Patterson cites 'most hated' doctrine: Exclusivity of Christ

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--The "most hated doctrine in all of the world today" is the "exclusivity of Christ in salvation," said Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Patterson stunned and stirred listeners, challenging both church and secular society in his June 13 sermon on the first day of the Southern Baptists' annual Pastors Conference just prior to the SBC annual meeting June 15-16 in Indianapolis.

"The message of Jesus was not particularly popular among some people [of his day]. The princes didn't like it, the politicians didn't care for it, the preachers were offended by it, the priests certainly didn't like it, the professors were dubious about it, the philosophers thought they had a better way, and so they all in one accord rejected it. It is, in fact, the most hated doctrine in all of the world today that Jesus came preaching the exclusivity of Christ in salvation."

Patterson said remarks made at the memorial services for "our beloved President, Ronald Reagan," illustrate the misconceptions about salvation that still pervade society, quoting a clergyman at Reagan's memorial service in Washington, D.C., who said, "We're really all the children of God."

"The name of Jesus was never uttered by that same clergyman in prayer, and he made no reference whatsoever to the grace of God in salvation," said Patterson, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

But at the final burial of Reagan in Simi Valley, Calif., "a very different sort of clergyman stood up, and he spoke of the grace of God," Patterson recounted. And the late president's own son, Michael Regan, told a story of when his father talked specifically about coming to salvation in Jesus Christ.

The Washington, D.C., clergyman, Patterson said, represents how the world sees the way to heaven for everyone.

"But in stark contrast to that, our Lord says, 'No.' Broad is the way; wide is the gate that leads to destruction," Patterson quoted from Scripture. But the path to eternal life is "difficult" and "there are few who find it."

Patterson said the exclusivity of the means of salvation is noted repeatedly in the New Testament. The Apostle Peter wrote: "'Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved but the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.'

"Jesus Himself said: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but by me.' Some crazy, fundamentalist Baptist didn't say that. Our Lord said it. That's who said it. And if He said it, we can't say we follow Him and say anything else," Patterson emphasized.

Jesus made it "crystal clear" that no one has salvation unless "they come to Him." And that by "decisive commitment," Patterson said. "It is an exclusive claim.... The world hates it. You will be hated if you preach it. But if you're going to follow Jesus, I exhort you to preach it clearly."

Reading from a lengthy section of the New Testament, Matthew 7:13-29, Patterson said Jesus had referred to a "narrow entry" into salvation and also a "false enticement."

Beware of false prophets in sheep's clothing, Patterson reminded. Again, juxtaposing ancient and modern cultures, Patterson said the false prophets look good, sound good and are seminary-trained with Ph.D.s after their names. "They are slick of tongue. But watch out for them for they are ravenous wolves.... There won't be any great, soul-winning church associated with a man like that."

For the false prophets and those who follow them, a "day of estrangement" will come, Patterson said, citing the biblical text: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven."

Some will claim they prophesied in Jesus' name and cast out demons and worked miracles, but Jesus will say, "Depart from me. I never knew you." Patterson said it is not the one who says religious things and appears to practice religious ritual who will be "greeted and welcomed into heaven." Only those who with a broken heart pray, "God, be merciful to me a sinner. That alone is the way of salvation."

Patterson lamented that Southern Baptists have "drifted along for years and years and years" recording approximately 425,000 baptisms per year, the majority of which occur in a small percentage of SBC churches.

Recounting a conversation he had recently with a reporter from the "liberal press," Patterson said the reporter asked how it could be that while conservatives repeatedly claimed the theological resurgence they sought in the SBC was to effect an upturn in baptisms and missions, that no such upturn in baptisms had occurred.

Admitting the reporter was but partly right, Patterson said, "I would rather be a Bible-believing man with a hope for revival than a liberal with no hope for anything."

Had there been no conservative resurgence, baptisms in SBC churches would be far less than 400,000 by now, Patterson said, predicting the SBC would be as evangelistically dead as "a dozen other mainline denominations that have long since failed to mean anything at all to evangelism and worldwide missions."

Patterson observed Southern Baptists have baptized mostly their own, even practicing the "infant baptism we used to criticize everybody else for.... We are baptizing more and more, younger and younger. You know why? Because we no longer really believe in the exclusivity of Christ for salvation," he surmised.

"If there is an ounce of godly compassion in our hearts -- then how on this earth can we fail to take the life-saving, eternity-changing Gospel to an adult world out there that does not know and desperately needs to hear [it]?" Patterson asked.

"How on earth can we fail to baptize 600,000, 800,000, a million people a year? We don't do it because we don't care like we ought to care," he said.

Turning back to the finality of President Reagan's casket being lowered into the ground in California, Patterson said the time is long overdue for Southern Baptists to preach the exclusive message of Jesus Christ "with greater fervor and determination than ever before" because eternity looms as certain as sunset.

"You watched it Friday night. Casket flag-draped, all has been said that can be said. The sun slips behind the mountains," Patterson said, who began reciting the song, "His Truth is Marching On."

"As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free. As He died to make men holy let us die if we have to to make men free. As He died to make men holy, let us preach to make men free. God help us if we preach all else but Jesus and Him alone for salvation."


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