Winter 2012

Why is Jesus Christ the Only Way of Salvation?

By Kevin Alan Lewis

Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I am the Way, and the truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). The Apostles echoed this claim, stating, “And there is salvation in no one else; there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This doctrine is known as “Christian Particularism.”

Common objections to this doctrine include claims that it is “arrogant,” “prideful,” or “just plain unfair!” These objections, though, are meritless and often fail to address the foundational theological precepts inherent in the doctrine.

To have another way of salvation, a person must change the goal of salvation itself. For example, if the purpose of “salvation” is to become a god, realize your godhood, or merely escape incarceration in a cosmic jailhouse, the means of accomplishing salvation will reflect those mistaken salvific ends.

While the means of biblical salvation includes many concepts such as justification, adoption and regeneration, the objective of biblical salvation is easy to understand: to enjoy a loving, mentoring relationship with our Creator, the one true God. As Adam walked with God, so should we. But how can one restore a broken relationship with God?

The requirements for restoring a broken friendship are easy to understand but difficult for most to do. To restore a lost friendship, the offended person must be willing to forgive by bearing the harm caused by the transgressor, electing not to hold it against him if certain conditions are met. The conditions for forgiveness are that the offending party must repent, confess his sin and want to restore the relationship with the offended party. Since the goal of forgiveness is the restoration of a genuine friendship, the offending party must begin with repentance. When the sinner genuinely repents, confesses and receives the offer of forgiveness, the estranged parties reconcile, walking together again in righteous harmony. If anyone has ever lost and genuinely restored a meaningful friendship, they know this is the only way to do it.

One purely hypothetical illustration may help. If I screamed at my wife, calling her unmentionable names, my wife would rightly be offended and our intimate fellowship would surely be broken. So how would I return to a genuine state of e-harmony with my wife? First, my wife must be willing to bear the harm I caused her and not hold it against me. But to restore the relationship in any meaningful sense, I need to realize that what I did was wrong, repent, and confess my sin to my wife — preferably with symbols of my repentance in hand, such as flowers and candy! When these conditions are fulfilled, my wife will forgive me.

So how does this relate to Jesus Christ as the only way? Simple. To restore the broken relationship with the one true God, the offended party, God, must be willing to bear the consequences of our sin. God accomplishes this by means of the Second Person of the Trinity assuming a full human nature, living a sinless life, and satisfying our penalty for sin on the cross. Sinners, the offenders, need to repent, confess and trust God’s offer of forgiveness. When we do, we are reconciled to God for the purpose of fellowship with him as his beloved children. This is biblical salvation.

Now consider some of the common errors offered as “ways” of salvation. They are incoherent given the biblical objectives of salvation. For example, in a works righteousness model, one would perform good works, such as helping little old ladies across the street, and then return to his wife and demand forgiveness since he “earned it” by good works. This model is as absurd as having a third party, such as the next door neighbor, “bear the burden” of the offense, after which the unrepentant man demands forgiveness from his wife. No sane person would ever attempt this method with their spouse, yet these errors are commonly offered as a “way” of salvation with God.

So contrary to the many objections, since the goal of salvation is forgiveness and reconciliation with a personal God in order to have loving fellowship with him, the only scenario that makes any sense is to have God incarnate, Jesus Christ, bear our sin as a substitute, and require repentance and faith in him on the part of the sinner. He is the only way and the truth and the life! Scripture and good old common sense confirm this truth.


Kevin Alan Lewis (M.Div. ’92, Th.M. ’93) is professor of theology and law at Biola University. He holds a J.D. from Whittier Law School. He is the founder and director of the Institute for Theology & Law.

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  • Jo January 28, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Thank you for this concise, clear interpretation. I found it enlightening. I agree that Jesus Christ is the Only Way, for the very reasons you state. I also love what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says about repentance: "It is much more than just acknowledging wrongdoings. It is a change of mind and heart that gives us a fresh view about God, about ourselves, and about the world." The Church says some other things about it that go right along with what you're saying. http://www.lds.org/study/topics/repentance?lang=eng. Repentance truly is a precious gift from a loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. One of my favorite scriptures is chapter 53 of Isaiah, wherein it says that "when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." An ancient American prophet named Abinadi explained that Christ's seed, the reason for His suffering and Atonement, is anyone who has "hearkened unto their [the prophets'] words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins," ie. repentance and enduring to the end. The full discourse is here if you wish to reference it. Thank you again. http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/15?lang=eng

  • Mike January 28, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    This explanation is valid and accurate. However, it will only be accepted as part of a biblical world view. That means that we must have faith that Jesus Christ is God and is perfect and, therefore, is alone in His ability to pay for my sin. This faith only comes from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Without God granting that faith even the great explanation given will not resonate. But if God has granted that faith to a person, he/she will repent and Jesus will endure to the end.

  • Isaac January 21, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    Only by the name of Jesus Christ that anyone can be save not by the name of Jehovah or Yahweh (both are incorrect translations anyway).

    Jesus is not the second person of the Trinity but rather He is the manifestation of God in the flesh. Trinity is only true in a sense but not biblical.

  • Isabel February 26, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Your example of earning salvation through good works was a bit confusing. Is it different from someone trying to EARN forgiveness by doing those nice things for that person? Buying them things, doing things for them, until the other person sees they are truly sorry, and then proceed to forgive them, maybe. I know salvation doesn't come by works, but what do you say to people who believe we should be doing these things because we need to earn Gods forgiveness, by doing things for Him.. (I know we can't do anything for God without God even giving us the ability to do it). Also what about those who say we have to maintain the salvation, by being obedient (works, again).

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