One of the most often quoted verses in the New Testament is John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This text makes specific what was implied in John 13:36 and again in John 14:2. The journey with Jesus takes one to the Father. This is where Jesus was going and those who follow him will go there as well. But how do we reach the Father? The answer is clear. We reach the Father by believing in the Son. This statement is another one of the “I Am” statements in John. (There are seven and this is the sixth!) The point here is clear, at least to me. Not all roads lead to God regardless of what men may think. The claim to exclusivity here is very clear. And Jesus is plainly inviting his hearers to accept or reject him. His self-description plainly invalidates other ways to the Father.
Before you say this view is too restrictive consider the human condition. The fact that there is any way to God’s grace and love is astounding. When we say such a claim is unfair are we not in danger of saying I am drowning, or better yet I have already drowned, and now I can refuse the offer given to me and swim to shore in any way I please?
But does this claim mean all religions are completely false and everything they teach is opposed to Christian truth? This is another question and a question far too few evangelicals have thought about properly in my estimation. I found it more than interesting that the African Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 2006) raised the question on this verse as to whether or not the ancestors of Christians all perished because they had never heard about Jesus? (One of the values of reading such a commentary is the writers really do ask the question, not simply speculate about it.) The commentator on John answers:
When pondering this question, we need to remember that there is room in God’s judgment plan for judging cases on the basis of people’s response to general revelation (Romans 2:12-16). But it is also clear that no cases will be considered outside of Christ. He is God’s Anointed and each individual’s response to him, whether in the context of special or general revelation, will be central to the judgment. Those who have tried to please God, despite not having heard of Christ, will be accepted, for Jesus has been sent by God, and the one who pleases the Father has already passed the test of obeying the message of the Son (1283).
The commentator goes on to say that for most of us this is not the question that arises in our lives but rather, “What will we do with the Christ we have heard about?”
I agree with this perspective. I do not know the way God will judge all men in the last day but I know Christ is the judge. I do not know how he will sort everything out but he will and he will be equitable and completely just. Jesus is the one, true God. There is no other way home for sinners. He is the way, the truth and the life.
But does this conclusion mean that we are warranted to tell the world that unless every man, woman and child has specifically trusted in Jesus they went straight to hell? And does this mean that there is not truth of any kind in any other expression of faith in God?
Tomorrow: What About Other Religions?