"Pt.5— Is Jesus the ONLY way?” Sermon Notes for February 6, 2022

Updated: Feb 10



John 14: 1-7


14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”


Notes:

  • We continue in our sermon series that addresses lingering questions people may have that serve as a stumbling block to faith. We’ve covered how we can believe both in science and in God; how there can be evil and suffering in the world when there is a good, compassionate, and loving God who we say is in control; and how the wounds left in the wake of evil, pain and suffering can be healed; and if the Bible, our key reference to address any of these questions, can be trusted as true.

  • Today’s topic is the exclusive claim of Jesus that we find most notably in the passage read today, JOHN 14:1-6. Jesus makes a lot of claims throughout the gospels but the most controversial in our time and perhaps even in ancient times is that Jesus is “the way” and the only way to God. Many folks find this problematic. They say this kind of thinking makes Christians narrow-minded and bigoted. Surely, by doing good things and by being “nice,” God will automatically forgive us of the wrong we do (sin) and we will be reconciled, reconnected to God for eternity. (Sin separates us from God because God can’t tolerate sin and we all sin. This is why we need a savior. For more on this, contact us.)

  • For the sake of tolerance, inter-religious cooperation and co-existence we may feel pressure to adopt a way of thinking labeled “inclusivism.” This means that no one religion encapsulates the truth. Inclusivism suggest that all religions have some parts of the truth or that” all fingers lead to the palm”, with the palm being God. While atheists believe that all religions are false, inclusivism says that all religions are true. ( Rather than discuss each separate world religion to compare and contrast, we will focus on this one for the purposes of our analysis today.)

  • We can respect our brothers and sisters who believe and follow different religious paths. After all, they are children of God made in God’s image just as much as Christians are. We can advocate for people to have religious freedom and the right to express their opinion and even practice their faith. Even Jesus gave people a choice. Respecting, loving, and working with does not have to mean accepting these other belief systems as true.

Apostle Paul respected the Greek philosophers he encountered on Mars Hill in Acts 17: 22-18: 22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor[a] he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God[b] and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

  • Why has God left us to “grope” for God? Perhaps in our yearning, we might appreciate what we find even more. Much like a student delights in an answer after working to obtain it more than if the answer was just given with no effort to learn or understand how the answer was derived.

  • Ironically, the other major religions also have exclusivist claims. Even as Mark Clark* points out, the religion of “Nicety”—that says all religions are right-- is itself exclusive. What people are really saying is that I have a particular way of thinking that I believe is true.

  • Christianity, however, teaches that there is absolute truth and it is not a concept but a person. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The apostle Peter preached, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

  • Inclusivism contradicts these claims by asserting that there is no one truth. But that itself can be refuted because if there is no one truth, how can that statement be accepted as true?

  • Some say if “Jesus” is redefined to mean all of these other belief systems, then everything works. But Jesus is a person who lived, and died, and rose again and lives forever more, and who will come again to remake the earth and will call all believers to himself.

Philippians 2:10-11 New King James Version (NKJV): 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

  • There are those who say that Christians are retreating to their beliefs as a sort of escapism and a crutch. That our clinging to our belief in Jesus is a crutch to explain away the hard and difficult things in life by simply saying “God’s got this” or “God is in control” or “Just take it to Jesus in prayer.” Actually, sometimes Christianity is not comforting because it is a belief system that does have consequences. Think of all the Christian martyrs over the centuries or the Christians who put their lives on the line every day because they live in societies that do not allow for religious freedom. They live their lives in the shadows afraid of being killed or tortured for their faith. Is life easier for them or is their faith a crutch? We could probably say that inclusivism is a crutch and the easier road to take. No decisions to make. No hard questions to face. No unpleasant eventualities to consider.

  • Some of us are able to say without a doubt that we follow Jesus and we embrace Christianity because in doing so we truly can say we have found freedom. We have found hope. We have peace and joy in our spirit, even if not happiness (joy is a state of mind and spirit; happiness is contingent on what is happening). We are set free from the guilt and shame the world heaps upon us, giving us hope in the midst of despair that what this world has to offer is not all there is.

  • I imagine that is the hope my ancestors and other African Americans clung too as they were subjected to any manner of atrocities and injustices. The knowledge is almost too much to fathom-- that this religion, this faith tradition boasts of a man that was fully divine, yet thought enough of all creation, thought enough of me, to take on human flesh to come to earth, to live and die so that I might live! This man suffered injustice too, was ridiculed and scorned, yet persevered till the end because He knew something better was coming. This knowledge can be very comforting. This kind of comfort is not the reason to believe, however, it is the fruit of believing. Jesus said “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). His truth sets us free from fear or insecurity and even death itself because it is true.

  • What will happen to everyone else who doesn’t come to God through Jesus? One hint in considering that question is found in 1 Timothy 2: 3-6: 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,6 who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time.

  • God wants all people to be saved. That’s why God sent Jesus as the atonement for the sins of all. Some pastors and theologians suggest that it is because of this fact that God could in God’s infinite wisdom, mercy, and grace offer this gift of salvation to whoever God chooses, even after death and even those who have not professed Jesus as savior while alive. In the moments between life and death, someone may be presented with another opportunity to choose. We proclaim this kind of grace is offered to babies and children who die before they had an opportunity to believe. Romans 10:9: If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We know this text but most would proclaim that God would be gracious to those who are mute or cognitively or physically impaired such that they cannot “confess with [their] mouths.” In the same way, God could be gracious based on what God knows of someone’s circumstances.

  • God knows what has gone on in someone’s life—God knows where and how we grew up, who we lived with, what we have been taught, what we have been uplifted by and what we have been hurt by. God knows how much “free will” we have been able to exercise given our circumstances and experiences. Can God apply grace to people who were seeking and following God without knowing to call on Jesus specifically to do it? Even though it’s possible, it is not directly stated as such in the Biblical witness. God alone will determine the outcome for each of us. We hold out hope for everyone—that God would be as merciful as God will be just.

  • Consider this proposition known as Pascal’s Wager. It is a philosophical argument presented by the 17th century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal. He said humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not. Rational people should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, then they will have only a limited loss (only what was available in this life) and they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) while avoiding limitless losses (eternity in Hell).

  • I would go a step further and assert that if what Jesus says about himself and what Christians uphold as true actually isn’t true, then no one loses anything in the end. We all will be saved. BUT, if those who believe Jesus is the only way and the truth are right, then those who don’t put their trust in Jesus as messiah and Lord, in the end will lose everything for eternity. And eternity is a long time. Are you willing to gamble with those odds?

  • Jesus is the Way, offering assurance that in our living we are prepared to die, and in our dying, we are prepared to live.

  • “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” C.S. Lewis

“Preach faith until you have it, and when you have it, preach faith.”

Peter Bohler (1712-1775) to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism

Based on Hebrews 11:1 and 2 Corinthians 5:7


To discuss any of this or to take the next step of faith, email me: pastor@firstumcoakpark.org


-Rev. Adonna Davis Reid

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*Sermon Series based in part on work of Mark Clark in his book, The Problem of God (Zondervan, 2017).


Bartlett and Taylor (eds.) Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vl. 4, (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) p. 182-187.


Adam Hamilton, Church of the Resurrection, Jan. 27, 2022, “Is the Bible True? Is Jesus the Only Way?”