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Friday, March 25, 2011

Salvation and Messianic Jews 2

To follow up on yesterday, I want to share a question that someone asked Rabbi Derek Sunday, "Is Jesus the only way to salvation?"

The question is straight forward, but I think the answer is not. The answer is really to an unasked second question. Both of Derek's answers made sense to me.

Answer one: Jesus is the only way to salvation. The NT is clear on that. It is the sort of thing repeated over and over, especially in the Fourth Gospel and by Paul. This is the undergirding principle for evangelism, we seek to bring the lost to faith so that they can be saved. Matt Kennedy lays out the exclusivist argument very well at Stand Firm.

I think the spiritual motivation in asking this question is the desire for Truth. We want to be obedient to God and do what He tells us. The intellectual motivation for many of us is the issue of truth. We care about what kind of world this is and want to understand how it works. The emotional issues of security and connectedness are also motivating. Our commitment to Jesus makes us part of a family of faith, we wonder it others are "in it with us" or if they "stand against us."

There are so many, inside the church as well as outside, who reject Jesus. They negate the NT claims about Him. Asking this question, "Is Jesus the only one who saves?," is another way of asking if the Bible is reliable?

Why then did I say the Rabbi answered two questions? The other question is "What about people who have never heard about Jesus?" The exclusivist position is, "they are damned." There is a barage of Scripture quotes unleashed which make a pretty stunning case that this is so. The Rabbi's answer (and my own) is that God decides. God is the judge. His hope, and mine, is that things work out better for those who were born in such a state that the Gospel was never preached to them. [This 'answer' also comes under withering attack. I want to explain my position slowly.] I think for many people it is also a source of stumbling. Now that is not sufficient to turn from the truth, but I do think it is important to engage the questions people have.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are important texts to me. In the first, Paul states that God desires that all be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. He goes on to explain that there is one God and one Mediator between God and man ("Jesus our ransom"). Peter says that the delay in the world's end is because God wants everyone to repent. These two verses, coupled with the idea that "God loves us," leads many to hope that the mercy of God will find a way to extend beyond the confines of the church (as we know it).

The motivation for such hope? Many of us recognize that we could have been born in another situation. There is a feeling of arbitrariness. In simplest form, it does not seem fair that some are in and some are out based on where or when they were born; something over which they have no control. (It also raises serious questions about those who are in the OT and dead babies.)

Please note, I am not advocating anything yet. I am simply raising this question: Does God desire that everyone be saved? Is it God's will, His hunger, His longing?

There are additional questions, as well. We need to be aware that our assumptions probably dictate the form that some answers take.

I believe that Jesus is the sole source of salvation. I believe there is no other name given for salvation. I also believe God desires everyone to be in relationship with Him. How does that last statement enter the discussion?

Today, I prefer to end by meditating on that desire. God's heart is the place where we end today. To think about and pray over this message: God's heartfelt desire is salvation for everyone.

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