Last week we talked about a survey that Ligonier Ministries did of America in general, but Evangelicals also. They determined who Evangelicals were by how they responded to questions concerning the exclusivity of Christ and salvation, the centrality of the word of God, the importance of Evangelism, of about four markers that have classically been considered to be markers of those who would be Evangelicals.
Now this is not a political definition as might come into play when we talk about how the media talks about Evangelicals, but these are theological commitments that have been long considered to identify Evangelicals. This week we’re going to look at another one of the interesting findings from this survey that over half of the Evangelicals in this survey actually said that God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
That’s a really interesting claim and there are a couple different directions we could go here, and of course, we don’t know how people interpreted the question, though I can imagine it going a couple different ways also. The first thing I want to key in on here is that this phrase that ‘God accepts the worship’, I’m not sure what that means and I don’t think often people actually know what that means either. Now it might mean that those people are actually Christians and we’ll talk about that and see if that fits with scripture in a minute, but it might mean that these people aren’t Christians but somehow their worship still is accepted by God.
I don’t know what that would mean. The worship of a non-christian—of someone who denies the deity of Jesus and who hasn’t placed their trust for salvation in him—is not acceptable to God. Because biblically speaking, Jesus is the way to the Father. Judaism denies the deity of Christ. It denies that Jesus was the Messiah, so you’re not coming to the Father by the son in that case.
Islam, certainly denies the deity of Jesus. They deny that he died on the cross, so once again, they don’t have a Jesus who takes you to the Father either. Now if this means that these other religions could actually have people that are saved, whatever that would mean, well scripture has a large problem with that and in this doctrine that we’re about to talk about here could be summed up in the term the ‘exclusivity of Christ’ or the exclusivity of Christianity. To be exclusive today is actually pretty politically incorrect, isn’t it?
We’re supposed to be inclusive, we’re supposed to include everyone. Well, God does include all types of people but there are terms, there are conditions, and this sort of makes sense, right? You have terms and conditions for who can come into your home, who can stay with you, who you will have a relationship with. There are conditions. It’s the same way with God, only so much more because God is holy and He doesn’t tolerate sin, He doesn’t allow that to go unpunished, nor would we want Him to.
We often balk at the concept of the holiness of God but the flip side of that is would we really want a God that doesn’t punish sin, that doesn’t actually take care of the evil in the world that we know is evil? No, we wouldn’t. There is some exclusivity to Christianity. It’s quite exclusive, as we’re about to see. Now maybe people misunderstood the question, I think there’s some room for that, but scripture is very clear and let’s go see what it has to say.
In John 14:6, Jesus says that “he is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through him.” Now what’s he getting at there? He’s getting at the fact that as Peter will say in Acts, that there is no salvation in anyone else. There’s no other name under Heaven given among people by which we must be saved. That’s Acts 4:12. That’s another passage that speaks to the exclusivity of Christ. If you’re going to come to the Father, if you’re going to receive salvation, it is going to be consciously through Jesus and through His work.
There are some today who want to say everyone who is saved is saved by Jesus, but they might be saved by Jesus and not know about Jesus. This is a view called inclusivism and doesn’t that just sound warm and fuzzy? Inclusivism, we’re including people, but it’s not the gospel. The gospel is that people must confess the name of Jesus as Lord. They must place their trust consciously in Him, not just accidentally without knowing who He is, right? That’s what Peter is saying here. There’s salvation in no one else. There’s no other name. People must know the name of Jesus. If you don’t even know the name of Jesus, you can’t be saved by Jesus and that’s where Evangelism comes in.
But John makes this all the more clear in 1 John 2:21 and he says, “I have not written to you that you do not know the truth, but that you do know it and that no lie is of the truth.” Okay, that seems fairly self evident, right? If it’s a lie, it’s not of the truth, but he goes on, “Who is the liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah?” He’s saying that the liar is the person who does not have the truth and he’ll go on to make the point that they don’t have salvation, that’s the person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah, that He is the savior.
“This is the one who is the anti-christ,” he says. Now I think maybe the Left Behind novels have given us maybe a skewed definition of what the anti-christ is, but he’s saying this person is actually against Christ. He is the person who is against the Messiah and that person is the one who denies the Father and the son. Now he goes on to say, “Everyone who denies the son does not have the Father either. The person who confesses the son has the Father also.”
Jews and Muslims today, those two deny the deity of Christ, the fact that He is the Messiah. They don’t have the Father either. Their worship is not actually the worship of the same God. If you’re not worshiping Jesus as the son of God, the God you are worshiping is not God and hence, there is not salvation there because there is salvation in no other name besides the name of Jesus. Christianity is an exclusive religion and by that, I don’t mean that it limits who can come.
No, every sort of person can come, that’s what Paul’s argument is in Galatians, that justification, that way that we are made right with God is by faith alone and it’s for all sorts of people, all kinds of people; Jew, Greek, man, woman, slave, free. You might say black and white, however you want to cash it out. Rich and poor. It’s for all sorts of people but it is only for the people who place their faith, their trust or salvation in Jesus, because there’s no other name by which men can be saved.
I think it’s very sad, even admitting that maybe some people misunderstood the question, that a high percentage of people who identify as Evangelicals or hold other beliefs that may characterize them as Evangelicals, actually end up disagreeing with a key tenant of scripture here. That God does not accept the worship of all religions, people cannot be saved outside of Christianity, and even if let’s say there was worship that’s acceptable to God, and I think we could spend some more time in a different way and make a case that there isn’t, it doesn’t account for anything.
Now it is possible that something else is going on here. Since they didn’t actually ask the people if they identify as Evangelicals or identify as Roman Catholics or identify as Jews, they just based it on theological questions.I think it’s possible that maybe some of the people that got categorized as Evangelicals were actually Roman Catholics and that would actually account for why they answered this question this way because the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church is that the Plan of Salvation also includes those who only acknowledge the Creator, and including Muslims, those who profess the faith of Abraham together with us, they say, they adore the one true merciful God.
Now that’s the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church in their Catechism, number 84. That if you acknowledge the Creator, acknowledge is far too weak of a word for what the Bible requires for salvation, it requires placing your trust, submitting to the Lordship of Christ, but nonetheless, they say that that’s for all the people of the faiths of Abraham. If they profess to hold to the faith of Abraham, then they’re adoring the same God, they’re worshiping the same God, and hence they’re going to have salvation.
The Plan of Salvation includes those people, but does that fit with the passages we read? No, I don’t think it does. There’s no other name besides Jesus under Heaven where people are saved, that the person who doesn’t have the son doesn’t have the Father. If you deny Jesus as Messiah, you are an anti-christ. There’s no hatred or vitriol in me saying that, that’s just simply what scripture is teaching. That’s what Jesus taught, that He is the only way, the truth, and the life.
As Evangelicals, as gospel people, we must care about that and we must be clear on that because if we make the way to God seem more wide than it is, yes, people may feel included. They may feel welcomed and warmed and affirmed, but it’s a false security because it’s not accurate. Jesus says in Matthew 7 that the way is narrow to salvation. We have the message of what that way is, it’s very clear, and so we should proclaim it clearly and articulate it clearly and not give people a false sense of security such that they’re warmed and comforted on their way to a soon coming judgment.
Yes, it’s a judgment that they deserve, but the best thing would be for them to come to give glory and honor to their Creator, to place their trust for salvation in Him, and Him alone, and have clarity that only Jesus can save, only the conscious, knowing profession of Jesus as Savior and placing your trust in Him will lead to salvation.
We should be clear on that as gospel people, as Bible people. We should form our beliefs not simply because a religious authority tells us, but because they’re grounded in scripture and we should hold that, even when it is not politically correct today. We cling to scripture. Where else can we go?