Is there only one way to God or are there many equally good ways? Christians have always maintained that there is only one way to God. They do this because Jesus Himself taught that everyone had to come to God through Him.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6, NIV
Or as the Amplified words it:
Jesus said to him, “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 Amp.
Is it arrogance for Jesus or His followers to claim Jesus is the only way to God? Some would say so. And it is arrogance IF it is not true.
Let’s take an example. Imagine a man is drowning. Five people on shore each throw him a different coloured rope so he can pull himself to safety. If all the ropes are firmly secured to the shore then it doesn’t really matter which one he grabs. But if one or more are not secure and he grabs one of those, then he will drown. Suppose there is a sixth man on shore. He yells to the drowning man to grab any rope, they are all safe. But suppose a seventh man on shore can see that only the blue rope is actually secure. Is he arrogant or prejudice for trying to convince the drowning man to grab the blue rope and emphatically telling him it is the only safe rope? Even through the sixth man and other rope throwers may mock him, he does know the only way the drowning man can be safe. It would be love and concern, not pride and prejudice, that motives his instructions.
The idea that there are many ways to God is based on at least some of the following assumptions.
The idea of an angry god, who is difficult to please and harsh in actions is common in many if not most religions. Even Christians sometimes fall into the idea that God is a harsh taskmaster, a Father Who is impossible to please…but we must keep trying. This idea raises to the surface when we start to blame God whenever things go wrong. “I wasn’t good enough, God is out to get me.”
If this assumption is true, then it is possible that more than one person may have found a way to get on God’s good side or, at least, to avoid His direct anger. But is this assumption true?
Perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16:
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16-18, The Message
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8, NIV
These Holy Scriptures, and others, point out that God loves us. He is not the angry Judge, harsh Dictator or impossible-to-please Father that this assumption pictures Him to be. He loves you. Yes, if you don’t grab the “blue rope” you are in deadly danger, but it is not because God is angry with you. In fact, He is the One Who through the “blue rope” out to you. Without that all we would have is false hope and death. [You can take our free email course: How To Know God Loves You.
With the idea that there are many ways to God, is the idea that it is possible for man to please God. If it is possible for man to please God, then surely there must be several, if not many, ways to do it. But again, what does Holy Scripture say?
Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Rom. 8:8, NIV
That is pretty blunt. On our own [i.e. in the flesh] we cannot please God and, as we have seen above, that is not because God is angry with us. He loves us, but we do not, in ourselves, have to capacity to please Him.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Is. 64:6, NIV
When we come to God apart from Jesus Christ we think we are coming in a three-piece suit, but the reality is that we are dressed in filthy, vomit-soaked rags. We have to come to the point of realizing our own hopelessness before God. And don’t worry, after we go through these assumptions, we will look at how you can please God and experience His boundless love in your life.
We like this idea. If man is basically good all he has to do is tweak a few things and he will be right with God. It naturally follows that they are many ways of doing this and so many ways to God.
When we compare ourselves with ourselves, many people do good, are kind, are even self-sacrificing. It is then we pat ourselves on the back and believe in our own goodness. However, God does not compare us with other humans, but with His perfect Self. No one is good when compared with God as we saw under Assumption Two. We all walk in rebellion to God and pride in ourselves.
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day. Rom. 3:10-18, The Message
This plays into the other assumptions. It is the idea is that all we have to do is learn how to please God. We have to do the right thing, or say the right thing or have the right formula or… Whatever it is, we can learn it and do it. And, of course, if this is correct then there are probably many men and women have discovered ways to please God. Some may be better than others, but we can learn which are the best ones.
This is legalism and it is the foundation of every religion, including humanism, except true Christianity. It is the idea that by doing the right thing we can find salvation. Even atheists/humanists, who deny there is a God, are legalists because they try to make the laws that will make mankind better. It is the belief that the laws, the rules, the knowledge, the science, etc. is what is needed for success.
We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good. Gal. 2:15-16, The Message
If Jesus was just a good Man or a Prophet among many prophets, then it would be supreme arrogance to claim that He was/is the only way to God. C.S. Lewis blew this argument out of the water many years ago by pointing out the many things Jesus said - including claiming to be God. Either Jesus was/is God as He claimed or He is a liar and a devil. There is no way He could be just a good man.
We have briefly look at how the Sacred Scriptures destroy each of the above five assumptions. Now we need to explain why Jesus is the only way to God. If God loves us, why do we need Jesus to bring us to God? If God is not the hard Judge, why to people go to hell?
We need to understand the nature of reality. We may not like reality, but we cannot change it. The only thing we can do is to temporarily live in a fantasy world - but that bubble will eventually burst. The fantasy world is not for me and I hope it is not for you.
God is perfect love and He is self-sufficient. He has no need of you or I or anything that He made in creation. However, He is love and wants to share His love. He wants to build relationship with you and I individually and with humanity as a group - a huge loving family. That is why He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply [Gen. 1:28].
Realize that God made Adam and Eve perfect. They used their minds to full capacity. Their bodies were healthy. They had a wonderful environment. They had work that was enjoyable and fulfilling. They had no natural desire to do anything wrong. They were perfectly fulfilled and satisfied as human beings.
Because God is love and He freely chooses to love, He gave Adam and Eve the ability to choose to freely return His love or not. The way they could demonstrate their love was by not doing the one thing He had asked them not to do. Like a loving father who warns his son that stealing will result in punishment, God warned them that disobedience, which would be rebellion and treason, would result in death - death of their relationship with God, death of a perfect relationship with each other, death in their environment, death of their health. In short, rebellion would release a corruption known as sin which would bring pain, suffering and destruction to everything it touched - which would be everything.
Another dose of reality - like it or not. Adam was the representative of the human race; therefore, whatever choice he made, he made not only for himself but also on behalf of every human being to be born through him.
Knowing full-well what he was doing [1 Tim. 2:14], Adam committed treason. He spit in the face of God Who had given him every good thing and every advantage. He declared his independence and all the consequences that went with it: pain, suffering, death.
If you will remember in Assumption One we said that God loves you, but also that if you don’t grab the “blue rope” you are in deadly danger. Why is that? God is perfect in Who He Is. He cannot be less that Who He Is. He is perfect Love, but He is also perfect Justice. The perfect consequence for Adam [and our] rebellion is to be cut off forever from God and from every good thing He has made - we call this hell.
God would have been perfectly fair and just to end everything at the moment of Adam’s rebellion. However, He still wanted to express His perfect love to His creation and enter into a mutually enjoyable relationship. Because of Adam’s rebellion this was now almost impossible. His justice would prevent it. It was almost impossible because there was one way that His justice could be satisfied, forgiveness and amnesty could be given and relationship could be restored.
Adam, as a perfect man, represented humanity into rebellion. It would be possible for another perfect man to represent humanity back into obedience. That man would have to have no sin-rebellion of his own, would have to live a perfect life, and then be willing to suffer the full consequences of mankind’s rebellion on their behalf as if he deserved it himself. It was impossible for any human being to qualify - even if one wanted to - because we are all born guilty because Adam was our representative. This is why NO ONE can provide a true way to God. There has not been one “good man” or “prophet” who has been born innocent and lived a perfect life. No one can qualify!
What about Jesus? How could He qualify then as the only way to bring us to God?
God’s love gave Him a solution. He would become a human being Himself - a true human being without any of the advantages of being God. He would be born of a virgin so that Adam would not be His representative. He would live a perfect life. Then He Himself would die on our behalf. Because Jesus was fully human, He could represent us. Because He was also God, He was worth more than His entire creation so His death could potentially provide salvation for every human being. The resurrection was the evidence that He had been successful.
There are now two qualified representatives of the human race. Adam, who represented us into rebellion and death and Jesus, Who represents us into life and renewed relationship with God. By default we are born with Adam as our representative. It takes a deliberate decision to accept Jesus Christ as our representative. It is not a difficult process, you don’t have to earn it - in fact, you cannot earn it - you accept it as a free gift. And it is ONLY through Jesus that it is possible. No one else can or will ever qualify as a Person Who can bring us to God.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23, NIV
He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31, NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Rom. 10:9-10, NIV