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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Calvin on Justification by Faith Alone | Main | What's A Worship Leader To Do? by Bob Kauflin »

    There May be More Than One Way to God

    by John Hendryx

    Today I wish to propose and explore with you the possibility that belief in Jesus Christ may not be the only way to God. Now before you throw me out as a heretic please hear me through. Lets open the Bible together so we can plainly see that Jesus Himself speaks of another way.

    But before we do that I would like for us to take a look at a debate that took place a couple years ago on the Donahue show between Phil Donahue and Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary. The context of the debate is the recent move by the Catholic church to no longer evangelize the Jews since they have stated that God has given them some kind of special plan or dispensation. This debate also typifies many of the debates that occur between Christians and non-Christians these days with regard to our exclusive claim that Christ is the only way to be saved for both Jew and Gentile. In America’s current climate of postmodern, multicultural, political correctness, the claim by Christians that Christ is the only way gives rise to accusations of hate and intolerance as we shall see in the following excerpts of this interesting dialogue between Donahue, Albert Mohler & Rabbi Shmuley Boteach:

    DONAHUE: Well, Dr. Mohler, sir, nice to see you again. You’re how many strong these days, the southern Baptists?

    REV. ALBERT MOHLER, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER: About 16 million members, Phil, and about 40,000 churches. It’s good to be with you tonight.

    DONAHUE: Thank you. Do these 16 million people believe Jews can go to heaven?

    MOHLER: Southern Baptists, with other Christians, believe that all persons can go to heaven who come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no discrimination on the basis of ethnic or racial or national issues, related to who will go to the Scriptures. It’s those who are in Christ. The defining issue is faith in Christ.

    DONAHUE: So a good Jew is not going to heaven.

    MOHLER: Well, all persons are sinners in need of a savior. Jesus Christ is the sole mediator. And the gospel, we are told by the Apostle Paul, comes first to the Jews and then to the gentiles. And salvation is found in his name, and in his name alone, through faith in Christ.

    DONAHUE: So if a Nazi killed a Jew, a good Jew, practicing Jew, the Jew goes to hell, but the Nazi still has a chance to get to heaven. That would be the consequence of your position.

    MOHLER: Well, the gospel is not just for the worst of us. The gospel is for all of us. And the scripture tells us the hard truth, that all have sinned. And that Nazi guard is going to be punished for his sin, and it will be judged as sin. His only hope would be the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And the profound truth of the gospel is that the salvation that can come to any person who comes to faith in Christ-can come to that Jew who was killed and to that guard who does the killing. That’s the radical nature of the gospel.

    DONAHUE: Well, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is with us. You’re author of “Judaism For Everyone.” You know, Reverend Mohler, this is such a vast organization. You have so many wonderful members. This just breeds anti-Semitism. I am sorry. You cannot possibly look a person in the eye and say, if you don’t come to Jesus, if you don’t change your faith, you’re not going to heaven. Reeks of prejudice, and also stirs the soul to evil behavior, in my opinion.

    MOHLER: Well, if the church had just come up with this in the 20th century as a novel idea, perhaps it should be subjected to such a critique. But this is the gospel that has been received from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who said he came, first of all, for the people and children of Israel, and then also for the gentiles. And he himself declared that he is the way, the truth and the light, and no man comes to the Father but through him. He spoke as a man born of the Jewish race, but who was also the son of God.

    DONAHUE: Well, three cheers for the Catholic bishops. And it’s been a while since anybody has given them cheers. Well, Rabbi, it took us long enough, but we are no longer calling upon our faithful, Catholic faithful, to evangelize and convert the Jews. Praise the lord for that, whichever lord may be your favorite.

    RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, “JUDAISM FOR EVERYONE”: Amen. John Paul II is one of the great friends of the Jewish people. Christians are our brothers and sisters, but they have to finally acknowledge that there is a 2,000-year repulsive, malignant history of the church, of trying to spiritually annihilate Jews by removing every last Jew on the face of the earth and converting them to Christianity and Jesus. And Reverend Mohler, however intelligent of a scholar he may be, he is a spiritual Neanderthal with repulsive, revolting views. Because we know in history that Christian, anti-Judaism has always led to racial anti-Semitism. This is the modern equivalent, Phil, of spiritual terrorism. ....

    OK I think you get the idea...

    Today let's consider the Biblical, Theological and Philosophical consequences of Donahue and the Rabbi's position.

    Biblical & Theological Consequences

    But let's revisit my first comment that belief in Jesus Christ may not be the only way to God. In fact I am going to prove to you from the Scriptures that Jesus Himself spoke of a different way. But let's test this hypothesis to see if this way is open to us. I think Albert Mohler was courageous to go on the Donahue show to take a beating for speaking the truth. He had a good answers to their questions but I hope we can, perhaps, improve upon what he said rather than just sound like a broken record and speak in language that unbelievers do not necessarily understand. I believe it is our duty to take the time to explain exactly what we believe more clearly. Christian jargon and terminology often clouds the issue rather than clarifies it.

    When Donahue said, "So a good Jew is not going to heaven." Instead of answering, "we are all sinners in need of a savior," as Mohler did, perhaps an even more memorable answer may have been "Yes, all good Jews will go to heaven, and not only Jews but all good people of all races will go to heaven. If they can live a good life, obey all the commandments, they will live (see Rom 2:6-8). When asked what must he do to gain eternal life by the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus said the same thing: "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." Matt 19:17

    Let's take a closer look at that passage -- an exposé:

    Matt 19:16-26 The Rich Young Man

    16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
    17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
    18"Which ones?" the man inquired.
    19Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' "
    20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
    21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me."
    22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
    23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
    25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
    26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

    When Jesus says, “why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good,” He is driving the point home right away that no one even approaches God’s holy standards. Someone might think he means by this verse that He Himself is not good but when weighed against other scripture (He who was without sin, became sin for us…He was tempted in every way as we were yet without sin and He says to the Pharisees Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”) it is obvious He had specific intentions in mind. His point here was to get the Rich man to see his own failure. Then He tells him “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Jesus is serious here I believe. He does not merely say believe in me and you will live since He knows his hearts' disposition and tailors the message specifically for him. He is saying if you can keep the commandments perfectly then you will live. But His point in doing so was to use the law to reveal his shortcomings. The object of these words is to expose the pride of his heart, and to reveal his absolute need of a Savior from sin due to the impossibility of keeping the law. The Rich man obviously didn’t get it for he answered? Which ones? Jesus is showing unregenerate man that if he is to recover himself in this way he must perfectly keep the commandments without stumbling.

    Next the rich man asked him which commandments to keep --- Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' " ---- Notice that Jesus mentions all the commandments in the second table of the law except for the last one (though shall not covet) since Jesus has in mind to expose his failure at this point. The man replies that he has keep all these commands since youth, which means that he still doesn’t get it. But he feels there must be something more (which is right) so he asks what he still lacks. Jesus here finally pierces his dark soul where it hurt the most by telling him to sell everything and follow him. Jesus knew the man loved money and would be unwilling to let it go. His sin was exposed and he went away sad.

    When Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." He is merely exposing this one man's vice. His disciples understood the ramifications of His statement that none can be saved when they asked, “Who then can be saved?”

    In other words the way to heaven is blocked for all men. The angel with the flaming sword has barred the way to the tree of life. Our spiritual condition before God is utterly bankrupt. There is no hope for a man to do anything that will win him acceptance with God. We are in God's debt; He is not in ours. But that which is impossible with man - salvation, is possible with God. We can contribute nothing and deserve God's wrath just like the next guy.

    So now lets review my original statement once again that belief in Jesus is not the only way to God. We have discovered that there is indeed another way: Obey the commandments and you will live. The difficulty arises however, in that there is no one who fits that description. This little passage demonstrates the folly of any person who thinks they can reach God through obedience to His commandments, since our fallen condition leaves us spiritually impotent. To tell our fellow human beings that it is folly to trust in their own efforts to attain heaven, is not only the opposite of intolerance but is the most considerate thing we can do for them. We often fail to communicate that we also are sinners saved by grace and are not morally any better than they are.

    Those who believe they are good enough to be pleasing to God have a low view of God’s holiness. If God can forgive sin and injustice without payment then He would have to commit an unjust act. One sin against an infinitely holy God is such an offense against His Person that it must be met with the outpouring of His fierce wrath if justice is to be satisfied. He is pure justice and for Him to accept anything less than sinless perfection from us would render Him less than God. Therefore, the question from the world should not be how could a just God send anyone to hell; it should be how can a just God send anyone to heaven and remain just? Those who believe that if we live a relatively good life can win God’s acceptance/approval have a god that is too small; a god that is not perfectly just and a god that is not holy. In other words, it is a sad excuse for a god: A man-made god. But God owes no man anything. He is no man’s debtor. Anyone who says that God should reward those who are good are actually saying that God owes them. Their decent, moral life has placed God in their debt. Furthermore, those who believe that God won’t judge sin are pinning their hopes on an unjust god. Donahue's only real hope is that God will overlook all injustices. This god is neither holy nor just, therefore it is a corrupt god. If God is not perfectly holy and just then He is not God and has horrible imperfections.

    So then why is Jesus the only way?

    Where Adam failed Jesus succeeded. Where Adam disobeyed, Jesus obeyed. God required of us a perfect obedience to His law and we all failed. But God looked upon us in mercy, became flesh in order to fulfill the covenant from our side.

    As a human being Jesus was the second Adam. While we justly deserve God's wrath for breaking the law of a holy God, Jesus obeyed God's commands perfectly, the only human being ever to do so. At every moment of his life he fully obeyed the ten commandments and the highest ideal to love God with all His heart, mind, soul and strength and love His neighbor as Himself. He was tempted in every way as we were yet without sin. Temptation is a neutral term meaning to test. He never internalized nor desired sin ever in His life, thus God was fully pleased with Him. He took every thought captive and made it obedient to God. He did all this for us so that He might bear the wrath of God on our behalf. God's wrath is now turned aside from us.

    John MacArthur once said that there are two religions in the world: human attainment and divine accomplishment. All other religions in the world trust in some degree in human merit for salvation. Christianity alone understands we have fallen short of God's demands and can find life only by trusting in the only one is history to have obeyed the covenant.

    There is an element of human pride in all other attempts. The Donahue's of the world who think good intentions will get us to heaven are like the Pharisee who prays in the temple, "thank you God that I am not like other men; adulterers, thieves and like this tax collector over here. I obey and give a tenth of all I have. In Donahue's case, "thank you God that I am not like this Nazi." Do you see the connection/ He is boasting in his relatively decent life and thinks that now God somehow owes Him heaven. He is trusting in his own merit but forgetting that he falls woefully short of God's demands on his life. The tax collector understands his own spiritual bankruptcy however. He looks down and beats his chest saying, "forgive me Lord, the sinner. Jesus said it was he that went home justified.

    As Christians this should be our character. We should always keep in mind in every situation that but for the grace of God we would be lost. There is nothing to boast of in ourselves or our good works. We are not in God's favor because we are any better than the pagans and may I suggest that, in many instances, pagans may have lived a more moral life than you or I.

    Brokeness before God is his requirement for us and it is only by grace that we even have this realization. All trust in our merit, flesh or abilities will fail. So when Donahue asks if a good person will go to heaven, the answer is the same one Jesus gave. Yes he would - obey the commandments and you will live, but there is no one who is good but God alone. This devastates any hope of heaven through self effort. The Law drives us to God's mercy and it is found in Jesus alone.

    We must first be totally convinced of our woeful condition and God’s holy perfection. If people better understood the inconsistent position they have in believing in a less than holy God and that the true God is holy and just then our position before Him becomes more clear. We also need to do a better job explaining what fallen or natural man’s condition is. Christian jargon that we are all familiar with needs to be defined, explained to an unbeliever. "Pretend" they have no knowledge at all of Christianity and start from the beginning rather than first saying that that God loves them but they are sinners and need Jesus. Such a statement would be meaningless, or worse to someone who has never been to church. I believe it is important that we go into detail about man’s spiritually bankrupt state and our present condition before God. Explain it.

    But we can tell people that if you are confident that they have never sinned against God's revealed law, then of course they don't need Jesus. Jesus is for sinners not for people who are good enough to please God on their own.

    “Natural religion in all its forms presupposes holy character and conduct as the essential antecedent condition of God's favor. Christianity in all its genuine forms presupposes the favor of God as the essential antecedent condition of holy character and conduct.” - A.A. Hodge

    "The idea that there are really no substantive differences between religions needs to be held up to careful scrutiny and declared fraudulent. For example, Islam says that Jesus was not crucified. Christianity says He was. Only one of us can be right. Judaism says Jesus was not the Messiah. Christianity says He was. Only one of us can be right. Hinduism says God has often been incarnate. Christianity says God was incarnate only in Jesus. We cannot both be right. Buddhism says that the world's miseries will end when we do what is right. Christianity says we cannot do what is right. The world's miseries will end when we believe what is right" - Alistar Begg, Made For His Pleasure , 126

    There are other problems of a philosophical nature to consider with Donahue's position...

    The position is basically that Christianity is not true because it is intolerant and judgmental. The problem with the position is that even those who deny truth’s exclusivity, in effect, exclude those who do not deny it. They are themselves taking a position of truth … a belief that all ways are true as long as they do not claim exclusivity, but in doing so it establishes its own truth claim which excludes others who do not believe all ways are true, thereby canceling itself out. They say "stop being intolerant by claiming Christ is the only way" while their very statement has intolerantly imposing its own values on Christians with the intent that they will conform to their political correctness. They have become their own worst enemy, in other words...self-contradictory. Christians know they are claiming Jesus to be exclusive and must always bring truth and love together. Historically we have certainly been guilty of losing balance to one side or the other and we must always remain vigilant to never lose sight of both. But post-moderns often fail to see their own hypocrisy since their tolerance; their highest virtue is often used as a weapon of intolerance.

    Lets look closer at the well-known parable of the elephant as described by John Bowen: “Blind men are trying to discover the nature of an elephant. Yet each offers a different description, according to the part of the elephant he touches. The one who feels the head concludes that an elephant is like a pot; the one with the ear says, `An elephant is like a winnowing basket;' the one feeling the tusk argues that an elephant is like a plough share; and so on. The conclusion is obvious: religious views are different because each grasps only a portion of the truth. The differences are more apparent than real. The truth is only to be found in taking all the parts together…[but] how do the observers come to be in a position of omniscience, able to survey the whole scene, superior to everyone else, sighted while others are blind? By what right do they say, `This is how things really are'? The parable claims to show that nobody has `objective truth'. Unfortunately, the story itself claims to be the objective truth about world religions and Ultimate Reality! “

    “What initially appears to be a benign and liberal analogy proves in fact to be just as intolerant of diversity as the views it seeks to relativize maybe more so because it appears at first sight to be so broad minded.”

    To conclude, let's have a closer look at a part of the Westminster Confession. It shines a light and clarifies what we just considered.

    Note: The Westminster Confession Chapter 7 Of God's Covenant with Man. States:

    II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

    III. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

    Posted by John on February 23, 2006 12:32 PM

    Comments

    Excellent post. I never thought of the rich young ruler in that light, but you are absolutely right, and it is refreshing to read such an articulate exposition of that crucial passage. I look forward to reading future posts!

    I used the Al Moheler/Donahue transcript for an apologetics class by Greg Koekel(Tactics in Defending Your Faith), and I commented how an amazing Seminary president like Al Moheler got worked over by the liberal talk show host. God was faithful, though, and Donahue was kicked off of MSNBC less than 7 months later!

    When I was in Evangelism Explosion training nearly twenty years ago I heard D. James Kennedy use a very similar illustration as a variant way to present the Gospel.

    He told a story of a dinner party where he was sitting next to a woman who asked him how she could go to heaven. He replied, "I've got good news, all you have to do is keep every commandment of God and you will go to Heaven." Needless to say, the woman knew immediately that she had no chance in doing that.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    "I Got it, by jove!!"

    This encompasses the fullness of the treasuring of Christ. Well done Mr. Hendryx.

    Thank you.

    Grace and peace, only in Christ.

    Donnie

    This is one of the best posts I have ever read on this blogosphere.

    Great article John !
    I do not know that we can even legitimately hypothesize about a second way outside of faith in Christ and perhaps the response given by A Mohler to Donahue on this was sufficient.

    Even if it was somehow possible to lead a good life in obedience to the commandments, there is still the issue of covenant breaking and the fact that that Adams sin as representative head of the human race, is imputed to our account.

    Nigel:

    Yes, agreed that fulfilling the covenant of works is an impossible supposition for those in Adam (and yet that's the whole point). But as Jesus uses the law/gospel method of doing evangelism, so might we. As Luther said, "the Law is for the proud but the Gospel is for the brokenhearted."

    We do not preach the law to people because they are able to fulfil it but rather to reveal sin (Rom 3:19, 20). Jesus, I believe, is doing the same thing to the Rich Young Ruler. Likewise in the sermon on the mount, Jesus does not give this discourse because He thinks that his listeners can ligitimately obey these commands perfectly, but rather, to show their impotence to do so. He does this by making demands they cannot possibly fulfill. But the Law drives us to Christ's mercy.

    Many unbelievers listening to Donahue need to know what sin is, and one of the best ways to reveal it is to let them know that they can hypothetically be acceptable to God if they obeyed His commands perfectly (an impossible supposition) ...then show them what the commands are. For those who think they are morally perfect, they obviously would not need a Savior. In those who are elect, the Spirit will do the work in convicting them of their having woefully fallen short of His comands. Yet what they cannot do for themselves, Christ does for them. "What is impossible with man (faith and repentance) is possible with God.

    So I believe to say that it is "not legitimate" to preach this way us equivalent to saying that all law preaching is illegitimate. SInce we know that no one can obey the law why would we ever preach it? It is for that very reason that we preach the law: to show man's spiritual impotence.

    I disagree, there is no other way as clearly stated in Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:21.

    Brother Brian

    You disagree with who? If you mean the essay, I would contend that Romans 3:20 makes exactly my point:

    "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."

    The purpose of the giving law, according to this passage, is to show man his impotence to obey the law. Our prersonal knowledge of sin, it says, comes through knowing God's law and demands of us. It does not therefore mean that we stop preaching the law because salvation is by grace alone. We preach the law BECAUSE it shows that man cannot be justified by the law. revealing that man is spiritually/morally incapable of doing so, driving us to Christ, our only hope. Law shows our need of grace.

    Also, it is good to remember that we are indeed saved by works, just not by our own works. We are saved by the works of Christ who "fufilled the law" from our side. When we trust in Him we are saved by someone who obeyed the covenant of works perfectly. Lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserve. So in fact we are only saved by grace alone because Jesus took it upon Himself to do for us what we could not do for ourselves (i.e. salvation by His works)

    Gal 3:21 also explains that Christ had to die because we are morally impotent to obey the law.

    The Holy Perfection of the law is preached to show man's need of Christ. That is its purpose. The same book, Galatians, says that the law is a tutor to lead us to Christ. It does so by revealing our moral inability to keep it.

    Another Galatians passage which shows this is, 3:10
    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."

    Why does the passage say a person are under a curse? because of his inability to keep all things written in the law. Cursed are all who do not abide by all things in the law. In other words, if you DID abide by the law perfectly you would not be cursed and not need a Savior. This is an impossible supposition, of course, and exactly the point being made. We tell people to obey the commandments not because they are morally able, but because of Romans 3:20, that it reveals sin and spiritual impotence.

    How can we tell people they are sinners UNLESS they understand they do not obey the law perfectly? That they woefully fall short of God's demands of them. Rom 3:20 says that "through the law comes knowledge of sin." Which means that we need to tell people God's holy demands on their lives, before they will really understand what sin is., which the Holy Spirit, by showing them they should have no confidence in the flesh, uses the law to bring them to Christ.

    Also, we should note that everything leading up to Romans 3:20 is Paul showing that both Jews and Gentiles fail to live up to the laws demands. Why do you think God gave us law? Because it shows our need of Christ, to do something for us that we cannot do for ourselves.

    Jesus tells people to obey the commandements and live. So if it is good enough for Jesus, why is it not good enough for us?

    Shalom
    john

    I was disagreeing with the post- Romans 3:20 does refer to his theme throughout the chapter - all mankind is fallen - yes, however Galatians 2:21 does not speak as if complete obedience to the law would attain righteousness. It still required the death of Christ because He is our righteousness. The only way to God is through faith in Jesus Christ- I know you are trying to speak hypothetically "there may be more than one way to God" however Paul never would have tampered with such thoughts due to the implications. What it implies is that someone could fulfill the law apart from Christ- which is impossible considering the greatest commandment and all of Jesus' statements of rejecting Him is rejecting the Father. I appreciate alot of what you have on your site but this title is kind of tabloidish. Forgive me if I'm still misunderstanding your point.

    Brian:

    >>>Paul never would have tampered with such thoughts due to the implications.

    May I ask, what implications? If Jesus uses this means when communicating to the rich young ruler then what possible bad implications could this have? What must I do to have eternal life, he asks. Jesus says "obey the commandments and you will live."

    He does not say believe in me, he says "obey the commandments and live." This is done purposefully to reveal sin.

    I ask again. If Jesus speaks this way, why shouldn't we?

    you said >>>>Galatians 2:21 does not speak as if complete obedience to the law would attain righteousness. It still required the death of Christ because He is our righteousness.

    So are you saying that Jesus righteousness does not come from His complete obedience of the law?

    Why is Jesus our righteousness? Not simply because he was God, but because he was a human being who perfectly obeyed the covenant from our side, fulfilling the law. That is what God's law calls us to do but we do not. Jesus however, actively obeyed and imputed that righteousness to us, since we were unable to do it for ourselves.

    Solus Christus
    John

    The implications I am referring to is that there is "more than one way to God." That statement implies you can be saved apart from Christ. You entitled your article that and then claimed that we are saved by Jesus' obedience to the law which is not consistent with your title. You said "another way." You propose that hypothetically we can be saved by obedience to law-contrary to Gal. 2:20.

    I believe Jesus' righteousness does not merely come from his obedience to the law- I believe he is righteous by nature and was not merely declared righteous by obedience but was the incarnation of righteousness. His obedience to the law was the evidence of his very nature.

    Brother Brian

    Thanks for your talking points. Bear with me for a moment and allow me to lay down a couple of presuppositions. Although, to you, my position may seem a bit unorthodox, I believe it comes from a classic covenantal perspective of the Scripture text. Let me attempt to explain.

    When we preach the law to a person we are, in effect, saying "do this and live". The covenant always carries with it both blessings and curses. And even though Adam's fall made life impossible to attain for his decendants through his disobedience resulting in the fall, the covenant of works has never been rescinded. It is still operative in the world and in our conscience. That obedience to God's commands perfectly would bring life and disobedience death. Due to a corruption of nature we all fall into the latter but, in Christ, who was sinless and fulfilled the law those demands are met in him.

    Paul, when presenting man's condition in the beginning of Romans uses the same argument:

    Paul in the Holy Spirit says, "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury." (Rom 2:6-8)

    I think as Protestants we easily pass over passages like this, but what Paul is doing is showing both Jew and Gentile that all persons who do good He will give eternal life. BUT, in the verses that follow, he tears this stronghold down by showing that Jews and Gentiles alike are both under sin and do not seek God, so even though that God tells us, "DO THIS AND LIVE", we do not do it and can therefore only rely on his mercy in Christ.

    Earlier you said that Paul would never sepak this way, but right here in Romans 2, he does. This is the covernant of works that Christ fulfilled for us, making the promises to Abraham now available. If this text is not read in this way, then how do you understand Paul's telling us that He will give us eternal life "ACCORDING TO WORKS."

    As for your comments: you said>>>>the statement that "there is more than one way to God" implies you can be saved apart from Christ

    Well ... Does my title actually read: that "there IS more than one way to God?" No. Nor is there any such implication in this article at all. I did not assert that there "is more than one way to God", in the title, but that their "may be" which is a theory that I disprove in the esaay by showing it is an impossible supposition. You appear to have changed the words of the title to say something they do not actually claim for the sake of argument perhaps.

    You said >>>>I believe Jesus' righteousness does not merely come from his obedience to the law- I believe he is righteous by nature and was not merely declared righteous by obedience but was the incarnation of righteousness.

    Indeed we agree. It is true that it does not "MERELY" come from his obedience to the law, but being a human being under the law is a necessary part of it. So it is not an either/or issue but a both/and... So, the question must be asked, could we then be declared righteous apart from Christ's active obedience to the law? Being killed as an infant by Herod would not have done it, I believe. Jesus declared that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfull the law. That is, fulfill all of God's righteous demands that God commands of humans who are unable, due to sin, to accomplish themselves. God calls us to do things that we are morally incapable of. Why? Because the covenant of works still stands ...even though we cannot fulfill it. God has given all men over to sin that have might have mercy on the all in Christ.

    And to John the Baptist Jesus said he should to be baptized by Him to "fulfill all righteousness." Being sinless by nature is necessary, we agree, since Adam already forfeited this posibility....but as a human being Christ had to fullful the law on our behalf as well. The Scripture declares that Jesus was "born under the law." I would contend that this was puposeful language.

    I know that New Covenant Theologians reject this concept. Are you NCT? and only accept the passive righteousness of Christ? or do you belive the passive and active obedience of Christ are both critical to our salvation?

    The only reason we cannot atatin it by our nature is because that opportunity was lost in Adam. Yes God has not rescinded his law which says "Do this and Live"

    I a also curious why you did not respond to my posts and in the essay to the fact that Jesus himself uses this same method I did in my article when speaking to the Rich Young Ruler. You point to other verses of Paul other than the one I mention above, but do not deal with, and remain silent about what Jesus Himself says to the man....which was the example I used in the essay itself.

    Jesus says, "Obey the commandments and you will live"

    The purpose of the commandments are not to show our ability, but our inability. That is the whole point according to Rom 3:19, 20.

    We tell people that they must obey the commandments of God perfectly to live. That is why the Scripture has us preach the law. This is God's requirement for mankind. When persons recognize they are morally incapable to obey, then the law serves its purpose. They then, seeing their own impotence, are in a position of spiritual bankruptcy and can only flee to Christ for salvation.

    I think perhaps many may have difficulties with the concept because of the doctrine of original sin.. they know that man is a sinner by nature, and before a man does or doesn't do anything, he is guilty of sin in Adam - therefore, they have a hard time reconciling this (which is true) and the fact that God commands people to "do this and live..." because they see it as a less than genuine thing on God's part, for He knows they are already gulity (Rom 5:12).

    peace be with you brother.

    Wonderful points! I will be passing this on.

    Ach du LIEBER! And to think I was considering Seminary!

    I pose a practical question. No esoterical theology. I do not mean that negatively to anyone here. As I have researched this and many other questions of Faith, Doctrine and Belief I have found that there is a lot of.....extended discussion on what are really esoteric minor points that never really answer the question. I believe in the KISS principle. We, as humans, have made this whole religion thing WAY too complicated.

    So I pose just a simple question that the non-believers have and will continue to ask:

    If Jesus is the ONLY way to enter Heaven, and God is Merciful AND Just, what happens to people who have never heard the 'Good News'?
    Do they go to heaven or to hell? (Please to show a scriptural basis for your answer.)

    I'll be honest, when I was taking a vacation from....belief, this was a question I'd use to tweak Christians, especially those who were a bit too tightly wound.

    I am talking a reality here. If a person has NEVER had the opportunity to hear the word of God (in what ever form you wish to couch it) what happens to them? IF God is just (and I believe He is) then HOW could he condem them to Hell? That would be neither Merciful, nor Just. I do not see how a God of Love could do that. And so, what do we say to our non-believers? A slippery slope is opened with this one. You cannot have it both ways.

    I know what my Theology says WRT this particular question. I am curious as to what others would say.

    Believing in Christ,
    working on building Faith,
    Seriously working on achieving Humility

    Bill Hunteman
    CPO USN (RET)

    William,

    Romans 1:18 and following teaches that the creation itself is enough to condemn all men. There are no true atheists deep down, for all men "know God" but they suppress this truth in unrighteousness. Some know God as a friend and others as an enemy. Read it.. it says Although they knew God...."

    Next question appears to presumne that God is obligated in some way to save anyone. But people are rebels against God and if He chooses to redeem is it by a sheer act of His unmerited mercy. He would be just if he wiped out the entire earth without ever having sent Jesus Christ. He sent him in mercy. If He were obligated, then it would no longer be mercy, but obligation.

    Your position also presumes there are actually innocent people out there, which there are not. God will have mercy on whom he has mercy and he will harded whom he will harden. If does not therefore depend on mans desire or effort but on God's mercy. (Rom 9:15, 16)

    In further answer to your question,
    Romans 2:12-16 says:

    For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

    For further study, please read the essay, "What About the Innocent Native Who Has Never Heard About Jesus."
    http://christianstudy.homestead.com/files/classes/defending_the_faith/lesson9.htm

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