One God, One Salvation for All

This has tremendous implications for religious pluralism in Minneapolis and Chicago and New York and London and Jerusalem and Sao Paulo and Delhi and Tokyo and Sydney and Jakarta and Cairo and Pretoria. It implies, for example, that not all religions are true and lead to heaven. It also implies that those who know the true God because of his gracious revelation should try to persuade others to know and trust the one true God. And it implies that, since the true God of the Bible is a God who is known only by faith and not external coercion, no violence or force will be used to demand or restrict religious belief.

Which means, interestingly, that the uniqueness and singleness of the one true God of the Bible is both a threat and protection for religious pluralism. We need to get this very clear, because we live in an increasingly pluralistic society. The absolute claim of the God of the Bible on all persons and all religions is a spiritual threat to religious pluralism in that it does call for repentance from all false religion and faith in the one true God through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. But this single, true God of the Bible is a protection for religious pluralism because he forbids that his cause be advanced by the sword or by external coercion. Jesus said to Pilate, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world" (John 18:36). Christians are called to love our enemies and to suffer injustice rather than return evil for evil.

Therefore, true Christianity is both a threat and a support for religious pluralism. It is a spiritual threat, and a political support. True Christianity will not endorse ethnic cleansing against Muslims or pogroms against Jews or legalized hostilities against Hindus. True Christianity does not advance by the sword or the gun. It advances by proclamation and persuasion and prayer and love and by being persecuted, not persecuting.

We must make both of these clear:

1.   Our belief in one true God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ in history means that we do not count all religions equally true or equally saving. Christianity is a missionary faith, or it is false to its own foundations. That is one thing we must make clear. And this will be very costly. People will call this arrogant and presumptuous and offensive.

2.   So the other thing we must also make clear is that it is a loving thing to plead for people to know and trust the one and only living God through Jesus Christ. And the spread of our faith is not by violence or coercion. That would be self-defeating. No one is saved by a forced act. We spread our faith by proclamation, persuasion, prayer, and love.

Not three Gods, but One.  There is a third implication of Paul's words, "God is one," but we will leave it for another time in our study of the book of Romans, namely, that the deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit do not make Christians polytheists. We do not worship three Gods, but one God. The mystery of the Trinity is a stumbling block for Muslims and Hindus and Jews and secularists. It always has been and it always will be. But it is not surprising that the one true God would exist from all eternity in a way that pushes our little minds to the breaking point. More on that later. Suffice it to say now that the revelation of God through Jesus Christ is that Jesus is God, the Spirit is God, the Father is God and there is one God.

That is the first step in verse 30: God is one.

God Has One Way of Saving People

Now the second step is that this one God has one way of saving people; namely, justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 30: "...since indeed God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith, is one." The oneness of God is connected to the oneness of the way he makes people right with himself.

One way to say this would be that God threatens religious pluralism with the glorious freeness of grace. He comes to every world religion and every personal religiousness or irreligiousness and says, I offer you the good news that you may have forgiveness of your sins and be reconciled to your Creator and have everlasting life by grace alone through faith alone in my Son Jesus Christ. I have already acted in history to remove my wrath and to take away human guilt. If you will have it as your loved and trusted treasure, it is yours.

Now you can call that arrogance and presumption if you will. But a better name for it is love. Yes, it undermines religious pluralism the way antibiotics undermine the pluralism of bacterial diseases. The way vitamin C undermined the pluralistic symptoms of scurvy.

Christianity does not come to other religious systems and try to replace one way to work for God with another way to work for God. It comes with a declaration of amnesty. The one true God has made a truce at the cost of his Son's life. He offers pardon to every person freely and everlasting joy to those who will trust his Son.

2/16/2010 5:00:00 AM
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