bit of cynicism and doubt in the statement. In Chapter 20, we see Thomas' doubting the resurrection when he was not there for Jesus' first visit. Though Thomas' sincerity and loyalty are never in question, he seemed to have a need to have a well-defined world view. Thomas saw a very physical pathway to the place that Jesus mentioned. He wanted Jesus to draw him a map to this place that Jesus would prepare. Little did he understand that within the next 48 hours, that map would be made quite clear. Many of us want a map. We want the future defined in a clear and unambiguous manner. That map has been provided in God's Word, and those who claim the future to be unclear are simply ignorant of that Word. Jesus had taught the Word to Thomas and the other disciples, but it was not until the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus did that teaching make sense to them. Jesus' teaching is without ambiguity on this side of the cross since we can see through Jesus' passion the nature of His promise, and we can be assured of the truth of God's grace.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
What was Jesus' answer? All that mankind is seeking for can be categorized in one of the three descriptions of Jesus. He first states that He is the way. The way is not found by following a map, following rules, or by ascribing to any mantra or works. The way we seek is simply in Jesus. Jesus also states that He is the truth, the ultimate truth. All that is true is summed up in Him. Since this includes all truth, it includes the true way to salvation. Jesus also states that He is the life. The context of these verses is clearly describing the place He is preparing.
Therefore, these verses alone provide the truth of Jesus' part in the Godhead, the trinity. Either Jesus is who He says He is, He is a liar, or He is mistaken. How do we know that Jesus is who He said he is, and was neither lying or deceived? Unlike the other would-be messiahs like Buddha or Mohammad, Jesus demonstrated his deity in life, and even in death as He rose from the grave and ascended. All of the others who claimed spiritual authority died and stayed dead. Jesus, in His resurrection fulfilled all that He said, and was in complete agreement with the prophets who had described these events over a period of several thousand preceding years.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. 8Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
This is the last of 12 references to Philip that we find in John's gospel. Philip is best known for bringing others to Jesus, including Nathaniel in the first chapter. In this verse we find Philip making a suggestion that will answer all of the questions that he perceives the disciples have. They want to see the Father. What were the consequences of anyone who would see God? The Old Testament teaches that the only way to see God is through death, and should one who is living see Him, he would die. The Old Testament history reveals that some did die for this reason, for example, looking into or touching the Arc of the Covenant, and others were profoundly humbled when they were not killed, including Moses and Isaiah.
Philip demonstrated faith in Jesus that He would not be destroyed by the experience of seeing God, and at the same time knew that Jesus could do this. However, his request also would have freed Philip of the necessity of Faith. How many of us would like to see God? What, do you suppose would happen if you did see Him? Unlike those who sought God prior to the coming of Christ, those who have had an opportunity to see Jesus have had an opportunity to see God.
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? 10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. 12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
What was Jesus' answer to Philip? (Anyone who has seen Jesus, as seen the Father.) And we, who have been exposed to Biblical teachings for years have clearly seen the Father, through Jesus Christ. Jesus has stated that He is the Only Way. What do we say to others who sincerely believe other faiths when they ask us about this? "Who are you to tell me that Jesus is the only way to Heaven?"
1 Tim 2:5-6. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
It was clearly understood by the Jews, that God was Holy and Just, and so pure as to be unapproachable. They saw selected individuals as mediators, such as Moses and the Prophets. A mediator is one who has something in common between two opposing forces and serves as a bridge of communication between them. The Bible teaches that there is only One God, and only One Mediator. What does this say about all others who claim to be the bridge to God? They are all either liars, or deluded by their own beliefs. The Bible leaves absolutely no room for a replacement for Jesus. What did Jesus do that none of the others ever did, or could do? Jesus, as the Messiah exists with God for eternity, yet came as a man to humbly give himself as a ransom for the sins of the people to create the bridge between sinful man and a pure and sinless God. There is no other who has this nature. There is no other mediator with the true God.
Some teach that Jesus is so revered, and we are so humble, that we are not worthy to pray to God, even through Jesus. Instead we pray through Mary, the apostles, or any of the canonized saints. What do these verses say about who the mediator is? We can pray boldly and directly to God through authority of Jesus Christ. As we look at the experience of the early church, we see no evidence of any other mediator other than Christ. People did not pray through Mary, nor through the apostles. The apostles taught the new believers to approach God's throne of grace directly through prayer, just as Jesus taught the disciples (which included the disciples and many others) to pray to the Father.
The writer of this gospel is also given credit for the writings of the Johannine letters of 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. In 1 John 5, we see further evidence of Jesus' nature as the one and only Savior.
1 John 5:7. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
Under Jewish law, two people were required to testify to a fact in court. This statement refers to that type of testimony, and in this case we find that three sources of testimony are described. It is interesting that, though the word trinity is not used anywhere in scripture, it is described in many places, and this is one. John first describes the three heavenly witnesses to the truth of the gospel as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Rather than use the name for the Son, he uses the Word. However, as we learn John's usage of that phrase, it is clear that the Word refers to Jesus (John 1:1-3, 14).
1 John 5:8. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Testimony of the truth of the gospel is also testified to through events that are in the record of the earth as well as the record of heaven. John also lists three witnesses in this earthly record, the Spirit, the water and the blood. The Spirit resides in the hearts of all of the faithful, and bears testimony of the truth of the gospel to them. For the faithful, there is no doubt concerning the Spirit's testimony. There is some controversy as to what "water" refers to. One school of thought describes the three who testify as the Spirit, man, and Jesus. This man-water thesis comes from a literal interpretation of the next verse. A second school of thought refers to the water as the Baptism of Jesus. When God testified to mankind that "This is my beloved son of whom I am well pleased... Listen to Him." The last to testify is the Blood, the atoning death of Jesus on the Cross. This latter school of thought, then, describes those who testify to be the Spirit, the Father and the Son. I ascribe to this latter school of thought because of the overall context of the verse.
1 John 5:9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
Therefore, the testimony we see of the truth of the gospel is not that of any man, such as Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Charles Russell, or Joseph Smith. The testimony that Jesus is the way is that of God. This leaves everyone with a single decision: What have you done about Jesus? This decision is the difference between eternal life and death. John's epistles tend to clearly separate. It's like the separation of oil and water. Over and over John makes statements that clearly separate ideologies and theories. This is one such instance.
1 John 5:10-12. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
In light of these verses, what is the test of conversion? Those who believe have the witness of the Holy Spirit within themselves, and for them the issue is settled. Others have no choice but to believe that Jesus is the only way, or else they have no true theological basis for faith at all. To disagree with the testimony of God is to be unfathomably arrogant, to be a liar, and unfortunately ignorant of the truth of God's Word.. Eternal life is simply defined as having the Son. How do we have the Son? Repeatedly the scriptures show one single way: through faith and trust in Him.
1 John 5:13. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
Note that John often states the reason for his writing. Here he states that those who believe in Jesus, might have assurance of our salvation, and have certain knowledge of eternal life. There is no doubt in the heart and mind of the saved because of God's many promises. The life that God gives is eternal, and is not limited by the nature of our days. Christians have the assurance of the knowledge that their salvation will never be taken away, again because the gift is eternal. The world teaches a system of reward for good and bad deeds. It makes sense that if a Christian sins, there should be punishment. This is certainly true, as sin separates one from God's fellowship, and has any number of worldly consequences. However, it is evident through the history of scripture and the history of the last 2000 years that God has never removed the Holy Spirit from the heart of a Christian. The Holy Spirit remains the seal of God's promise.
As the world searches for the true source of faith and the true source of eternal reward, there is one true answer. This answer does not place on any man a system of required works that bring to him the pride of accomplishment. It does not place on any man any requirement for denigrating sacrifice. Jesus paid the price for our sins and by so doing eliminated any value in either works or sacrifice, since the work and the sacrifice has been done by God through Him alone. All God requires is that we place our faith and trust in the work and sacrifice that Jesus did, and by so doing He promises to give us the Holy Spirit who will remain with us through the remainder of our days on earth as we look forward the the many mansions that He has prepared for us. Such knowledge gives the Christian a confidence and assurance that is available through no other source.
How can we choose any other way?
George R. (1999). John, 2ed. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 36. Dallas, TX: Word Books. Pages 248-254.
Hull, William E.. (1970). John, Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 9. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press. Page 333-335.
Batson, Jerry. (2002). A Serving Life, Explore the Bible: Adult Commentary, Winter 2002-03. Nashville, TN: Lifeway Church Resources. Pages 21-30.
Register, Dean. (2002). A Serving Life, Explore the Bible: Adult Leader Guide, Winter 2002-03. Nashville, TN: Lifeway Church Resources. Pages 20-29.
Tenney, Merrill C. (1981). John, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 9. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. Pages 143-146.