The Deity of Christ and the Atonement

The Deity of Christ and the Atonement

Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.
–John 6:40

If we surrender the doctrine of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, then Jesus cannot be the Son of God. Why does the deity of Christ stand or fall on the exclusivity of the gospel? There are a number of passages in which Jesus said He is the only way to heaven. For example, in Matthew 7:14, Jesus rejected universalism, the idea that everybody’s going to heaven. He said, “The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus slammed the door on pluralism, the idea that all belief systems are equally valid. In John 14:6, He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus also rejected inclusivism, the idea that personal faith isn’t necessary to obtain salvation. In John 6:40, He said, “Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” Jesus said He is the only way to heaven, and salvation is only through personal faith in Him. If Jesus was wrong about this, there are only two explanations. First of all, He was honestly mistaken. If Jesus was honestly mistaken, He’s not the all-knowing God. The only other reason Jesus could have been wrong is He was intentionally misleading us. That is, Jesus knew there was more than one way to heaven, but He misled us by saying He was the only way. If He was lying to us, then He couldn’t be the perfect Son of God, could He? The deity of Christ rests on this issue.

A fourth doctrine that falls if we surrender the doctrine of exclusivity is the necessity of the atonement–that is, the sacrificial death of Christ for our sins. The cross of Jesus Christ, that horrific experience of being separated from God, of experiencing hell for us so that we could have heaven, was not just a way to God; it was the only way to God. If the universalists are right and everybody’s going to heaven, then Jesus’s death was unnecessary. If the inclusivists are right and religious people are going to heaven, then Jesus’s death was unimportant. The doctrine of the atonement collapses if we believe there is more than one way to God. God made a tremendous mistake in sending His Son to die if there is another way to Himself. Now, most religions say there is a break between God and us that needs to be reconciled. The difference is, how are we reconciled to God? Pagan religions say you have to make sacrifices to appease the angry gods. Eastern religions say you reconcile yourself to God by improving yourself through an eight-step noble path or other paths of self-improvement. Religions like Judaism and Islam say it’s by keeping a long list of requirements. All religions say we are the ones to appease an angry god. Only Christianity says we are incapable of satisfying God’s requirements, and only God Himself can offer an acceptable sacrifice. That’s why 1 John 2:2 says, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” When we trust in Christ for our salvation, we allow the blood of Jesus Christ in some inexplicable way to cover us and forgive all of our sins. If the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation is not true, then the whole idea of Christ dying for our sins collapses.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Sharing an Exclusive Jesus in an Inclusive World” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.