“What must I do to be saved” is the single most important question any one could ever ask. This question is asked many times in Scripture, spanning from the time of Job until the time of the Jesus and the apostles (Job 9:2; Acts 16:30). Yet the Bible more than merely records the question, it also provides an emphatic summarizing answer to it—“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). All of Scripture culminates in the saving work of Christ to pay sin’s penalty and bring glory to God. Scripture emphatically leaves no room for any Savior other than Jesus Christ alone.
And yet sadly, some professing Christians and Bible teachers have found elements of the exclusivity of Christ to be absolutely unacceptable and have questioned the exclusive Saviorhood of Jesus Christ. This denial and disgust of Jesus as the only Savior comes in many forms, but the one I want to consider in this post is the theological position of inclusivism and its inherent dangers.
Inclusivism is based on two separate truths, namely that salvation is through Christ alone, and that God wills the whole world to be saved. Consequently, God saves people through Christ alone; however, he makes this possible through ways that extend to all humanity.
An inclusivist believes that although we are saved only because of Jesus’ work, one does not technically have to be saved through explicit and/or complete knowledge of Jesus. There are philosophical reasons that get added to their theories. The “wideness” of God’s mercy makes salvation available through non-Christian religions. Inclusivism logically contends that God is always grading people’s faith and eternal destiny on a curve, based on one’s level of exposure to truth about Jesus. An inclusivist refuses to believe that those who have never heard about Jesus Christ would be accountable to worship Him, because that would not seem fair. Some go so far as to say that even those who spend a lifetime worshiping other gods could possibly be saved by Christ, so as long as they were honest and sincere in their pursuit of a false god.
This view logically has given rise to the concept that there may be “anonymous Christians.” There could be adherents of a particular false religion whom God saves through Christ, but who personally neither knows the Christ of the Bible nor has converted to Biblical Christianity! Naturally then, people can be saved apart from allegiance to Christ. It is God in Christ who reaches out to the individual in his own personal religious history to save him.
This errant and damnable belief must not go unchallenged and must be proved heretical. It certainly cannot be defended from the pages of God’s Word. Inclusivism literally breaks under the weight of Scripture’s testimony. Let’s consider a few passages:
Scripture’s Testimony on Inclusivism
The apostle John declares all throughout his gospel that it is through Christ alone that man becomes a child of God (John 1:12; John 3:16). Other texts in John proclaim Christ alone as the only way to avoid judgment and inherit eternal life (John 5:24; 6:40; 11:25). In the epistles, Paul emphatically announces that Jesus is foundation of the Church and the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11-14).
In order for people to be saved while worshiping a false God, inclusivism must logically follow that man is in a neutral position before God from the time of birth, and even seeking for God before he is saved by Christ. Yet John 3:17-18 asserts that man is not in a neutral position before God just waiting for someone to come and tell them about Jesus.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Man is already perishing, already heading for destruction. Outside of Christ every man will perish because sin pays wages, which is ultimately death (Romans 6:23).
It is also important to be reminded that man does not seek after God naturally. Unless one is born again through repentance and faith in Christ, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3). Psalm 14:2–3 pictures God searching for even one genuine heart that seeks Him. It is the uniform teaching of Scripture that mankind apart from the grace of God does not seek God. Neither does man have any power to do anything meritorious in the sight of God to commend him to that God, and to allow man to be “graded on a curve.” All of unsaved mankind is existing in self-conscious rebellion against God.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Jesus was very conscious that He was the only One who revealed the Father to sinful and lost man. Jesus understood who He was, why He was here and what He was doing on this earth.
John 14:6 is the hallmark verse on the exclusivity of Christ.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This is an exclusive statement that Jesus made about Himself. Because Jesus is the last prophet, He alone reveals God. Jesus Christ Himself said that He was the exclusive way to God. The question then that people must ask themselves is whether or not they believe Jesus’ testimony about Himself. One cannot follow or be a disciple of Jesus and deny what Jesus said about Himself.
Inclusivism ultimately is a surrender to the temptation of judging God according to human standards of fairness. Brother and sisters, the Lord calls you and I to recognize His relentless refusal to be conformed to the standards of His creatures, and to worship Him as the sovereign, just and gracious God that He is and proclaims Himself to be. The fact that God is both your Creator and Redeemer in Jesus Christ is that we are bound to worship Him alone, and with the exclusive affections of our hearts. We are to worship Him as the only and true God.