Jesus: The ONLY Way
Many people, including both those who are born-again Christian believers and those who are not, can quote from memory the unarguably most well-known verse from the Holy Bible:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Much less well-known is this verse:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)
John 3:16 is conciliatory in tone: it speaks of God’s love for the world, the giving of His Son, and eternal life, but in comparison John 3:18 is strident in tone: it flatly states that those who do not believe in Jesus are condemned because of their unbelief. These two verses share a close physical proximity to each other… how can the tone change so abruptly? As sure as many are encouraged by John 3:16, many more are discouraged by John 3:18: indeed, what about those who are not born-again Christians, but rather Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Confucians, Hindus, Shintoists, agnostics, atheists or even other Christians that are not born-again?
As is the case with most, if not all, of Holy Scripture, “text without context is pretext”, which I interpret to mean “words, without surrounding words to reveal their true meaning, are just a mask for their true meaning”. A more concise way of saying the same thing is that a statement, more times than not, cannot be understood solely on its “face value”.
So let’s take a step back, and look at the verse between John 3:16 and John 3:18:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
Right away, it is evident that what God had planned to do was not to condemn anyone, but rather to save everyone.
In order to properly understand what God has offered the world in the gift of His Son, it is necessary to understand what brought about necessity for that gift. After the Fall, Adam and Eve were in a corrupted state, not only knowing good, but knowing evil as well, having deliberately chosen to usurp the divine privilege and have all of the knowledge of God without His perfection. The consequence of Adam and Eve having entered this state of corruption was bad enough, but both God and the evil one who had attempted to utterly destroy His supreme creation of mankind knew that this consequence was not the worst: something God had planned for so that His perfect plan of redemption could go forward:
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22)
To prevent Adam and Eve from living forever in their fallen state (from which they would never have been able to be redeemed), they were driven out of the Garden of Eden… and so original sin, with its consequences of suffering and death, entered the world.
Since the time of the Fall, humanity has never been able to be redeemed from original sin and its consequences as a result of its own efforts, no matter how noble their intent. All one has to do is take a look around oneself to understand what a mess humanity has made of the world it lives in, and its entire history since the Fall has been liberally sprinkled with hate, disagreement, selfishness, strife, and all manner of conflict, genocide and war. Even the Mosaic Law could not turn humanity away from the error of its ways, even though God intentioned it for good. Read and understand why humanity cannot change:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
EVERYONE STANDS CONDEMNED BEFORE A HOLY, JUST, RIGHTEOUS GOD
From before the world was, God knew that no human effort, and no law, even the Mosaic Law, would be able to redeem sinful humanity… something that God had long planned for would be required:
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
For God to forgive our wickedness, and to remember our wickedness no longer, demanded more than the ‘letter of the law’. Absolutely nothing that we could offer would be able to satisfy God’s righteous wrath against a sinful and rebellious humanity, nothing… what, then, would be this ‘new covenant’ spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah, that would be His law in people’s minds and His law in people’s hearts, that would both satisfy God’s wrath against His enemies and deliver humanity from original sin, suffering and death?
In sinning against God, we became God’s enemies; the Apostle Paul spoke of this:
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:18)
Our transgressions of God’s commandments, and our sins against Him, are so egregious that any sacrifice to atone for them in the eyes of a just, pure, holy and righteous God must be a perfect sacrifice. Even though it was practiced by the Israelites, animal sacrifice and blood could not satisfy God’s wrath:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4)
And yet, Holy Scripture is adamant about the necessity of blood for cleansing:
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:16-22)
Holy Scripture is poignant regarding the ‘perfect sacrifice’:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5-10)
Jesus Christ alone was the perfect sacrifice. God Himself had to lay down His life, God Himself had to bleed and die on Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty of death for a sinful humanity.
This is what the blood of Christ accomplishes for those who believe in His Name… and note that it is for Jew and Gentile alike:
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the LORD. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22)
Our sin is great, but God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is greater still… and it is to be respected:
For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:2-3)
The warning is final, and it is sober:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The LORD will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)
Jesus Christ Himself testified as to the death He would willingly die for humanity:
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:23-33)
When Jesus said that He would draw all men to Himself… that is precisely what He meant. Not some men, not white men, not black men, not rich men, not poor men… ALL MEN. This is why He could say:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
If humanity desires to know what the work of God truly is, Holy Scripture is clear:
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)
In the context of the supporting Scriptures, John 3:18 emerges as not strident, but as justified: there is a rationale that cannot be countered because Holy Scripture supports it at every turn.
Jesus Christ was uniquely identified as the Messiah by no less than 365 prophecies from the Old Testament. The chances of all of these prophecies being fulfilled in one man represents a number that hasn’t yet been named because of the infinite number of zeroes that would be required. To see these prophecies and their fullfillments, read this.
There are countless people in this lost and dying world that will not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Jesus Christ is who He said He was… the Son of God. If you require proof, read this.
LORD Jesus Christ, Your Name be glorified!!