We live in a culture today where it’s pretty common, and widely accepted, that there are many different ways to God. Many believe that through all of the different religions around the world everyone has a different path to God, and in the end everyone will end up in the same place rather than a narrow view of the gospel.
The Path to God
I remember visiting Indonesia and speaking with a Hindu leader and a Muslim leader. They would say, “We have different paths that lead us to spiritual fulfillment, that lead us to God.” And they said, “We respect your path. You respect our path and we will all go different ways. Together we are one and we’ll end up in the same place.”
I looked at them and I said, “Well, let me make sure I understand. You’re saying that basically you picture God at the top of a mountain and we’re all at the bottom of a mountain. And I may take one path to get to God and you may take another path up the mountain to get to God, but in the end, we’ll all eventually end up at the same place?” They both had big smiles on their face and agreed with my assessment.
I looked at them and said, “Well, if that’s the way it is, let me ask you one question: What if the God at the top of the mountain decided he was going to make his way down the mountain to us, and he came to bring us up the mountain himself?” And they said, “Well, that would be wonderful.” And I said, “That’s what the God of the Bible did. Let me tell you about who Jesus really is. It’s not about trying to find our way to God. Jesus has come to us and he says, “I am the way.”
Jesus says that he is the only way to salvation. And this is where many of us struggle with our faith. That statement excludes a lot of people in different faiths all over the world—“No one comes to God except through me” (John 14:6). We might even think, “That is extremely narrow and close-minded and arrogant. That can’t be from a loving God. Why is there only one way?”
The question is not why is there only one way, the question is why is there any way at all. I’m convinced that if there were a thousand ways, we would want 1,001. The issue is not how many ways we can get to God: the issue is our autonomy, our pride that says we need to make our way to God. But the good news of the Bible is that he has come down the mountain to you and to me. He has made the way to us and he has said, “I will take you to be with me. I do the work . . . just trust me.”
Notice that God did not design salvation so that love or works or good deeds would be the way that we would come to Christ. It was based completely on what he did for us. And this is the truth that–amidst all of the talk in our culture about how narrow-minded, closed-minded, and arrogant the gospel is–we’ve got to realize: at the core of our faith is grace that we simply don’t deserve.
The World’s View of the Gospel
In college at the University of Georgia, I was in a speech class where most of the students had views of the gospel, were atheist, or agnostic, wanting nothing to do with Christ or with his church. One day it was my turn to give a speech, and I decided I was going to give my speech on Christianity. I gave my speech on the Christian faith and in that speech, I shared the gospel.
At the end of the speech, a girl by the name of Jane raised her hand and she said, “I’ve got a question.” Jane was a leader in Student Government, wise by all the world’s standards, and she asked, “Are you telling me that if I don’t believe in the Jesus that you’re talking about that I will spend eternity in hell when I die?”
I’d never had it put to me quite that way, in front of that many people, and I began to sweat profusely, and nervously thought, “What in the world do I say?” And I’ll be honest with you, there was a large part of me that wanted to say, “Maybe, I don’t know, let’s just talk after class.” But I knew that wasn’t an option.
Faith in Jesus Christ
And so I looked back at Jane and the other students in the room that day, and I said with as much compassion as was in me, “Jane, we’re all sinners. We have disobeyed God and have been separated from him, and the only way we can be forgiven is for someone to pay the price for our sins, and that’s what Jesus did because he loves you and he loves every single one of us in the classroom. So in answer to your question, yes, apart from faith in Jesus Christ, you will spend eternity in hell when you die.”
Well, needless to say, I wasn’t the most popular guy in class following that speech of a narrow gospel. Jane came up to me right after class and said, “I just want you to know that was the most conceited thing I’ve ever heard anybody say. How dare you tell all of us that if we don’t believe like you believe that we’re going to spend eternity in damnation. Who do you think you are?”
After that day Jane and I had many more conversations. She asked me every question in the book: “How do you know God exists? Why is Jesus the only way to God? What about other religions? What about people who never hear about Jesus?” And I did the best I could to narrow down the gospel and answer based on God’s Word, but it seemed like my every word was bouncing off a brick wall.
Is God True?
I came to one of those crisis of faith moments in our relationship where I started to wonder, “Is this really true?” I don’t know if you’ve been there before, but I remember thinking, “God, is this thing really true? I’m staking my life on it, but when I share it with some people, they just don’t accept it. I’m coming across as someone who is arrogant and narrow-minded. I know you don’t want me to be a conceited person. God, is this thing really true, or have I just missed it somewhere?” And I began to struggle and wrestle with this truth in a way that I never had before.
We left school for summer break and then came back for the fall term. I remember as I walked into class on the first day Jane was sitting in the front of the classroom. She turned around when she saw me and said, “I need to talk to you after class.” I waited outside in the hall, and as we spoke that day Jane told me, “I just want you to know, this summer I found out that Jesus is the only way to God, and I have trusted him to save me. Now I know that when I die, I am going to heaven.”
Sharing the Narrow Gospel
There are probably many of you who are faithfully sharing the narrow gospel in this culture and you’re facing wall after wall after wall, whether it’s people at work, at school, or at home. I believe with all my heart, no matter how tall, no matter how wide, no matter how thick the walls are that our culture puts up, I believe they come crashing down when we proclaim the light and the truth of Jesus Christ.
The question is: Are we going to be faithful to do it? Are we going to take God at his Word, and are we going to share this glorious gospel– this narrow, glorious gospel that is full of grace and mercy with those around us.
This post was adapted from a sermon by David Platt entitled “Is There Glory in a Narrow Gospel”. You can listen/watch the full sermon, along with other sermon resources from David Platt, in the Radical Resource Library.