Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:1-14)
Kevin P. Larson,
“Whatever, dude!” That, my friends, is no doubt the mantra of my generation and younger. Back in around 1996, I was in between things, and I was doing some substitute teaching for middle schools down in
But it also just expresses overall uncertainty. I tell you, “Yoga does wonders,” and you say, “Whatever.” In other words, if that works for me, then fine. But that isn’t necessarily true for you. And who can know what is true anyhow?
This, of course, gets applied to religion as much as anything. If one of us says, “Jesus is God. He is the Savior. You need Him,” we get, “Whatever, dude.” It might be disrespect. It might be uncertainty, reflecting an overall relativistic, postmodern mindset. It might be all the above. It reveals an overall attitude toward truth claims in our age. To claim that something is absolutely true and absolutely demands a response isn’t cool today. “Whatever, dude” is what you get.
Tony Dungy, who led his Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory this past February, got the “whatever” reaction shortly thereafter. Dungy, following the game, made this comment: “Lovie Smith and I [are] not only the first two African Americans, but Christian coaches showing that you can win doing it the Lord’s way.” Here’s what Jonathan Zimmerman of the Philadelphia Inquirer said in response:
Huh? Weren't any prior Super Bowl coaches Christian? I'm troubled by the implication that Dungy's version of Christianity is the only "real" or legitimate one. Christians are every bit as diverse as
In other words, the writer said, “Whatever, dude.” You say there’s a “way.” Who’s to say your way is better or right? African-American head coach or not, how dare you?
Today, we continue our series on the “I AM” sayings of Jesus. Christ says something here, in John 14:1-14 that is more politically incorrect, the basis for the comments by Tony Dungy. Let’s listen to the passage and begin with prayer.
John 14:1 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Several times in the book of John, Jesus uses the key phrase “I AM” to refer to Himself. If you’ve been following through this series, you’ve heard me say numerous times that sometimes it’s used in an absolute sense. It stands alone, as in John 8:58. There Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” and He about gets stoned by the Pharisees. They were mad, because Jesus was using the covenant name of God, Yahweh or ego eimi, and He was applying it to Himself. These absolute statements are claims about His identity. He is God.
Other times, however, the phrase is used with a predicate. These say something about Christ’s role with mankind. We’ve seen how He is the “bread of life,” the “light of the world,” the “good shepherd,” the “resurrection and the life,” and here, the “way, the truth, and the life.” I want to look at those last few words in detail this morning. But before, let’s examine the context.
First, notice in verses 1-4 that Jesus will take us to heaven. It reads, once again:
John 14:1 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going."
The disciples are getting nervous. People are increasingly getting mad at Jesus. Their leader is talking about leaving them pretty soon to who knows where. He tells Peter at the end of chapter 13 that he is about to betray Him. The whole group was probably thinking, “Hey, if Peter, our leader, is going to do that, what’s going to happen to us?” “Where is Jesus going?” “Are we all going to get killed?” “What’s going on?” They’re freaking out.
Jesus, as He’s about to go to the cross, doesn’t think about Himself and His troubles. He thinks about them. He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” And why? He says, “I’m going to heaven to make a place for you.”
In other words, He’s saying, “It’s better for me to go. If I don’t go, you won’t get to come there with me.” Of course, as Christians, we believe that “heaven” is a temporary abode for us. That throne of Jesus will come down to the earth, as He recreates all things, and we’ll be with Him there. But, among the wonderful things Jesus is doing right now at the right hand of the Father, He is preparing a place for us to go until that last day. When we die, we’ll go to be in that place. So, Christian, as you struggle in this world, as you face danger, as your heart is “troubled,” take solace in Christ’s words here.
Second, see in verses 7 through 11 that Jesus is God in the flesh. Look at that again:
John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, just by using the words “I am,” Jesus is saying He’s God, but here He even gets more explicit. Phillip asks to see God. Like Moses before Him, in the Old Testament, in Exodus 33:18, He says, “Please show me your glory.” Moses, however, only got to see the back of God. Jesus is telling Phillip, “Hey, you’re looking in the face of God right now!”
We see this at the beginning of John’s gospel. In John 1:14, the apostle says this, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In other words, in Jesus, people saw what Moses didn’t see—God’s glory. Look at verse 18. It reads, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.”
We see also here the complete unity of the Father and the Son. In verse 10, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” There is one God. But we also see that there are three, or here, two, persons. The Father and the Son here are distinct. The Father is working through Him now. Christ is going to go to the Father soon. We have one God here in three, distinct, equal persons. So, see Jesus, and see the glory of God, here in John 14, and worship. But you might say, the disciples saw Jesus is in the flesh, but I don’t. In John 16:7, our Lord says this: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Did you hear that? It was to their advantage, and ours, that He ascended to heaven.
Why? We have the Spirit of Christ living in us! Rejoice and worship Him!
Third, see that Jesus will work through us. Jesus tells the disciples, in verse 11, if you don’t believe what I say, at least look at my works, and then believe. He then encourages the disciples by saying this in verses 12 and 13:
John 14:12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Now, as we have read the gospel of John, we have seen some pretty incredible things. So it’s a bit wacky to try to think that we’re going to top raising the dead and healing men born blind and the like. Christ must mean something else.
We have to understand it in terms of the Bible’s storyline. They were standing on the other side of the cross and resurrection. The Spirit had not been poured out yet. The kingdom had not been inaugurated. Jesus is saying, “Hey, you think this stuff is great! Wait until my Spirit comes, until the New Covenant promises are fulfilled. Then you’ll see amazing things!” Jesus says this will happen “because I am going to the Father.” His ascension, and the events that happened before, would lead to amazing things.
Sure greater numbers came in after Jesus had gone to be with the Father. That’s part of it. But there was also a great power that came, the Holy Spirit. That Spirit would draw unbelievers and dwell in believers. And there was a great message that came. The gospel of Jesus living and dying for us hadn’t been fulfilled yet. Now we have the gospel and we have the Spirit. God has done amazing things through His people. He will do that now. So be encouraged as we minister here in the District. God will do great things through us!
Now let’s get to the meat of the text, if that wasn’t meaty enough for you. After Christ talks about heaven in verses 1 through 3, He says, in verse 4, “And you know the way to where I am going.” Phillip, I’m sure, looks at Him with this baffled look on his face, and says something like this: “Jesus, we have no idea what or where you’re talking about. How are we supposed to know how to get there?” Hear Christ’s answer again in verse 6: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In other words, He says, you know the way because the way is me. It’s not a route. It’s not something you find on google maps. It’s a person. It’s me, Jesus Christ.
Our Lord says He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Notice something really important about this. Jesus doesn’t just say he’s the source of those things. He is those things. Think about that for a second. Jesus isn’t like some drug dealer. Come to Him, and He’ll hook you up. He is the stuff Himself. He is the drug.
If you want the “way, truth, life,” don’t just come to Him thinking He’ll show you where they are. He is not just their source. He is the embodiment of these things.
We saw in John 10 Jesus call Himself the “gate.” Here we get the same idea. He is the “way.” You want to get to the Father, you gotta go through Him. He is the entryway to a relationship with God. This past week, my family and I went to visit
Jesus says He is the “truth.” Sure, Jesus taught truth. We spent months looking at the Sermon on the Mount and it was amazing. We have heard His words here. But He’s not just the source of truth. He’s the embodiment of the truth. We think of our Bibles here as the truth. They were the word inscripturated. But John 1:14 says the “word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Our Lord Jesus is the word incarnated. He is the embodiment of God’s truth. He is the final, definitive expression of the truth of God.
And Christ says He is the “life.” Again, He’s not just the source of life. You don’t just come to Him, and He tells you where to plug your life into, like a wall socket, and you’ve got life. He is life in Himself. He is the wall socket. In chapter 5 and verse 26, Christ says, “As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” We saw already, in John 11:25, where Christ says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The same apostle writes in His epistle, 1 John, in verse 20 of chapter 5, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” Jesus is the life. You want life? You must be in relationship with Jesus.
Now this distinction between Jesus being the source of these things and the embodiment of these things is very important. This is because many religions are happy to call Jesus a great prophet or teacher, one who can point you to the way and the truth and the life. But those same religions won’t call Jesus God. They won’t call Him the way and the truth and the life. This is huge. Jesus taught these things, but He wasn’t just a teacher. He is God in the flesh!
So the question Phillip asks, Jesus answers. Phillip says, “How can we find the way?” Jesus says, “You know the way. I’m Him.” And He throws in that He’s also the “truth and the life.” Because He is the “truth” of God and because He’s the “life” of God, He can truly be called the “way” to God.
So this is what our Lord says. If you want these things, which most in our culture would say they want, the way to God, the truth about God, the life of God, there’s one source and one alone. It’s Jesus. This is similar to what the apostle Peter said to Jewish leaders in Acts 4:12. He said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Now, brothers and sisters, can you think of anything more politically incorrect, and more controversial, to say today? But this is what the Bible says. I want to spend now talking about a bit about the climate in our culture and in the church toward these truths. Then I will talk a bit about a response.
First, take the idea that Jesus is the “way.” Obviously, in our culture, that idea isn’t popular. Philosophically speaking, our society has embraced what could be called “pluralism.” In other words, there are plural, equally valid or true, ways to God. We heard that in the article written about Tony Dungy. The author said, again, “There are many different ways to follow the Lord, and Dungy's isn't any better than yours. Or than mine.” Obviously this has become popular today.
But this has also invaded the church. Many people who say they believe the Bible, who would call themselves “evangelicals,” have embraced what some have called “inclusivism.” This is pluralism with a Christian spin on it. This is saying that there can be many ways to God, but they all come through Jesus. This tries to embrace the fact that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” while saying that one doesn’t have to know that to be saved. In other words, all people will be saved by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but they may not necessarily profess conscious faith in Him.
Second, take the thought that Jesus is the “truth.” We’re in an age that is called, philosophically speaking again, postmodernism. Postmodernism has a big problem with absolute truths of any kind. It goes by relativism, that truth is relative to the individual. It’s perspectival. The postmodern mindset has a particular problem with what could be called metanarratives. These are big stories that define reality. In other words, that God created all things to be ruled over by Jesus—that’s not cool, you could say.
Well, some in the church have tried to create churches that cater to postmoderns. No longer are there sermons. Instead, there are conversations. Longstanding truths of the church have been called into question. For example, the doctrine of hell has been denied or called into question. Homosexuality has been affirmed. Statements calling Christ the way would be disavowed. This is troubling, to say the least. It’s a church that affirms all the bad of postmodernism.
Third, take the idea that Jesus is the “life.” We don’t need to camp much here. Every where we look, we see people seeking for life in all the wrong places. Turn on Oprah, and there’s a different false source of life every day. This should grieve us. It should give us a heart to share Jesus. But this, too, is in the church. Maybe we’re looking in counseling books or in marriage seminars for techniques. Maybe it’s the next, ecstatic, spiritual experience. It could be a whole host of things. But, so often, in the church today, we move away from God’s word—the Bible and Jesus—and we head for other sources of “life.” And this brings much harm.
Well, then, how should we respond to this? I want to give you several lines of response now that I think you’ll find helpful. Skeptic, hear these and embrace the truth about Jesus. Christian, use these to engage the same. Here we go.
First, let’s respond to this looking at the Bible’s texts. Let’s answer this from the field of biblical studies where we look at the books of the Bible, in their original languages, and discern the intended meanings of the various authors. Now, I’ve already shown you two, that are as clear as a bell, John 14:6, today’s text, as well as Acts 4:12, which again says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Now this line of response obviously only “works” for someone who gives some credence at all to the authority of the Bible. But, as we know, someone can “prove” almost any theory through the Bible or any other text book for that matter. People that hold to inclusivism, as I’ve mentioned already, would say that both of those passages don’t say that the person has to actually consciously profess faith in Christ. They just say that one can only be saved through Christ. Well, let’s take Acts 4:12. The fact that it says “there is no other name under heaven… by which we must be saved” surely implies that one who is saved has to understand and profess that name, right?
But let’s also remember the context. There Peter is talking to Jewish leaders that don’t want to hear his message. He tells them they have rejected Jesus who is the point of everything. Does it at all make sense for Peter to risk his life to tell these people about Jesus if they don’t even have to profess faith consciously in the first place? Can you picture Peter saying all of this, and then suddenly saying, “Whatever, dude. Whatever truth works for you that’s o.k.” Absurd.
But the same people argue that some passages actually teach this idea of inclusivism. Let me give you one example. They will appeal to creation, saying that by looking at the creation, one can be saved by God apart from Christ. Look at Romans 1:18-21 with me. This is a passage appealed to by inclusivists to teach this idea that God can save people through their view of creation or through what theologians call general revelation—God’s revelation to all people at all times in all places.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Notice here: the text says the exact opposite! It doesn’t say anywhere that looking at creation can save someone. It only says that doing so can damn someone. It says that, because of His creation, people are held responsible. “They are without excuse.” That’s all general revelation can do. Biblically, people need something beyond general revelation. They need special revelation—God’s word about Jesus, His gospel. People can do violence to Scripture to try to justify their heresy, but it just won’t work. Other examples of interpretive gymnastics could also be given that won’t fly. And we have the positive, explicit texts like John 14:6 that we’ve seen today.
But, again, giving a Bible verse or proof text isn’t always the best approach. Second, let’s respond to this looking at the Bible’s story. In other words, let’s respond to these ideas using the discipline of biblical theology or the story of the Bible. Now that sounds really complicated, but let me make it really simple. Games have rules. For example, I love basketball. I could see a game going on, and I could run out and steal the ball and run like mad toward the basket, without dribbling, and throw it in the hoop. I could then begin playing defense and start tackling people all over the court. But those aren’t the rules of the game. People would look at me as if I’m crazy, and they’d throw me off the court. Now the Bible has rules, as well. No, it’s not exactly a game. But it is an overall story that doesn’t allow you to just read it anyway you wish.
In other words, take this idea, that seeing Jesus as the “way, the truth, and the life” doesn’t really matter, and see if it fits with the big story.
Think of a man named Uzzah. In 2 Samuel 6, he is helping carry the ark on a cart. The ark starts to fall as the oxen start to stumble. Uzzah sticks out his hand to steady the ark, and God strikes him dead, as he wasn’t supposed to touch the thing. Now picture yourself standing there with David and his buddies. Are any of them going to think, “Whatever, dude. However and whomever you worship, it’s no big deal. Whatever.”
Or take Solomon, the son of David. He married wild, foreign women and started worshipping their gods. The Lord warned him about this, but he didn’t listen. So He was judged. In 1 Kings 11, God tells Him the kingdom would be jacked up because of this, and it comes to pass. Now can anyone seriously read this passage and come to the conclusion that “whatever you choose to worship is cool with God?” That’s crazy.
Or go back beyond both to Moses. As God is bringing down the plagues on the Egyptians, taking out one of their false Gods with each one, any way anyone there was thinking, “It doesn’t really matter whom I worship but rather that I worship.” Or, when Moses came down from the mountain and saw the Jews worshipping a golden calf that his brother Aaron helped them make, did he say, “Whatever, dudes. If that calf works for you, then great?” No, he went ballistic! Throughout the Old Testament, you see the truth over and over again that there is only one God and that God must be worshipped alone.
And this gets focused on Jesus in the New Testament. Think of Paul, in Acts 17, standing on Mars Hill, debating the polytheistic Athenians. He explains to them that there is one true God that they must worship. If we walked up to Paul, or any of his listeners there, for that matter, and said, “If Buddha works for me, is that cool?” we would get blank stares, and the exclamation, “You’re not getting it, buddy.” “Whatever, dude,” won’t cut it. My point? As we look at the Bible’s story, or its rules, if you will, the idea that there are plural ways to God or every person’s version of truth is equally valid, is nonsensical. It just doesn’t work.
Third, and similarily, let’s consider the Bible’s products. Or, in other words, let’s look at the study of church history. I won’t spend much time on this. Imagine William Carey, known as the Father of modern missions, being interviewed on the field, back in the 17 and 1800s, asked if it was that big of a deal that people saw Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life.” He would look at you, perhaps, and say, “You fool. Why would I be here risking my life? My wife just died. My son died previously. Why would I be here if Hinduism was equally valid?”
Or take modern day martyrs, today’s history-makers. Did you hear about the three men who were killed in
They won a man to Christ named Mohammed who has already been beaten and who has had multiple threats on his life. Did those men die in vain? If Jesus is not the unique and only Savior, why should Mohammed bother?
Fourth, let’s consider the line of ministry. Or, let’s take practical theology. How do these teachings get played out in practice? Let me say two brief things about that. The Bible first commands Christians numerous times to spread the gospel of Christ to all nations of the earth. If there are plural ways to God, why would this be necessary? Why would we practice foreign missions at all?
In fact, would not missionary service be even harmful? What do I mean? Well, if someone can be worshipping through the creation the sun god or something, and is doing some good deeds as a result, and he’s ok as far as God is concerned, would not taking the gospel to him be a disservice? In other words, before He is saved by worshipping in his own way. You show up and share the gospel, and He laughs, and suddenly He’s going to hell.
Let me take this another direction. There are two extremes we want to avoid when we consider engaging the culture around us. One extreme might be called sectarianism. We get in our bubble, separate from the culture, and have no contact with anybody. Another extreme could be called syncretism. We get so close to the culture that we get intertwined with it and look just like it. The key for us in ministry is to stay somewhere in the middle, contextualizing the gospel but not losing it in the process. This postmodern conception of the church faults on the side of syncretism. In an effort to minister to the world, it becomes the world.
Let me say something, though, about this before I move on. The solution isn’t to go back to modernism. If postmodernism denies anyone can know anything absolute about God, modernism, which came before, said anyone could know everything apart from God. I was reading an article by Mark Driscoll this week, in the 9 Marks Newsletter, where he says this:
That doesn’t mean that we are pure modernists who believe that everything is clear as a bell. Paul says that we see in part and we know in part. Deuteronomy says the secret things belong to the Lord. Isaiah says that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts. The difference is not that we don’t know, it’s that we don’t know apart from faith. That’s our epistemology. We’re not modern or postmodern, we’re Christian! We believe that God reveals, the Holy Spirit illumines, and by faith we believe. That’s a Christian epistemology.
Fifth, let’s consider the line of doctrine. Or, let’s think of this in terms of systematic theology. In biblical theology, as I mentioned before, we look at the storyline of the Bible. In systematics, we look at the Bible in terms of topics. We say, “What does the Bible teach about Jesus?” We then pull together all the relevant passages and draw overarching conclusions.
When we do this, we see that Jesus is the Savior and Lord of the universe due to His life, death, and resurrection. One can only be saved through faith in Him. One can’t look at the Bible’s comprehensive teaching about Jesus and then say, “Whatever, dude, works for you is cool with God.”
Sixth, let’s take on this climate at the worldview level. In other words, let’s look at it in terms of the discipline of biblical apologetics, or defending the Christian faith as expressed in Scripture. Now one classical approach to defending the faith might go like this: we show people why the Bible is reliable and then we encourage people to then embrace Jesus’s words. I don’t think, however, this is the best approach. Better than that, we presuppose that the Bible is true. We see it as a comprehensive worldview that explains all reality, then we encourage other people to investigate their worldviews to see if they match up.
Let me give you an example. Ok, sir, you think that “whatever” is ok, that all truths are equally valid. Explain to me, then, why what the college student did at Virginia Tech was wrong. Or maybe explain to me why the NeoNazis that marched downtown recently are wrong. You said each can choose his own way. Truth is determined by the individual, right?
They will likely say something like, “Well, everyone knows that such hatred is wrong. People are worth something. We should treat each other well. All religions teach that.” You could first respond by saying, “All religions teach that? Could you show me?” You won’t likely get an answer. You could then second say, “How does your view of the world support those claims, that people have dignity and deserve respect?” If you think the concept of God is stupid, then Darwinian evolution certainly won’t get you there. Or, from a consistent, relativistic, postmodern worldview, there’s no reason to think that claim is any better than the opposite. The only way you get there is through the use of borrowed capital.
Now, if I decide to start a bulldozing business, for example, and I have no money to buy stuff to do the work, I might call Scott and ask him if I can use his big toys. I start my business, and I start making money, but the only reason I’m bringing in any cash is because I’m using Scott’s stuff. I’m living off of borrowed capital.
People all around us say things like, “We all have dignity and deserve respect,” and they’re getting that from our worldview. They borrow that from us!
The God that said Jesus was the “way, the truth, and the life” said those things. My point is this: if we say that there are many ways to God and that truth is relative, we run into problems. And the only way we get out of those problems is by appealing to the Christian worldview!
Seventh, and lastly, let me turn to morality. We could call this the discipline of biblical ethics. Let’s talk about love and humility. Speaking first of love, we have to argue, from a biblical perspective, that it’s loving to share Jesus as the “way, truth, and life.” People regularly today choose to call Christians hate-mongers. Now often times, this is an accurate accusation, as some professing believers are pretty hateful. But overall, the idea of just saying that Jesus alone saves gets skewed as hate speech. But, if we truly believe that people apart from Christ do suffer eternal punishment, it’s the only loving thing to do to teach them that Jesus is the only escape.
Let’s take humility. Those that hold out for absolute truth today also often get accused of being arrogant. What right do you have, they say, to claim you know the only way to God? But the great author G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, turns that idea on its head. He writes:
What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it's practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. (Orthodoxy [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1957], pp. 31-32)
Is it really arrogant to humbly submit to what the Bible teaches? On the contrary, maybe it’s the other guy that’s being arrogant. I read on our recent vacation this fine book by Rick McKinley called Jesus in the Margins. In this book, he quotes from a letter from a man that says this:
Why am I here? I guess that’s the question I’m waiting for someone to answer. I don’t want to create my own existential reality. That would only be kidding myself. Who am I to create my own meaning? I can hardly get to work on time (McKinley, 16).
To stand in judgment of the greatest book of the greatest religion in world history sounds pretty arrogant to me. What we need, brothers and sisters, is what Josh Harris has called a “humble orthodoxy.” We humbly submit to God and His word. We interact with people who disagree with humility and grace. We learn from others and gladly take correction with needed. But we know there is a place for conviction and persuasion. So we stand for the orthodox faith, but we do it humbly.
The question we’re trying to deal with, in all of these lines of response, is this: What do we do about the man on the island that has never heard?
The texts of the Bible teach that He needs to know and love Jesus. The storyline of the Bible says that Jesus alone must be worshipped. Church history shows that the man must be reached. Christian ministry, our missions calling, exists to reach him and change him. Our core beliefs, mainly about who Jesus is, show us he must embrace Jesus. Our cogent, cohesive, comprehensive worldview teaches this. Biblical ethics teach that going by land and sea to reach him is the most loving thing to do and the farthest thing from arrogant. If Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” this man needs to hear that.
There, brothers and sisters, are my responses to the teaching that Jesus is none of those things and there are many ways to God and all truth claims are equally valid. What, though, should your response be to this passage?
First, skeptics, it’s really simple. This is the Christian religion. Take it or leave it. Don’t craft a religion of your own making that somehow claims to like Jesus but dishonors Him as Savior and Lord. The Bible says two things: Jesus Christ is the only Savior and explicit faith in Him is necessary for salvation. That is Christianity.
Second, believers, think first about evangelism. Take John 14:6 to all people with boldness. Don’t cave into the pressure of our culture. Doing so is loving. It is not arrogant. This is our calling. This is the world’s only hope.
But second think about your lifestyle. Are you truly seeing Jesus in this way? Or might you be trying to come to Christ through the opposite of relativism, namely legalism? Maybe you’re trying to make your own path to God, and it’s based on your efforts. Remember, it’s not “I obey; therefore, I’m accepted.” It’s “I’m accepted; therefore, I obey.” The two are miles and miles apart.
And could you be going to other places to find life? Maybe you’re buying into what the world offers and you don’t even know it. Hear Jeremiah 2:12-13:
Jeremiah 2:12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
God is addressing His people here. And we need to hear it today. Don’t be the idiot that turns from the living, refreshing waters of Jesus that flow forever to self-made cisterns that are leaky and hold rancid, unsatisfying water. Is He your source of life—alone?
Brothers and sisters, Jesus stands as Lord and Savior with arms open wide, yet one day those arms will wield the sword of judgment. “Whatever” just won’t do.