Together With Us
In studying the Scriptures, one has to come to grips with some startling claims. The Bible claims that I am a sinner, even if I hold on to the self-image of being a good person. (Romans 3:23) The Bible claims that sin leads to separation from God (Isaiah 59:2), and to spiritual death (Romans 6:23), even if I feel alive. The Bible claims I cannot save myself from this spiritual death by my good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible claims I need a Savior, and God, in His great love for us, sent one--His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8)!
Perhaps the most startling claims of Scripture are the claims that it is through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, that we are saved from sin and granted eternal life. John 14:6 says, "Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And Acts 4:11-12 says, "Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Isn't that pretty exclusive? Isn't God being rather arbitrary and mean? I'm convinced it's a matter of how we look at it.
The truth claims of Scripture, and of Jesus being the only way to God, can be seen as "My way or the highway." We can see it as God saying, "Accept my Son or I send you to hell." We dig in our heels as children with our parents, and with God, when the answer is, "Because I said so." We can think of all kinds of reasons why the universe should operate the way we want it to, and God should not make absolute demands on us. God should give us a break, right? We're doing the best we can.
But what if the best we can is not good enough? And what if we look at the truth claims of Scripture and of Jesus being the only way to God as God saying, "My way IS the highway." What if God is saying to us, "Accept my Son because I don't want you to end up in hell"? What if the Bible is right, and we cannot be good enough or perfect enough to save ourselves?
Bristling at the exclusiveness of the lifeline God has thrown to us is a little bit like complaining the rope the lifeguard throws to us when we are drowning chafes our hands when we grip it. God has made a way for our redemption. Does it make sense that our response should be, "I don't like that way, God. It's too exclusive. You're being mean. I want another way to be saved."?
And then it's pretty normal to bring up the "what about's". What about the people who lived before Jesus was born? What about the people who are sincere Buddhists or Muslims or Hindus? What about the people who have never heard of Jesus. Does God just send them all to hell?
Hebrews 11:39-40 says, "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."
Who are "these"? They are the people who lived their lives believing in God before Jesus came. Hebrews 11 is called the "faith chapter" of the Bible. By faith, Abraham followed God. By faith, Noah built an ark. By faith Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt. And the last two verses of chapter 11 says they were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (which was the redemption of God's Son, Jesus Christ). It is only together with us (who believe in Jesus) they would have their faith perfected.
Essentially, Hebrews is saying faith in the one, true God is always faith in Jesus, even if He had not been born, yet. Jesus is the Promise of God for redemption, so faith in God's promises is faith in Jesus. No one comes to the Father, except through Him!
Sincerity is not saving in and of itself. I can sincerely believe I can defy gravity. The sincerity of my belief does not mean I actually can do so. We can be sincerely wrong.
And God has a plan for the people who have never heard of Jesus. He has sent US to tell them. He has sent US to show them the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10) His Body, the Church, has the very same mission.
It is together with us that the world is being saved. It is up to us to show lost people the way to God through faith in Jesus Christ. God's way IS the highway, and we are the direction signs, pointing the way to Him through Jesus Christ.
So let's be faithful and live lives worthy of our calling. Let's love and serve people so they want to know why our lives are so different. Then we can show and tell people the way to Jesus!