The Only Way of Salvation

The Only Way of Salvation

(This message was written in September 2015 as a meditation upon Luke 2:21-24)

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD” ), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Introduction

Luke out of all the other four gospel writers, gives us the most human perspective on Jesus. Here in the second chapter of his book, we see the image of a new born child being made subject to the very same ceremony and rite that every other Jewish child in Judah was subject to. This was amazing in its own right, for it was Jesus who was the long awaited Messiah. The name Jesus means Savior. It was He that would save a people unto God. As the Son of God incarnate, Jesus needed no salvation of His own, for He was born without sin of the Holy Spirit in the virgin’s womb. Yet, here we see the child Jesus brought into the temple and administered the rite of circumcision, as though He were like all the other children.

Jesus was circumcised the eighth day according to the law of Moses because he was and is like us, human. Circumcision was a sign that identified the recipient of it to God’s covenant, so therefore, Jesus must be circumcised too. After all, it was in His humanity that Jesus came to save humans. So he Himself must partake of every aspect of the human experience, apart from sin. The question to ask is, why was this so?

To be a Savior of men, Jesus must be a man. And to be so requires that He is the best man there is. This is true in the sense that Jesus must fulfill every requirement man must fulfill, to be qualified for the task. Someone might say ‘isn’t Jesus God, then why must He be a man and do all these things that man is required to do, can’t He save us apart from them?’ No, Jesus can’t do that, and here’s why. Mankind is lost because of a defection from God. As such, man has not fulfilled his duty to God, he is therefore, unacceptable to Him. So Jesus came and fulfilled what was man’s duty to his Creator. This is the only way salvation can come to man. Furthermore, because it is Jesus, the God Man who has done this, it is He alone that is able to be that Savior.

So beginning here in the temple, God set out to accomplish this salvation in Jesus. This purpose with its requirements would take Him through adulthood, living as a man like men do in the world, again apart from sin. This He would do until finally, at the cross, Jesus would and did fulfill the ultimate requirement placed upon man, that of being put to death by God because of sin.

Now wait a minute someone says, wasn’t Jesus free from all sin as He lived in the world? Absolutely, Jesus did not die for any sin He ever committed. So why then did Jesus die, was this necessary in order for Him to be a Savior, after all, He pleased God in every way possible, so why must He die too and suffer the curse of sin? Jesus’ death was not for Himself, but for others. He is their offering to God, a blood sacrifice to make atonement for their souls. His body was broken that those He came to save might not die for their sins and failings before God.

This is what make Jesus unique. He is not a Savior like any other that has ever come along. False saviors never sacrifice anything for the people they claim as theirs. They lord their authority over them, demanding that they fulfill all that is required from their own poverty. This is not so with Jesus. As the Son of God incarnate, he is Lord over creation by right. But as the God Man who fulfilled all righteousness in His human weakness, He is crowned with great honor. And as the One who gave Himself at the cross for His people, He rose again and ascended to the throne room on high, exalted and glorified far above all principality and power. So out of His treasure of righteousness, His meritorious deeds, His people are given all they need for salvation. Salvation is a matter of free grace from God.

This is what make’s Jesus uniquely qualified as a Savior. It’s also what make Jesus the only Savior of men. It is what make the gospel message the only way of salvation.

Why is the gospel the only way of salvation?

There are many different religions in the world today, and along with them, many different ways offered by them to obtain personal salvation. Some people believe they all are valid, in those areas in which there is some common agreement among them. In this sort of view however, it is impossible to arrive at any definite body of teaching that can be called truth. This is because in order to arrive at the commonality between them, its necessary to bow to the lowest common denominator among them. In other words, one must arrive at relative meaninglessness when attempting to do such a thing. This is hardly a reasonable approach for any thinking person to find satisfaction. Yet, large numbers of people can be satisfied with one religion just as much as another, for the reasons just enumerated.

The Christian faith is entirely different from any other philosophy or religion. And why is this so it is asked? The answer lies in the actual condition of fallen man, and subsequently, to what is needed for his repair.

You see, all religions teach in one way or another a sort of view that says man is able to effect his own way to personal happiness, or salvation if you prefer. In other words, they teach in one form or another, a system of merit, based on works or accomplishments that provide the desired result. Yes, of course, there is always a religious prophet or guru to show them the way. There is always some sort of esoteric philosophy that promises nirvana or whatever else it is that might be obtained through its teachings and disciplines.

But the Christian faith is not like any other. It does not promise reward to the faithful student or follower of Christ, based on their own effort. It is entirely exclusive in what it teaches. Christianity is based on something different from the rest, because it, and it alone address the fundamental problem that man faces, and deals with it squarely. Therefore, it makes the claim of exclusivity. So what is it the Christian faith addresses in the gospel that makes it this way, the only way of salvation?

1. Condemned by Adam’s sin

First of all, the problem of mankind is sin, sin is the fundamental issue that must be overcome. Sin condemns man before God, for it is an offense to Him. Of course, everyone knows and admits that he or she is prone to faults of one kind or another, and some more than others. So the world looks at sin as something to be worked at, overcome by the other so called good qualities that seem to be inherent in man. In all other religions outside of Christianity, it is a matter of applying its teachings or disciplines in order to achieve this personal ideal.

But sin is not like that, it is not something that can be overcome by sincere effort and work. Sin therefore, is a matter of condemnation upon man, he is cursed by its presence in his life. But why is that so, doesn’t everyone come into this world on the same plane, a sort of empty vessel that needs to be filled? If so, can he actually be accursed from the start although born in a morally neutral position? Certainly, given opportunity, anyone might do good or evil, but to say that all men are condemned seems harsh and unreasonable. This might be a popular opinion, but it has no substance before the light of Scripture (Rom. 3:10).

The popular notion is that everything to do with mans condition is obtained by nurture rather than nature. Also, it is common wisdom that mankind is a victim of the circumstances he inherits in life, a creature of his surroundings. It is a popular idea to think of man as an empty slate that is filled with this or that influence or privilege, or the lack thereof.

The Bible tells us differently, for everyone is guilty of sin before they are even born. How is this so someone might ask? It is by association with Adam, the first man ever created that this is so. Adam was made without sin and put on trial so to speak. He was obligated to maintain his position with God. To fail in this duty however, Adam would find himself accursed, condemned to die for the guilt incurred in not doing it. Adam of course, did sin, and God of course, did as He warned. Adam was condemned to die, both physically and spiritually for all eternity.

To go even further, because Adam sinned, we his posterity sinned in him too, incurring the same fate as he. There is a biological connection to Adam everyone on earth shares that makes us his children, but that’s not the real reason for this universal condemnation. Universal condemnation for sin upon mankind is a matter of imputation, or, the sentence of God. The Bible, which is God’s word, says when Adam sinned, all men, and women sinned in him too (Rom. 5:12). This makes every human being guilty of Adams sin before they were ever born. So this is man’s position, he can do nothing about this, no matter what he tries to do.

The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us about a Savior who has not sinned, but has nevertheless, endured the punishment that sin deserves. Christ was born without the guilt or condemnation of Adams sin, though He most certainly is a son of Adam by nature too. Therefore, He is uniquely qualified to atone for sin, based on His merits alone. This certainly makes Him, in the message of the gospel, a singular and solitary solution for sin that no other religion can claim.

2. Condemned by works of unrighteousness

Second of all, man is condemned not only by the inherited guilt from Adam, but by his own works of unrighteousness too. Since humans are sinners first by guilt of association with Adam, they themselves sin because they are sinners by nature. Sin has polluted every area of mans being, so there is no part of man left unaffected by sin. Because of this, acts of sin come entirely natural to man. Have you ever seen a small child, so cute and adorable, and yet, even so, are they not all sinful? How can this be it is mused, a child has no sense of right or wrong, no premeditation in the things that it does? And furthermore, what can a small child do that it is so serious, that it amounts to the level of condemnation by God?

We answer the incredulous skeptic with this observation. Has you or anybody else ever had to teach a child to do the wrong thing because it was entirely against their nature to do so? Of course not, that is a ridiculous thought. Everyone knows that to do the wrong thing comes natural to every child born of Adam. No, every parent knows that to do wrong is present with the child, but to do right can only come from vigorous correction and discipline. This is because man is not only condemned by his natural association with Adam, but by his own works of unrighteousness as a sinner from birth.

Now who can argue with that, can anyone ever say he has not sinned? Only the most deceived person would ever make such a ridiculous claim. So every person grows up and lives his life as a sinner, accumulating more and more guilt as a result of those works of unrighteousness they commit by their own volition. This is the condemnation that no one can escape. Sin against God is committed by everyone who walks the face of the earth (Rom. 3:23). Its guilt therefore, is something deserved by people completely on the basis of their own account. There is never a time in which anyone can say they are not to blame for sin.

3. Condemned by good works

Third of all, because of the corrupting influence of sin in man, even the good that he does is actually counted as evil with God. This is something that is especially hard for someone to grasp. Everyone has seen and experienced good things in this life haven’t they? And more often than not, we can point to individuals who have played a role in doing the good we have known. It is not surprising that though everyone will admit being guilty of a fault here and there, most people consider themselves to be good. This is because the way man views good and evil are on a scale that is adjusted to himself and his own perception of its performance. In other words, sin is a little thing in the eyes of men, and good is something enormous that far outweighs it in his estimation. That is, unless of course, there is some sort of great personal harm that is done to them from someone else. This is viewed as a great evil in their eyes.

So here’s the question, aren’t the good done in this world of great value, even if sin is present too? The goodness that man does is certainly good from the standpoint of himself and the world. It is better to have peace than war, it is better to have prosperity than poverty, and it are certainly better to have freedom than slavery. But these are all things relative to man himself. God does not judge man on the worlds principles, but on His own that are far above the worlds. God doesn’t judge things based on a worldly system of merits and demerits like man does.

a. Because done by a sinner

Good works can do nothing for anyone because it is a sinner who does them. Consider for a minute what even the world thinks about crime and criminals. When a grievous crime is committed, it doesn’t matter what was true of the perpetrator before it was discovered. Previous goodness never blots out the guilt of a criminal in the world’s eyes, when considering it on a social and civil basis. The popular saying goes like this, “if you do the crime, you must do the time.” And even if a convicted criminal is considered for parole on the basis of good behavior, rarely are they entirely let off the hook because of it. In fact, more often than not, when a crime is heinous enough, no amount of good behavior acts as a persuasion toward early release. Even in this world’s distorted view of right and wrong, good is rarely if ever, sufficient to overcome necessary punishment in its eyes.

Of course, we are talking about crimes of a material nature in our attempt to paint a certain picture of good and evil. Crime against God is entirely different. It renders a person subject to the punishment of eternal death (Rom. 6:23a). Therefore, the wrath of God must be satisfied against sin. No amount of so called good works can atone for a single sin, though a single sin has incurred the penalty of eternal death. This is because sin is against God, an eternal, absolutely Holy Being. His punishment must be equal to such a crime. There can never be time off for good behavior. There can never be mitigating circumstances such as victim hood or disadvantage to assuage the divine wrath. So any good a sinner does, is not good concerning God, because it is done by a sinner

b. Being a ground for boasting

Here is the problem for man, because of the presence of sin in his humanity, everything he does is affected by it. And here is the reason why, it has to do with the matter of motivation. The good works of a sinner are always done in order to satisfy themselves that they may boast of their accomplishment. It is true, there are some people who can hide this sort of pride behind a facade of humility. So they receive the world’s praise because of it, and this furthers their pride. No sinner however, does anything for the glory of God, no matter how good it is accounted in the worlds eyes. This is because sin renders mankind a lover of self rather than of God.

We return now to the matter of world religions and their methods of achieving happiness. All of them are interested in advancing the goodness of man. And the way they do this is by human efforts toward personal merit, or, man saving himself. Put this in contrast to the religion of the Bible, for it says that justification with God denies human effort. Therefore, any boasting that man makes toward salvation is false. Biblical faith is exclusive in this, for salvation according to God, is based on the merits of another, even Jesus Christ.

4. Saved by faith alone

This brings us to the final point of the message. Since salvation cannot be earned, it is a free gift from God to those who are actually blessed by it. So how is this salvation obtained if not by the effort of man? It is by faith alone that a man is saved. This is the only way of salvation. Christianity is unique in that it teaches faith as the only way of being justified before God. It is not faith and works, or, faith and experience, or anything else one might try to mix with it. It is faith, and faith alone that justifies a sinner, this is the gospel message. The gospel is good news that is believed. When someone hears and believes the Son of God became man and suffered an ignominious death on the cross as though He were a malefactor, this is good news to them indeed. And why is this so? Because it says there is a Savior for him that has suffered in their place.

The message of the cross becomes personal in this way, it convicts of sin that is against God. But it also says there is a satisfaction for the offense made in Jesus Christ. The good news of the gospel absolves the person of guilt who comes under its blessing, by way of forgiveness with the God who had been offended. All this is done in a substitutionary manner. Faith believes it to be so, and sees God as gracious to the one who is a believer in the message. So faith is the only way in which salvation is obtained (Rom. 3:24-26).

a. The righteousness of Christ

Faith is put in sharp contrast to work in the Bible (Rom. 4:4,5). The difference between the two is a matter of merit and how it is accounted. Merit with God must always be based on perfect righteousness. This is why works can never do anything to justify a sinner. The only man who has ever satisfied God’s requirements on the basis of merit is the man Jesus Christ. His righteousness is acceptable to God. There is a twofold way in which Jesus Christ has pleased God, first, in His active obedience to God as a man, fulfilling every requirement of the law, and second, by dying on the cross in order to satisfy God’s wrath against sin (Rom. 8:3,4).

So how does faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ justify? Faith is a means toward justification, not the object of it. Faith receives and rests in the merit of Jesus Christ, both in His active and passive obedience to God at the cross. Just as God imputes the sin of Adam to all his natural children, He imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to all who believe in it. So it is faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ that saves.

b. His conformity to the law

Jesus did what no man ever did, or is now able to do in reference to the stringent demands of God’s law. Every creature made in the image of God has a relationship to the Creator, based on one of two things, either by works or by grace. Works imply conformity to a standard, which in this case we are referring to is the standard of God set forth at creation. When Adam sinned, his duty, and hence ours as his children, never changed one bit, it is still the basis upon which everyone is judged.

Jesus lived and died in perfect conformity to the will of God. It must be understood that God willed His Son should die on the cross! Jesus submitted Himself to the will of God, and He did this in His humanity. So when God saves a sinner, He does so on the basis of Jesus’ conformity to the law. Now His free grace that works salvation in them does so to conform them too (Rom. 8:29). And God not only conforms His children to the law in its original sense at creation, but He does way more than that in Christ. Salvation consists of conforming a justified sinner to the image of the One who created and saved him, God in Jesus Christ!

c. His substitutionary death

The vicarious nature of Christ’s death makes Christianity like no other faith. Unbelieving Jews sacrificed animals at God’s command, but they did so by believing in its power to save. This is works’ righteousness. Muslims do the things they do as works of righteousness to their conception of God. This too, is nothing more than an attempt at gaining favor with God by human merit. But Christianity is the only way of salvation because it, and it alone have a sacrifice that is acceptable to God on its own merit. Jesus offered Himself to God in obedience to His will, but He did it for another reason too. It was done for the people He came to save. In other words, Jesus’ motivation in His sacrificial death was done first, for the glory of God, and then second, for the good of His people. There was no self centered motivation in the man Jesus in His sacrifice.

The death of Jesus on the cross is such, that it needed to be done only once, in order to accomplish all it was intended to do. Animals never satisfied God in the Old Testament, but faith in His righteousness was accounted as justification (Rom. 4:9). Even though those saints died and were buried, they were saved by the death of Christ. They were saved by His death when He actually came and performed it, it was credited to their account beforehand. So no good work whatsoever can do anything to appease the wrath of God, only a satisfactory substitute such as Jesus Christ. Christianity is exclusive in this. It is faith in the all sufficient death of Christ done once, in order to save from sin forever. There is nothing further needed, nor is there any danger of losing it, it is a purchased possession.

d. His resurrection for our justification

And finally, the Christian gospel is the only way of salvation because of the resurrection. Jesus’ death is shown to be complete and satisfying to God in that He raised Him from the dead. This is a display of the victory He accomplished over death, the Devil and the world, when God raised Him on the third day, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And why was He raised, because death had no claim upon Him anymore. Jesus’ death was accepted by the Father because He was acceptable to Him in it. In other words, Jesus vanquished the curse of death by what He did on the cross.

Now His resurrection from the grave is the guarantee of the justification God pronounces upon His people (Rom. 4:23-25). To those who are His, Jesus’ death is theirs. Likewise, His resurrection unto life is theirs too, because He lives, we live who believe in Him through the gospel. Jesus rose again with a new and glorified body, so will we who are saved by Him. Jesus ascended to the Father and sat down at His right hand. God has exalted Him unto this honor for what He has done. Some day, every believer in Him will be with Him in glory because of it. Amen.

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