Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” ~ Acts 4:12

In a previous post, I presented evidence for God’s existence. Many people believe that God exists. They just don’t believe that biblical Christianity is true or that Jesus of Nazareth is the human face of God and the Lord and Savior of humankind.

Certainly, Christianity is by no means the only faith that lays claim to having “the truth.” There is also Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam as well as many other religions that claim to hold “the truth.”

All serve a different deity, all have their own sacred writings, and all teach a different path of salvation.

There is the view that all of these religions are true. But I have always found this idea unconvincing as the different religions cancel one another out logically. (For instance, one religion affirms that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah; another says He isn’t. Both cannot be true.)

Here are a few points to consider about the uniqueness of the Christian faith:

1. Unlike all other faiths, Christianity is based entirely on a Person. 

Every religion is based upon the teachings or the philosophy of its founder. Not so with Christianity. Biblical Christianity is based on the Person of Jesus and not simply His teachings.

Remove Jesus, and there is nothing left to Christianity whatsoever. The entire faith is based on Christ’s incomparable life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His present work on the earth through His Spirit, and His second coming.

Buddhism is not based on the life or death of Buddha. It is based on his teachings. Remove Buddha and Buddhism still survives.

In the same way, Islam stands apart from Muhammad. It is rather built on his teachings. The same with Confucianism. Only Christianity is built on a Person and not on a teaching or philosophy.

In addition, the effect that Jesus had on people . . . both when He was on earth as well as today . . . has no peer.

When people confronted Jesus, one of the three things happened: They either hated Him, were threatened by Him, or they adored Him.

With Jesus, there was and is no middle ground. This is the mark of a unique Person.

2. All other religions point to Jesus, while Jesus pointed to Himself. 

Most of the major religions speak highly of Jesus and point to Him as a “way” to find God. Islam says He was a great prophet. Buddhism says He was a great teacher. Humanism says He was a great moral philosopher. The Mind Science religions say He was a spiritual mystic of the highest order. Even certain segments of Judaism say He was a great rabbi or prophet.

But what did Jesus say about Himself?

Jesus said He was the very Son of God and the only way to God. His exact words were: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father [God] except by Me.”

Every religion points an arrow to Jesus. (Jesus even gets mentioned by Satanists, but that religion makes Him the only enemy.)

So if I follow all the religions of the world, they will all point me to Jesus. But if I go and listen to what Jesus said about Himself, HE POINTS ALL THE ARROWS TO HIMSELF.

So to my mind, every religion confirms that Jesus of Nazareth is who He said He was – the Messiah, the Son of God, the only way to salvation.

Let me put a finer point on it by referring to C.S. Lewis’ famous trilemma. When it comes to the startling claims of Jesus . . . that He is the Son of God, sent by God to save the world . . . we only have three options.

  1. He was either a madman who was under a delusion of grandeur.
  1. He was a bold-face liar who deliberately deceived others.
  1. He was who He said He was . . . the Son of God and the Lord and Savior of the world.

Since all the major religions deny that Jesus was a madman or a liar, they (by their own testimony) show that He was in fact who He claimed to be. For how can a good man be a liar? And how can a man who has had such a positive influence on the world for centuries be a madman?

3. Jesus Christ has had more impact on the world than any other person. 

The major holidays of the Western world are based upon the birth of Jesus Christ (Christmas) and upon His resurrection (Easter). Even the dating system that is used most widely in the world is based upon the person of Jesus. Jesus splits history into BC and AD.

(BC means “before Christ” and AD means “anno domini” . . . Latin for “in the year of our Lord.” )

As Jaroslav Pelikan once observed, “If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of the history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?”  The answer: Not a whole lot.

The testimony of history, therefore, as well as the religions of the world, point to the truth that Jesus is who He claimed to be.

4. Christianity is based upon an innocent man’s death to forgive a guilty person’s sin.

Unlike all other so-called “gods,” the God of the Bible is a God who loves and desires to be loved. The gods of human invention solely desire appeasement, worship, or service.

But the real and true God loves humans and desires to be loved by them. This is why the Bible says that “God is Love.” Yet because God is Love, He is opposed to anything that violates love. This is why God hates sin.

At bottom, sin is selfishness and selfishness destroys relationships. Selfishness is the opposite of love.

According to the Bible, love benefits others at the expense of oneself. Selfishness benefits one’s self at the expense of others.

Because sin is a violation of love, God condemns it. Again, sin destroys relationships and that is why God hates it.

This brings us to the question of our need for salvation. Among other things, salvation is a restored relationship to God. Because we are all born sinful, we commit sin. It is part of our fallen nature.

As a result, we are born disconnected from fellowship with God. Thus we are in need of salvation and restoration with our Creator.

In virtually every other religion, salvation is based upon our good efforts to merit God’s favor. In all other religions, God is exclusively merciful and unrighteous or He is unmerciful and righteous.

Let me unfold that.

Some religions portray God as a God who forgives us mortals at a whim, but sets aside His own standards to do so. This makes Him merciful, but unrighteous. (Righteousness is upholding a moral standard.)

Other religions portray God to be someone who refuses to forgive certain sins because of the purity of His moral standards. This makes Him righteous, but unmerciful.

But the true and living God is absolutely righteous and absolutely merciful. Because God is righteous, He cannot simply overlook human sin; He must judge it. Because God is merciful, He desires to forgive and restore us to Himself.

Therefore, in order to solve this dilemma, God took on human flesh and became a human.

By an act of pure love, Jesus of Nazareth (who is God made flesh) descended to this earth and shared our humanity to pay the penalty for our sins. He did so by allowing Himself to undergo a horrid, gruesome death. This was the required price to restore you and me to God and to forgive us of the sins we have committed.

Jesus Christ came to die in our place. He – an innocent man – tasted a death He did not deserve to restore the broken relationship between us and God.

(Note that among others that are found in the Bible.)

Through Christ’s sacrificial death, God can forgive us in such a way that He shows Himself to be both merciful and righteous. Jesus Christ laid His life down knowing that we would rebel against Him and perhaps doubt His existence. Such a love is truly unfathomable.

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Perhaps an analogy will help. Suppose that you destroyed some property. You are then arrested and taken to court for your crime. The judge fines you $20,000 to pay for the damages, but you cannot pay it. You are flat broke.

You throw yourself on the mercy of the court, admitting that you cannot pay the fine.

Suddenly, the judge stands, removes his robe, descends from his seat, stands beside you and declares, “I will pay the fine for you in your place!”

The judge has shown you great mercy. Yet the judge has also been righteous in his decision, for he did not carelessly or flippantly set aside the law. The damages were paid for.

This is precisely how God saves us. He does so righteously and mercifully. As the Psalm says, “Mercy and truth are met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).

In all other religions, there is no notion of sacrificial death to save humankind. The gods of other religions are either unmerciful or unrighteous and humans must strive to reach God. But in Christianity, God has reached down to us helpless mortals, lifting us up to His place.

In other words, in all other religions, we try to reach God. In Christianity, God reaches us.

The true and living God desires relationship with us so much that He was willing to pay the ultimate price to secure it. Followers of Jesus call it “amazing grace.”

If salvation could come by any other means, then Jesus was crucified in vain.

5. The claims of Jesus are verified by His resurrection.

While Buddha, Moses, and Mohammad are all still in their graves today, Jesus is alive in heaven with God the Father . . . for He has risen from the dead.

Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus.

If the resurrection did not occur, then Christ was not who He said He was. However, if Jesus did rise again, as He predicted, then He is indeed the Son of God—the Savior of the world.

Consider the fact that many of the eye-witnesses of Christ’s resurrection were willing to die for their firsthand testimony that He was resurrected.

It is unthinkable to imagine how virtually all twelve disciples willingly gave their lives to be martyred because of their belief in Christ’s resurrection if it were a hoax or if they were lying.

Perhaps we can believe that one person would die for a lie (a lie that they themselves knowingly fabricated). But not all of them.

In addition, history shows that Christ’s physical body was never found. If He did not rise again, surely the opponents of Jesus would have produced the body to dispel the rumor that He had risen. Well, they never found it. This is compelling evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.

Finally, there are hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born that were perfectly fulfilled in the Person of Christ.

His birthplace, where He would grow up, how He would be betrayed, the way He would die, and His resurrection were all predicted thousands of years before they happened.

I’ve heard people say, “To say that Jesus is the only way to receive salvation and eternal life is arrogant and narrow-minded at best.”

My response: “I didn’t say it. Jesus did. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.”

It’s a known fact that my physical body needs water to live. If I go without water for more than three days, I will die. Is it arrogant and narrow-minded to say that in order to live, you must drink water and without it you will die?

So the real issue comes down to this question: Did Jesus really say that He was the only way to salvation and was He correct?

I believe the answer is yes to both questions. (In my next post, I’ll share the evidence that compels me to believe that the words of Jesus in the Bible are authentic and reliable.)

The Beauty of the Jesus Story

Let me close this post by giving you a summary of the good news of Jesus Christ as I know it.

The power of the narrative—the story of Jesus—is incredibly powerful.

At the beginning of the first century, there lived a man sent from God named Jesus of Nazareth. He was a working man – an artisan —  but no ordinary one. He was divine as well as human.

Jesus taught people about God’s free love for them and He expressed that love in visible action.

He especially expressed that love to the insulted, injured, excluded, and oppressed.

He denounced greed and religious and moral self-confidence as barriers to receiving God’s free gift of love.

Strikingly, the religious and political leaders found His message of God’s freely-given love so threatening to their power over others that they decided to crucified Him.

Jesus, however, triumphed over their plans by making the cross the instrument of God’s love for us.

The cross became the conduit for God’s total gift of Himself to humanity. That gift was so overwhelmingly and powerfully effective that three days later Jesus was alive and brimming over with a new quality of life which death could not touch.

This new quality of life—divine life—is utterly free to love others unconditionally. And death cannot touch it.

This life is available to all who entrust their lives to Jesus. Amazingly, this life will indwell such people. A life that is eternal, divine, and whose nature is love. That life is Christ. And that is genuine Christianity.

As the famed scholar John Stott once put it,

Let me call three witnesses to confirm this: one from Africa, one from Europe, and one from Asia. Professor John Mbiti from Kenya writes, “The uniqueness of Christianity is in Jesus Christ.” Or here is Bishop Stephen Neill, “The old saying that Christianity is Christ is almost exactly true. The historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth is the criterion by which every Christian affirmation has to be judged and in the light of which it stands or falls.” But better, I think, even than those two testimonies is one of that great Indian mystic, Sadhu Sundar Singh who had been a Sikh and then became a follower of Jesus. He was asked once by a Hindu professor what it was that he had found in Christianity, as he put it, that he had not found in his old religion. “I have found Christ,” said Sadhu Sundar Singh. “Oh yes, I know,” said the professor rather impatiently. “But what particular doctrine have you found or principle that you did not have before?” “The particular thing I have found,” replied Sadhu Sundar Shingh, “is Christ!” It’s Jesus Christ himself and our personal knowledge of him that is the distinctive mark of the followers of Jesus.

I close with the words of Jesus Himself:

“And this is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You [Father] have sent . . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly . . . But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst . . . I am the bread of life: he that comes to Me shall never hunger; and he that believes on Me shall never thirst.”

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About Frank Viola

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  • Frank Viola

    I’m not sure what you are asking/suggesting because there were numerous texts I put forth with very little interpretation given to many of them. In many of them, I just quoted Jesus. Hence my comment about your assumption of Him being “narrow.” It was His words, not my own. So in short, I don’t know how to answer your question because I am unsure what the question is, exactly.

    Consequently, let me offer this as a way through. Could you state one excerpt from the post and then explain why you feel it’s wrong and what you regard to be the correct way to interpret the text? That would help us all. Thx.

  • Michael

    Frank, it’s not that I was thinking that Jesus was narrow, he often is – though he’s often surprisingly wide. It’s more that I thought you were being narrow in what I perceived to be your view – that is, the quote I pulled out about the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, and the sense I get from your article that this is the only way a Christian can interpret the Scriptures. I do admit that it has a long history of being interpreted precisely as you do – which I take seriously. However, it’s not the only way it has been – I take that seriously too. I do embrace that the Scriptures are inspired, dynamically empowered to lead people to a saving faith in Jesus, and have staked my life, and ministry and sense of call on them. What I am hearing you say in your reply, is that Yes, Jesus is often regarded as narrow. I was asking if you were saying in order to be a Christian (a good/right/legitimate one) you have to accept the view/interpretation you seem to advocate for.

  • ruben

    I have to add that hell could be envisioned differently, in CS Lewis’ Great Divorce it is a dreary place where it’s inhabitants choose to stay and constantly reject heaven for. It is separation from God and that results in a tormented state. Sounds like you come from a “hell and brimstone” background, I also came from that and it was so hard for me to let the images and fear go. I was afraid of God and just wanted to run away from Him, because they presented Him wrongly. It took decades to undo.

  • ruben

    Regarding the lost/saved comment, I meant that not only the “Christian” camp will be saved, people from other religions and even people who have no religion may be saved because their acts towards the least were performed to Christ. Faith is not intellectual assent, it is trust and confidence in Christ. Some people have this faith without realizing it. I think God knew about the sacrifice from eternity, this was why He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He was seeking companionship from His friend over something He would eventually have to do (at least in my thinking). I think God gives you what you want, hell is just that. Also I totally agree with you findings among the lost that everyone is special and has value, we are sinful (all of us) and so valuable to the Father. So sorry about what you learned from your Pentecostal/Baptist past, sounds something so different from what Christ taught and shown us.

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  • LarryRR

    Though I feel both of our statements are completely about religion, I understand that many see no separation between religion and mere existence. Still, your statement about many who ‘believe’ are lost and some who are clueless are saved is one of the things that makes belief in God/Christ so difficult for some (or me, at least).

    Are you also saying that God, and Christ, didn’t know Christ’s eventual sacrifice would be necessary – and temporary – and that humanity’s rebellion and required salvation was a surprise? I’m not disputing that God may be capable of incredible love, just not unconditional. Once He says you must be saved to enter the kingdom, it’s conditional. I’m actually ok with that for those WANTING to worship God for eternity, but I’m also ok with annihilation for those that are essentially good people but aren’t interested in going to heaven and for those not lucky enough to be born in a Christian nation. Eternal non-existence seems, ultimately, a much more just and much more loving sentence for our blink-of-an-eye, no-choice-of-our-own lives here on earth. For the truly evil? That’s tough. You want to see justice, but without end?? How does one even process such a concept? Or that God would need to fix such a hopeless situation that was all His doing? Perhaps it would have been better had not even Noah and his family been spared….

    How we answer those questions determines to a large degree how we see God and how we see each other. Are we lost, doomed abominations, or do we have intrinsic worth as humans, apart from any system of belief? My Pentecostal/Southern Baptist upbringing says the former but my living among the ‘lost’ says everyone is special and has value. Religion says that too but it often feel more like lip service.

  • ruben

    I don’t think it is about religion at all, Jesus says that in the last judgement that many who claim to know Him and speak for him will not be known by Him and conversely, that many who never had a clue that they were His will in fact be his sheep. Regarding unconditional love, I think that God giving up what was most precious to Him to save our lot demonstrates that. Why He had to do that we do not know, it just brings out the gravity of our situation and it is not something lightly fixed.

  • Wim

    A very logical and insightful approach dealing with a major issue for many people and different religions. Jesus has said that He is the corner stone of the Church but also to many the/their “stumbling” block. The Truth will set us free, provide peace, healing and a new life. Why don’t you give God a chance, what can you loose by doing this and simply start reading the Bible and about Jesus and ask Him the difficult questions, speak to Him and let Him speak to you – you may be surprised what God will do for you?

  • LarryRR

    I think most religions would agree with your assertion that all religions can’t be true, but I suspect none will agree with the possibility that they can all be wrong. You have reasons that have convinced you (and have outlined them well) and the other faiths have reasons that they too are just as convinced by. And it’s that conviction of being the one True religion that has led to so much destruction and bitterness between the religions since the beginning of recorded history.

    God’s love may be righteous but I don’t know how it can be called merciful or unconditional. It if were merciful, would not the judge in your analogy go to hell for eternity in your place, rather than just a few days, and then make you still pay that debt for not believing? If it were unconditional, then there would be no threat of eternal torture. There’d be no threat or conditions, period. We would love God because He and heaven were so amazing instead of fabricating a love as a means of escaping unfathomable, unending pain (but you can certainly see why some would try).

    I can understand the renewed focus on universalism for just that reason because many people just can’t reconcile those two opposing views of God, but they also can’t imagine any purpose apart from God. Even I’m not willing to go that far yet. But I will go as far as to say that our attempts at defining and describing God have, for the most part, not been very merciful or loving to our fellow humans.

  • Frank Viola

    Thanks for your comment. I want to challenge your statement about Hinduism. There is only one mention of Hinduism and it’s in the context of it claiming to be true . . . as you have demonstrated (the other religions do the same). See the top of the post. As for a founder, obviously someone(s) founded the teachings of Hinduism. I don’t think that can be disputed. The point I was making is that Christianity isn’t based on a teaching or set of teachings, but upon a Person. Hinduism is not (as you demonstrated, nor are any of the other religions). I won’t answer your other question because you asked me not to. ;-) Thx. again for the comment.

  • Ambaa

    An interesting question, which I (of course) think is “no.”

    But I think you aren’t entirely accurate in the descriptions of other religions. What you say about Hinduism here is just not at all true.

    Hinduism, for example, is not based on the philosophy or teaching or a founder. There is no known founder.

    I also think it’s strange to say that Gods other than the God of the Bible are not loving or based on love.
    I mean, that’s just ridiculous :-/

    I think your discussion makes a lot of logical sense from the perspective of a western and Christian mind,
    but it has that inherent bias that means you’re comparing apples and oranges between Christianity and other religions. For example, sin. Hinduism doesn’t really have the concept of “sin” that Christianity does and so you can’t compare how Hinduism treats sin to how Christianity treats sin.

    Your explanation of how God is loving and therefore accepts a sacrifice is very confusing to me. I’ve never understood the blood sacrifice requirement in Christianity. Why would a loving God need to have someone brutally killed in order to forgive people? Actually, don’t answer that. It won’t convince me that Jesus is a good path. I love my religion and my Gods very much.

    For me, since I don’t believe in Jesus or the Bible at all, using scriptural Biblical references to argue in favor of Jesus being the “only way” doesn’t get very far. It’s an authority I don’t recognize. You may as well tell me that I should believe it because Tolkien said so.

  • Frank Viola

    Yes, Jesus is often regarded to be narrow because of His claims of being *the* Messiah, the Lord of the world, and “the way, the truth, and the life whereby no man comes to the Father but by Me.” The apostles which I quoted were also considered narrow by some because of their belief in what Jesus stated about Himself. Can you please be more specific about your objection and explain what I’ve said in the post that you regard to be a misinterpretation of Scripture and in turn explain what you believe to be the proper interpretation of those texts? If, of course, you don’t believe those texts to be inspired by God, please reveal that as well as it would help all us to understand where you’re coming from. Thx.

  • Michael

    Frank: I find this article narrow. Are you saying that this is the way Christians have to be/believe in order to be Christian? I have a hard time agreeing with much of what you have written; especially: “Through Christ’s sacrificial death, God can forgive us in such a way that He shows Himself to be both merciful and righteous.” And also having a difficult time drawing the parallel with Christ’s death in your analogy about the judge.

  • Hardik Modi

    Sir, I want to thank you with all my heart for this wonderful and awesome post. I just can’t imagine how awesome our God is! No words to describe. Today I’m completely a different person by the grace of God. How true it is that just by beholding Him changes us completely from the inside out! Praise God!

  • Sally Roach

    Excellent! Christ is all!