Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?

By J. Gerald Harris, Editor of the Christian Index in Georgia
Published August 2, 2007

I believe the greatest doctrinal issue confronting the church today is the exclusivity of the gospel, or the belief that salvation is possible only through a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. It is incredible to think that the most fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith could be called into question or debated among people who call themselves Christians, but that is precisely what is taking place in our world today.

From a Christian viewpoint, the very idea that there are many ways to heaven is unreasonable, unscriptural, and offensive. If there are many ways – or even two ways – to God, Jesus Christ was a deceiver. For Jesus avowed more than once that he is the only way to heaven. He declared, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins; for if you believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

However, apparently there are those who do not believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven as emphatically declared in John 14:6. For example, a reporter of the Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada interviewed Tony Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., and ordained Baptist minister, on Jan. 17. The professor was asked, “Do you believe non-Christians can go to heaven?”

Campolo responded, “That’s a good question to ask because the way we stand is we contend that trusting in Jesus is the way to heaven. However, we do not know who Jesus will bring into the kingdom and who He will not. We are very careful about pronouncing judgment on anybody. We leave judgment in the hands of God and we are saying Jesus is the way. We preach Jesus, but we have no way of knowing to whom the grace of God is extended.”

Another example of a tap dancing, fence straddling, non-answering minister in line with Tony Campolo is Joel Osteen, pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Lakewood Church in Houston. He was interviewed on Larry King Live and asked if atheists go to heaven. He replied, “I am going to let God be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell.”

When Osteen was asked where Jews or Muslims go without trusting Jesus, he replied, “I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know.”

Although the Houston pastor issued a clarification of his response to King’s questions on his website, the fact remains that he refused to unashamedly respond with a definitive answer, choosing to waffle in his reply so that no one would be offended.

There was a time when nearly all people in our western culture shared the same general worldview. America had a spiritual environment in which religion flourished as it did in no other western country. In time the postmodern left threw out absolute truth and replaced it with “tolerance,” a vague word of indeterminate meaning, which they applied selectively at the expense of the Christian worldview.

When I was growing up the word “tolerance” meant “bearing or putting up with someone or something not especially liked.” However, now the word has been redefined to “all values, all beliefs, all lifestyles, all truth claims are equal.” Denying this makes a person “intolerant” and thus worthy of contempt.

The left has used its institutional leverage, the influence of the media, and the glamour of Hollywood to drive the Christian voice out of the public square and nullify the assumptions of the Christian worldview. Thus, doctrine is out and tolerance is in. We are told that for the sake of unity, doctrine should not be tested or contested. We are not to draw any definitive lines or declare any absolutes. Doctrinal issues that were once painted black and white are now seen as gray.

Paul forewarned us that this time would come as he wrote: “For the time will come when they (the people of the church) will not endure (tolerate) sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4).

Paul had no tolerance for those who did not preach the gospel. In Galatians 1:8 he said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

This is no time for “lite,” topical, entertaining preaching that whips doctrine into a creamy filling suitable for topping canapés that are palatable and rich, but ultimately not really sustaining food. Charles H. Spurgeon, pastor of the great Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, wrote an article in the late 1800s titled “Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?” What Spurgeon saw blossoming in his day is in full bloom today.

Ray Stedman, long-time pastor of Peninsula Bible Fellowship, wrote, “The greatest contribution the Church can make today to a troubled and frightened generation is to return to a consistent and relevant preaching of the Word of God! All Christians would agree that what is most needed in the present age is a loosing of the power of God among us, but what is often forgotten is that the proclamation of His word has always been God’s chosen channel of power.”

“He sent his word and healed them,” the psalmist declares. And it is not so much preaching from the Bible that is needed, as it is preaching the Bible itself – in a word, expository preaching.

And dear church member, it is time for some expositional listening. When you go to church don’t look for some syrupy homily that will bolster your self-esteem, some engaging anecdotes and vivid vignettes that will help you find fulfillment, or some entertaining monologue that will give you a cheery heart.

Desire the “strong meat” of the Word of God. When members cultivate the habit of expositional listening they guard themselves against “itching ears” and they protect the gospel from corruption.

God-called preachers, who have an uncompromising allegiance to the Bible, and discerning listeners, who insist upon sound doctrine, love the truth of God’s Word, and insist upon the exclusivity of the gospel, because Jesus is not just a good way to heaven or the best way to heaven, but the only way to heaven. “The way of the cross leads home … and there is no other way, but this.”

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