Is There Salvation Outside of Christ?
Text: Acts 4:1-14
I. In the summer of 2002, Catholic theologians made the news.
A. From an article by Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, August 18, 2002
A committee of the U.S. conference of Catholic Bishops has negated the death of Christ, and invalidated his declaration, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:3-7).
Campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity “are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church,” a committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared.
Summing up a series of Vatican pronouncements since 1965 that has reversed the church’s historical approach to Judaism, the bishops said last week that the Old Testament covenant between the Jews and God is valid and that Jews do not need to convert to Christianity to be saved. While the Roman Catholic church “must bear witness in the world to the Good News of Christ ... this evangelizing task no longer includes the wish to absorb the Jewish faith into Christianity and so end the distinctive witness of Jews to God in human history,” they said.
... Eugene Fisher, director of Catholic-Jewish relations for the bishops’ conference, said the document contains “no new doctrine” but “distills a lot of things that have been said and steps that have been taken” since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Fisher noted, for example, that in the 1970s, the church changed its official prayer for the Jewish people, which used to call for their conversion. Now the prayer, recited on Good Friday, asks God to help Jews intensify their faith in their covenant, he said.
While the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical groups run campaigns to convert Jews, the Catholic church gradually has abandoned such efforts. “If an individual Jew wants to convert to Catholicism, that can still happen,” said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, spokesman for the bishops’ conference. “But the point is that proselytizing campaigns are not compatible with the respect with which we hold Judaism.”
The document makes clear that this attitude is unique. “Though the Catholic Church respects all religious traditions ... and though we believe God’s infinite grace is surely available to believers of other faiths, it is only about Israel’s covenant that the Church can speak with certainty of biblical witness,” it says.
Although he played no role in drafting the document, Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, hailed it as “groundbreaking.” Some Catholic leaders have renounced proselytizing among Jews in the past, but “this isthe first time the Catholic leaders of a whole country have stated it officially,” he said.
II. If the Old Testament did not end
A. Paul argued that the Old Covenant was a barrier to the merging of Jews and Gentiles into one people - Ephesians 2:11-18
B. For the Gentiles to be saved, the ordinances that separated the Gentiles had to be cancelled - Colossians 2:13-14
C. If the first covenant remains standing, then Jews who convert to Christianity are committing spiritual adultery - Romans 7:1-4
D. The way to God remains sealed - Hebrews 9:8
E. Christ cannot be our High Priest - Hebrews 7:11-14; 8:1-4
F. If Christ is not our High Priest, then there is no offering for sins - Hebrews 8:3; 10:8-12
G. These bishops claim that Paul lied - II Corinthians 3:11-17
H. In Paul’s judgment, they have been bewitched - Galatians 3:1-5
III. If Jews are saved apart from the Gospels
A. The new birth is not necessary for the Jews - John 3:1-7
1. Jesus said you must be born again to a Jewish leader.
2. Now some Catholic bishops say they can speak with certainty that this is not the case.
3. Why did John warn that Jewish ancestry was not a guarantee of salvation? - Matthew 3:7-12
4. Why did Jesus say the kingdom was being taken from the Jews? Matthew 21:43
B. The gospel is not the power of salvation - Romans 1:16
1. Jesus said it would begin in Jerusalem, the seat of the Jews - Luke 24:46-47
2. Why start there if Jews have no need for repentance and forgiveness of sins?
3. Paul said the preaching of the cross was foolishness to those who are perishing - I Corinthians 1:18-23
a. Since Jews continue to reject the message of the cross and consider it a foolish teaching, doesn’t that mean they are perishing?
b. A group of men cannot cancel the teaching of an inspired apostle.
4. Paul preached to the Jews that salvation is through Jesus - Acts 13:26, 38-39
a. Rejecting the message would bring a curse - Acts 13:40-41
b. Which curse was pronounced - Acts 13:45-46
c. Rejecting the gospel made them unworthy of eternal life.
C. Disbelief in Jesus does not condemn - John 3:17-18
1. Without belief, one dies in his sins - John 8:24
2. Jesus is the only way - John 14:6
3. Yet these bishops claim there is another way.
4. Disbelief in Jesus means not believing Moses - John 5:45-47
a. The writings of the prophets pointed to Christ - John 6:45
b. The Old Testament does not excuse its followers from believing in Christ.
5. Rejecting Christ is rejecting the Father - I John 2:22-23
a. Rejecting Christ’s doctrine means you don’t have God - II John 9
b. Jews claim to have the Father without the Son. Such is not possible.
6. Rejecting Christ is calling God a liar - I John 5:9-12
D. Christ’s death was in vain - Galatians 2:21
1. If the law of Moses could save, then there was no need for a Savior.
2. But the Law could not save - Galatians 2:16; 3:10-14
a. Animal sacrifices cannot take away sin - Hebrews 10:4
3. Instead of dying for every man, the Catholic bishops have Christ dying only for the Gentiles - Hebrews 2:9; I John 2:1-2
a. These bishops have their marking pens out, “Scratch that. Not whole world, just most of the world.”
b. Have they not insulted the Spirit of grace? - Hebrews 10:28-29
E. The Law’s purpose was not to bring us to Christ - Galatians 3:24-25
1. The Law was for the Jews - Romans 2:17-20
2. It promised Christ - Galatians 3:16-19
3. Now either the Law was to bring the Jews to Christ or the bishops are saying that Paul had it all wrong. Who would you believe?
F. Faith is not necessary - Galatians 3:26-29
1. Abraham’s seed are those in Christ.
2. The true Israelite - Romans 2:28-29
3. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again.
4. God justifies the one who has faith in Jesus - Romans 3:26; 5:1-2
IV. Paul believed that the Jews were not saved - Romans 10:1-4
A. Yes, the Jews have zeal. But it is a zeal untempered by knowledge. In other words, the Jews are in ignorance.
B. The conditions for salvation are the same for Jews and Greeks - Romans 10:11-13
C. The Jews knew what was expected of them, but rejected it - Romans 10:16-21
D. As a result, the Jews were broken off - Romans 11:20-23
V. Salvation is only in Jesus - I John 5:11
A. It is in Christ and not available out of Christ - II Timothy 1:1
B. Only in Jesus is there salvation - Acts 4:12
1. Note that Peter taught this to the Jews.
C. Christ was sent for the Jews’ salvation - Acts 3:22-26
D. And yet there are some who think they are being kind by telling a group that they need not heed the gospel.
E. In case you think it is unique to the Catholics:
Agape Press, via Pulpit Helps, December 2002
A Pentecostal bishop in Oklahoma has no plans to stop preaching a message that says non-Christians are saved too. Bishop Carlton Pearson is pastor of Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He says he is being shunned by evangelicals who object to his teaching that a person does not have to believe in Jesus Christ in order to go to heaven. “Many of my evangelical friends are adamantly opposed to my saying that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world,” Pearson says, “He’s only a Savior for the world if they happen to find Him, they think. I’m saying it’s a done deal.” An Associated Press report says the pastor, who is writing a book entitled God Is Not a Christian, has seen many leave his church because of his universalist message.
F. At least some show some sense.