In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus makes an amazing claim: Those who saw themselves as God’s people, who were sticklers for keeping the law and could trace their lineage all the way back to Moses were “children of the devil” (John 8:44). So much for the Jesus-who-judges-no-one of liberal theologians.
Throughout the New Testament, two groups of people are in view. Sometimes they are called “the lost” and “the found” other times “children of the Devil” and “children of God.” No matter what descriptors are used, it’s always two and only two groups. One is either “lost” and a child of the devil or “found” and a child of God. The most important question anyone can ask is: How do I move from the first group into the second? How do I cross over and become a child of God?
Thankfully, the Bible is clear on the answer to that question. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can one be made right with God (John 14:6) and move from being God’s enemy to being His friend (John 15:15). People hated that answer in the first century and have continued to hate it in every century since. As a result, all kinds of aberrant belief systems have arisen seeking to get around the clear teaching of Jesus that by grace through faith in Him alone can men be saved. Most of these systems fall into one of two categories:
The Christ and.. Method
This method teaches that, yes, I’m a sinner and yes, Christ is necessary in order to deal with my sin but Christ is not sufficient to do so. Trusting in what Christ did on the cross is certainly a course requirement but I still have to get some extra credit through my works in order to be reconciled to God (or in some cases to stay reconciled). In this category would be the Roman Catholic Church and, within Protestantism, the Church of Christ.
The Christ or…Method
Some take it even a step further. Sure, Christ is a way to be reconciled to God but it is arrogant and ethnocentric to claim He’s the only way. There are many ways to God. Whether one starts out a sinner or not in this belief system is not a given. Some in this camp would say yes, others no. Unitarian Universalism as well as many of the liberal mainline Protestant denominations in the United States fit here.
Here’s an example of this teaching from the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA:
So what is the answer?
The Christ period. Method
The absolute best we can do in pursuit of righteousness Isaiah says is but “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). There is nothing we can do to be made righteous or even to be made more righteous. Righteousness in the eyes of God is not a matter of degrees. A person is either righteous or they’re not. Jesus is and we’re not. Only when God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us can we stand before Him blameless (the only way one can stand before a holy God and not be destroyed).
The perfect life Christ lived and the sacrificial death He died are all that is needed to justify us, make us right with God. When we trust in Christ by grace through faith, we are justified. No additional work on our part is required to supplement that and no other religious tradition can accomplish that because Christ is the only righteous person who ever lived and is therefore the only acceptable substitute for our own “filthy rags.”
What then is Christ’s role in our salvation? The author of the book of Hebrews answers for us:
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” – Hebrews 7:25 (emphasis mine)
Have you trusted in this Christ who can save completely?