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Exclusively Inclusive | Theology Matters

“By making Jesus the only door through which we can find salvation, God opened the way to include everyone who comes in faith.”

In this pluralistic and inclusive age, it is popular to think that many diverse roads can lead to God. With so many belief systems, how can just one be correct? Those who assert this opinion consider the church’s claim that Jesus alone is the gate of salvation an example of cultural arrogance. How can we as Christ’s followers respond to this criticism? First, it is important for us to realize that this claim did not originate with the church. This claim of exclusivity traces to Jesus Himself, who declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Second, the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is offered not just to a select few, but to all. Jesus is the gate and the door, but He also extends this gift of salvation broadly as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus assured us that whoever comes to Him will not be turned away (John 6:37).

By making Jesus the only door through which we can find salvation, God opened the way to include everyone who comes in faith. Jesus is to salvation what Adam was to sin. Paul explains this relationship in these words: “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people” (Rom. 5:18). Christ came as our representative and as our substitute.

You might say that the salvation that Jesus offers is exclusively inclusive. The promise of forgiveness can be considered exclusive because it comes only through Christ. But, it is also inclusive because the invitation to receive this gift is offered to all: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). By making righteousness contingent on the One, God opened the way of salvation to many.

For Further Study

To learn more, read Only One Way: Christian Witness in an Age of Inclusion edited by Michael L. Johnson and Richard D. Phillips (P&R Publishing).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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