We learned in part one of this series that the God of the Bible is a God who is perfect and holy, who demands that kind of perfection from all who would be in His presence.
God’s holiness explains why Jesus is so centrally important to the way of salvation. Jesus fulfills the perfect standard of God. And moreover, He was (and is) the only one who did or ever will! Some biblical passages showing this might help at this point. Consider the following examples:
In John 14:6, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” In Acts 4:12 Peter states that there is salvation from sin in “no other name,” than Jesus’, for there is no other name (not Buddha, not Mohammed, not Confucius, not my own) given among humanity by which we can be saved. In 1 Timothy 2:5-6 we read that, “There is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom” for sin’s penalty of eternal separation from God. And as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Jesus Christ, who was perfect and “knew no sin,” to become a sin offering in our place so “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In short, God took Jesus’ perfect holiness and righteousness and credited it to our account, simply because He loves us and wants to have a relationship with us (John 3:16).
Having said this, what can we do with all this information then? Although some of the following will not be easy to hear, several conclusions can and must be drawn. First, all people do have some information about God, but unfortunately, Romans 1:20 tells us they suppress, corrupt, and/or ignore it.
Second, we can affirm that God is always fair. According to Romans 2:1-3, He judges people according to what they know and do not know, what they do and do not do, as well as by their own standards of right and wrong.
Third, we must admit that in view of Romans 3:23, no one—ourselves, most of all—is or can become perfect on our own. Because God is holy and requires perfection (Matthew 5:20; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Corinthians 5:21), all men deserve the just punishment of hell. Thus, some people get what they deserve—namely justice—while others get what they don’t deserve—namely mercy. However, no one gets injustice.
You must ask yourself honestly, “Do I really deserve to go to heaven?” Who, then, does? Can you point to someone who actually deserves to go to heaven, who earned enough “points” to please a perfectly and eternally holy and righteous God? Chances are if you can, then your standard of holiness and righteousness is far different than God’s. This is also called idolatry, creating God in our own image, rather than recognizing and worshiping God for who He truly is.
The fact is, Jesus Christ is God’s extreme and ultimately final expression of mercy to a lost and dying world. Only Christ is both fully God and fully man, so only He could pay the eternal penalty for humanity’s profoundly radical sin problem.
One thing that could be brought up at this point is this fair question: Why are there so many other world religions and so many other people who adhere to high moral standards, some that appear to surpass the ethical lifestyles of Christians? Two things can be said in response. First, we must understand human nature made in the image of God, and second, we must understand the reality of an adversary called the devil who is doing everything he can to lure people away from the God who loves and wants to know them.
The multitude of world religions suggests a couple of things about humanity. First, it suggests that we have an incurably religious nature that is constantly seeking to reach out to the transcendent unknown, to the immaterial realm of the spirit. And I think that this is due to the image of God in man. This image reaches beyond itself and looks for the divine. Paul points this out in Acts 17, verse 27. The result of this search, this extending beyond oneself, has been a myriad of religious perspectives. But that only tells half of this sad story.
The fact is, human beings, because of the reality of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin (chronicled in Genesis 3), are no longer able to have an unblemished and unadulterated picture of who God really is and how a person can know and relate to Him. Thus, God provided a special communication to us concerning Himself through what we call the Bible, and supremely through the person of Jesus Christ. But while many know and embrace this special communication, not everyone believes in or has access to it. Some are ignorant, some choose to ignore it, some choose to refute and destroy it, and some choose to twist and rewrite it.
All of this highlights the fact that Satan is a real threat to humanity’s ability to understand and know God. The adversary delights in deceiving and drawing people away from God and His truth (see 2 Corinthians 11:3 and John 8:44, for example). Thus, we would expect to find—and in fact do find—a multitude of counterfeits in the religious communities of the world.
The things I have just shared are potentially hard truths to face. In part three, we will conclude with some encouragements and recommendations concerning the Christian’s responsibility given the fact that people can be saved through Jesus Christ alone.
Sometimes I see what the word of God says and struggle with it emotionally. But as a Christian, I think it’s important to ask, am I willing to face this? Am I willing to do something unpopular and stand up and say to the world that there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ?