“Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it, got to go through it!” Do these words ring any bells? They are the lyrics from one of my favorite musical activities as a kid, which eventually became a book: “Going on a Bear Hunt”. In elementary music class we would stand in a circle as the music played, and we would go on an imaginary bear hunt. As we came to different obstacles on our journey (tall grass, a wide river, or a dark cave), we had to recognize only one route was possible for each. We couldn’t go around the river or fly over it; we had to wade through it. We finally came to the bear and we ran back through the obstacles once more, ending with a room filled with laughing 2nd graders.
As I think about those memories now, I can’t help but notice an important principle present in the song: the idea that at times, you come to something with only one way to get through it. The question is, will we accept that way, or foolishly try to go another? This brings us to another issue at the time of the Reformation, one that is still prevalent today. “Is Christ the only way?” The question has two important aspects we must look at: 1) Christ plus nothing is sufficient for salvation and 2) Christ is the only way to God.
Firstly, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the Roman Church did not deny the need for Christ, faith, or grace. However, the issue the Reformers brought to the forefront was whether or not Christ, faith, and grace were alone adequate to save sinners. The Reformers pointed to the Bible’s teaching that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross not only made salvation possible, but actually achieved salvation for His people. “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Jesus speaks these last words on the cross signifying that the task before Him had been accomplished. What was His task? The angel that appeared to Joseph in his dream makes it very clear. “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Did you catch that? Jesus WILL save His people. It was the very reason Jesus came to earth, the very reason that God became flesh, the very reason He suffered and went to the cross. And He did not fail.
The Apostle Paul, dealing with false teachers who were also teaching Christ plus something for salvation, writes that “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21) Paul’s point out is that it is all or nothing. Either you put your faith in Christ and are saved 100% by Him, or you can try to follow religious laws and rituals, but by doing so you are separating yourself from the grace of God. (Galatians 5:4) Christ alone, His righteous life and sacrificial death is all we need for salvation.
Secondly, because so many have an unfettered desire to be liked and accepted by the pop culture, the idea that Jesus is simply one way among others to get to God is rampant. However, this idea is not only antithetically to the teaching of the Bible, but completely disregards Jesus’ own words. Speaking to His disciples Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus is making a bold claim, that He alone is the exclusive way to God. To be a true follower of Christ is to recognize that apart from Him, no person will be justified before the righteous judgment of God. The world cringes at such statements. However, Jesus was not the only one to say this. The Apostle Peter, preaching to the religious leaders in Jerusalem about Jesus, says “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Likewise, the Apostle Paul writes “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) It is Bible passages such as these that should cause us, as it did the Reformers, to proclaim that we believe in Solus Christus, Christ alone. For it is only in Christ that we have any hope of salvation.
As we go on our “bear hunt” and come to the wide river, what can we do? We have to go through it. We can’t fly, it’s too wide to jump across, there is no bridge in sight; therefore we must get wet. Do me a favor today and take a long look at yourself and your heart. The Bible says that we all have sinned and we all deserve punishment. Do you recognize that? Can you be honest with yourself for a moment and see how your whole life is filled with sin, with lying, thieving, sexual immorality, lust, anger, jealousy, hatred… How are you going to get through it, to the other side of the “wide river”? There is only one way in the song and there is only one in life. The way to have your sins forgiven is through Christ. So jump in and run to Christ alone.