Several religious questions arose recently that are somewhat related, and I’d like to deal with these issues. Those questions are:
- How do we know what God wants us to do in a given situation?
- Is Christianity the only way to God?
- Is Jesus Christ the only way to God?
Most often I try not to give my own opinion. The world is full of other people’s opinions, many far cleverer than I. Through deep thought and fine opinions we have Buddhism, Hinduism and even Islam. Each claim they are based on authority and each were proclaimed by a man.
My specialty is not church doctrine or opinions; it is the Bible, What does the Bible say? So I’m here to walk you through several things the Bible says about those questions and hope to answer them to your satisfaction.
First let me warn you the answers cannot be simple and short. The questions are short, but the answers cannot be
God does answer questions, for God said in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Before going further, I must explain basic doctrine of the entire Bible. What is the central truth of the Bible? If everything else was taken away, what one thing would God want us to know and do? Jesus identified this God’s standard in the Gospels. It is this: Matthew 22:37-40,
Jesus replied: ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Notice these things: Jesus the Son of God said it, and he said it in his authority as Son of God. This is God’s message to you. Jesus said that everything in the Bible, all the law and prophets (that is, the entire Old Testament) is based on that principle.
If you throw that away, if you disregard it, then you might as well throw away the entire Bible, for it will do you no other good. The Bible teaches you how to apply that standard.
I wrote a book on it, Key to Biblical Doctrine, which I recommend. It first studies that great commandment and how it is taught throughout the Bible in both Old and New Testament and by the apostles. Then it applies that doctrine to church issues, such as homosexuality.
One More Standard
There is one other thing you should settle in your mind before continuing this study. Do you believe in God or not? If that is the question you truly seek to settle, then it is a matter of belief. Will you believe or not? If you do not believe in God, then everything I say here and everything you hear afterwards will be filled with doubts, arguments and confusion. But if you settle in your heart, “Yes, I believe in God.” then your questions focus on “How do I find God’s will and understand God’s way.” Otherwise, if you don’t believe, you will always find fault and your questions will always be, “Yeah, but… what about this and what about that?”
The Three Questions
Question 1: How do we know what God wants us to do in a given situation?
That applies to such questions as,
- Should I go to church or stay hope to help this sick person?
- Should I go to college or find a job?
Before answering those questions, I need to remind you that the greatest way to find answers from God is to pray about it. God answers prayer to those who listen to him. If you think, “My prayers are like talking to a blank walk; I hear no answer,” then I suggest you refer to the section above, One More Standard. That one is for you.
Should you go to church or stay home to help your sick friend? The answer is simple. What did Jesus say was the basic doctrine in the Bible? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In another place, he said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Than answer is simple, if you would like somebody to stay and help you in your need, then you should stay and help him in his need. God is not enriched by you going to church – you are the one enriched. God does not lose or gain in your service; you do. Therefore, the question is, are you willing to give up some of your spiritual riches to help another person? That is the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
The next question is like this, “Should I go to college?” Any question of that nature whose answer is not a clear right or wrong, good or bad, is covered here. I repeat, God is not enriched by what you do or not do. Therefore, a question like that requires prayer, to see how God is leading. But I have an additional way to answer that question.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
That does not mean God will give you anything your heart desires. It says, The desires in your heart are given you by God. They are placed there by God… if you believe in God and are seeking his ways.
Why? Why is that? Could it be true that God wants you to be an actor or singer or shoe salesman? It is true because our world social order requires a variety of professions. Suppose you were hungry and went to the store to buy food, but there wasn’t any food to buy. Why no food in the store? Because all then farmers couldn’t believe God wanted them to be farmers; they thought instead, in order to be holy and please God, they ought to be choir directors and saints. Therefore they ignored the desire God placed in their heart to farm.
We need and this world functions because of taxi drivers, cooks, waitresses, tailors, mechanics, inventors, teachers, and any other profession. God is faithful; he puts into your heart the love of the profession where he wants you to be. If you seek to please God and long to be an actor, instead of saying, “Very funny, God, now what do you really want me to do?” say instead, “Thank you for letting me be an actor; I love it.”
Question 2: Is Christianity the only way to God?
Remember that being a Christian is not the same thing as Christianity. If you’re a Christian, you have a relationship with God because you believe in Jesus as your savior. Christianity, most people think, is the various churches around town, Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists and so on. All these church organizations are designed to worship God in a certain way, in a way that seems right to the members.
To answer the question, Is Christianity the only way to God, ask another question, Did anybody ever come to God before Christianity? If the answer to that second question is yes, then the answer to the first question must be no. People came to God and were saved before Christianty, such as Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and so on. Therefore, a person doesn't need to belong to a Christian church in order to be saved; they need to belong to God.
Christianity is not the only way to God, but you can find God in Christianity. The opposite is also true, you’re not going to find God in any other religion, in Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13. God is faithful. You will find God when you seek God with your whole heart, regardless of where you are.
Not all people in Christianity – in Christian churches – are Christians, not even the pastors and priests. Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Jesus said, When the judgment day comes and I judge all people, some people will come and say, “Jesus, didn’t we teach in the name of Jesus? Didn’t we cast out demons in the name of Jesus? Didn’t we build these hospitals and orphanages in the name of Jesus?” To them, Jesus will say, “Leave me; I never knew you.”
Why? Because what God wants is for us to have a relationship with God. It is not preaching. It is not miracles. It is not great spiritual power. It is simply a family relationship with God. As Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all you mind.” That is it. That is salvation. That is peace with God.
When Jesus was preaching to the Jews, before Christianity began, he said “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.” Until that time the Jews thought they were the only people of God in the whole world. Jesus said, “I (as the Son of God) have other people who are not members of this nation.”
The Bible tells us the way to God. Christian churches teach us doctrines and the Bible. A person can find God in Christianity, but not all church members are going to heaven.
Question 3: Is Jesus Christ the only way to God?
If you view that question in one way, the answer is Yes. If you view it in another way, the answer is No. I have to explain both ways.
The book of Genesis tells the story of God creating earth and man. At that time, all humanity knew God, because all humanity was in Adam and Eve. But all humanity did not stay with God. They left God and created idols and other gods. They would take a stick and carve it, or a clay and mold it, and say, “This is our god.”
That pretty much pissed God off. There is only one God, not millions or thousands or hundreds or even dozens. There’s only one. The only way to get right with God is to come back to God. You cannot get right with God and keep your other gods. You must get rid of them.
I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. Isaiah 42:8
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods besides me. Exodus 20:2 (This is the first of Ten Commandments)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37)
You cannot get right with God and be a Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu, or any other religion that teaches any other god besides this one God who created heaven and earth.
But there is a minor problem here. God is not a man, to laugh at sin and treat it as a light thing; he is God. And this God is just. Any infraction, any sin, must receive a just penalty to pay for it.
Behold, all souls are mine… the soul that sins, it shall die. Ezekiel 18:4
God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Therefore, God wants us back but we have sinned, and a sinful soul must die. What is to be done? The Bible says,
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
Our sins are paid for by Jesus; he died in our place. Therefore God’s justice is satisfied and God’s love is satisfied.
God did not provide another avenue except through Jesus. As the Bible says,
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12
Thus Jesus said,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6
Paul said, I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21. If salvation and access to God could come any other way, then there was no reason for Jesus to have died.
The first answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ the only way to God, the answer is Yes.
If the answer is Yes, then how can it also be No?
Jesus Christ is the bookkeeping… the way God keeps records. We didn’t create or devise the thought that we should have a savior who dies for us; God did that. That part is God’s work.
Our salvation has always been dependent on whether we will forsake our other gods and return to our one true creator God and Father. We’re like a naughty child who returns to his parent; the child knows punishment will be involved but he doesn’t know what that punishment will be. All he knows is that there will also be forgiveness and acceptance back into the family. It's the same thing when we return to God. We may not know how this salvation will be accomplished (through the death of Jesus), but we know that God will somehow take care of it and receive us back to himself.
Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18
Say unto them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die…? Ezekiel 33:11
What hope does a person have who has never heard of Jesus Christ, God’s payment for our sins? If a magic formula were involved and we could be saved… that is, if we could say these magic words, “I accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior,” and that would save us, how can those people be saved who have never heard the name Jesus? And even worse, what if his name was not Jesus? His actual name is akin to Yeshua, so if we have been believing in Jesus all these years and salvation is in the name of Yeshua, does that mean we are not saved?
Yeshua, or Jesus, is not a magic word; it is the name of a person.
If we want to be saved, we return to God with our whole heart and worship no other God. As it is written, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.” Matthew 22:37.
God has provided our salvation in Jesus only, but we do not need to know the actual name Jesus. We just return to God.
Does that mean we should not send out missionaries? Not at all. We are told to go preach the gospel. Why? Because most people will not understand the way to God is open. Some will never understand without being told that there is a God who loves them. They will not come to God because they don’t know God or the way.
If a lost soul figures it out on his own and returns to God on his own, God will receive him even if he doesn’t know how to pronounce Jesus. The missionaries who are sent will tell them the whole story, that God loves them and God made a way for them to return to him, and the name of this way is Jesus.