Robert Jeffress - The World's Most Famous Jew Who Found Jesus
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. All throughout the Old Testament, prophets foretold that one day a Messiah would come and bring salvation to the world. And while Christians believe that this Savior arrived over 2.000 years ago as a man named Jesus Christ, millions of Jews are still eagerly awaiting for their Messiah to come. Today we'll examine whether or not Jewish people need to put their faith in Christ in order to be saved. My message is titled "The World's Most Famous Jew Who Found Jesus", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
One of the gotcha questions the media loves to ask evangelical pastors is this one, do you believe that a sincere Jew who professes his faith, follows his religion, but never accepts Christ, do you believe that Jew is going to spend eternity in hell? I've seen pastors stutter and stammer when trying to answer that question on television and finally they sputter out, well, we can't answer that question. We have to leave that up to God. I have found, myself, the best way to answer that question is head on. Yes. The sincere Jew who practices his faith without accepting Christ is going to hell, just like the sincere Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, or Baptist who follows religion without ever accepting Christ is going to spend eternity in hell as well.
How do I say that with such confidence? Because the three most prominent Jews of the New Testament, Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter, and the apostle Paul all said the same thing. Even as Jews they said there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. In our series not all roads lead to heaven, we've been looking about what the Bible says about the most important doctrine of all, the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. We've seen that Jesus, the founder of our faith, taught us by both his word and his example on the cross that there is no other way to heaven.
Last time we looked at what the apostle Peter, the leader of the church of Jerusalem said. Peter was a Jew. He was part of Jesus' inner circle, and yet through his teaching he said, "There is no other way". Remember his words in acts 4:12? "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved". Peter believed there was no other way to salvation. Now today we're going to see what the third prominent Jew said about this subject, and that is the apostle Paul.
You know, if any person could have been saved by his religious credentials apart from Christ, it should have been the apostle Paul. In Philippians 3 he recounts his spiritual pedigree before he became a Christian. In Philippians 3:5-6 he said, "I was circumcised the eighth day like every Hebrew male. I was of the nation of Israel. I was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. As to the law, I was a Pharisee". That's the most strict set of the Jews who kept the law, the Pharisees. "And as to zeal," that is enthusiasm, "For my faith, I was a persecutor of the church. And as to righteousness which is in the law, I was found blameless". Translation. Paul said, "I was not only a Jew, I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I kept the law as best I could. And not only that, I was so zealous for my faith that I persecuted the church".
You say, why is that a commendation to say you persecuted the church? Do you know the reason Paul persecuted the church? That he had people imprisoned and put to death? It wasn't out of sadism that he did that. It was out of the sincerity of his Jewish faith. He believed he was doing God's work. He believed that Christianity was a heresy that needed to be stamped out. He was sincerely following God. He should have been saved if religion can save anyone. But notice what happened to him. He had a dramatic encounter on the Damascus road that changed his life forever. In acts 9:3-5 it says, and it came about that as he, Paul, also known as Saul, journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell down to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me"? And he said, "Who art thou, Lord"? And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting".
And that confrontation with Jesus Christ transformed Paul from being the greatest antagonist of Christianity to the greatest evangelist for the Christian faith. Paul's own experience demonstrates that sincerity of religion is not enough. We see that also in the ministry of the apostle Paul. Turn over to Romans 1:16-17. Paul was not like many Christians today who say, "Well, I personally believe that faith in Christ is the only way to be saved, but I don't want to impose that believe on other sincere religious people". Not Paul. Look at his opening words to the church at Rome. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it, that is the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written. Bu the righteous shall live by faith".
You know, at first glance that phrase seems strange. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ? Why would anyone be ashamed of the Gospel? And yet, if we're honest today, I think all of us would say there are times we've demonstrated by our actions that we're ashamed of the Gospel. When we refuse to stand up and speak out in a class when the teacher is attacking the basic tenets of Christianity, when we fail to share the Gospel of Christ with a friend or family member who's not a believer, when we refuse to say to the sincere follower of another faith out of love and compassion, "Your way will not lead to heaven. There is only one way to heaven". We all demonstrate that we're ashamed, in a way, of the Gospel when we refuse to speak out, but not the apostle Paul. He never backed down for proclaiming there is only one way to heaven.
In fact, just look at his experience in ministry that's recorded in 2 Corinthians 11. Paul gave this testimony about what he endured for preaching the Gospel. He said, "Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes," a beating with the cat-o-nine tails, that whip. 40 lashes would kill a man. 39 lashes got you as close to death as possible. Paul went through that five different times. He received 39 lashes. Not only that, "Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. A night and day I have spent in the deep". That is in the ocean. "I've been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure".
Now here's the simple question. If everybody's going to heaven anyway regardless of what they believe, why did Paul risk his own life? Why did he go through all of this? Why was he ultimately beheaded if everybody's going to heaven anyway? No, he was willing to go through all of this because he believed that Jesus was not just another way to heaven, that faith in Christ was the only way to be saved. You know, the Bible says the moment we're born, and draw our first breath on planet earth, we start drifting further and further and further away from God. Isaiah 53 says, all we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, everyone, unto our own way.
Every day that you and I live, we're moving further and further away from God. God could leave us just to suffer the eternal results of our separation from him, but instead, because of the great love God has for you and me, he instituted a rescue plan to bring us back home again. That rescue plan is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that's why Paul said, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel. I don't hesitate to preach it to anyone and everyone for it, the Gospel, is the power of God for rescuing, for salvation, to everyone who believes". I want you to notice something else Paul had to say about this Gospel. In the teaching of the apostle Paul about exclusivity, notice what he says about the Gospel and specifically the necessity of faith.
You know, Paul did not believe in the inclusivist view of salvation that says, well, because Christ died for the sins of the world, everyone is going to heaven whether they personally believe or not. Listen to this. Just as a tether in outer space only saves an astronaut who is willing to grab hold of it, just as a net below a burning apartment building can only save the woman who is willing to jump into it, just as a life preserver can only rescue from the deep somebody who will grab hold of it, so the Gospel only saves those who believe in it. That's why Paul said, "It's the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes".
Notice in verse 17 of Romans 1 he emphasizes again the importance of faith. "For in it, the Gospel, the righteousness of God," that means a right standing with God, "Is revealed from faith to faith. For as it is written, the righteous man shall live by faith". You know, as we saw in a previous message, faith is what connects our need with God's provision to meet our need. We're not saved by faith. We're saved through faith. You know, let's press that just a little bit further. Faith is a part of every day life, isn't it, when you think about it? We exercise faith all the time, in every action we take almost.
My friend John Bisagno, the former pastor of First Baptist Church Houston wrote, "Faith is at the very heart of life. You go to a doctor who gives you a prescription you can't read. You take it to a pharmacist you've never seen. He gives you medicine you do not understand and yet you take it". Faith is important for this life, but it's even more important for the next life. Over and over again Paul talks about the importance of faith connecting our need to God's provision.
I want you to look at just one section of Romans. Romans 3:21-25. How many times, six different times, Paul talks about faith or believe in relationship to salvation. But now apart from the law, the righteousness, that is a right standing with God, has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift of his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as the propitiation, that means satisfaction, in his blood through faith and he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Now again, Paul is clear. We're not saved by faith. We are saved through faith. To help you understand that, I want to use this illustration I've used before but it's so good I'm gonna use it again to help you understand this important truth that we are not saved by our faith but through our faith. You know, this is a television cable you have probably in your home somewhere. This cable simply connects your receiver to a transmitter. It's the same way with salvation. Think of salvation as this connector. It's connected to the transmitter, the cross of Jesus Christ, that transmits salvation into my life. Without this cable, there is no connection between the cross and me. This is the connection point. That's why Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, for by grace, God's work on the cross, that we had nothing to do with, for by grace we have been saved through faith. Does that make sense? Faith is the connection between God's offer and my acceptance.
Now, another important point. Let's go back to the TV for a moment. Let's say this TV cable is screwed into the back of your television set, but the other end of the cable, instead of being attached to the cable box, it's attached to your toaster. Now, I don't care how long the cable is. I don't care how reliable the cable is. You ain't gonna be watching any TV tonight if that's the case because your toaster is completely incapable of transmitting a picture. It's the same way with us. Doesn't matter how much faith I have. If I attach the other end of this cable to Hinduism, to Islam, to Buddhism, to Judaism, or, even worse, if I just connect it to myself and said, "I'm gonna transmit salvation through my good works. I'm gonna be good enough". There's no salvation apart from that. Our faith is only as reliable as the object of our faith.
You know, in Romans 4:5, the apostle Paul says, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness". The moment I come to the point in my life when I realize I can't save myself, I can't work, I refuse to work for my salvation but instead I believe, trust in the one who declares not guilty, that is Jesus Christ, God takes my faith, no matter how small it is, and he counts it as righteousness. We're not saved by our faith. We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ.
Now we've looked at what the apostle Paul, the apostle Peter, even Jesus himself said about this topic of exclusivity. They were very clear. Not all roads lead to heaven. Different religions are not simply different paths up the same mountain of truth that lead to God. There is one way to be saved. That should settle the issue, shouldn't it? But I want us to look at one more example. Let's look beyond the apostle Paul to one other writer in the New Testament. He was the writer of the book of Hebrews.
urn in your Bibles for just a moment to Hebrews 10. You know, we don't really know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but we know the circumstances that caused this letter to be written. It was written to Hebrews. Seven years of seminary, I know that now. It was written to Jewish people. It was written to a special group of Jewish people, Jewish people who had recently converted to Christianity. These Jewish Christians were thinking about giving up Christianity to go back into Judaism and this book was written as a warning to them. The writer says very simply, "Why in the world would you give up Christianity to go back to an inferior belief system"?
You know today the writer of Hebrews would be called a bigot. He would be called intolerant for suggesting that Christianity is superior to any religion, especially Judaism, but over and over again the writer says that there is a dire future awaiting those who abandon Christianity for any other belief system. Look at verses 29 to 31. You find one of these warnings here. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the spirit of grace?
When you reject Jesus Christ, that's what you're doing. You're saying the blood of Christ is unclean, it's got the same value as a mongrel dog roaming the streets. That's what the text actually says. When you resist or neglect the Gospel you're insulting the Holy Spirit of God. And then verse 30. For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people". It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
You know, we think of God as this warm, cuddly old grandfather, our buddy in heaven. That's not what the Bible says. The Bible says it is a terrifying thing to face God, to fall into his hands, without having your sins forgiven. But I want to close today by looking at the first warning in the book of Hebrews. It's found in chapter 2:1. Look at this. For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we've heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels, that's a reference to the law given to Moses, the Old Testament law, for if the words spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
You know what he's saying? He's saying to these Jews who were thinking of giving up Christianity and going back into Judaism, he said, "Have you lost your mind? Have you forgotten what Judaism teaches? Have you forgotten the system that says here is God's law and if you disobey one part of it, cursed is every man who does not keep all things written in this book," if you neglect God's only way of forgiveness and place yourself under a work salvation, a standard that nobody can meet, what is your plan to get to heaven one day if you have neglected the only offering of sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins? How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
2.000 years later, that question is just as relevant for you and me today. If you reject the Gospel that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved, or if you simply neglect it for now. You say, you know, I may get around to that at some point, but I'm going to explore other avenues of salvation, if you reject the only provision God has made for your salvation, exactly what is your plan to get to heaven one day? The consistent teaching of Paul, Peter, the writer of Hebrews and, most importantly, Jesus Christ himself is this. There is no other way. There is no other harbor that leads to safety except through faith in Jesus Christ.