His Alone
Pentecost Tuesday
22 May 2018
A Pew Foundation report on religion in the United States contains some unsurprisingly bad news about the state of American belief. The question is belief in what? While Americans seem happy with and committed to their particular religious persuasion, there is nothing about that persuasion that would lead them to evangelize anyone else. The Pew data show that fewer than one-third of religious believers nationwide believe that their religion is the only way to heaven. There are several problems that arise when considering data from the Pew report.
First, there may be confusion in people's minds about what constitutes "their religion." For example, if someone presumes that their religion is Lutheran, then no, he would not believe adherents of other Christian denominations are automatically going to hell. In fact, Lutheran theology demands that we confess that those who believe in Christ for their salvation will be saved (Jn 3:16; Mk 16:16), denominational affiliations notwithstanding. If we understand the question about "other religions" and salvation this way, then, of course, any faithful Christian will say that they do not think their religion is the only way to heaven.
Second, I suspect, that most opinions about the salvation of those who are in other religions actually reflects peoples' increasing descent into a personally constructed religious opinion. It is thought that that personal reality is just fine for the individual believer, but the believer could never presume to think that his own religion is the one that everyone ought to believe for salvation. "What's true for me is true for me (how's that for a tautology?!), but not necessarily true for you. My religion is my religion, and mine alone." Then an impetus for evangelization has disappeared down the rat hole of personal religion. Why share your faith if what you believe is not necessarily true for anyone else but you?
This uncertain viewpoint founders on the shores of God's Word to His people. It is all well and good that we think we have our own religion, but that is not what God thinks about belief. We are to believe what He has said in His holy Word. Jesus Christ, who gave His life to save sinners, says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). Jesus certainly thinks that His own person is the way to eternal life with His Father. The exclusivity of the "except" clause is quite jarring to contemporary latitudinarian presumptions. What Jesus says here is like dashing ice water into the face of someone who sleeping quite contentedly. For Jesus there is no such thing as "your own" religion. There is only His own person, which is the only way to be saved. This is why Christians ought to share aggressively the Word of God with other persons. In this way, we are not just sharing what is our own, but what is His alone. Not every "truth" is considered true by Jesus.
The Word of God warns us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits through the Word. Over 1500 years ago, John Chrysostom preached about this in Damascus, Syria based on 2 Corinthians 11:13: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ." There are false teachers and false teachings.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"What are you saying, Paul? Those who preach Christ, that take no money, how can they be 'false apostles?' 'Yes,' he says, and for this very reason most of all, because they make pretense of all these things for the purpose of deceiving. 'Deceitful workmen,' because they do work indeed, but pull up what has been planted. For being well aware that otherwise they would not be well received, they take the mask of truth and so enact the drama of error. 'And yet,' someone might say, 'they take no money.' Yet they may do this that they may take greater things; that may destroy the soul. Paul accuses them, saying, 'disguising themselves.' They had only a disguise; the skin of the sheep was but outer clothing. 'And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness' (2Co 11:14-15).
"If one ought to be surprised, this is what he ought to be surprised about, and not at their transformation. For when their teacher, Satan, dares do anything, it is no surprise that his disciples also follow. But what is 'an angel of light?' He has free liberty to speak and stands near to God. For there are also angels of darkness; those which belong to the devil, those dark and cruel ones. And the devil has deceived many so, disguising himself into, not becoming, 'an angel of light.' So also these false apostles bear form of an apostle, not the power itself, for this they cannot bear. Nothing is so like the devil as to do things for display. But what is 'a ministry of righteousness?' It is we are who preach to you a gospel having righteousness." 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 24.1
2 Corinthians

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!  And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
Lord Jesus, free us from the delusions of our enemy, that we might believe and confess the saving truth of Your gospel of forgiveness. Help us to share what You have taught that many more might be saved by Your Word. Amen.
For military veterans as we approach Memorial Day, that we would remember their sacrifice, give thanks for them, and support them
For all graduates as they make a transition to another way of life, either in a new school or serving in the workforce, that the Lord of the church would lead them as they make use of their gifts
For President Trump, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength to carry out the duties of his office
Art: DYCK, Sir Anthony van  Pentecost  (1618-20)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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