Inclusivists believe that everyone who is saved is saved through the person and work of Christ. They do not, however, insist that conscious faith (on the part of sentient adults) is necessary to appropriate this saving work. Some Buddhists or Hindus or good people in our neighborhoods drawn to the true and the beautiful might be saved through Christ without knowing it. But what about John 14:6? Inclusivists understand “no one can come to the Father except through me” to mean through my saving work. Faith may not be necessary.
No doubt, it’s true that no one can be saved apart from the work of Christ. But the “through” in John 14:6 means “through faith in me.”
Look at the immediate context. Jesus begins the chapter by telling the disciples “believe in me” (14:1). Then verse 7 talks about knowing the Father by knowing the Son. Verse 9 makes clear that whoever sees Jesus has seen the Father. Verses 12 and 13 repeat the exhortation to believe in Jesus. The point of the whole section is that if you know/see/believe in Jesus you know the Father. And conversely, you cannot go to the Father or follow Jesus to his heavenly glory unless you know and believe in Son.
This reading of John 14 is confirmed by the broader purpose of the gospel, which is that John’s readers might “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). John’s gospel is full of promises for those who believe.
- Whoever believes in me shall never thirst (6:35).
- Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (7:38).
- Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live (11:25).
- I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness (12:46).
Likewise, there are dire warnings for those who do not believe in Christ.
- Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (3:18).
- He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him (5:23).
- You do not know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also (8:19).
- If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here (8:42).
John 14:6 is not one verse taken out of context. It captures the message of the entire book of John. The whole gospel is an apologetic for conscious faith in Christ, faith that affirms certain propositions about Jesus, faith that believes he is the bread of life (6:35), the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), the gate for the sheep (10:7, 9), the good shepherd (10:11, 14), the resurrection and the life (11:25), and the true vine (15:1, 5).
Unless we believe that Christ is “he,” the long awaited Messiah and heaven sent Son of God, we will die in our sins (8:24). Jesus could not make the point any clearer. “Through” means “through faith.” Inclusivism and John 14:6 cannot be friends.