NO OTHER NAME

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. - Acts 4:12

G. K. Chesterton once observed that the only doctrine of Christianity that can really be proven is the doctrine of original sin. By "original sin" he did not mean the specific method by which we all became sinners but that fact that we are all, indeed, sinners. Paul the Apostle spends the better part of three chapters in his letter to the Romans proving this truth from human history (1:18-32), the common experience of both Gentiles and Jews (2:1-29) and the testimony of the Holy Scriptures (3:1-20). Paul summarizes all of this evidence and testimony in the statement, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" (3:23)

There is something undeniably wrong with every one of us. We all fall short of the moral standards God has written upon our hearts. Even when we lower that standard in an effort to justify ourselves, we fail to live up even to that artificially reduced level of moral goodness. The Bible defines sin in such a way that anyone can understand it: "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17 - NKJV) How often have you thought, "I should do that" or "that would be the right thing to do" and did not do it? Has it been once or twice in your lifetime? I dare say that you would admit that it has been times beyond numbering. Even this accounting would leave out all the times you should have thought of a better thing to do but were so intent on doing what was pleasing to you that you quite overlooked any other possibilities! I am not picking on you for I am also "guilty as charged".

Of course, there are those who deny there is such a thing as sin. They do so in a number of ways but there are at least three that are most popular. First, they deny that we have a free will and so while we may be conscious of falling short of a moral ideal in our choices and behaviors, we were never truly able to do otherwise and therefore we are "not guilty". The second "out" is to deny that what we perceive as morality is actually "out there" or objective but merely the subjective feelings placed in us by our evolutionary history or social conditioning. In fact, many people use both dodges simultaneously. A third way is to maintain that human beings are "basically good" and that any deviations from moral rectitude are the result of societal pressures or bad parenting. This last escape is self-contradictory in that it is "basically good" humans who are applying the pressures or supplying the bad parenting that leads originally "good" children to grow up to being morally faulty adults.

We may use these or other excuses to evade the truth of our sinful and guilty condition, but we know, in our heart of hearts, that they are delusions. So what are we to do? We know we are guilty of violating a law that is written into our very natures, a law we did not invent, was not invented by others and from which we cannot plead exception. Where did it come from? It is not material. Its source must come from beyond the material world. It is not changeable, at least not in its essence, however much it may change as to its applications in a changing world. It seems to be grounded in something that transcends the physical universe and is personal in nature. I say "personal" for it pertains to persons, not material objects. Nothing impersonal can impose an obligation on a person. If the ultimate foundation of moral obligation is infinite and personal, that sounds a lot like the God of the Bible! Maybe that is why the Bible says that everyone, even professed atheists, "know" God through His outward creation and through His moral law written upon their hearts. (Romans 1:18-21, 32; 2:12-16)

So we have seen that the ultimate ground of our existence is an infinite-personal Being who is moral and imposes upon us moral obligation. He must therefore be responsible for upholding the moral order among all moral agents, such as ourselves. We are therefore morally responsible to Him. The infinite-personal Being (God) must be radically and implacably opposed to all sin. Sin is the very opposite of His moral nature. The essence of righteousness or moral virtue is love, which seeks first the highest good of another. The Bible says, therefore, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:7,8) God not only loves; He is love. Because He is the ultimate Reality, the Supreme Being, His moral nature is the foundation of all moral obligation. Because God is love we ought to love one another. But even the best of us have not always loved others as we do ourselves or loved God with all our hearts. There is no limit to our obligation to obey God's law of love at all times. Therefore, we have all, on numerous occasions, violated an infinite obligation, done violence against an infinite good, defied an infinite authority and dishonored an infinite majesty. God would not be just if He did not apply an infinite penalty to the violation of His law. But how can finite beings, such as us, suffer an infinite penalty? We can suffer an infinite penalty if, as the Bible teaches, we are forever separated from God, the fount of every blessing and the only source of true and lasting happiness.

If God is love, He loves us even though we are sinners, yet He cannot dispense with justice for that also would be contrary to His nature. How does He reconcile His desire to have mercy on us and the imperative to uphold His law and follow the requirements of justice? Here, I must say, we have every reason to be supremely interested in the outcome. Our eternal well-being depends upon this, for if God has not found a way to reconcile this contradiction we are lost forever. But God has! God did so by becoming a human being who was, at the same time, "able to suffer and almighty to save". As God, He could not suffer or die but if our savior were merely a man, his sufferings and death would not have infinite value. Because it was One who was at the same time the infinite God and a man who suffered and died, His sufferings and death could substitute for our infinite punishment. And, if He had not subsequently risen from the dead, we could have no assurance that He has completed our salvation. "He is risen!" heralds the good news of our redemption!

If Jesus is not God incarnate, did not die on the cross for our sins and did not rise from the dead, there is no hope for us. Do you believe God is and that He is infinitely righteous? Do you know that you are a sinner because you have, not just once, but on countless occasions violated His just law? Then I would think you would be happy to hear and to believe that God has provided a way for you to be saved from the penalty which you (and all of us) so richly deserve. And if you do believe this wonderfully good news, why hang back from receiving this all-sufficient Savior and His abundant salvation? Go to Him now in prayer, confessing your sinfulness, guilt and unworthiness, asking Him, on the basis of what He did for you on the cross to forgive your sins and grant you eternal salvation. He has promised to do so for all who come to Him with sincerity of heart and with a genuine desire, not only to be forgiven but to be inspired and instructed by Him in the path of righteousness, the way of love.