“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Bridges have always fascinated me. From when? I must have been quite young. And why? I’d probably offer too many reasons to sound reasonable.
Every time I see a bridge I have a strong desire to take a picture of it. I have photographed lots of bridges. I now have a wonderful variety of their pictures to share with you: pictures of small wooden bridges, stone bridges, metal bridges. Some of them speak of ancient history, having stood in place for centuries, as indicated by their darkened grayish or greenish stones. Or it could be modern reality, more recent and more complicated. There are bridges that move: swing bridges like one I remember from the place of my youth. There are simple wooden bridges composed of narrow boards; and powerful concrete bridges, massive and solid.
The purpose of a bridge is to connect: banks of a river; buildings; two or multiple streets or highways. No wonder that during times of war bridge units are often very busy: building bridges over rivers or ravines for troops to cross over; or restoring bridges that were blown up by the enemy; often the first to arrive to facilitate their troops’ entry into fields of future battle; the last to leave, destroying, blowing up the road behind them—burning bridges so that none may follow in their track.
When I look at bridges, I always think of another Bridge, the Bridge that connects this world and the universe. Unlike bridges on earth, this Bridge was not built by human hands. Its going forth may be from the days of eternity (Micah 5:2), but it cannot be dismissed as mere ancient history. It has borne the brunt of anger and hostility from millennia of enemy attacks. But it bears no darkened gray or green discoloration from the passing of the centuries, nor will it ever be burned down or blown up. My Bridge is a Person, and He joins us to eternity, humanity to Infinity, earth to glory. His name is Jesus Christ: “With His human arm, Jesus encircled the race, and with His divine arm He grasped the throne of the Infinite, connecting man with God, and earth with heaven.”1
On the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I think of the Bridge. The Reformation did not build this Bridge. But because of the Reformation friends and enemies of the truth have focused the world on its reality: My Bridge is the Word of God incarnate, to whom “the law and the prophets,” God’s written Word, bear witness (John 1:45). Before the Reformation, generations of human tradition and satanic truth distortion obscured the Bridge from the eyes and minds of people. Pretended representatives of its ownership privatized the Bridge, and even denied access to some people.
But in the voices of the Reformation proclaiming solo Christo, the Bridge once obscured emerged from under its burden of misguided human tradition and distorting supernatural confusion! When the voices of the Reformation cried out solo Christo, it destroyed generations of barricades to the Bridge, and showed the world the route to heaven.
Here on earth some bridges have a financial cost: you pay a price to procure a ticket to cross the bridge. The Bridge to heaven also has its cost. You need a ticket or pass to step on the bridge that leads to heaven. In the days of Reformer Martin Luther, earnest humans believed that the purchase of indulgences provided their ticket. The church sold indulgences that took sin away, even the sin of people already dead, and made heaven accessible to them. So people tried to secure their way to glory by paying money, or by other means, such as good deeds done or other penances performed. Luther himself tried hard to earn his ticket by his good deeds. Many people today still try hard to pay their own way across the Bridge.
But then Luther’s study of the Bible disclosed a wonderful truth to him. It was like Jesus’ story of finding an incomparable jewel in a field (Matt. 13:44). The pearl that changed the world for Luther was the truth that Jesus has already paid for all access to the Bridge. Salvation is solo Christo—by Christ alone, and sola gratia—by grace alone. The metaphors break down because divine truth is more than all the pictures we have ever seen, and all the metaphors that human language can generate: Jesus is the ticket to the Bridge, and Jesus Himself is the Bridge: He is the way to God, the truth of God, and the life of God (John 14:6). He gives everyone a free pass to the Bridge. He is the Bridge that takes us across to glory.
So, sister, brother, sinner: step on the Bridge. Just step on! Believe in Jesus and step on. Faith is what we need to know that He has brought us across; and He gives us the faith to believe (Rom. 12:3): Luther and other theologians call this “justification by faith.” But don’t fret about the theologians. That’s just what the Bible calls it to let us know that accepting it puts us on God’s side: being “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1, NKJV).2
So cross over the Bridge. Go all the way. Finish the journey: it’s a lifetime journey. Theologians call it sanctification, but don’t fret (we know the rest—John 17:17-19). Walking this journey is a different reality. We need to always move forward. As we do, our vision and understanding keep expanding “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18, NKJV). Stepping on this Bridge changes us forever. We can thank God and Luther for that.
Galina Stele is research and evaluations manager, Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.