I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: One Way to God. Not Many
Ministry127.com gives us this interesting illustration. It says:
A sailor was once left in charge of the helm, with directions from the captain to keep his eye on a certain star, and steer the vessel directly towards it, which he promised faithfully to do. The captain went below and fell asleep. After a while he awoke, went on deck, and found the vessel sailing in a course exactly opposite to that in which he had directed the helmsman to steer. “What does all this mean, sailor?”
The sailor replied, “Captain, ye must pick me out another star, for I've sailed clear by that one!”
In the same way, many have turned their back on the God of the Bible and want someone to pick them out another star that will direct them into heaven and eternal salvation.
Kenneth Samples, from Reason to Believe Ministries gave an example of how the world looks at religious belief today and what they think gets them close to the God of the universe. He said this:
"During the days following the catastrophic terrorist events of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush called for a National Day of Prayer.
He urged people of all faiths to pray for America. Interfaith religious services were televised from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and from Yankee Stadium in New York. These services included clerics from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. They offered prayers to the God collectively addressed as “the God of Abraham, the God of Muhammad, and the Father of Jesus Christ.” Popular television personality Oprah Winfrey led the service held in New York City and boldly declared that all people pray to the same God."
What Oprah was espousing is a belief called religious pluralism. This basically teaches that all religions lead to God equally. In our culture, many people believe this. However, belief doesn't make it true. And it is certainly not something that the Bible condones.
Sadly, this philosophy of religion does an injustice, not only to Christianity, but to all religious beliefs. For they all teach such diverse things. And that is especially the case about their teachings regarding God or the gods, depending on the religion.
Today we are continuing our study of the essentials of the Christian faith. These teachings are the non-negotiable or core beliefs of Christianity which comprise the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). To deny these truths means that you really cannot truly call yourself a Christian.
Today we answer the question:
"Is Jesus Christ the only way to have a relationship with God?" "Or are there many paths to God?"
It is clear from Scripture, that there is only one true God and one mediator between God and man. That person is the Lord Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5). Let us delve into these truths more deeply and find out just what the Bible reveals.
To understand this better, however, we first need to look, in a general sense, at the various religious beliefs to see just what their conception of God actually is and if they can, in any way be reconciled with the Christian belief in the one true Triune God of the universe.
I. Many Beliefs About God
In looking at the various belief systems, it is clear that most people believe in "God," but not everyone has the same idea of who God is or what relating to God means. For instance:
Monotheism is the belief that there is one supreme being over all of the universe. The largest religions that teach this doctrine are Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. (Deuteronomy 4:35).
Polytheism is the belief that there are many gods in the universe.
Henotheism is a variation of polytheism which teaches the existence of many gods who should only be worshiped one at a time.
Pantheism, on the other hand, teaches that all things comprise and make up God. Similarly, panentheism teaches that God is in all things, whether it be the chair you sit on, the tree that gives you shade, or the mountain that you may happen to climb.
Then there are the atheistic religions. These do not even believe in a creator deity. And some of them stay clear of the supernatural altogether, focusing on how to live a good life in the here and now. Just to give you a taste of this, let's look at the religions of Buddhism and Confucianism
The goal of Buddhism, which has 500 million followers, is to find lasting unconditional happiness.
To do that, Buddhists believe, one has to be able to see the world with clarity and detachment. Those are acquired through a set of practices. There are no gods or spirits to invoke for help. Buddhism is a path of self-development. And it requires practitioners to take responsibility for themselves.
A person who has achieved the goal is said to have achieved Nirvana, Buddhahood, or Liberation. Such a person is no longer swayed by what happens in the world, for they have found their center.
On the other hand, Confucianism teaches how to live a good life. It focuses on creating a harmonious society. But it starts with the individual. An evolved, well-behaved person influences their family. That evolved family, in turn, influences their community. And the community influences society as a whole, including the government.
The founder of this religion was Confucius. Confucius avoided the subject of gods altogether. When asked about metaphysical subjects, the Chinese master would reply: “We do not yet know how to serve man. How can we know about serving the spirits?”
All in all, God worship is not a part of Confucianism. And many of its 6 to 10 million followers are atheists.
There are other non-theistic religions but these two give you some idea of how vast the belief, or lack of belief in God is in the religious world.
And you cannot lump all of these conflicting beliefs into one and say that they all lead a person to the God of the universe. Especially since many don't even claim to do so, or even have a belief in a Creator God of the universe.
We can add to this the fact that the Bible teaches that the problem that mankind has is separation from a Holy God because of sin and His wrath against sinful mankind (Romans 1:17-19; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 3:36). Humanity, in the Christian world view, has to have their sins forgiven in order to be reunited with God and not separated for all eternity.
Compare that to a religion such as Buddhism. Buddhists believe that when we die, we are reincarnated into another body. After death and before rebirth, each person passes through the state called Bardo, which can be a time of great insight and liberation. For Buddhists, the ultimate goal is to break out of the cycle of reincarnation by attaining Nirvana, an end to suffering. In order to reach such a state of enlightenment, Buddhists believe we must meditate and purify our minds.
Hindus have similar beliefs to Buddhists. They also believe in reincarnation and believe that we can be reborn not only into humans, but also into animals, plants, or even insects.
You simply cannot reconcile all of these views of God with one another.
II. All Other Gods are Idols
But we can go even farther in our comparison of religious beliefs by stating that Christianity naturally excludes other belief systems as a way to God. That is because the Bible teaches that there is but one true God who is the maker of heaven and earth. And all other gods are idols. Psalm 96:5, for instance, tells us:
"For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but it is the LORD who made the heavens."
From the very beginning in Genesis 1:1 it states that:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
In I Chronicles 16:25-27 King David gives a Psalm of Thanksgiving and in it he says this:
"For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but it is the LORD who made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy fill His dwelling.…"
Of course, one of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses for the children of Israel was:
"You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3).
The Lord calls Himself a jealous God, (Exodus 20:5) because, if He indeed is the One who is the maker and sustainer of the entire universe, then there is no one who can or should be put in His place.
We might ask, then what of Judaism and Islam which also teach about only one God? That is where the New Testament understanding of Jesus Christ comes in.
III. The Bible Teaches Jesus as the Only Way to the Father
As we continue our comparison of other religious beliefs with the Christian belief, we find that all the religions except one, teach that man can attain to God, the gods, Nirvana, or whatever the ultimate state or reality it is that they accept, by some form of human effort.
The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that God saw the helpless plight of mankind, which was slavery to sin, and He personally did something about it Himself. He did it by way of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, Jesus Christ.
We have already taught the non-negotiable Christian belief that there is one God, eternally existing as three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is what is known as the Trinity. Just to mention one passage of Scripture which teaches that Jesus is God, we see in John 1:1-14 that it says that Jesus was the Word of God who Himself was God. And the Word became flesh. He then dwelt among us for the purpose of taking our sins upon Himself and giving to us His righteousness.
Paul, in Romans 5:8, tells us:
"But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
The apostle Paul also states that Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us. Why? That we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21).
No other person was capable of doing what Jesus, God's one and only Son, could do for us. And the Scriptures say over and over again that He is the only way to God the Father. We see it in such verses as Acts 4:12 which tells us:
"Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name, under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved."
It is stated in John 3:36 which plainly reads:
"He that believes on the Son has everlasting life. And he that does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
And in John 14:6, Jesus Himself tells us that:
"I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."
John 3:18 warns us that:
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
Lastly, the apostle John says very boldly that:
" No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also." (I John 2:23).
From all of this, it is clear that the Christian faith vehemently teaches that all roads do not lead to God. All other ways except Jesus Christ lead to eternal separation from the Lord. And so, we don't all pray to the same God, as Oprah has falsely said.
But the God of the Bible does love all of humanity and wants them all to turn to His only way of salvation, Jesus Christ. This can be seen quite clearly in Acts 17 where the apostle Paul is talking to various Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill. This chapter records the second missionary journey of Paul, together with Silas and Timothy. It might be helpful to see how he answered those who were open to believing in many gods.
IV. Paul's Answer to Believers in Various Gods
Mars Hill is the Roman name for a hill in Athens, Greece, named for the Greek god of war, Ares, or the Areopagus. The biblical significance of Mars Hill is that it is the location of one of Paul’s most important gospel presentations at the time of his visit to Athens (Acts 17:16–34). Here is what the website gotquestions.org has to say about this encounter with the Greek pagans. It tells us:
"It was where he addressed the religious idolatry of the Greeks who even had an altar to the “Unknown God.” It was this altar and their religious idolatry that Paul used as a starting point in proclaiming to them the one true God and how they could be reconciled to Him. Paul’s sermon is a classic example of a gospel presentation that begins where the listeners are and then presents the gospel message in a logical and biblical fashion. In many ways it is a classic example of apologetics in action. Paul started his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting the gospel message to them."
Beginning in verse 22 here is the message that Acts 17 records. It begins:
"Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So, from this passage, it becomes clear that, no matter what religious belief you may have, if it isn't a faith in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation, then that religion is vain, and you have no real relationship with the God of the universe. Paul told these Greeks, like he told everyone else, that to get to the Father, you have to come through His one and only Son.
When I think about how lost this world is and how everyone is seeking to follow their own reality, I am reminded of the story I heard about Albert Einstein, who is said to have been one of the smartest men who ever lived. The story goes like this:
"Albert Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train. When the conductor came down the aisle punching tickets Einstein reached in his vest pocket; he could not find his ticket, so he reached in his trouser pockets. It wasn’t there so he looked in his briefcase, but still could not find it. He looked in the seat next to him, but it was not there.
The conductor kindly said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket, don’t worry about it.” The conductor then continued on his way punching tickets. Just before he went to the next car he turned around and saw the great scientist on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.
The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket.”
Einstein said, “Young man, I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I am going.”
Sadly, most of the world, like Professor Einstein, has no idea where they are going. They are following gods, philosophers, or religious gurus who are taking them far away from the God of the universe. We who know Christ, truly know the One who is: The Way, The Truth and The Life.
We can't force the world to turn around and follow Him. However, we can tell them the gospel. That is the good news of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection for their sins. And we can live a life ourselves that is consistent with that belief.
There are not many ways to God. There is only one way. That way is Jesus Christ. And He now lives to make intercession, before the Father, for all who call on His name. Let us praise Jesus, and bow before Him, giving our lives for His service and leading more and more people to worship His name and follow His direction. People need the Lord. They need Jesus!
© 2022 Jeff Shirley