Is Jesus the Only Way? – John MacArthur
What a privilege that is, to be called and sent by God to proclaim his glorious truth.This February will be 40 years of ministry at Grace Community Church. 40 years, that’spretty amazing when — you — I appreciate that. You should be applauding the peoplewho have endured all of this for all these years. But what a great privilege, and whata joy. And one of the highlights, of course, of my life (over many years now) has beenthe friendship with R.C. and the opportunity to minister in Ligonier conferences. Manyplaces, including the National Conference in Orlando, and being here with you. I’m justhonored to be a part of this great event.Now, I know you’ve heard a lot, and you have a lot more to hear today. I want to just kindof begin our morning, maybe as we just sort of spiritually wake up, with a bit of a Biblestudy. That’s my favorite thing to do. So, if you can just take the sermon idea out ofthis and just look at our time together as if we were gathered in a somewhat informalplace, and we were just going to look together at the Scripture. And I want to point youin the direction of the Scriptures around the theme of the exclusivity of the gospel.One of the strange realities in my life, that I never really anticipated, is that I havespent so many years, preached so many messages, written so many books trying, in a sense,to hang on to the gospel while it’s under attack from so-called ‘evangelicals.’ WhenI was in seminary, you know, we were kind of prepared to battle with liberalism, andwe were prepared to defend the inerrancy of Scripture. We were prepared to be able todefend the true ministry of the Holy Spirit, and get the right paradigm of sanctification,and deal with the sort of initial movement of what we now call the ‘charismatic movement.’We were learning how to address issues of liberalism, and counter-Catholicism, and dealwith the cults. But the gospel seemed to be sort of a settled issue in the evangelicalworld. Certainly, that is no longer the case, and the word ‘evangelical’ has reached proportionsnow where it really doesn’t mean anything because it’s so ambiguous. But if you lookat surveys that are done by these various groups that do that, you will find that somewherebetween 45 percent and 65 percent of so-called evangelical Christians are convinced thatJesus is not the only way to heaven. This goes counter to our tradition, our theology,and Scripture, as you know. But here we are, as evangelical Christians, defending the exclusivityof Christ. And this is a movement that’s not diminishing. It is a movement that is escalating,in a postmodern world where tolerance dominates everything, and everybody has a right to hisown opinion, and there is no universal truth and no absolutes. This kind of fits perfect.So I think we need to be able to deal with this.There are so many attacks on the gospel, as I look back over the books that, through theyears, I wrote. The Gospel According to Jesus, followed up with The Gospel According to theApostles. Followed that up with Hard to Believe. Followed that up with The Truth War. Threwin Ashamed of the Gospel. Half a dozen books dealing with the gospel. To say nothing ofthe fact that there have been hundreds and hundreds of other books written endeavoringto clarify the gospel, and to demand adherence to the gospel, if you’re going to call yourselfa Christian. But there is a widespread ambiguity about the gospel, and there are some verypopular, prominent evangelical leaders who are apostles of this ambiguity, who are contentto leave the precision out and have a kind of gospel that is like soft clay that youcan sort of shape into any form that satisfies you. Now, we can get some things wrong withoutsevere, eternal consequences. We can’t get this wrong without severe, eternal consequences.The heart of our faith, of course, is the gospel of salvation, and we must understandthe gospel as the gospel truly is in its saving reality and its saving power. True Christianshave always believed and taught that you can’t be saved from eternal hell unless you hearthe gospel of Jesus Christ and believe that gospel. You cannot be saved. That is whatbelievers in Scripture have always affirmed, always proclaimed, always embraced.Look at Romans 10, if you will, and let’s kind of start there. And I want to do thisin a sort of a backward fashion, if I can, as we look at the Scripture. Rather than affirmingthe exclusivity of Christ (which we certainly can do on a positive note), I want to showyou what the Scripture says about any other attempt to be saved. So, looking at it moreon the negative backside of it. But a good place to start is in Romans 10 because Paulbegins by saying, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for theirsalvation.” And of course he’s talking about Israel: ‘My prayer is that Israel would besaved’; which assumes that they are not. Now these are not pagans. These are the peoplewho had the Old Testament, believed the Old Testament, believed in the God of Abraham,Isaac, and Jacob, believed in the God who created, the God who gave His Law, the Godwho is the Redeemer of Israel. This is the nation of people who had the Old Testament– the only existing revelation from God, written down and passed down — and they,with that revelation, and with their faith in the true and living God of the Old Testament(the true God), were not saved. They were not saved. You will hear today, if you listento people like John Hagee, and others, that Jews don’t need to believe in Jesus. Theyhave another path to salvation. Not according to the New Testament. Not according to Jesus,who continually pronounced judgement on them. Even as He walked to the cross — on the roadto the cross, while the professional mourning women were weeping over Him, doing their duty,he turned to them and said, “Don’t weep for me. Weep for yourselves.” It was crystal-clearthat Jesus saw the whole nation of Israel as apostate. And they believed in the OldTestament. And they believed in the God of the Old Testament, as revealed in Scripture.But that’s not enough. They had misrepresented the Old Testament and come up with a systemof salvation by works, as we all know. Saving faith is something more than believing certainthings which are true. The problem is, as you flow down in this text, and you do a littlebit of pathological study of a non-saving faith (it’s something that I mentioned toyou last night) — they have a zeal for God but not in accordance with knowledge. It doesn’tdo anybody any good to have a zeal for God if it’s not correct. If it’s not precise.I was really amazed when I watched the Rick Warren interview with Obama and McCain andRick Warren said to McCain, “You say you are a Christian. What does your Christian — whatdoes your Christianity mean to you?” And he said, “It means I’m saved and I’m forgiven.”What does that mean? By what? By whom? From what? To what? In another interview (and thisis very popular) — I’ve heard people say, very prominent public people, “Well, my faithis a very private thing.” Let me tell you something: if your faith is a private thing,it’s not the Christian faith, and it’s not a saving faith. Jesus said, “If you confessme before men, I’ll confess you before my Father who is in heaven.” The right answerto the question what does your Christianity mean to you is: it means to me that Jesusis Lord. Jesus is Lord. He is my Lord and my Savior, and there is no other lord andthere is no other savior. That’s the right answer. What was even more disturbing to mewas the comment of Pastor Warren, who said, “Oh, that was a ‘gimme!'” Like, ‘that wasso simple. You got it right. We don’t need to carry that any further.’ Now I don’t knowwhat he believes, but I know that that is the kind of comfortable ambiguity that hasnow captivated supposed Christianity today; where you basically don’t have to commit toanything because you might be intruding on someone’s sensibilities because they mightdisagree with you.They had a zeal for God, and they were the chosen people. But it was not in accordancewith knowledge. And what was wrong with their knowledge? Verse 3 — “not knowing about God’srighteousness.” They didn’t understand how righteous God was (and I pointed that outlast night). And so they went to seek their own righteousness. In other words, they thoughtGod was less righteous than He was, and therefore they were able to be righteous enough to pleaseGod. So they didn’t understand the full essence of the righteousness of God. They didn’t understandtheir own sin and inability. They didn’t, therefore, subject themselves to the righteousnessof God. They didn’t really come under the threat of divine righteousness in a beatitudeattitude — the attitude of the publican (Luke 18) pounding his breast in horror over hisown wretchedness and saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” They thought they were good.They thought they were so good that God was low enough to accept that goodness. They hada warped view of salvation, do you understand that? They had a warped view of salvation;a warped view of God’s righteousness (essential to understanding salvation); a warped viewof their own unrighteousness, thinking that they could attain to salvation by their owneffort. They had a misunderstanding of the cross of Christ. They didn’t understand thatChrist is the end of the law for righteousness; that the only way that we will ever be righteousis through the One who satisfied the Law perfectly. So they got their theology wrong, they gottheir hamartiology wrong, and they got their Christology wrong, and their soteriology wrong.And they also didn’t understand that this righteousness is available, according to verse4, “to everyone who,” what? “believes”; that it’s not by works, it’s by faith. So hereis this sad statement by Paul, that, with all of the revelation that they had, withall the truth that they had concerning the one, true and living God — and they weremonotheists — they were not saved. Their lostness was so wrenching to the heart ofPaul, that in the earlier chapter (at the beginning of the ninth chapter), he says,”I wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, mykinsmen according to the flesh.” He agonized over the lostness of Israel.Now if you follow the flow here, we learn a little later in the tenth chapter (verse13), that “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how then shallthey call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom theyhave not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” In other words, you can’t besaved unless you believe. You can’t believe the right thing unless you’ve heard it. Youcan’t hear it if somebody doesn’t tell it to you. And that is why those who preach areso beautiful — “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things”– because you can’t be saved until the message arrives that you must believe.So verse 17, you know the verse: “So, then, faith comes from hearing, and hearing by theword of Christ.” And Chris, you said that this morning: the gospel is outside of us.It is not intuitive to us. It is something we have to hear. And somebody has to be thespokesman for that hearing. And when you look at the history of the gospel-faithful church,you go back and you see the uncountable amounts of money, millions of believers through thecenturies who have spent their resources, who have sacrificed their lives to take theone and only message of salvation concerning Christ to the edges of the earth. Many ofthem martyred. Many of them burned at the stake. In just a couple of decades, BloodyMary burned at the stake 283 Christians because they would not agree that the actual bodyand blood of Jesus was in the host and the cup. They burned them at the stake. What,you think this contemporary evangelical world would want to give its life for that? Youthink people would be burned at the stake to hold on to the fact that transubstantiationis a fantasy, and the misrepresentation of the truth? The mentality today of this sortof postmodern, kind of emerging, ambiguous evangelicalism is an assault on the integrityand the sacrifice of believers through the ages, who were willing to die for the precisionof the truth. You think about all the translation work that’s gone on. All the printing. Allthe preaching, teaching, evangelizing that’s been the church’s mission since its birthat Pentecost — an unrelenting effort to use every means available to take the gospel toevery creature, as we’ve been mandated in the Great Commission. Was this waste? Wasthis folly? Was this useless? Was this redundant? Unnecessary? Here we are, at the start ofthis new millennium, and we have now greater means than in the history of the world tospread the gospel, don’t we? Greater means. Radio, television, tapes, iPods, CDs, DVDs.On, and on, and on it goes. Printing, mass printing. Mass distribution. We can get iteverywhere, and get it there fast. And at just the time when we have the means — thelikes of which the church has never known — to spread the gospel all over the world,we have no interest in doing that, because we think that people are probably going tobe okay even without the gospel. This is really an embarrassing thing. Very embarrassing.The church has taken the shallow approach, motivated by shallow understanding. And, inmany cases, a synthetic gospel is being propagated that doesn’t have the power to save becauseit’s not the truth.Now all of that indifference toward precision and clarity in proclaiming the gospel hasbasically kind of come out of some theological views, or it’s defended by some. Let me giveyou a couple of them: Natural Theology — there is a — there’s a big movement in what iscalled ‘Natural Theology’ — that is, man has innately, intuitively, inside of him,the natural reasoning powers to come to God and be saved without the Scripture. That’sright. Without the Scripture and without the gospel. Advocates say that man can discoverthe existence, and the nature, and the attributes of God (in Romans 1), and that is true. Andhuman reason will lead you back to God, because human reason functions on a ’cause and effect’structure (and cause and effect eventually leads you back to the primary cause). Youcan know a lot about God. You can know something about His power by looking at the world, inits macro and in its micro sense. It is true. So they go further and say man thus becomescapable of knowing enough of the truth of God to satisfy God without the necessity ofdivine revelation. He sort of ‘finds his way’ to God. It’s nice if he has the Bible. It’snice if he has the gospel. It’s not necessary. Here’s a news report from the Vatican — VaticanCity, from the Los Angeles Times: “Tempering a controversial Vatican declaration on salvation,the Pope said this week that, “All who live a just life will be saved, even if they donot believe in Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.” Well you’re saying, “Oh,but the Roman Catholic Church has always believed that.” The Pontiff, addressing 30,000 pilgrimsin St. Peter’s Square, asserted the Second Vatican Council’s liberal interpretation ofthe Bible’s teaching on salvation. Quote (the Pope): “The gospel teaches us that those wholive in accordance with the Beatitudes — the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those whobear lovingly the sufferings of life — will enter God’s kingdom.” End quote. “The Popeappeared to take a far more inclusive approach to salvation than the declaration of DominusIesus, September 5th, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’sguardian of doctrinal orthodoxy. The declaration caused dismay among non-Catholics involvedin interfaith dialogue by asserting that their rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitionsor other errors, constitute an obstacle to salvation.” End quote. So that the idea isthis: false religion may be a barrier to salvation, but people, apart from the Bible and the gospel,can be saved if they can work their way around the barrier. By the way, the Roman CatholicChurch was basically led into that by the heretical Thomas Aquinas, who adopted Aristoteliankind of philosophy. Officially adopted as the position of the Roman Catholic Churchin Vatican One. Present, of course, in the new Catholic Catechism. The Biblical teachingthat salvation only comes in response to faith in Christ is rejected as unreasonable andcruel. People are saved if they live good lives and are sincere in their beliefs, whateverthey are.Well, so much for the Catholics. Here is an interview between Billy Graham, (beloved BillyGraham) and Robert Schuller. This interview was recorded on tape and video:Dr. Graham: “Well, Christianity and being a true believer — you know, I think there’sthe body of Christ, which comes from all the Christian groups around the world (or outsidethe Christian groups). I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ (whether they’reconscious of it or not), they’re members of the body of Christ. And I don’t think thatwe’re going to see a great, sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ atany time.” He says further, “God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for Hisname. And that’s what God is doing today. He’s calling people out of the world for Hisname. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world,or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve beencalled by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus. But they know in their heartsthat they need something that they don’t have. And they turn to the only light they have,and I think they’re saved, and they’re going to be with us in heaven.”To which Dr. Schuller replied, “What I hear you saying is that it’s possible for JesusChrist to come into a human heart, and soul, and life, even if they’ve been born in darknessand have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’resaying?”Dr. Graham: “Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts ofthe world in tribal situations. They’ve never seen a Bible, or heard about a Bible, havenever heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there is a God, and they’vetried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which theylived.”Dr. Schuller: “This is fantastic. I’m so thrilled to hear you say this. There’s a wideness inGod’s mercy.”Dr. Graham. “There is. There definitely is.”That was on The Hour of Power, by the way. It’s kind of a shocking thing, isn’t it? — whenthe proclaimed leading evangelist in the world believes that you don’t need the Bible, orJesus, to get to heaven.Another expression that is used — different from the Natural Theology, but corollary toit — is — you’ll hear people write and speak about a wider mercy. There are theologiansthat insist that the historical New Testament view is too narrow. Developing this NaturalTheology — that there’s something innate within man that can get him to God, to satisfyGod (which, again, is the same problem you had in Romans 10, right? Because even theJews, who had the Scripture, didn’t get salvation apart from Christ. How could people who notonly didn’t know Christ but didn’t have the Scripture receive salvation? That’s the problemwith this Natural Theology — Wider Mercy says, “But you have to understand that Godis more tolerant.” Clark Pinnock writes, “When we approach the man of faith (other than ourown), it will be in a spirit of expectancy to find out how God has been speaking to him,and what new understanding of the grace and love of God we may ourselves discover in thisencounter. Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion,is to take off our shoes because the place we are approaching is holy. Else we find ourselvestreading on men’s dreams. More, we may forget that God was here before our arrival.” Andhe adds, “God has more going on by way of redemption that what happened in 1st centuryPalestine.”This depreciates the Trinity. This depreciates the Incarnation, depreciates the work andatonement of Christ, denies the uniqueness of the Bible, denies the necessity of gospeltruth, substitutes the same old philosophical junk about the ‘universal logos’ at work inall religious systems. You say, “Well, how can people believe this?” Jesus said, “I amthe way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” Faith comes by hearing,and hearing by hearing the word of Christ. For there is no salvation in any other. Forthere’s none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts4:12). How can people say this?This is a twist on Scripture. But these kinds of writers — including many more prominentones today than say, Pinnock, whose heyday was a little in the past — say that the basisof salvation is not knowing Christ, for most of the world. Raimon Panikkar writes, “Thegood and bona fide Hindu is saved by Christ and not by Hinduism. But it is through thesacraments of Hinduism, through the message of morality and the good life, through themysticism that comes down to him through Hinduism, that Christ saves the Hindu.” That’s in abook he wrote called The Unknown Christ of Hinduism. There’s a book that came out a fewyears ago, written by Tony Evans, called Totally Saved. In that book, he said that God savespeople around the world without the Bible, without the gospel, by ‘transdispensationalizing’them — it’s a coined word — by ‘transdispensationalizing’ them. That is, in God’s mind, He just shiftsthem out of this age into a pre-cross age, or even a pre-law age. In other words, hewants to save them so much that he’ll, in His own mind, stick them in any economy inthe past that doesn’t require the Scripture or Christ.Now, enough of that. What does the Bible say about this? Well, there are a lot of passageswe could look at, but I think probably most helpful to start by going to Romans 1. Backto Romans 1. It is true that God reveals Himself in creation. That’s in Romans 1. It is truethat God reveals Himself in conscience, a moral law written in the human heart. That’sin Romans 2. But that does not mean that man, on his own, based on that natural revelation,can be saved. The knowledge that man has of God — manifest in the creation, and revealedin the moral law that is behind the function of his conscience — is not enough to save.It is only enough to damn. Romans 1:18 — “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven againstall ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”The sinner, in his natural condition, is dead in trespasses and sins (and dead means dead– he can’t respond). He is blind, ignorant, double-blinded by Satan — according to 2Corinthians 4 — so that the glorious light of the gospel can’t penetrate the darkness.And so when this sinner, by his reason, concludes there is a first cause, there is a God — apowerful God, a mighty God — and, when in his own mind, he recognizes there are certainmoral rights and wrongs, this, in itself, will reveal to him that there is a God, andthat that God is a law-giving God. But what does man do with that truth? Does he innatelyhave the capability to move from that to salvation? No. He suppresses it. He suppresses it inunrighteousness because he is, in his nature, wicked, corrupt, sinful, and incapable ofany true righteousness.Yes, “that” (verse 19) “which is known about God is evident with them; God made it evidentto them. His invisible attributes, His eternal power, His divine nature have been clearlyseen, being understood through what has been made so that they can be saved.” Is that whatit says? “So that they are” what? “without excuse.” That’s enough information to damnyou, but it’s not enough to save you.Verse 21 — Even though they know of God, they know the reality of God — there is nosanity in saying, “There is no God” — you’re left with the equation Nobody times Nothing= Everything (that’s intellectual insanity). So you ultimately come back to God. And “eventhough they knew God,” (that there is a God who is powerful, and who is a law-giving God)”they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. They became empty in their speculations, andtheir foolish heart was darkened.” Whatever faint glimmer of light appeared on the pathof reason and conscience went black. At the heart of the whole system of Calvinism, atthe heart of the whole Biblical understanding of salvation, is this great recognition. Thisis the most important doctrine, I think, of all. If you get this one wrong, you’re goingto mess up everything that comes afterwards. Man is utterly unable to believe in the truthby himself. That’s the issue. People always get stuck on the sovereignty of God in salvation.You’d better get, before that, the right kind of understanding of the sinfulness of man.And then you will understand that the only way that man could ever be saved would beif God blasted into his life, and gave light and life to the dead and the dark. So whathappens is they dishonor God. They’re not thankful. They become empty in their speculations.There’s complete darkness in their hearts. And, of course, they profess to be wise. Theybecome fools. “They exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.” And hegoes on to talk about idolatry.So what is this? God has placed in man evidence, from reason, that He exists — evidence, frommoral law and conscience, that He exists — and what do sinful men do with that? The onlything that sinful men can do with that: pervert it, shut it down, blow out the faint, flickeringlight of reality so that they are not able to be saved. They are just able to be justifiablycondemned.And they make their choice, and where do they end up? Verse 24 — they wind up in sexuallusts, dishonoring their bodies. Now, just to give you kind of an overview of this text:this is the story of human history over, and over, and over, and over. This is everybody’shistory, every group of people. This is how they all respond. Like Acts 14, God has allowedthe nations to go their own way. Just — this is all throughout history. Cycling, cycling,it’s the same, old story. All men have reason to take them to the knowledge of God, conscienceto take them to the fact that God is the law-giver, and they have a certain accountability. Butthey suppress it, they override it, they corrupt it, they pervert it, they don’t follow it,because they’re incapable of that. And, instead, they wind up in sexual lusts (verse 24).Verse 25 — “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, worshiped and served the creaturerather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” They reject the light of truth, andthey believe a lie. Because that’s all they’re capable of, really.For this reason, further (verse 26), they fall into not only sexual sin but homosexuality.It goes on to describe this homosexuality in these two verses, leading with women. Andthat’s the worst. Women tend to be reluctant lesbians, because they’re instinctively mothersand wives. So the fact that they’re listed first means that this is a severe overturningof normal instincts.And then, of course, he follows up with they don’t want to acknowledge God (verse 28).God just let them go. So what do you get with an unaided pagan? You’re going to end up withimmorality, homosexuality, depraved mind, unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil,full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, haters of God, insolent,arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents. The point is (and it goes on)– the point is, this is where your natural theology leads you, unaided by God. They suppresswhat it true. They don’t follow it to more and more enlightenment on their own strength,and by their own ability.Another passage is 1 Corinthians chapter 1. And I could say more about that one. That’sone of my favorites. (That’s what your pastor says when he’s just run out of material.)Brethren, we could go on and on. He hasn’t got another thought or another note. How doI know that? I’m not telling.Now, to compound the problem, man, by his own intuition, cannot find God, will not findGod. He will, rather, end up perverted. Verse 18 of 1 Corinthians 1 — “The word of thecross is, to those who are perishing, foolishness.” Even when he is presented with the gospelof the cross, it is, to him, foolishness. So man, unaided, in his natural condition,without the gospel (Romans 1), is not going to come to the truth of God. Man, in his naturalcondition, given the gospel, is not going to believe it. It will be foolishness to him.On the other hand, “But to us who are being saved” I love that phrase. We are passive,in a sense, in this, aren’t we? “To us who are being saved” By whom? By God. To us whoare under divine compulsion, this gospel becomes “the power of God to salvation.” You can’tget saved by your own powers.Verse 19 — “It is written, ‘I’ll destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the clevernessof the clever I will set aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where isthe debater of this age?” Bring ’em on! Bring on the finest minds, the most articulate communicators,the best debaters. Give me the elite, and I will show you a group of fools. Becausethe best that they can attain — Who are these? Well, let’s just assume they are the greatphilosophers whose names we all know. And where did it lead them? If you haven’t readPaul Johnson’s book The Intellectuals, you ought to get it and read it. Understand thatWestern civilization, as we know it, was shaped. It’s a series of stories about certain individualslike Rousseau, and Kant, and others who affected Western culture. And what strikes you is howbrilliant they were, and how vile they were sexually. Bring all the great minds! Linethem up! And they will not attain to the truth that saves.Verse 21 (one of the most important verses in this section) — “Since, in the wisdomof God, the world, through its wisdom, did not come to know God.” Philosophy is the loveof wisdom, but you can’t get to God by your own wisdom. It can’t save. Only the messageof the cross saves, and the message of the cross is perceived as foolish. It was a stumblingblock to the Jews to think of a dead Messiah, a dead Son of God, killed by God. That wasabsolute ridiculous folly, and a stumbling block. But it was foolishness to the Gentilesas well. What characterized a god was immortality. Jesus couldn’t be a god. That’s why, if youwere to go to Circus Maximus, even today, and look at one of the little stone etchingsthat is still there in its faded form, you will see that, in a guardhouse in the past,they carved a picture of a crucified donkey — body of a man and the head of a donkey– and a man below, representing a Christian, bowing down, and then the words ‘Alexamenosworships his god.’ A crucified jackass. That’s what the elite of the Greek world thoughtof the gospel. It was foolish.So you can’t get there with just the knowledge of God that comes through natural revelation,as Romans 1 says. You can’t get there even if the preaching of the cross comes to youbecause it will be, to you, a stumbling block and foolishness. So there isn’t any path thatthe natural man, in his unaided condition, is going to find to get him to God! It can’thappen. The only people who believe — boy, this is so powerful — verse 23 of 1 Corinthians– “We preach Christ crucified.” Doesn’t work with the Jews. It’s a stumbling block. Doesn’twork with the Gentiles. It’s foolishness. With whom does it work? Verse 24 — “to thosewho are” what? “the called.” The called. And who are the called? Verse 27 — “But God has”what’s the next word? “chosen.” And then it says it again: “God has chosen.” And thenit says it again, in verse 28, “God has chosen”! The only people who can believe are the onesto whom God has given an effectual call because they were His chosen. Why is it this way?Verse 29 — “So that no man should” what? “boast.” I love verse 30: “By His doing youare in Christ Jesus.” Isn’t that great? By His doing you are in Christ Jesus who becameto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” So, ifyou’re going to boast, boast where? In the Lord. Give Him the glory.These passages point to us the very clear truth — point the clear truth to us — thatthe unaided natural man can not do anything to discern and then attain salvation. Thereis no salvation apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ, but even the gospel of Jesus Christis foolishness to the natural man.So chapter 2 of 1 Corinthians — “When I came to you, brethren, I didn’t come with superiorityof speech and of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. I determined to knownothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness,in fear, much trembling. My message, my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, butin demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” He says, “I preached Christ” (verse 5) “sothat your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” It is God’spower moving in, and penetrating the heart with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.Paul said that’s the message. It is a wisdom none of the rulers of this age know. It isa wisdom that only comes from God. No person, by natural reason or religious intuition,can come to know the truth of God. No person, on his own, can even believe the gospel. Itwill be a stumbling block. It will be foolishness. Unless he is called, and chosen, and regenerated.Go to a few verses down in chapter 2. Verse 14 — “But a natural man does not accept thethings of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; he cannot understand thembecause they are spiritually appraised,” and he’s spiritually dead, I might add. The naturalman does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. They’re foolishness to him. Here’sthe key phrase: he cannot understand them. You must come to the gospel to be saved, butyou can’t on your own. It is a work of God. It is a work of God.If you will look with me, at Acts 17, we’ll continue our little Bible study here (andI’ve got a couple more passages, if I have a minute or two). And let’s be explicit aboutthis. Paul comes up in the midst of the Areopagus and — (this is a place where all the philosophersand leaders of the city gathered together) — said, “Men of Athens, I’ve observed you’revery religious in all respects”; (which, I might add, is useless to you) “I was passingthrough, examining the objects of your worship, I found an altar with the inscription ‘TOAN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What, therefore, you worship in ignorance, I proclaim to you. The God whomade the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwellin temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He neededanything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things.” And he goes onto define this God who (as in Romans 1) is not far away, and His existence can be discerned.”For in Him” (verse 28) “we live and move and exist. Even some of your poets recognizethis” — that there is a God who has created us. But it comes down to verse 30, “Now, therefore,having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to man that all everywhereshould repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousnessthrough a Man whom He appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”He says, now, God says the only way to access salvation and His kingdom is to be believein the gospel of Jesus Christ, including the resurrection. God commands all men everywhereto repent and embrace the gospel.Now turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 10 — (maybe squeeze in a couple of other passages thatdeal with this). You remember, in the Corinthian church, there were perhaps many people therewho would come to worship on the Lord’s Day and partake in the Lord’s Table, and thenthey would go, another day in the week, to an idol feast in one of their idol templesthey formerly frequented. And in verse 19, Paul, speaking on this subject, says, “Whatdo I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?No. But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and notto God.” This is a sweeping statement. If you don’t make a true sacrifice to God, youhave made a sacrifice to? Demons. If you worship any other than the true God, and the trueChrist, you are a demon worshiper. This is the very opposite of this Natural Theology,this Wider Mercy concept — that, somehow, these Hindus, and Buddhists, and people inother places, through their intuition, and their understanding, and their natural reason,and their spiritual inclinations are finding their way to God. That is the opposite ofthe truth. They are demon worshipers. Oh they may not identify them as demons. I don’t think,I don’t think false religions — none of them identify themselves as worshiping demons.If you’re a Muslim, and you’re worshiping Allah, you’re worshiping demons. Demons. Demondeceivers, and impersonators of the true God. Demons are behind all false religion and theywork in all false systems. Father of lies: Satan. And he’s an angel of light, right?And his ministers are angels of light disguising themselves as bearers of the truth.2 Corinthians 10: 3-5 says that these demons erect fortifications, false ideologies thatbecome the prisons and the tombs of the people who believe them, and that our job, usingnot carnal weapons, but weapons that are mighty unto God (meaning divine truth) — our jobis to smash the fortresses down, and rescue these people, and lead every thought captiveto whom? Christ. If you’re caught in a fortress of Satan, it is a damning fortress. The sameword for ‘fortress’ is the word for ‘prison.’ The same word for ‘fortress’ and ‘prison’is the word for ‘tomb.’ Your fortress, your ideological fortress becomes your prison andends up as your tomb, unless you are rescued and brought captive to Christ. All false religionis demonic, and people are not, through the means of false religion, ascending to God.They are descending to demons. The Old Testament speaks about this. Deuteronomy 32:17, Moseswrote of those who “sacrificed to demons who were not God.” You can also see that in Psalm106, verse 37. Deuteronomy 32:21 — God said, “Israel made me jealous with what is not God.They provoked me to anger with their idols” — because they were worshiping Satan, andthe kingdom of Satan. So when you think of a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Mormon, or aHindu, or Jews, don’t think of them as making the best effort they can to worship the trueGod. They’re demon worshipers. God is not in those idols. Satan is in those idols. Andthat’s the perception we must have.Well, maybe that’s enough, although there are quite a number of other things that couldbe said. Let me just close with 2 Thessalonians 1 because, in this passage, we have a statementabout judgement. Verse 7 talks about the return of Christ. Just pick it up in the middle,”when the Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7) “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed fromheaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire” — who’s He going to judge? Verse 8: He’sgoing to deal out retribution “to those who do not know God,” kai) ‘even,’ “to those whodo not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and these will pay the penalty of eternaldestruction.” That’s just unmistakeable. If you don’t know the true God, and believe inthe Lord Jesus Christ, you will feel the fury of God.So Natural Theology is sufficient to tie you to demons and damn you, not sufficient tosave. I suppose I would have to say it is one of the greatest (if not the single greatest)grief to my own heart that we have just chopped the legs out from under missionary endeavor,with this kind of heretical theology. At a time when we have the resources (financially),when we have the means (technologically), when we have the opportunity (transportation),when we have a global village so adaptation is easier than it’s ever been, we found away out by saying, “They’re okay the way they are.” In fact, some have gone as far as tosay, “Don’t take them the gospel because, if you do and they reject it, they might bein trouble.” “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart thatGod raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”Father, we thank You for Your truth. We thank You for the clarity of it. We are so grievedwhen Your name is dishonored, when false religions come along (and are clearly false and anti-Scripture).We grieve for the people that are lost there. But it seems so much worse when people underminethe gospel and call it ‘Christianity.’ It brings such dishonor on Your name. May itbe, Lord, that we are faithful to the truth of Scripture, faithful to the gospel. Andwould You, Lord, raise up a great force of people who, being faithful to that gospel,can be mightily used to bring that message (which alone can save) to the ends of theearth. And we pray this, believing that You want Christ to be exalted. And we ask Youto exalt Him among the nations. Give the church a heart to take the gospel to the ends ofthe earth, because men will perish without it. And make us a part of that, starting wherewe are. And we thank You for this privilege in Your Son’s Name. Amen.