Robert Jeffress - Jews Who Were For Jesus
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Or does God make exceptions for well-meaning people? Well, far too many Christians have embraced the fanciful notion that we'll all end up in the same place, no matter what religion we follow. But our conversation will take an interesting turn today, as we consider those who believe in the same God. I'm referring, of course, to people who follow the Jewish tradition and worship the God of the Old Testament but reject Jesus. We're talking about Jews who were for Jesus on today's edition of Pathway to Victory. Isaiah 40 verse eight says, "The grass withers, the flower fades but the word of our God stands forever". While you prepare your family's will or estate I'm urging you to specifically name Pathway to Victory as one of the recipients of your legacy giving. Pathway to Victory will ensure that the Word of God is boldly declared long beyond your lifetime here on earth.
A number of years ago, the blockbuster movie Titanic told the story of one of the worst disasters of the 20th century in which more than 1500 people lost their lives. However, the screenwriters of the movie missed perhaps one of the most dramatic scenes in that story. It's something that happened several days after the Titanic's sinking. The owners of the cruise ship, the white star line, were charged with the responsibility of informing loved ones around the world of whether their loved ones on the ship had survived or perished. And they wondered how to do this. And so they set up a large board outside the offices of the white star line in Liverpool, England. And they took this large board and they divided it into two columns. And above one column on the left, they wrote the words, "Known to be saved," and the other column was labeled, "Known to be lost".
And as the messenger would emerge from the white star office carrying the name of a passenger, people assembled around that sign to see which column the name would be placed under, known to be saved or known to be lost. Interestingly, just a few days earlier, 1500 and more passengers on that cruise ship were enjoying all kinds of different experiences. Some were enjoying first class service, others second class, some steerage. Many different experiences but after the ship's sinking, there were only two categories, known to be saved and known to be lost.
You know, in our world today, people have a diversity of experiences. There's diversity in religion, in ethnicity, economic backgrounds, much diversity in the world today but at the moment of death, there are only two categories that matter, saved or lost. That's what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said there are two roads, and only two roads that lead to two very different destinies. He said, "Enter by the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it". Only two roads, the road to eternal life and the road to eternal death.
Even though Jesus could not have been more clear about this, there are still people who argue against the belief that there is only one way to heaven. And one reason they are you against this belief is, is really incomprehensible that so many people could be on the wrong road. That so many people could be headed toward hell rather than heaven. And yet everyone on the highway to hell shares this one common characteristic. Although they have embraced different lies, they have all rejected the same truth. Although they have embraced different lies, they have all rejected the same truth and the truth everyone headed to hell has rejected is that Jesus Christ is the only means by which a person may be saved. Jesus could not have been more clear. In John 14:6, he said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but through me.
When people say to you, "Your religion, your faith is too narrow", you can say "yes, it is". It is very narrow. Jesus said there is only one way through the gate into heaven, and it is through Me. Nobody goes to heaven in a group. Did you know that? No families are welcomed into heaven as a group. No denominations are welcomed into heaven as a group. I'm often asked by the media trying to trip me up, trip me up on something, "Pastor do you believe Catholics are going to heaven? Do you believe Protestants are going to heaven? Do you believe Jews are going to heaven"? And I always answer the same way, "no one goes to heaven in a group. We go individually based on our relationship to Jesus Christ". And that's why Jesus said, I am the way, no man comes to the father except through me.
You know, we shouldn't be surprised that secularists, atheists, liberal theologians would deny this truth. What is surprising is the number of so called Christians who actually reject this idea that there is one way to heaven and instead, believe that there are multiple paths that lead into heaven. For example, perhaps they are referring to people who have never heard the name of Jesus. Is it possible for them to be saved? If they respond to the limited knowledge they have, is that enough for them to enter into eternal life? What about people around the world who have rejected their knowledge of Jesus Christ and chosen another path to heaven? Is their salvation for them? Well, today and next time, we're going to look at how the New Testament answers that question. Last time in the study the intolerant Christ, we saw how Jesus himself answered that question. Through his words he said, there is no salvation apart for me.
John 14:6, "I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the father but by me". He not only answered the question by his teaching, but by his example. I mean, if there is some other way to be saved other than through Jesus Christ, why did Jesus go through that horrific, not only physical suffering but spiritual suffering on the cross? The reason he did that was because there is no other way to heaven except through the death of Jesus Christ. But maybe, pastor, maybe you're just being too narrow in your interpretation of Jesus' words. What did Peter and John and and the apostle Paul, what did they say about this issue of exclusivity?
Now, before we begin looking at the New Testament and what the New Testament says, we need to start with this premise. And that is that the rest of the New Testament is just as inspired as the words of Jesus Christ. The words of Paul, the words of Peter, are just as inspired as the word of Jesus Christ. We believe all of this book is inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "For all scripture is inspired by God". That word inspired is the Greek word, theopneustos, theos God, pneustos breathed. All scripture is God breathed. Now somebody will say, well wait a minute, when Paul wrote those words, no New Testament had been written yet, he was talking about the Old Testament. All the Old Testament scripture, graphe, writing is inspired by God.
There wasn't any New Testament around that time. That's not true. 2 Timothy was one of the last letters to be written. The New Testament was already being written and interestingly, Paul equates the writing of Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke he said, Luke's words are just as authoritative as Moses words and Deuteronomy. Jot down 1 Timothy 5:18, where he equated the authority of Deuteronomy with the authority of Luke's writing of the Gospel. The apostle Peter, who certainly had his share of disagreements with Paul and said these words are difficult to understand. Nevertheless, Peters said, Paul's words were quote "Scripture". 2 Peter 3:15-16.
So, when we look at this issue of, is there only one way to heaven? We not only consider what Jesus said, but let's see what the other New Testament writers said as well. And we will come to the conclusion that all of the New Testament writers believed not all roads lead to heaven. Now because of time today, we're just going to look at the example of the apostle Peter. What did Peters say in his teaching about this issue? Turn in your Bibles to Acts 2. Acts 2. This recounts the feast of Pentecost. Remember the setting? It was just a few weeks after the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jews had traveled from all over the land to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. These Jews had just been in Jerusalem a few weeks earlier for passover. These were the same Jews who yelled out the Pilate, "Crucify him, crucify him".
The apostle Peter stood on the southern steps of the temple. And notice what he said in his famous sermon. Verse 22, "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs, which God performed through him in your midst, just as you yourself know, this man Jesus, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of Godless man, and you put him to death". Verse 24, "And God raised him up again". And verse 36, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified".
You talk about courageous, he was looking at the murderers of Jesus and said he was the Christ. You nailed him to the cross. Those were fighting words. They could have just as easily taken Peter then and crucified him. His words could have incited a riot. But notice how they responded, verse 37. "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and they said to Peter, and the rest of the apostles, brethren, what shall we do"? What shall we do? Do? What do you mean what shall we do? You don't have to do anything to be saved. Your Jews, you're the household of Israel, your descendants of Abraham. Your males have been circumcised. All of you keep the feast. You offer the sacrifices. What do you mean what shall you do?
You don't need to do anything, Peter could have said. Did he say that? No, he said in verse 38, "Peters said to these Jews, repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". You realize this is the first sermon ever preached after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. First sermon ever preached. Don't you think it's significant that this first sermon was preached by a Jew, the apostle Peter, to a group of Jews at Pentecost and the first sermon was, Judaism is not enough. You need to personally trust in Christ as Savior. Peter was a Jew. He preached to Jewish people and he said salvation is only through the Jew who was crucified, Jesus Christ. That was the message of the apostle Peter.
Well, that's an aberration you say? He never said it again, did he? Oh yes, he did. Just turn over two chapters to Acts 4. The passage we read just a few moments ago. Peter and the other apostles were preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. Verse 4 of Acts 4 says, that 5000 Jews had already converted to Christianity, it was spreading like wildfire. And the Jewish authorities were panicked. They said, we've got to put a stop to this. And so they hauled in Peter and the apostles. Then in verse 7, they said, "We wanna know in what name are you teaching and healing"?
Thank goodness Peter was not infected with a case of political correctness like so many Christians today. He didn't reason to himself, well, these people are Jewish and I don't want to offend them. So I won't use the name Jesus, I'll just say the name of God. No, he didn't do that. Look at verse 10 of Acts 4. "Let it be known to all of you and all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health". Verse 12, "And there is salvation and no one else. For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved".
You know today it's popular for inclusivist to say, "well, people can be saved by Jesus without ever knowing the name of Jesus. They can accept the gift of salvation without knowing the name of the giver of that gift". Haven't you heard that before? "People are all worshiping the same God, they just calling a different name". One poll revealed that 63% of Americans believe that Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims all pray to the same God. They just calling but different name. Names mean something, they represent the essence of who we are, and so it is with the name of Jesus. I don't care how you translate Jesus Christ. Doesn't matter what language you translate that name into, it all refers to the same person. It is the Acts and deeds of that man that are recorded in the Bible. That's the Jesus that Jesus refers to. It is the person who came and died and rose again that we might have eternal life.
When we talk about the name of Jesus, we're talking about the person of Jesus himself, and there is no salvation apart from faith in his name. Make no mistake about it. Peter preached and taught the exclusivity of salvation through faith in Christ alone. But we see that not only in Peters teaching, but also in his ministry. Turn over to Acts 10. We only have time to look at one example. The miraculous conversion of the Roman centurion named Cornelius. Look at Acts 10:1-2. "Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius. A centurion of what was called the Italian cohort".
Cornelius was a Roman soldier. He was part of an elite group of Roman soldiers. 600 men were a part of it and he was a centurion, meaning he had responsibility for 100 of those 600 men, a very high ranking official. Verse 2 says he was a devout man, and one who feared God with all of his household and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. Now just think about this. Here you've got a Roman named Cornelius. But instead of following the polytheism, the worship of many Gods that was common among Romans, he rejected that. He was monotheistic, he believed in one God. And not only did he believe in one God, he believed in the true God, the God of Israel. And not only that he believed in the true God of Israel, he prayed to him continually. And not only that he prayed to him continually, he was devout. That means he tried to keep his rules and regulations. And not only was he devout, but he gave his money to the poor as evidence of his faith.
Now think about it. If somebody were to ask you today, do you think a person who believes in the only true God, who prays to him continually, who keeps his laws and gives money to the poor, do you think that person is going to hell? Of course not. If anybody is eligible for heaven, it's a person like that. That's what 99% of people including Christians would say today. But that's not what God said. Even though Cornelius believed in the one true God, he was devout and he gave his money to the poor, he prayed regularly, that wasn't enough. Because God used a series of miraculous circumstances to send the apostle Peter to Cornelius house to share with him the only way he could be saved.
And so Peter arrives at Cornelius house. I'm sure he was a little fearful of being there, a Roman centurion. And so let's just imagine, Cornelius invites him in, they chat, Peter discovers that Cornelius believed in the true God, he was devout more so than most Jews, he prayed, he gave his money to the poor, you know, Peter could have easily have said, you know what? I made a mistake in coming here. Everything is just right with you. Let's just stand together, hold hands and sing kumbaya, and I'll go on my way. Now he could have done that, couldn't he? That's what most of us would have done. We meet somebody we think believes the right things and has a lot of good works, we don't want to offend them by saying their religion is not good enough.
Not Peter, look at verses 42 and 43. He talked to Cornelius and his family about the death and resurrection of Jesus and then he closed with these words, "And he, Jesus, ordered us to preach to the people and solemnly to testify that this is the one who has been appointed by God as judge of the living in the dead. Of him all the prophets bear witness that through his name, everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of his sins". And Luke tells us in verses 44 to 48, Cornelius believed what he heard. He prayed, he trusted in Christ, he and all of his household, they were saved and they were baptized by water and with the Holy Spirit of God.
Ladies and gentlemen, this story should drive a stake through the inclusiveness argument. That as long as you are sincere, and worship God, you can be saved without ever knowing the name of Jesus. You know, a lot of people wanna believe that because frankly, it lets billions of religious people in the world off the hook. To say that as long as you're sincere about your religion, it doesn't matter what you believe, means that billions and billions of people won't be in hell they'll be in heaven as long as they're sincere about what they believe. But theologian Peter kreeft asks, "When a pious Muslim practices Islam, might this be taking place through Christ and his grace and presence? Though the Muslim does not know it or acknowledge it? I think this is very likely".
Let's substitute the word, Cornelius for this Muslim. When Cornelius practices Judaism, might this be taking place through Christ and his grace and presence though Cornelius does not know it or even acknowledge it? God says no, that's not enough. It's not enough. If Cornelius was saved already because of his sincerity and believe in the only true God, you know what? Peter wasted or trip to Caesarea. There was no reason for him to go. Cornelius was fine. But God says sincerity and religion are not enough. The apostle Peter believed that Cornelius needed something else. And that something else was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved than that of Jesus Christ.