A view called “inclusivism” has been a cancer spreading in the church for years now reaching epidemic proportions.
It was Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days on the Jewish liturgical calendar, and I was sitting before an audience of 300 religious Jews doing my best to explain to them why Jesus was the only way of salvation.
I wasn’t alone. My Jewish host had also asked another Christian clergyman to weigh in with me on issues the audience was interested in. The question of Jesus was the first one, and he had a completely different take on the matter than I did.
Yes, Jesus was the only way, he said, but that was largely irrelevant to our audience because they were religious Jews, honoring God the best way they knew how. God took that, implicitly, as devotion to Jesus and thus they were all saved by Jesus even though they didn’t believe in Jesus.
As stunning as such a statement was coming from a Christian, it didn’t surprise me. This view (called “inclusivism”) has been a cancer spreading in the church for years now reaching epidemic proportions.
It wasn’t appropriate (nor helpful) to have a “that’s-your-interpretation-not-mine” battle in front of our listeners, but I did press the issue a bit further by asking for any New Testament verse that supported the assurance he had just given the audience. He quoted Mark 9:40, “Those who are not against Me are for Me.” Since these nice Jewish people before us weren’t against Jesus, they must be for Him, he reasoned.
He had misquoted slightly (“For he who is not against us is for us”), but the bigger concern had to do with the larger context of the verse. In this passage, Jesus referred to those outside His core group of disciples who were performing miracles in His name. Jesus was referring to His own followers, then, not unbelieving Jews.
By contrast, when Jesus was talking with Jews who rejected His Messianic claim, His response was exactly the opposite: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).
Clearly, this second set of circumstances was more like those we faced that day. Therefore, the passage giving warning, not assurance, was the relevant one for our audience. In fact, this was exactly the answer other New Testament authorities gave when referring to audiences like ours that afternoon.
When Jesus faced devout religious Jews who denied He was the Messiah, He said, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).
When Peter stood before the Jewish leadership as a criminal for preaching the Gospel to Jews, he said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11).
When Paul reflected on his Jewish countrymen’s rejection of Jesus, he said, “I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1–4).
There is no room in any of these passages (or the rest of the New Testament, for that matter) for the kind of assurances my friend gave the Jewish audience that day.
Further, if this is the same message the early disciples delivered, why were they beaten, jailed, and executed first by Jews and later by gentile authorities? An inclusivist message would bring no such reprisal—it’s completely unoffensive. The message the early Christians preached, by contrast, cost many of them their lives.
No, the early Christians had the right message—Jesus’ message. The other Christian clergyman with me that day did not. Nor do any others speaking for Christianity who advance this distorted gospel. Their soothing message helps no one. Instead, it gives false hope to multitudes on the gravest of issues, their eternal destinies.
Some messages sound soothing, but give false comfort. STR’s approach is to give the truth, yet with grace and wisdom. We don’t want our manner to be a stumbling block to attracting people to Christ, but we also don’t want the truth of our message to be sacrificed simply to protect people’s feelings.
This problem is so pronounced, we recently created a helpful teaching CD to address this growing challenge “Two Miracles: The Cross and the Resurrection.” You might also find helpful a booklet with a compilation of over 100 verses where Jesus claimed He was the only way to reconciliation with the Father.