Category: (1) Jesus the Perfect Man

Is personal faith in Jesus the only way to heaven (exclusivism) or did Jesus’ death also provide salvation for some who do not believe (inclusivism)? This question is often posed by non-Christians when first confronted with the claims of biblical Christianity. Many skeptics charge that it is unreasonable for God to demand allegiance to Jesus Christ in order to receive the forgiveness of one’s sins. In the last several decades, many Christians have begun to opt for a different answer than that which has been traditionally been given by the majority of Christian believers. The trend is toward “inclusivism.”

Inclusivism is the view that people actually appropriate God’s gift of salvation only on the basis of Jesus Christ’s atoning work, but that the sinner need not explicitly believe the gospel in order to actually receive this salvation. Inclusivism teaches that Christianity is the only true religion (including the belief that Christ is the only Savior of men), but that this salvation could be made available through means other than explicit faith in Christ. The inclusivist believes that adherents of other religions and even atheists can be saved by responding to God’s revelation in creation or through the elements of truth contained within their non-Christian religion.

Inclusivists will quickly point out that any person that is saved is ultimately saved by Jesus Christ, but the sinner need not believe that Christ is Savior in order receive this salvation. Inclusivists will sometimes refer to such people as “anonymous Christians.” Inclusivists refer to several biblical texts in an attempt to support their view; however, their primary argument is more philosophical than exegetical (derived directly from the Scripture). The question of the ultimate destiny of the un-evangelized is often raised by inclusivists, along with issues related to the salvation of infants, the mentally handicapped, and others who are prevented from making a rational choice for or against Christ.

“Exclusivism” or “restrictivism” is the traditional evangelical Christian view dealing with the salvation of non-Christians. This is the view that a sinner can only be saved by a conscious explicit faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Exclusivists argue that a positive response to general revelation is simply insufficient to ensure salvation from a biblical perspective. Exclusivists appeal to multiple scriptures to support their view, including John 14:6; John 3:16-18; and Romans 10:13-15.

It appears that a straightforward reading of these texts reveals the inspired Scripture is clearly teaching Christian exclusivism (that one must place his faith in Christ in order to be saved). It is important to point out that there may be exceptions to this principle (such as the death of infants or children of a very young age who have not yet developed sufficiently to comprehend their sin and to make a rational choice of trusting in Christ). Second Samuel 12:23 states that King David’s infant child went to heaven after death. Isaiah 7:15-16 also hints at an age of moral accountability: “He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”

These exceptions would in no way undermine the position of Christian exclusivism. Rather, they show the infinite mercy of God in providing salvation for those who might otherwise not attain it. Our position is that explicit faith in Christ is necessary for all sinners who are capable of actually trusting in Christ and believing the gospel. Christian exclusivists believe that the biblical texts used to support inclusivism are far from compelling and that the texts used by exclusivists are, in fact, clear. It is difficult to see how the inspired writers could have been clearer that explicit faith in Christ is necessary for salvation (for those who are capable of it). It is also important to point out that the Christian exclusivist does not necessarily believe that the un-evangelized person will be condemned for failing to believe in a Jesus that they have never heard of. Rather, such a person would be judged for his or her failure to respond to the message of general revelation and for sinning against God’s moral law that had been written on the heart.

In the end, we can be confident that God will not judge anyone unfairly. The un-evangelized will only be judged based on the sins that they have willfully committed. Christian exclusivism certainly should provide the church with more than sufficient motivation to evangelize every person on Earth, for, literally, people’s eternal destiny hangs in the balance. God has simply not informed us of any back-up plan He may have one for those who do not hear the gospel in this life. We must assume that there is none.

Jesus is different from any other man. Not once during His earthly life did He sin against God or man. Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, every other human has been born a sinner. Although Jesus was fully human, He didn’t inherit Adam’s sin nature and guilt because Jesus was born of a virgin by the power of God.

Not even the devil’s direct temptation could cause Jesus to sin. Jesus Himself said, “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46). Read the Word of God and believe that Jesus is the only perfect Man.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’

“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God’” (Luke 1:26-35).

Without an earthly father, Jesus was called God’s Son—not to imply parenthood between God and Mary but the special relationship between God and Jesus Christ. Jesus was sent from God.

Overcoming the devil’s temptation
“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

“The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’

“And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”’

“And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”’

“And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all” (Luke 4:1-15).

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).

With His virgin birth and sinless life, Jesus is unique among men. No wonder the angel told Mary that Jesus would “be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35c). Tomorrow, we’ll learn about the amazing miracles Jesus worked!