How is Christianity's message of salvation different from other religions?
NICHOLS: So many religions are works-oriented, so they really stress what is on you as the adherent and that you have to measure up to a standard in order for God to accept you.
Sometimes we say that we come to Christ with empty hands. “Nothing in my hand I bring,” says the old hymn, “only to the cross of Christ I cling.” The reality is that we actually do have something in our hands—our sinfulness. This sets the gospel apart. It sets Christianity apart from other religions because this is a religion of grace.
Christianity is not about good people who clean themselves up so that then they can be on God’s team. Christianity is about sinners coming to Christ. Jesus Himself said: “I have not come for the well or for those who are good; I have come for the sick and for the sinner.” That really sets apart Christianity.
The other thing that sets apart Christianity is the Bible. There is nothing else like it. There is nothing else like what Christian churches do. Think about how abnormal what we do every Sunday is. Every Sunday, we gather around a book that is two thousand years old, we look at every word and every clause, and we think about the relationship of one clause to another. Then, we look at our preacher, who tells us what the Bible says and how to live it out in our lives. Who else does this? Christianity is a religion that takes God’s Word seriously, and that sets apart Christianity.
If we are talking about apologetics or talking about the gospel, remember this and don’t lose sight of it: Christianity teaches a gospel of grace. Luther had a great line in which he said that, ultimately, he was a beggar who knew where to go to find bread. That is what we are. We are not better than anybody else. We are not self-righteous. We are not superior. We are beggars. We just know where to find bread. Actually, we didn’t even find that bread. We were led to it. It was thrown into our lap. We were given it. We were told, “Eat this.”
BINGHAM: We didn’t want to eat it.
NICHOLS: Right. We didn’t want anything to do with this. We are diametrically opposed. So, we are beggars who found bread, and we have a message for other beggars: “Here’s where the bread is.”
This is a transcript of Stephen Nichols’s answer during our Always Ready: Answers to Tough Questions event and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.