“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
WHEN JESUS WAS BORN, THE CHILD WAS NOT MERELY ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. He was God in the flesh, come into the world to “save his people from their sins.” This is an astonishing claim.
Several years later, after Jesus had ascended back to the Father following His death and resurrection, His apostles were directed by the governing authorities in Jerusalem not to preach anymore in His name. Respectfully, they refused to comply with this order. “This Jesus,” they said, “is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 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” (Acts 4:11,12).
The idea of Jesus being the only way makes a good deal more sense when we consider the nature of the problem that has to be fixed. If all we needed was a little moral instruction or the example of a noble life, there might be many teachers and many paths to the goal. But if the problem is actually sin, then we have a very different situation: this problem will have only one solution.
God. If we have, in fact, alienated ourselves from our Creator by rebellion against His rule, only He has the right to set the terms of our return to Him. Reality is an objective fact, and facts are stubborn things. We need not expect that the path to reconciliation with God will involve anything less than the real truth about God — and that truth will inevitably exclude everything except itself.
Sin. A part of our problem is our insistence on writing our own rules. But if sin is the objective violation of the will of a God who truly does exist, the rectification of that problem will require letting God define exactly where we have gone wrong.
Salvation. If the gospel is about sin, that means “salvation” must be seen from a different perspective. Various proposals by the world’s greatest teachers will not be enough. What we need is a grace that only our God can supply, and it is God who has said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).
“Anyone can devise a plan by which good people may go to heaven. Only God can devise a plan whereby sinners, who are his enemies, can go to heaven” (Lewis Sperry Chafer).