“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)
Now, it’s not just that Jesus is the only way, but that there are many ways to Jesus in other religions. In other words, that you can be saved by the work of Jesus without actually coming to believe in Jesus. No, Peter says that there is salvation in no other name, and as he says in chapter 2, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Calling upon the name of Jesus. You need to know this name, and you need to believe that it has the power to save, so much so that you cry out to him. This is conscious, active faith in Christ–and the consistent teaching of the Scriptures is that without it, there is no hope. So here again we have a clash between the Word of God and the expectations of our culture.
But perhaps two points should help to put this in perspective:
The first is, exclusivity is about beauty. This isn’t all that the Apostle Peter had to say about the cornerstone. In his letter 1 Peter he quotes the same Psalm, with a few other Old Testament Scriptures:
“For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ 8 and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” (1 Peter 2:6-8)
You are either offended by this stone and stumble over it in the process, or you see it as chosen and precious, and therefore you believe and are not put to shame. It’s all about whether you see Jesus as precious. When we say that Jesus is worthy of our exclusive devotion, we’re not trying to go out of our way to hurt people’s feelings. We’re just stating a fact: he is more beautiful than anything or anyone else! If I said that about my wife, that she is the most beautiful woman I know and she alone has my love, people wouldn’t accuse of belonging to the he-man woman-hater’s club because I’ve passed over the rest. It is appropriate for me to give her my singular affection. And those who balk about Jesus alone being the means of salvation simply haven’t seen his beauty. They are sadly blind to it.
Secondly, exclusivity is about necessity. Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (v. 12). We must be saved. The word here is a small Greek verb that means “it is necessary.” We need to be saved. We are in a desperate condition, and Christ is the only answer. If we were in a burning building, and all access points were blocked by the fire except one, and I said: “Here is the way to safety! You need to go this way!”–I’m not being intolerant. I’m being realistic, and I think it’s obvious that I’m being helpful. The problem is that the world doesn’t believe the building is on fire. If the building isn’t on fire, then by all means explore around and see what’s behind door number 1 or 2 or 3. You see, the conversation of religious plurality takes place in the context of a people who don’t think there is anything wrong with them. If there isn’t anything wrong, then everyone is on equal footing, and no one can claim to be more right than the next. But if nothing is wrong, then redemption is meaningless.
But make no mistake: we must be saved. We are under the wrath of God. We are held captive by our sin. In fact, we ourselves set the building on fire and locked the doors. But God has sent Christ to rescue us. Isn’t it wonderful, then, that the Gospel is exclusive!