2 Things You Need to Know about the Exclusivity of Christ
As you share the gospel with your friends, family members, classmates, and business colleagues, you may find that they tolerate much of your worldview until you press the point that Jesus is the one true Savior and the only one who can deliver them from eternal judgment and bring them into right relationship with God. In other words, your spiritual conversations may coast rather smoothly until you land on the exclusivity of Christ.
To speak of the exclusivity of Christ is just a way of saying, along with the apostles, that “There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It is simply an affirmation of Jesus’ own words when he spoke to his disciples in the upper room just before his execution: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Here are two things you need to know about the exclusivity of Christ.
1. The exclusivity of Christ is narrow, but not in the way you may think it is.
People usually don’t take well to these claims because they believe they are far too narrow. And we would be dishonest if we didn’t agree that these claims are, in fact, narrow. Yet, the exclusivity of Christ is not narrow in the sense that it is offered only to those who meet certain conditions, like an elite members club.
In her article for CNN travel, “10 of the world’s most exclusive members clubs” Michelle Koh Morollo quotes Vincent Lai, a managing director of an elite concierge service: “Those who are invited fulfill certain requirements, they usually have economic capital but most importantly they carry a lot of social clout.” These certainly are exclusive clubs, and they are narrow in the sense that only a few select people in the world qualify for entrance. Invitations, therefore, are only directed to those who meet the initial qualifications.
But this is not what we mean when we say the exclusivity of Christ is narrow. It is not restrictive in its invitation like these private clubs. Indeed, the gospel is antithetical to such a spirit: Jesus’ disciples are to “go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame” (Luke 14:21).
Rather, we would say that the exclusivity of Christ is narrow in location but broad in invitation. There are no restrictions based on a person’s economic status, religious background, relative morality, geographical location, or family circumstances, for all are called to come to Christ (Matt. 11:27-30; John 3:16; Rom. 3:22). There is only one place to find salvation (narrow in location) but all people are invited to come to Christ for salvation (broad in invitation).
2. To speak of the narrowness of salvation in Christ alone is true kindness.
Still, some might object and say that pressing the exclusivity of Christ upon non-Christians is unkind. How can you tell others that their religion or worldview is wrong? That’s just plain mean. Live and let live!
Yet, the exact opposite is true. The exclusivity of Christ is a compassionate and humble doctrine, for it guards people from seeking salvation in a place where it cannot be found. Think of it this way.
Let’s say we find ourselves in the midst of post-nuclear war fallout, and there is one and only one source in the entire world where people can acquire clean, drinkable water. All other sources, though similar to the genuine source in their appearance, are actually poisoned and non-potable. We certainly wouldn’t fault the claim that drinkable water can only be found at this one source; nor would we say that such a claim is unkind or arrogant. Actually, we would be thankful for this knowledge because it would keep us from making a fatal choice of drinking clean-looking but deadly water at a counterfeit location.
To hold up Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation among all other religions and religious leaders is not unkind; it is the most loving thing you can do. The “humble” person who doesn’t have a strong conviction on where to find clean water (even though they may have seen the source several times) is neither loving nor humble. Such a person is hateful and selfish, no matter how soft-spoken and deferential they appear.
So, my brothers and sisters, continue to boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. Teach and preach and share with a soft heart and tender love toward others, and remember that love does not preclude clarity on the exclusivity of Christ. Love demands it.
Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith by Douglas Groothuis
Derek J. Brown currently serves as professor of theology at Cornerstone Seminary in Vallejo, California, and associate pastor at Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley where he oversees the college and young adult ministry, online presence, and publishing ministry, GBF Press. Derek blogs at fromthestudy.com.
This article is adapted from "The Exclusivity of Christ: A Compassionate and Humble Doctrine" at fromthestudy.com.
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