ISN'T THERE SOME OTHER WAY?
Recently at the University of Texas a graduate student approached me and asked, "Why is Jesus the only way to a relationship with God?" I had shown that Jesus claimed to be the only way to God, that the testimony of the Scriptures and the apostles was reliable, and that there was sufficient evidence to warrant faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Yet he had the question, "Why Jesus? Isn't there some other way to a relationship with God? What about Buddha? Mohammed? Can't an individual simply live a good life? If God is such a loving God, then wouldn't he accept all people just the way they are?"
A businessman said to me, "Evidently you have proven that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Aren't there other ways also to a relationship with God apart from Jesus?"
The above comments are indicative of many people's questions today about why one has to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord in order to have a relationship with God and experience the forgiveness of sin. I answered the student by saying that many people don't understand the nature of God. Usually the question is "How can a loving God allow a sinful individual to go to hell?" I would ask, "How can a holy, just, righteous God allow a sinful individual into his presence?" A misunderstanding of the basic nature and character of God has been the cause of so many theological and ethical problems. Most people understand God to be a loving God and they don't go any further. The problem is that God is not only a God of love. He is also a righteous, just and holy God.
We basically know God through his attributes. An attribute is not a part of God. I used to think that if I took all the attributes of God - holiness, love, justice, righteousness - and added them up, the sum total would equal God. Well, that's not true. An attribute isn't something that is a part of God but something that is true of God. For example, when we say God is love, we don't mean that a part of God is love, but that love is something that is true of God. When God loves he is simply being himself.
Here is a problem that developed as a result of humanity entering into sin. God in eternity past decided to create man and woman. Basically I believe that the Bible indicates he created man and woman in order to share his love and glory with them. But when Adam and Eve rebelled and went their own individual ways, sin entered the human race. At that point individuals became sinful or separated from God. This is the "predicament" that God found himself in. He created men and women to share his glory with them, yet they spurned his counsel and command and chose to sin. And so he approached them with his love to save them. But because he is not only a loving God, but a holy, just, righteous God, his very nature would destroy any sinful individual. The Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death." So, you might say, God had a problem.
Within the Godhead - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit - a decision was made. Jesus, God the Son, would take upon himself human flesh. He would become the God-man. This is described in John 1 where it says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled or dwelt among us. And also in Philippians 2 where it says that Christ Jesus emptied himself and took on the form of a man.
Jesus was the God-man. He was just as much man as if he had never been God and just as much God as if he had never been man. By his own choice he lived a sinless life, wholly obeying the Father. The biblical declaration that "the wages of sin is death" did not apply to him. Because he was not only finite man but infinite God, he had the infinite capacity to take upon himself the sins of the world. When he went to the cross almost 2000 years ago, a holy, just, righteous God poured out his wrath upon his Son. And when Jesus said, "It is finished," the just, righteous nature of God was satisfied. You could say that at that point God was "set free" to deal with humanity in love without having to destroy a sinful individual, because through Jesus' death on the cross, God's righteous nature was satisfied.
Often I ask people the question, "For whom did Jesus die?" and usually the reply, "For me" or "For the world." And I'll say, "Yes, that's right, but for whom else did Jesus die?" and usually they'll say, "Why, I don't know." I reply, "For God the Father." You see, Christ not only died for us but he also died for the Father. This is described in Romans 3 where it talks about propitiation. Propitiation basically means satisfaction of a requirement. And when Jesus died on the cross, he not only died for us but he died to meet the holy and just requirements of the basic nature of God.
An incident that took place several years ago in California illuminates what Jesus did on the cross in order to solve the problem God had in dealing with the sin of humanity. A young woman was picked up for speeding. She was ticketed and taken before the judge. The judge read off the citation and said, "Guilty or not guilty?" The woman replied, "Guilty." The judge brought down the gavel and fined her $100 or ten days. Then an amazing thing took place. The judge stood up, took off his robe, walked down around in front, took out his billfold, and paid the fine. What's the explanation of this? The judge was her father. He loved his daughter, yet he was a just judge. His daughter had broken the law and he couldn't simply say to her, "Because I love you so much, I forgive you. You may leave." If he had done that, he wouldn't have been a righteous judge. He wouldn't have upheld the law. But he loved his daughter so much that he was willing to take off his judicial robe and come down in front and represent her as her father and pay the fine.
This illustration pictures to some extent what God did for us through Jesus Christ. We sinned. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death." No matter how much he loved us, God had to bring down the gavel and say death, because he is a righteous and just God. And yet, being a loving God, he loved us so much that he was willing to come down off the throne in the form of the man Christ Jesus and pay the price for us, which was Christ's death on the cross.
At this point many people ask the question, "Why couldn't God just forgive?" An executive of a large corporation said, "My employees often do something, break something, and I just forgive them." Then he added, "Are you trying to tell me I can do something that God can't do?" People fail to realize that wherever there is forgiveness there's a payment. For example, let's say my daughter breaks a lamp in my home. I'm a loving and forgiving father, so I put her on my lap, and I hug her and I say, "Don't cry, honey. Daddy love you and forgives you." Now usually the person I tell that story to says, "Well, that's what God ought to do." Then I ask the question, "Who pays for the lamp?" The fact is, I do. There's always a price in forgiveness. Let's say somebody insults you in front of others and later you graciously say "I forgive you." Who bears the price of the insult? You do.
This is what God has done. God has said, "I forgive you." But he was willing to pay the price himself through the cross.
- Josh McDowell, "More Than A Carpenter" Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (1977) p. 111-116.
Presented by Trinity Consulting