Robert Jeffress - What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Imagine wrapping a special gift for somebody you care about. You present your gift to them with eager anticipation. But instead of gratitude, this person responds with anger and goes on to call you hateful and intolerant for offering the gift. It sounds like a far-fetched scenario, right? But that's exactly what happens when somebody rejects the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, I'm going to describe the far better response. My message is titled, "What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
If you're in the mood to start an argument especially among a group of men above a certain age just throw this out there. The best way to get to blank is by going blank. It doesn't matter what you fill in the blank with. You can say the best way to get to your own house is and give the route and somebody will argue with you. They'll say, "Oh, there's a better way. Better way. Just go down two blind alleys take a left at the courthouse, drive across the golf green and you can shave seven and a half seconds off your time there". People always say they have a better way but just try saying, the only way to get to blank is by going blank, and that's when the fireworks erupt. You see we recoil at the idea of exclusivity, that there is one way to anything and yet exclusivity is at the heart of the core biblical truth we're going to look at today.
In our series, "What Ever Christian Should Know," we're examining the 10 core beliefs of historic Christianity and today we're going to look at what every Christian should know about salvation. Now we talk about salvation, we sing about salvation. What are we exactly talking about? That word salvation is soterion in Greek. We talk about soteriology and seminary. That's the study of salvation but that Greek word soterion means to rescue from danger, to save from destruction. As you look through the Bible there are three biblical words that describe what it is salvation does for us. There're more words but there are three that I've selected today. One is the word atonement. Christ is the atonement for our sins. That word atonement means covering. He covers our sin.
Remember we saw last time in Genesis 3 that after Adam and Eve, sin, the first sin, they immediately felt guilt for their sin and instinctively they wanted to cover over their guilt, so they made that covering of fig leaves that had been sewn together but that didn't do the trick. They still felt guilty. They ran and they hid from God and when God found them, he killed an animal. The first death recorded in human history was the death of an innocent animal and God took the skin of that animal and he made a garment to cover Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:21, "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and he clothed them".
God was teaching all of humanity a lesson. Someone has to die for our sin. Someone innocent must die for those of us who are guilty, and only God can provide the covering for our sin. Of course, that would be a foreshadowing of what Jesus the Lamb of God would do who would take away the sins of the world. That's the covering, the atonement. That's what atonement means, a covering for our sin. There's a second word and that's the word reconciliation. That's another aspect of salvation. Reconciliation. The Greek word is katalaso. It refers to two parties, two people who've had a break in their relationship.
The relationship has become hostile, but one of those parties takes the first step to reconcile to change the status of the relationship from hostility back to harmony, and that's a picture of what God did for us. He made the first move in sending Christ to die for us. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, "Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were making an appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God". Even though you and I are the ones who have moved away from God he has made the first step in bringing us back together. How did he do it? Verse 21 says "For God made him Jesus who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him".
The third word that describes what Christ does for us is redemption. Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us. For it is written cursed as everyone who hangs on a tree". That word redeem in Greek is the word ex Agoratso. It's actually two words. Ex means out of. Agoratso refers to the Agorum, the marketplace the forum where things were bought and sold in the Greek culture and among those things that were bought and sold were slaves. If you needed a slave you would go to the Agora, the marketplace and you would pay the necessary price to redeem that slave. What purpose did you redeem the slave, not to set him free, but to serve you instead of serving the other master? Well, that is a picture of what Christ did for us with his own blood. He redeemed us. Jesus didn't pay that price on the cross to set you free to serve yourself. He set you free to serve him. That's what Romans six, seven, and eight are all about.
Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 20. "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God and that you are not your own, for you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body". We were redeemed by the blood of Christ from the marketplace of slavery to serve God and the price that was paid was the blood of Christ. For he himself who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. And that's why there are not many ways to be saved. The only price that could be paid to redeem us was the blood of Christ, and that leads us to the exclusivity of salvation. God is not provided many ways to himself. All roads do not lead to heaven. There is one way to be saved and that shouldn't surprise us.
You see that pattern of exclusivity beginning in the opening pages of the Old Testament. For example, when God gave his 10 commandments in Exodus 20 the very first commandment was, "I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other Gods before me". Well, that sounds intolerant, doesn't it? For God to say you must worship me and no other God but God is very intolerant when it comes to other Gods and other religions. What we celebrate today and call diversity or pluralism God has another word for it, idolatry. To acknowledge any other God as a legitimate God is idolatry and God hates idolatry. There are not many paths to God. There is one path to God. You know, people, as I said, recoil against that. They have four major objections to this idea of exclusivity.
Some people say, "Well exclusivity that's just intolerant, to say Jesus is the only way to be saved". And in our culture today the worst thing you can be accused of is intolerance. Today that term has devolved in to meaning all ideas are equally valid. To be tolerant means to say I don't have a market on the truth. Your way to God is just as good as my way to God and such a claim is idiotic when you think about it. There are whole areas of our world that are very intolerant. The world of mathematics is intolerant. Seven times seven doesn't equal 51 or 103. There's one answer, 49. When you ask what temperature does water freeze at? It's not 103 degrees, it's not 33 degrees. There's one answer, 32 degrees. When we come to the idea of faith the faith that is required to get into heaven is very intolerant. There are not many ways to God. There is one way to God.
A second objection people raise often about the exclusivity of Christ is this. "Well how could so many other people be so wrong? I mean after all, pew research says that only 31% of the world's 7 billion population can be categorized as Christians, and that's only because they live in what is called a Christian land. The actual number of real Christians is much more than that and if Jesus is the only way to heaven then you're saying billions and billions of people living today and billions that have lived in the past are all wrong about faith. How could so many people be so wrong? How could Hindus and Buddhist and Muslim, how could they all be so wrong"? Well, isn't that what Jesus predicted? Jesus said, most people will miss heaven. Most people won't find that narrow way that leads to salvation. In Matthew 7, Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and many are those who enter into it. But the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life. And there are few, few who find it".
A third objection. Some people say, "Well you don't have to claim to be exclusive because all religions teach basically the same thing. All the world religions teach basically the same thing". The only thing people who say that are people who are ignorant about world religions because if you look at world religions you see they are very different. They don't all teach the same thing and interestingly most all of them claim to be exclusive. Their way is the only way to heaven. Finally, people say, "Well, it's just unfair for God to send people to hell, especially because they just hadn't believed the right thing about Jesus. Man, what about all the people who've never heard about Jesus? Is it fair for God to send them to hell"?
People who receive Christ his pardon they receive God's mercy. Those who reject Christ receive God's justice but in no case is God acting injustly. Well, how do you communicate that truth of the exclusivity of salvation in a pluralistic world in which we live? You know, there are three things I like to say to people when they object to this idea and I hope you'll write them down and remember them. When people object to the exclusivity of Christ and by the way, 60% of professing evangelical Christians believe there are multiple ways to heaven. So it's not only non-Christians who object to this but Christians as well. What do you say to people? First of all, I always like to say your argument is with the Bible, not with me. It's very important to point people back to what the Bible says. That's where the power is. The Word of God is alive and active and sharper than any two edged sword.
I remind people of Jesus' words in John 14:6. "Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me". Acts 4:12, Peter said, "There is salvation in no one else. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved". It's only through Jesus that we're saved. Paul said it in Romans 10:9, "And if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved".
Now you know what's interesting about these three verses? They come from the lips of the three most prominent Jews in the New Testament, Jesus, Peter and Paul. Many times I get accused of being antisemitic because I say Jews have to trust in Jesus in order to be saved. I had a Jewish man tell me and he was kind of kidding, but he said, "You know aren't you the guy who tells Jews they're going to hell"? And I laughed and I said, "Well, actually that idea didn't come from me. I got it from a Jewish rabbi. His name was Jesus". Jesus was a Jew, and yet he said, "I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except through me".
We need to remind people their argument is with the Word of God, not us. Secondly, we need to emphasize that God wants to save as many people as possible not as few as possible. That's the heart of God. You see that in 1 Timothy 2, "God our Savior who desires that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth". Now, all people won't be saved but that's God's desire that they all be saved. 2 Peter 3:9. "For God is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but he's patient toward you not willing that then he should perish but all should come to repentance". And even Jesus himself said this about himself. Luke 19:10. "For he Son of Man came to see came to save those who are lost". Finally, I remind people the fact that God has provided one way of salvation demonstrates his love, not his hatred. The fact that he provides one way of salvation demonstrates his love, not his hatred.
Romans 5:8 says, "For God demonstrated his love toward us and that while we were yet sinners he sent Christ to die for us". Well, who is able to be saved? The availability of salvation. I included this because there are a lot of theologians and would be theologians who love to argue about who can be saved. Is it just the predestined and the elect? Do we believe in limited atonement that Jesus' sins were just for the elect? Or is Jesus' blood sufficient for all to be saved? Who can be saved? An interesting study for you to do sometime is look up the word whosoever. Whosoever, and see how many times it's used in the New Testament.
"For God so loved the world," Jesus said, "That he sent his only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life". Or what does the Word of God say in 1 John 2:2? "And he," talking about Jesus, "And he himself is the propitiation for our sins". And not for our sins only, but for those of the whole world that word propitiation means satisfaction. It means to appease somebody who is angry. Jesus' blood is the satisfaction. It satisfies the wrath of God, not just for our sins but for the sins of the entire world.
"Well wait a minute, pastor. If his blood is for the whole world then does that mean everybody is automatically saved? Everybody's automatically saved"? No, remember what we saw last time in Romans 5? Paul said, "Through one man, Adam's sin, came into the world, and all sinned". By one man's sin, everybody was condemned. But then Paul says in Romans 5:17 "The gift of salvation is not like the curse". The curse comes automatically. You don't have to do one thing to be under the curse. All you have to do is be born and you don't have to do anything to go to hell when you die, just keep going the way you're going. And if nothing happens in your life and your relationship with God, you'll end up in hell. We are all under the curse, but the gift is different. It doesn't come automatically, Paul says.
Romans 5:17, "For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one that is Adam, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ". I often use this phrase. It's built on somebody else's phrase. I tweaked it a little bit about the blood of Christ. Christ's death was sufficient for all but it's efficient for only believers. Christ's forgiveness is available to everyone but it only applies to those who receive it. Isn't that what John 1:12 says? "But as many as," what? "Received Christ, to them he gave the power to become the children of God. Even to those who believe on his name". There has to be a point in time when we receive that gift by trusting in Christ for ourselves, as many as received him to them gave he the power to become the children of God even to those who believed on his name. Salvation is not a reward. It is a gift from God. Based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.