Article 18 — Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ
Posted by Rohintan Mody, 20 Mar 2017
Rohintan Mody became a Christian out of a Zoroastrian background. But did he have to convert to be saved?
XVIII — OF OBTAINING ETERNAL SALVATION ONLY BY THE NAME OF CHRIST
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
There is no more important question in our day and in the church than that of other religions. The question goes something like this: “Since there are so many different religions in the world aren’t there many different ways to God? I know that those of other religions are very sincere in their beliefs, and they are also very good people, so, surely all those who live sincere lives will be led to God?” People say that there are many paths up the one mountain. Indeed, many believe that the most offensive and nonsensical thing that anyone can say is that there is only one way to God. All spiritual truth, we are told, is plural and relative.
Yet, we know that to say that all that matters is sincerity is simply not true in other areas of life. It really does matter that the pilot of your plane knows how to fly a plane and the way to its destination. In this case, sincerity is just not enough. After all, when we consider the identity of God in different religions, we see that religions contradict one another. Christians believe that God is one but Trinity, Islam believes that God is one, but definitely not Trinity, Hinduism believe that God is many, and others, including Buddhists believe that God does not exist as a personal being. Many in our culture believe in a divine ‘force’, but not much more. So, which one is right?
It is here that Article 18 is so very helpful and relevant, even more so that in the 16th Century, when the only non-Christian religions people generally knew about were Judaism and Islam, and the only sects were some odd anti-Trinitarians. The Article also stresses that it is Christ alone who saves, not, as in the Roman Catholic church, that you can add in the Virgin Mary somehow to Christ’s work as mediator and redeemer. So, let’s have a look at the Article in detail:
1.THE ERROR CONDEMNED
Article 18 points out that we cannot be saved either by the diligent sincerity of the beliefs “we professeth” or our personal “sect” or religion. Indeed we are “accursed” if we believe such things. Religions cannot save us nor can the sense human beings have by looking at the light of nature or conscience in our hearts that there is a God. Article 18 is in agreement with the Bible. Paul speaks in Romans 1:18-23 about the human problem to which the gospel is the solution. He says that even though God clearly revealed himself to us in creation, people have rejected this knowledge him. And so “they are without excuse.” Further, we have exchanged the true God for idols (that is, religion, our own ideas about God) and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” And so, Paul says, we are all under the “wrath of God.”
So how can we have saving knowledge of God?
2. THE TRUTH EXPLAINED
Article 18 explains that the only way we can be saved is the “Name of Jesus Christ.” What the Article means is that you have to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Why does the Article assert something so offensive to our society? Because the Bible says so.
First, in the prophet Isaiah, God says that “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). Notice here that the God of the Bible is the true God, and also that other “gods” (which the Bible calls “idols”) are not the true God.
Secondly, Jesus, in his farewell teaching to his disciples, the night before the cross, in John 14:6, echoes Isaiah and reveals to us the way to God and heaven. He says: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” As God come to earth, Jesus has the right to tell us the way to heaven.
It is very important to see what Jesus says: He is the definite and singular “Way” to God (not “a way”). He is the absolute “Truth” about God and from God (not “a truth about God”), and he is the true “Life” of God and the giver of eternal life (not “a nice way to live”).
Crucially, Jesus also goes onto the negative: “no one comes to the Father except through me.” That is, the only way for human beings to know God as our Father in heavenly life is through faith and knowledge in Jesus Christ as God and Saviour (John 20:30-31).
Now, I was not brought up in a Christian family. I was an Indian Zoroastrian. I believed in many ways to God. But then some Christian friends told me that I was going to hell unless I had faith in Jesus, because he is the only Way. I was very offended by that message, but I read the message of John 14:6. I knew I had to either accept this Jesus or reject him. But I knew that Jesus had risen from the dead and so I said, like Thomas, to this risen Lord Jesus “My Lord and my God” (John 20:29).
Article 18 also points us to Acts 4:12, to which it alludes: “For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ whereby men must be saved.” In Acts 4, Peter preaches to the Jewish leaders and says in verse 12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Here Peter asserts that there is no other saviour except Jesus Christ. Why? Because only Jesus saves, since only Jesus died for our sins.
Secondly, Peter tells us that God (that is what Peter means by “heaven”) has appointed and named his Son, Jesus, as the only one with the authority and power to save and rescue sinful human beings.
Lastly, notice that the name of Jesus is, according to God’s divine decree, the name “by which we must be saved.” There can be no human option here like, “I will choose to be saved in my own way or by my own god or religion.” Rather Peter says, “no, God has decreed and fixed that we must be saved only through faith in Christ.”
So, to conclude, the Article rightly says that we can only be saved by faith in Christ alone, and not by sincerity, religion, or nature. It is a breath-taking statement to make. It is a counter-cultural truth to proclaim. But it also means that we can have assurance that we have Christ and are saved, and that we can tell people of other faiths (like me before conversion) that there is only one Way to be saved, because Jesus Christ is the unique and exclusive Saviour.
Rohintan Mody is Lecturer in New Testament at the Evangelical Theological College of Asia and author of Empty and Evil: The worship of other faiths in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and today.
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