Well, good morning, Saylorville! My name is Colton Willie, as many of you know, and it’s my pleasure and honor to be sharing God’s Word with you this morning. If you have a copy of scripture, I would invite you to find the Book of Romans, chapter one. We’re going to be heading there in just a minute.
Hopefully you’ve all recovered from celebrating our nation’s independence this week. Hopefully you’ve had your fair share of grilling and explosions and freedom, right? July has always been a significant month in the Willie household. Not only do we love the spectacle of watching fireworks, but July is our anniversary month! In fact, this coming July 28th, Rachel I will have been married for five years! We’re finally at that level where we can dance for two more minutes at weddings during the anniversary dance… a pretty big milestone, I know! After five years, it’s fun to look back, right? Rachel and I recently found an album of our dating life and our early marriage life. Rachel and I were fortunate enough to enjoy our honeymoon at the beautiful island nation of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Like many newlyweds, (maybe some of you out there) we stayed in an all-inclusive resort… and it was awesome! It had beautiful beaches, fresh fruit, awesome tropical sun… but, we always laugh when we think of our time in St. Lucia, because, as it turned out, our all-inclusive resort was not actually all-inclusive. You see, normally when you go to an all-inclusive resort, you expect you’re going to be able to enjoy ALL that the resort has to offer, but that was not the case with our resort. If you know us, Rachel and I, we’re pretty big foodies. We love all kinds of food, and Rachel and I ate at pretty much every restaurant at the resort… save one… the fancy Chinese restaurant on the second floor called “Silk.” It was pretty classy! Of course we tried to eat there, but upon stepping up to the hostess, we were made aware that there was a dress code for this restaurant. Rachel was fine. Women were able to just wear a simple dress, but men were expected to dine in dress pants at this restaurant. I don’t know about you, but (being a homegrown Iowa boy) I don’t normally pack dress pants to go on my tropical vacations! So, needless to say, we never got in. To this day, I wonder how good that food must have been. It turns out our “all inclusive resort” had one “exclusive” restaurant. And since I didn’t have dress pants, I wasn’t getting in.
That word, “exclusive…” We really don’t like that word in 2023, do we? When things are exclusive, that means they are by definition, excluding something else. For many, exclusivity brings about images of arrogance, insensitivity or inequity. Yet for the Christian saint, exclusivity is one of the most important hallmarks of our faith! I’ve entitled this message, JESUS: the ONLY Way. I’m talking about the exclusivity of the Gospel. For many of you, this seems like a softball pitch right down the middle. You might be thinking,’Oh, that’s cute! They’re giving Colton the easy sermons. How nice of them!’ I mean, it’s so obvious. The bible is so clear that Jesus is the only way to heaven as outlined in scripture, and yet churches by the thousands are compromising on this Truth, one of the most fundamental and most basic truths of our faith. And so, today, I would like to paint a picture for you, asking you four major questions. Here they are.
First of all,
- What does the word say, the Bible, about the exclusivity of the Gospel?
- What does the world say? (everything outside of the Christian worldview)
- Why should we trust the Word/the Bible?
- What should we do with the Word?
We start this morning with the most important theological question that anyone ever asks, What does the word say? We’re going to start with a famous passage in Matthew chapter 7, verse 13. This is the Lord Jesus talking.
Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV), “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
The Lord Jesus gives us a word picture here painting Himself as a gate… a kind of door, the only door that leads to life. What does the Lord seem to be saying here? He’s saying that only an encounter with Jesus through the ministry of His Word and through the ministry of his Holy Spirit can a person change from one path (death) to the other path (life)… and that’s just one passage! Another passage is John chapter 14 verse six. This is another famous passage, and, again, this is the Lord Jesus talking,
John 14:6 (ESV), “Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Once again, the Lord uses a bit of wordplay, right? He denotes Himself, not as a gate this time, but as a path. You see the same imagery here as you saw in Matthew. You must go through Jesus to arrive at the Father in Heaven. The Greek word here for “no one” means… “no one!” This is not rocket science! We can’t work our way around this. In Acts chapter 4, verse 12, the Apostle Peter speaks concerning Christ…
Acts 4:12 (ESV), “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.”
This verse drips with exclusivity! There is salvation in no one else. There’s no other name. Peter is being redundant. He’s really hitting on the fact that Jesus IS the ONLY way. Notice what else Peter is saying here. He’s not just talking about Christ here. He is also discrediting everyone else. Effectively, he’s saying that any other person, religion, or morality that promises salvation and relationship with the Father is insufficient. In case three verses weren’t enough, we’ve got one more… 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 5. This time it’s Paul talking.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV), “For there is one God, and there is One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
…ONE mediator, ONE intercessor, ONE person through whom we can go to God for salvation, the man, Jesus Christ. Think about this from a theological perspective, from a biblical exegesis of the text. We have four passages written by four different authors; Matthew, John, Luke, and Paul. They all proclaim the exact same glorious truth… Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven! I love Steve Lawson’s commentary concerning the exclusivity of the Gospel. Here’s what he says.
“We are not just dogmatic about this. We’re BULLDOG-MATIC!” Steve Lawson
I love that! Why? It’s so obvious in Scripture! You just can’t get around it, and yet churches still capitulate, still compromise, still acquiesce to other paths of salvation. Why? … because God said they would. He warned us about this. Check out Paul’s letter to Timothy, in second Timothy, chapter four, verse three. Paul writes,
2 Timothy 4:3, (NASB), “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires;”
What are those desires? That leads us into our next question. If this is what the Word of God says, that Jesus is the only way, what does the world say? It’s an important question to ask considering we’re the ones going out in the world. We need to have the right answer.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Kurt rightly pointed out that we’re living in a post-truth, or you could also call it a post-modern, society, a society in which people proclaim, ‘All that matters is my truth,’ (Have you heard that?) or ‘No one has a monopoly on truth.’ Such advocates would argue that saying Jesus is the only path to heaven (as the scriptures say) is both arrogant and hateful, (Why?) because it excludes people that either don’t know about Jesus, or they very genuinely hold other beliefs. You can sum up the world’s position this way. ‘No one actually knows the truth, so, therefore, no one has a monopoly over it.’ You might be thinking, ‘That doesn’t sound quite right.’ You see, there’s one glaring problem with that argument that the world gives to us. That statement is, in itself, an objective truth! If someone comes up to me and says, ‘Listen, Colton, you don’t have a monopoly over the truth.’ What did they just do? They just gave me an objective truth. I love the late Timothy Keller’s thoughts on postmodernism! Here’s what he says. It’s a longer quote, but it’s a good one.
“Skeptics of Christianity believe that any exclusive claim to a superior knowledge of spiritual reality, cannot be true. They believe the world would be a better place if everyone just dropped their traditional religion’s views of God and truth and adopt theirs. Therefore, their view is also an “exclusive” claim about the nature of spiritual reality. If all such views are to be discouraged, this one should be as well.” Timothy Keller
Do you see what he’s saying? If anyone says that we can’t share objective truth, they’re trying to put an objective truth on you, right? Saints, listen… We have to start with this. Never feel bad about sharing the exclusivity of the Gospel. Anyone who tells you that doing so is hateful and insensitive is doing the very same thing to you which they wish you wouldn’t do to other people! To say that no one has a monopoly on truth is a self-defeating argument. The Lord Jesus once said of His followers to the Father,
John 17:17 (ESV), “Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is Truth.”
Jesus says His Word (the Bible) is Truth, but why should we trust this truth versus all the other ones? We would be here all day if we talked about all the reasons why the Bible is authentic and trustworthy, (“…seek, and you will find…” Matthew 7:7, Jeremiah 29:13) there are so many reasons why we can trust what the word says about God. I would argue that there is one primary reason why Jesus (as outlined in the Bible) is the only way to heaven, and here it is. The Gospel of Christ is the only worldview which rightly diagnoses the true disease of humanity [sin], but then treats that disease, like a doctor. That’s a bold claim today in 2023, so we’re going to look at what other arguments against that claim have to say, and then compare them to God’s Word. I’m going to ask you to put your theological thinking caps on here, because we’re going to dive deep!
First, one of the major problems that people have with the exclusivity of the gospel, saying that Jesus is the only path to heaven, is the problem of the unreached or the fate of people who have never been exposed to Christ. There are millions of people in the world today that have never heard of Jesus, that have never seen a Bible, that have never seen a Christian! A common argument goes like this. ‘Isn’t God unfair to condemn the innocent tribesmen who has never heard the name of Christ?’ That’s a common argument! I’ve talked to people that have said that. Many churches today get around this problem (the problem of the unreached) using a viewpoint called “natural theology.” Natural theology is basically the idea that man can know God and possibly even be saved through observing the natural world, observing the order of the cosmos, of the beauty of God’s creation using Romans chapters one and two. We’ll start with Romans 1, verse 19. Here’s what it says.
Romans 1:18-20, (NASB), “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
These theologians would argue that man can know God apart from Christ through His creation by gazing on the order and beauty of it. They take it a step further with Romans, chapter two, verse 14, here’s what it says.
Romans 2:14-15, (NASB), “For when Gentiles, (anyone who is not a Jew) who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, …”
According to some theologians, the unreached can be saved not just by observing God’s natural world, but also by just listening to that internal, ‘good versus evil’ voice. Their conclusion, even apart from Christ, man has a moral compass, so if they don’t know Christ, then that would save them.
Other theologians would argue that the unreached, innocent tribesmen in Papua New Guinea, for example, who have never heard about Jesus would be saved because God will be less judging towards those who have never heard of Christ. They would argue that you’re only responsible to believe to the extent of what’s been revealed to you, and only held accountable for what you know, which, in their case, is nothing. According to this belief, those innocent tribes can believe with all their might on this invisible God, that they can clearly see in His creation and feel in their hearts, they will be saved… apart from Christ.
That’s what some other churches today would preach, yet reading the text this way shows a fundamental error… the text is being ripped out of context! Some Bible students just skip over other things. Let’s go back to Romans chapter one, verse 19. Here’s what it says,
Romans 1:18, 21, ”For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Then it talks about how people can know God through His creation)
21 For even though they knew God (through His creation) they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish heart was darkened.“
Listen, despite what many churches are preaching today, nature and morality is never enough to save anyone. In fact, nature and morality apart from Christ is only enough to damn someone! Sin doesn’t just separate us from God. It makes us incapable of coming to Him on our own! Look at what the text says. They “suppress the truth” of God. “They became futile in their thinking [or] speculations.” Their minds just can’t comprehend it. “Their hearts have been darkened.” Even though people might be aware of God through creation and morality, they, in and of themselves, can never come to God on their own. They are hardened by sin. Law is foolishness to them. (That’s how I was… before I met Jesus.) So the question was, will God condemn innocent tribesmen who have never heard of Jesus? No, because there are no innocent tribesmen! They don’t exist. In Romans 3 it says…
Romans 3:23 (ESV), “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
ALL have sinned and ALL have suppressed the truth of God that has been revealed to them. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s necessary to understand.
Another argument against the exclusivity of the Gospel is something that theologians call “religious pluralism.” What is that, you may ask? It is the argument that says every world religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, including Christianity) all have pieces of the truth. Under this belief system, as long as you’re following one of these religions, all are considered highways leading to the same heaven. I’m going to ask you, student of the Bible, does that make any sense considering the four scripture verses [Matthew 7:13-14, John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6] we just read in the beginning? No! The Bible absolutely condemns that thought! The Bible can’t be just a piece of a truth, because the Lord says His truth is the ultimate Truth!
Why can’t all the other religions be a path to heaven? The problem comes back to man’s sin. Let’s just think through. What do all the different religions teach about salvation? To the Jew, it’s all about them working hard to follow the law, to repent before God, and then they’ll be saved. For the Buddhist, in the far east, it’s all about following the eightfold path. They’re called to meditate and to die to self, and actually to remove themselves from the world, then they’ll reach this state called “Nirvana.” For Hinduism, they need to store up enough good karma to outweigh the bad karma. Then they can be taken out of reincarnation. For the Muslim who follows Islam, they must obey the five pillars. Their good must outweigh their bad, so they can never really be 100% sure. They just hope that they’ve worked hard enough to earn heaven. Do you see a theme with every other religious thought? Every other religion requires that man does something to reach God in heaven, but that’s the problem! Scripture has just just shown us we can’t do anything in order to reach God in heaven! That’s the true tragedy of the story of the human race and the consequences of sin. Listen, I’m a history teacher. Okay, that’s what I do for my day job. Do you want to know the one thing that humans learn from history? No one learns from history! My job is useless! (audience laughs) If you look through the entire history of the human race, do we ever do things right? Does anything ever last? Friends, we are incapable of even coming to God on our own, yet, there’s good news… The Gospel! (I love this verse!) Romans chapter four, verse five states it clearly,
Romans 4:5 (NASB), “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…”
All other paths to heaven fail to get there because they don’t address the primary problem of man, the disease of humanity… SIN. They’re all part of the broad path in that they put the main activator of salvation on you, and on me. What does the Bible say? It says,
Romans 5:8 (NKJ), “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Listen… this is so important! Only in the cross of Christ do you see a perfectly loving God… AND also a perfectly just God. If man could come to God through nature or through some other religion, then God might be loving, but He wouldn’t be just. You see, sin doesn’t just make it IMPOSSIBLE for us to reach God. Sin makes us an ENEMY of the One True God! In his holiness, in his righteous perfection, God can’t just overlook your sin. He MUST punish it! Romans 6:23 puts it this way.
Romans 6:23a,(ESV), “For the wages of sin is death…”
Guys, if you read from Genesis to Revelation, something must always DIE to atone for sin. When the ancient Jews did the Passover, they slaughtered the lamb and put the blood on the doorpost. That’s the only reason that God passed over them. Something must die. That’s why Jesus is the exclusive way to salvation… the only way, the narrow way… because He’s the only means through which sin is both punished and erased before a Holy God! Man is incapable of coming to God on his own… so God came to man in the form of the God/Man, Christ! Such is the indescribable love of God! God sent His Son, His only Son, to save His enemy! That’s why Jesus preaches the message of loving your enemy so much… because He’s the picture of it! On the cross, Jesus died in the place of all those who would believe on Him. Like a sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament, He took the righteous wrath of God that we deserve for our sins and He died in our place! Jesus was the only person to ever be treated unfairly because of sin… because He never sinned!
Jesus died for our sins, and yet He didn’t stay dead. He rose again in victory over death, proving not only that He was God Himself, but also giving to all those who would believe in Him the ability through His Spirit to live Godly lives. The only reason I can live a Godly life today is because of God’s Holy Spirit within me through the blood of Christ. My favorite chapter in the whole Bible. The Bible puts it this way.
Romans 8:1-2 (NASB), “Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
That’s the Gospel! It’s the only exclusive way through which a sinful man can come to a holy God. So if the Gospel is so clearly outlined in Scripture, why do so many churches still capitulate, still not preach that it’s the only way to heaven? I think the main reason is because many Christians look out across the world and they see millions of people who don’t know Jesus. They see millions of people who are following a false religion, hoping in salvation from that religion, and they ask themselves, ‘Would my good and loving God allow all these people to be condemned to hell if they never knew Christ?’ I’ve asked that question. So our last and final question must be, where do we go from here? What do we do with the millions of people who have never heard of Christ who are condemned in their sin by a holy God? Well, we do what Jesus told us to do.
Matthew 28:19-20, (NASB), “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This series is titled “Theology on Fire!” I know I’ve thrown a lot of theology at you today, but listen… it’s all worthless if it doesn’t do anything in your life and extend the kingdom of God! How can the exclusivity of the Gospel ignite a theological fire in our hearts? Does the condemnation of people outside of Christ bother you? Does the condemnation of your co-workers bother you? What about your friends? What about your family? Then go. Go! Go! Go! Go! Go tell them about Christ, the Savior!
I’m a history teacher, so this is what you get. (A constantly changing map is being shown on the screen showing the spread of Christianity throughout the ages.) I love this! It begs a major question, one of the biggest questions in history. How does the Gospel of Christ, a message founded by a poor carpenter who led a bunch of poor fishermen in a small remote backwater part of the world become the world’s most followed religion that spans the entire globe? Because the [true] Church of Christ throughout the ages has believed what Christ said about Himself in…
John 14:6 (NASB), “Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Saylorville Church would not exist if our forefathers hadn’t gone out and shared the Gospel. The fact that you’re even sitting in the chair as an American, thousands of miles away from Jerusalem, and you know about Jesus is because someone loved their neighbor well enough to tell them! Do you believe that? You see, to lose the doctrine of the exclusivity of the Gospel is to destroy the history, the mission, and the very purpose of the church of Jesus Christ. If you lose the Gospel, you don’t need Jesus!
Two years ago, I was super convicted of this. I know tons of people that don’t know Christ, and so I made it my mission to get better at sharing the Gospel at work. Like I said, I work at a public school, so it’s a little awkward! Nevertheless, through God’s grace, I got to know a new teacher at my school. We had a ton of things in common (He was a nerd. I was a nerd. It’s game time!) We had dinner at Fong’s pizza, (May it rest in peace) and I very awkwardly asked him, “Do you have any spiritual beliefs?” (… wanting to take it back after I said it!) He replied, “Oh yeah! I grew up a Catholic. Yeah… I believe in God.” Oh, cool! So, do you… want to do a Bible study sometime? To which he responded, “Oh yeah, sure, I’d love that!”… and I didn’t hear from him for six months. I thought I blew it, but I kept praying. I kept petitioning the Lord to have mercy on him. Six months later from that date, literally on the last day of school, it was like the day before the teacher’s left. He came out and he said, “Hey, Willie, I’m excited for the summer.” To which I said, “Well, yeah, me too.” (I’m a teacher. Every teacher is excited for the summer!) To which he responds, “Yeah, I’m excited for our Bible study!” WHAT? I had to pick my jaw up off the floor! I was floored! I had forgotten that I asked him! We had our study and I laid out the exclusivity of the Gospel. I told him about God’s love… but I, also, told him about God’s justice… and, again… I thought I completely blew it! I thought I was way too straightforward… way too hard on him. I thought, “There’s no way that guy’s getting saved!” We awkwardly stood apart from each other in his kitchen as we said, “Okay, see you later…” Little did I know that God was still at work. My friend went into his room convicted by his sin, seeing himself as an enemy of God, as someone deserving of hell, deserving of punishment. But then, as he looked at Jesus and he saw His perfect love and His perfect sacrifice on his behalf, he got on his knees and accepted Christ as the Savior and Lord of his life!
Why do I share that? … because it took multiple awkward, uncomfortable steps to share Christ with my friend, yet now I have the honor and the pleasure of seeing Him look more like Jesus every time I talk to Him! I’ve seen him literally go from death to life before my eyes! Friends, listen… if you’re a Christian, someone loved you enough to share Christ with you. Even though it was probably uncomfortable and awkward for them. My good friend, John Nemmers, once said,
“Our problem with evangelism isn’t that we don’t want to go evangelize. Our problem with evangelism is that we just don’t love people enough.” John Nemmers
Do we love our neighbors enough to share Christ with them? Listen… apart from what the world says, sharing Christ with someone is not arrogant. It’s not divisive. It’s not you trying to force your religion on them. It is the most loving thing you can do for someone! So, go…! Tell people about Jesus, not just people in far away countries, but people across the street. Tell it to your coworkers, your friends, your family. Go tell them about both the perfect love of God, and, also, the perfect justice of God. We need both.
There is still one more perversion of the exclusivity of the Gospel, and that is that Jesus, Himself, is not enough. Many of you might be thinking, ‘Okay, I get it. Jesus is the only way. I deserve hell. I want to go to Him, but I better work really hard to earn my salvation. I need to clean myself up before I go to Jesus.’
In the last three weeks, I’ve been hanging out with a young guy struggling with that very fact, so we’ve been doing Bible studies together. I’ve been sharing the exclusive Gospel, the justice and the love of God with him, and I just shared a vast amount of it. So I asked him, “So what’s the hold up?” I said, “What’s stopping you from believing on Christ?” to which this young high schooler told me, “It just seems so hard to be a Christian. I don’t think I can do it. I’m too weak. I’m too sinful. I’ve done too much. Christ might be the Way, but I could never come to Him.” Jesus once said,
John 6:37 (NASB), ”All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
You see, friends, listen… The path to salvation is exclusive… Christ alone, But the man of salvation, Jesus, is wholly, incredibly, beautifully… inclusive! He accepts people of all backgrounds, all nations, all languages and all economic statuses. In fact, in our age of inclusivity, I still have yet to meet a man more inclusive than the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t have to clean yourself up to come to Jesus. Godly living comes after you accept Christ, not before it. Only Jesus can treat our disease of sin, but you must repent (turn from your sin) and accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of life. Then you will you begin to look more like Him. Is God calling you to Himself right now?
Last week, that high schooler texted me for the first time in our whole relationship. He said, “I just want you to know, I accepted Christ as my Savior.” Praise God! He listened to Pastor Kurt’s message on the fear of God. He saw the justice and the love of God and he saw his need for Christ and he got saved! Would you do the same? Is God calling you? Go to Him. Take the narrow path. Christ will not cast you out. He ever lives to redeem and accept sinners.
Would you pray with me?
Father God, we thank you for this time. We thank you that we can open your Word. And Lord, we thank you, God, that you’re not just a loving God… although you are so loving… indescribably loving! But Lord, You are also just, and in your justice, you saw it as right not to punish us in our sin, but to punish your Son… Jesus! Lord, you say that whoever believes on Him will not perish but have everlasting life. God, I pray that the Christians in this room might go and share that message with the people around them. I pray for those in this room that don’t know you, Lord. May they realize that… yes, you are exclusively the way to heaven, but that You are also inclusive! Lord, you accept them as they are. Christ has done the work for their salvation. They just have to trust on you and repent from their sins. So Lord, make us a church that doesn’t just say we believe in the exclusivity of the Gospel. Help us to show that we believe it! Help us go… across the street and to the ends of the earth. Thank You for Your Son. In Jesus’ name… Amen.