Ours is a day in which religious tolerance is equated with religious pluralism. In reality the two are very different. Whereas tolerance is a political principle for which we rejoice (“all Americans have the right to worship as they please”), pluralism is a spiritual fallacy which we must condemn (“all religions are right”). The folly of asserting that mutually exclusive claims can all be valid should be self-evident, yet we are perpetually told that every religion is true. Christians must think more clearly. We should be grateful for freedom of religion and willing to defend the rights of even unbelievers, and we must adamantly reject the notion that all religions are true.
Confronting false religions with the exclusivity of the cross has been the task of believers ever since the founding of the church. In the book of Acts, the apostles provide a tremendous example of how Christians should engage false religions. Although their audiences varied widely, the apostles consistently confronted them with sin, the crucified and risen Christ, and a call to believing repentance.
- In Acts 2–5, Peter preaches four times to Jews and their leaders in Jerusalem (2:22–38; 3:13–26; 4:8–12; 5:29–32). Each time he boldly proclaims their sin in rejecting and killing Christ, the resurrection, and their need to repent and trust Christ alone.
- In Acts 10:34–43, Peter preaches to a Gentile audience. His message, however, is unchanged: the death and resurrection of Christ and their need to turn to Him.
- In Acts 13:16–41 Paul preaches to the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia. His message? The death and resurrection of Christ and forgiveness through faith, not works.
- In Acts 17, Paul preaches in Athens. First, he proclaims “Jesus and the resurrection” to Jews and Gentile philosophers in the marketplace (17:17–18). He then addresses the Areopagus (17:22–31), the high court of Athens, before whom he again preaches the resurrection and the need for all men everywhere to repent.
- In Acts 26:1–23, Paul preaches to powerful King Agrippa, telling him of the death and resurrection of Christ for the salvation of all men, regardless of race.
Whether speaking to legalistic Jews, God-fearing Gentiles, pagan philosophers, or powerful rulers, the apostles preached the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ. We must do no less. We may affirm a tolerance that means “all religions have rights” but not “all religions are right.” But we must affirm with greater conviction the need for all people to turn to Christ as their only Savior. Our message to a religious world is this: There is no salvation outside of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
“Sound Words” is a monthly column in the OBF Visitor, the publication of The Ohio Bible Fellowship. This article was first printed in April/May 2008 as a complimentary article to Joe Tyrpak’s “Christian-Muslim Unity?” It is cross-posted from the OBF Visitor blog, where many other articles are posted and may be searched by author, category and keyword. Information on subscribing to the Visitor is available here.