John 3.17-19, 36 – Christ as the only way to salvation
Posted: 14 December 2011 in John

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil…..  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John 16.4 is perhaps the most famous example, but the Bible says more than once that nobody can come to God, except through Christ. Here it is again. Of course that makes Christianity unfashionably exclusivist, but if Christians are to take the Bible at all seriously, they have no option to accept what it says. In the light of biblical revelation, universalism is untenable. Another passage fatal to universalism is Matt 7.13-14, which could hardly say more clearly that not all will be saved:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

What perhaps makes John 3.17-19 different from (say) Acts 4.12 is that it gives a reason for the exclusiveness. It is needless to say that the authority of the Bible would still be absolute, even if no reason were given. We are not to question God, his righteousness, or his word. Nevertheless, on this occasion we are given a reason. Jesus is God Incarnate, so to reject him is implicitly to reject God. The reason for the rejection typically being that men are too wedded to their own deeds, and perhaps also arrogance, to care too much for God’s rule over them. The foolishness of such an attitude could hardly escape people’s notice, if God exists, so there is here one of the motives for atheism. Not the only possible motive, but one of them. You only have to listen to the new atheists to know that it is a motive which applies to many of them.

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