Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
As an evangelical follower of Jesus, I believe and teach that Jesus is the one and only way to salvation. It was Jesus — God incarnate — who showed us God’s love and grace through his life, death, and resurrection. It was Jesus who provided the way of salvation for each and every individual who will yield to him in faith.
Some people struggle with this truth because it sounds exclusive … even arrogant if not communicated with love and grace. They wonder how salvation works if Jesus is the only way especially if there are those who’ve never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me suggest a few ways to think about it…
The Scripture reminds us that human beings created in the image of God are drawn toward God (Romans 1:19-20). God’s invisible qualities and divine nature are clearly seen in the world within us and around us; that draws people toward him in faith. We are created for worship. There exists a God-shaped vacuum in our souls that can only be filled by God. Those who have never heard of Jesus — and those that have heard — are designed for faith. So people are supernaturally driven toward God and drawn toward him by his design.
The Scripture gives examples of God taking extraordinary means to reach those who desire to know him (Acts 10:1ff). When individuals respond to the work of God’s Holy Spirit and become “seekers,” the Bible tells us that God makes sure they become “finders.”
In the case of Cornelius, God sent Peter with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. In the case of a pastor acquaintaince of mine, it happened in a rather unique way. As a follower of Islam he became increasingly disallusioned with his experience and disatisfied with his life. At a particularly “low” time, he cried out to God asking for a sign. By the end of that day, he had his sign. It came in the form of a partial fragment of Scripture — a small portion of a page from a gospel tract — stuck to his shoe! On the piece of the tract, was half of a Scripture and part of the name of a local church. He read the Scripture, located the church, and spoke with the pastor. The result was he came to faith in Jesus Christ.
God is indeed a rewarder of those who seek after him (Hebrews 11:6).
I can hear you asking: “Okay…but what about those who have never heard? What about the person in the deepest, darkest rain forest who never has an opportunity to hear about Jesus?” For me, they, too, can come to God in simple and yet life-transforming faith even if they never have the opportunity to hear the name “Jesus” or the facts of the gospel. In the same way that Abraham’s faith was credited to him in anticipation of the promise of Jesus — he never knew the name or the facts — anyone can come to God through Jesus independent of the facts. God receives all who yield themselves to him in faith and gives people the gift of salvation because of Jesus — who he is and what he has done. Faith not facts saves us!
Of course, taking that step of faith is nurtured by a clear presentation of the gospel facts (see Romans 10: 14-15). It’s much clearer and much more direct when people hear the truths about Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul admonishes us to be willing to “go on mission” and share our faith.
Here’s where it gets personal for me: Who are the “seekers” around me? Am I willing to be a “Peter” to go and share the good news about Jesus? Who are the “Cornelius-people” that need to hear about Jesus? Are we as a church willing to participate and partner with others who make the truths of Jesus known?
If so, then we will get to the point where we’ll never have to ask the original question again. Everyone will have had the opportunity to hear about Jesus — the way, the truth, and the life!