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The Only Way to Eternal Life

Posted on September 10, 2017

The Only Way to Eternal Life

John 12:37-50

Scripture Reading

John 12:37 – 43

37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Introduction: Last year, (2007) the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a major study on religious affiliation, beliefs and practices in the United States. One of the significant findings was that 70 percent of all Americans believe that many religions can lead to eternal life, including 65 percent of all self-identifying Christians. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that 56 percent of all Evangelical Christians believe that there are many paths, other than faith in Christ, to God and eternal life (See http://pewforum.org).

Many were so shocked by these numbers that the Pew Forum went back and did further polling to make sure that by religion, respondents did not have in mind other Christian bodies or denominations. Their earlier results were essentially confirmed.

Among Evangelical Christians, only 45 percent clearly affirm that a personal belief in, or relationship with, Christ is essential for eternal life.

Increasing numbers of Americans, Christians and even Evangelicals are questioning the long-held commitment of the Church that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. Among all Americans affiliated with a religion, 52 percent believe that Islam leads to eternal life with God, 53 percent believe that Hinduism leads to God and 42 percent even believe that atheism leads to God. Among Evangelicals, the numbers are 35, 33 and 26 percent respectively. Clearly in recent years, in the midst of growing cultural and religious pluralism, large numbers of Christians are troubled by, or ignore, the claim of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).

 

Purpose: Every Christ follower must be convinced of the exclusivity of Jesus as the way to heaven and share it with confidence and resolution

Transition: What are we to make of all this? Is Jesus really the only way to God? In a pluralistic world, why shouldn’t we accept an inclusivity that embraces multiple ways to salvation? Isn’t it arrogant to believe otherwise? That is the question we will explore in this passage, specifically verses 44 – 50, this morning. Let’s look to the first part of this passage dealing with unbelief

The reason for unbelief – John 12:37-43

  • Failure to accept the evidence

John 12:37

37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him

  • Skeptics say the rejection of Jesus by Israel of Christ casts doubt on the claims of who Christ is
  • After all, how could a large majority of religious Jewish people and the religious leaders be so wrong about Jesus being the Son of God?
  • If He was the Son of God, then why wouldn’t the majority embrace Him?
    • The real reason for their unbelief is;
      • The power of sin had overtaken their lives – John 3:19 – 20
        • They chose darkness and the temporary pleasures of sin over a commitment to believe
      • They were blinded by Satan of having spiritual insight -2 Corinthians 4:4
    • Jesus miracles after all were legitimate. No one was disputing that the miracles happened – John 11:47
      • If they would accept that the miracles came from God the Father it would destroy their worldview and status – I Corinthians 2:14; I Corinthians 1:18; Romans 1:24 – 25
      • Some said it was Jesus using the power of Satan as the source of His miracles which was absolutely illogical. A kingdom divided is a kingdom that will fall Jesus said
  • Here friends are the limitations of apologetics
    • More than winning the argument
    • More than winning the debate
    • More than proving you are right
    • It takes more than evidence to change a human heart. It takes the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to bring conviction / repentance / salvation
    • The issue is not merely an intellectual matter but a matter of the heart and will
    • In verses 38 through 43 of John 12 we see two reasons stated for their unbelief. One is a divine responsible reason and the other is a human responsible reason

 

  • Fulfillment of prediction by Isaiah – Reason #1- God’s sovereign reason

John 12:38 – 41

38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe.

  • The arm of the Lord revealed – miracles of Christ to prove He is God
  • Verse 38 is a quote from Isaiah 53:1, the chapter on the suffering servant predicting Jesus death on behalf of mankind.
  • We see in verse 39 that John simply says they could not believe. They were blind to what the OT had predicted and to see it unfold right before their eyes.
  • He goes on in verse 40 to quote Isaiah 6:10.

John 12:40

For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

  • God in His divine foreknowledge, seeing history all at one time, foresaw their response to Jesus words and miracles
  • This was all part of God’s sovereign design. His redemption plan for the Gentiles and ultimately Israel’s salvation. Romans 9 – 11
    • We see His grace through their rejection of Christ

Romans 11:11

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

Genesis 50:20

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today

  • Just before John gives the second reason for the unbelief of the Jews toward Jesus, there is an important footnote in verse 41

John 12:41

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

  • In Isaiah 6, the chapter John just quoted from in Isaiah, Isaiah had a supernatural vision of Jesus
  • John is penning this again equating Jesus with the Father and that He is divine. Don’t miss John’s argument and theme throughout this entire book.
  • As a side not here, we see that John attributed both quotes to Isaiah saying the prophet was the author of the entire book of Isaiah despite what modern day critics say. They believe several people wrote the book of Isaiah
  • This unbelief of Jesus had been going on for years and years and years
    • Israel had a history of rebellion against God, idolatry, misused privileges from God, forsaking divine truth and now when it comes to Jesus, they just could not believe
    • They were too close to the truth to see it.

“When John quotes, ‘he hath blinded their eyes….’ He does not mean that the blinding takes place without the will, or against the will of these people…. These men chose evil. It was their own deliberate choice of their own. Make no mistake about that.” – Leon Morris in the Gospel According to John

  • John quoting Isaiah says that God blinded their eyes / hardens their heart due to unbelief.
    • God gives them over to follow the natural consequences of their actions
    • The worst thing that could ever happen to you or I is for God to allow us to get everything we want with our selfish desires without any consequences

Illustration: Elmer Towns in his book on “Successful Youth Ministry” said that people, churches and organizations over time if they are not careful go through a cycle that leads to their demise.

Man – Movement – Machine – Monument

  • Towns said when you get to the monument stage, you desperately do all you can to protect it and do all you can to preserve it. Then the demise.
  • That is where these people were.
  • Fear of men instead of God

 John 12:42 – 43

42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God

  • The commentators are divided as to whether the believers spoken of here were sincere believers within the leadership of the Sanhedrin like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who later came out publicly for Jesus or these were just superficial believers
  • The point here is that they were more concerned about the praise of men then they were about the pleasing God.
  • In our day to day lives with those around us, we are facing those who chose to not believe. It can be discouraging at times. But we must continue to plant the seed, to water and sometimes we harvest.
  • We never know if what we are saying will eventually lead someone to faith in Christ.
  • We are just one of some along the way God is bringing into a person’s life to show them the way of salvation
  • We should use apologetics and good evidence for the faith.  I am confident that when people look at Christianity alongside of any of the world’s religions, Christianity stands out as significantly different for many good reasons than man made religions.
  • But always remember, it is not our persuasive words but;

Application: It is the power of God’s love, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that brings people to Jesus.

Transition: Praying for people’s salvation and never giving up praying is the key. Second,

The reason Jesus is the exclusive way to heaven – John 12:44 – 50

  • To believe in God you must believe in Jesus

 John 12:44-45

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me

  • Folks, we have seen it over and over in the Gospel of John. The ministry of Jesus is the ministry of God the Father
  • To reject Jesus is to reject the Father
  • The message of the Son and the Father are interlocking. They are one in the same.
  • The concept of following God without Christ is an unbiblical concept of God.
  • Jesus is God

Hebrews 1:1- 4

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Colossians 1:15

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

  • To reject Jesus words brings judgment upon ones’ self

 John 12:46 – 48

46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

  • Jesus did not come into the world the first time to bring judgment but grace and truth
  • In the future, at His second coming, at the behest of God the Father, He will judge, rule and reign on this earth. He will judge the unrepentant sinners at the Great White Throne Judgment

Hebrews 12:25

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

  • To receive eternal life is to accept the message from the messenger

 John 12:49 – 50

49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

  • What you do with Jesus determines your eternal destiny. It is just that plain and simple
  • The Bible tells us in an upcoming chapter that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father but through Jesus
  • Yet as I noted in the introduction, more and more Americans and more and more evangelical Christians are moving away from the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus.
  • We do ourselves a big disservice when for many reasons we don’t take God at His Word
    • We want to believe people who are sincere in their religion or faith will get to heaven
      • Many roads lead to heaven but their ladders are against the wrong building
      • God has many names – John Hick
      • Love Wins – Rob Bell – how could a loving and merciful God send anyone to hell?
        • His view is that of universalism. This is the view where everyone regardless of what they believe will be in heaven or if they sincerely believe in their religion that they will go to heaven or whatever their place of paradise is called.
        • Some would say even an atheist will make it to heaven
        • To be sure, it is an old belief that was occasionally found early on in Christianity. In the 3rd century, the theologian Origen contended that in the end God would restore the whole of creation, including Satan, to a perfect state. This meant that people who never trusted Christ would be saved. Origen’s beliefs were condemned by a Church council in the 5th century.
    • We want to believe with human logic that those who do good works and are moral people will get to heaven
    • We want to believe those who haven’t had the same chances at hearing and receiving the Gospel will be in heaven
    • The problem is we are reasoning all these things from finite, human minds not taking into account the sovereignty of God and His plan and purpose for each individual.
  • We face being intolerant in a supposed tolerant society because we believe Jesus is the only pathway to heaven.
    • 99% of all religions are exclusive in their beliefs. Hinduism is one of the few that allows you to believe a lot of different things and even be an atheist and still make it to being one with Brahma and losing your identity.
    • Here is a video that I think will help all of us as we talk to people about Jesus on why it is not unloving of God or us to declare that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Video: Is there another way to heaven? 4:40 minutes

  • There is a good example you and I can use with others to show that Jesus in a very loving, compassionate and caring way came to earth from heaven to tell us a little what it was like and show us how to get there.
  • Folks, we need to be committed to the truth of the way of salvation being through Christ alone. We cannot compromise on that. If we do it is to people’s eternal peril. We need to share how a loving God is showing them the exact way to heaven and be confident in sharing the truth

Illustration: Cure for Cancer / Family member with cancer

Application: People choose to be where God is not if they reject His message of grace

Transition: People who go to hell are people who would rather be there than with God. That has been my experience. Man has the ability and responsibility to choose Christ when they have been given the Gospel story. Each person independently must make the choice for themselves

Key Thought: Are you confident and comfortable saying Jesus is the only way to heaven?

  • This research I cited from the Pew research group should be a wakeup call to all of us who are Christians.
    • We must guard our hearts and hold to truth and doctrines of God’s Word no matter what men may say. How wrong is it to not tell people the real truth in love?
    • This research shows us how much the world is in us while we are here in the world. We cannot shape our faith to the winds of the culture
    • To affirm deity of Christ and Him being the way of salvation should not cause us to be arrogant, boastful or self- righteous
      • We humbly share as one sinner who found the gift of eternal life not on our merit but through the mercy and grace of God.

Quote: “The uniqueness of Christ is a sign that the triune God of the universe cares so deeply for his wayward creatures that he mercifully provided a path to forgiveness—a way to the Father’s embrace. It is in the Father’s embrace through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we come to realize that we can never pull the Triune God apart. For indeed to know Christ is to know the Father, and to know the Father is to know the Spirit, who enables us to stay true to the One Savior in the midst of a pluralistic world.” – Dennis P. Hollinger – Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary – “Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God.”

Three Questions to Ponder

1.    How much does it bother you that people who have heard the Gospel still reject it?

2.    Are you fearful of men more than fearing God?

3.    Do you care enough about your fellow man to share the unfiltered truth of God’s way to eternal life?