Today we live in a pluralistic society where every viewpoint and opinion is valued and every voice deserves to be heard. Such thinking has taken hold in nearly every facet of Western civilization in the last decade, but it has especially become true in the area of religion. In our society today, every religion, like every culture, has become important in its own right. Just because a religion is in the minority does not mean that it is less important than another. Today in the eyes of many people, all religions are equally important, and no one religion has a right to enjoy a privileged status above all the others.
Many today reject the notion that one religion can be right and all others wrong. For them, everyone is right, and no one is wrong-unless it is the person who insists that he is right and that his religion alone is true. Then perhaps that person, because of his exclusivist and judgmental attitude toward other religions, would be viewed as being wrong. Anyone who would dare claim that Christianity alone is the only true, valid religion and that all the others-the Jewish faith, Islam or the Muslim faith, Hinduism, Shinto, Buddhism, and all the rest-are untrue and invalid would be chastised and rejected by many in our society today for being too narrow minded or judgmental.
Is One Religion Just as Good as Another?
And yet, would such an opinion be regarded as being "too narrow-minded or judgmental" if it were in the realm of medicine? If you were in a remote African village or somewhere in the jungles of South America and came upon a primitive tribe or culture, and you found a child sick with a fever and an illness or infection that you knew could only be cured with antibiotics, would you be an "exclusivist" or a "judgmental bigot" if you spoke up and insisted that the witch doctor or medicine man's treatment was invalid or wrong? Do you think that it would be "too narrow minded" if you spoke up and told the family that there was a cure for their child but that there was only one known cure? Should we regard all medical practices and treatments as valid and equal just because they have been around for centuries? Is one "cure" in medicine always just as good as another?
If this approach is not true in medicine, which concerns this life only, then why should we regard such an approach as being too narrow when applied to religion, which concerns not only this life but the next as well? And yet increasingly more and more people today would say that one religion is just as good as another. But there is something that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions today. For unlike all the other religions upon the face of the earth, Christianity has a savior.
Christianity Has a Savior
Just over two thousand years ago, a Child was born in the little town of Bethlehem. And this was no ordinary child. There was something special about Him. For you see, the Bible calls Him "a savior."
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own city to register.4So Joseph also went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to give birth, 7and she gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8And there were shepherds out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they became terribly afraid. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. For I bring you tidings of great joy that shall be for all the people. 11For today in the city of David a savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:1-11 my translation).
Jesus Christ Is the Only Savior
Unlike all the other religions of the world, Christianity is unique, for Christianity alone has a savior! There is no savior in the Jewish faith. While some conservative Jews today are still waiting for a messiah, most by now have given up on such an idea. There is no savior in Islam. The Qur'an never depicts Muhammad as being divine or sinless. He is not depicted as having laid down his life to save anyone from sin. There is no savior in Hinduism. There is no savior in the Shinto religion of Japan. There is no savior in Buddhism. Only in Christianity do we find a savior for mankind.
In fact the name Jesus means savior, or more literally "Yahweh is Salvation" (in Hebrew). When explaining the significance of this name to Joseph, the angel declared, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Unlike all the other religions of the world, Christianity stands out because it alone has a savior.
Without Christ, No One Can Be Saved!
Not only does Christianity differ from all the other religions in the world in that it alone has a savior, but the Bible affirms that He is the only savior. In 1 Timothy 2:3-6, Paul assured his young protege that God wants all men to be saved, but that this salvation can only come about through the "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all men." And before the great Sanhedrin, Peter declared that "There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved! Christianity not only has a savior named Jesus Christ, but He is the only savior. There is no other hope for the world. There is no other name. There is no other savior.
Why Can't Someone Else Save Us?
The Bible teaches that "the wages of sin are death" (Romans 6:23) and that all of us have sinned (Romans 3:9-10, 23). Therefore, all of us deserve to die, not just physically but spiritually in being separated from God, the giver of all life. We cannot escape this inevitability, unless someone else dies in our place, not just physically (for we shall all die physically, barring the Second Coming in our lifetime), but spiritually.
This explains why there is no savior today in Judaism. Long ago the Jews rejected Jesus Christ as their savior. And so, as Jesus warned them in John 8:24, unless they repent and accept Jesus, all of them today will have to "die in their sins." Since they have refused Jesus and his offer, they must pay the penalty for their own sins.
There can be no savior in Islam, for the Qur'an nowhere claims that Muhammad the prophet was sinless or that he died to save you, me, or anyone else. But more importantly, Muhammad could not die for your sins or mine, because like all men (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10) he sinned. And since he had sinned, any death that he suffered could only be regarded as a penalty for his own sins.
There is no savior in Buddhism. Now there really was a man called Buddha. His real name in fact was Siddh?rtha Gautama, and he lived about 563-483 B.C. (the name Buddha means "Enlightened One"). As far as we know, Gautama the Buddha never claimed to be a savior. He was just a mere man. And as a man he sinned, so that any death which he suffered can only be reckoned as penalty for his own sins.
But the Bible affirms in several places that Jesus Christ lived an entirely sinless life (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22, 24; 1 John 3:5; this was even predicted in Isaiah 53:9). Every other person that has ever lived has at some point sinned and turned away from God, with the sole exception of Jesus. He alone has lived a perfect life.
And this is why only His death on the cross can be applied to you and me. For Jesus did not deserve the death that He died, since He had never sinned. Therefore, His death is available to be applied to our account before God. He can die in our place. For "God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, in order that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus Is the Only Way to the Father
In John 14:16, Jesus warned, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." I can remember hearing someone object once, saying that this statement sounds pretty arrogant: "Jesus is the only Way? the only Truth the only Life?"
But does such a warning really reflect arrogance? Think back to September 11, 2001, and the horrific events of that day. Do you recall hearing that no one on the ninety-second floor or above escaped from the first of the twin towers of the World Trade Center to fall? There was simply not enough time. If you were on the ninety-second floor that day, you would have no chance of making it out alive. Can you imagine the confusion that there must have been, as smoke started to fill the rooms and everyone began to panic? Some were yelling that it is safe to take this elevator, but others warned of the fire further down and so insisted on another elevator instead. And then there were those who encouraged others to follow them down the stairs, stairs that were overcrowded with people in panic.
But then all of a sudden-let us just suppose-you see the figure of a man outside of a window in the building, high up on your floor. Obviously he is on a ladder, an unbelievably long ladder. And as he comes crashing through the window with his axe, you immediately recognize the unmistakable helmet and the heavy, protective coat. He is a fireman, and he is coming to rescue you. You can almost make out his face through the smoke when you hear him say, "Everyone who wants to be saved must follow me."
Would you think that he was being arrogant? In the midst of all the confusion, where one person is yelling to take this elevator, and another person is telling you to take that elevator or to exit down this stairway, what right does fireman have to speak so confidently and so exclusively, and to insist that there is only one way of escape? Should he not at least have the humility to acknowledge that there may be other escape routes just as valid as the one that he has provided?
Let Us Be Humble But Honest
The Bible teaches that Jesus alone has come from God to the Earth (John 1:14, 18). Like the fireman, only He is in a position to know for certain how any of us can be saved. Yes, we should respect the customs and the differences of every culture in the world today. Each nation should cherish its own unique heritage. But just as we would not value equally every custom and practice in the realm of medicine, so we must not let the modernists among us force the church to acknowledge as valid every custom and practice in the realm of religion.
Just over two thousand years ago, a Savior was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. As the world is reminded of this great event at this season, let us humbly be honest with our religious friends and neighbors, even if they see us as being very narrow-minded: There is only one Savior! Christianity is thus the only true religion, and Jesus established only one church.