Summary: So what then do we mean by "Only Jesus"? Because what we believe is based on what the Bible says, we’ll allow the answer to come from Scripture.
If we were to ask some of the great Christian teachers to answer the question, "What one thing is necessary?",
The great Apostle Paul might say - "Only Faith." (A favorite song of years gone by expressed it this way: "Only believe, only believe, all things are possible.")
Certainly John, the Apostle of Love would counter, "Only love." (A current expression is "Love makes the world go ’round.")
Centuries later, the great founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, would proclaim, "Scriptura Sola" - "Only Scripture."
We would reply, "With all due respect, Paul, John and Martin, you’ve all missed it. For you see, it’s not a thing at all, it’s a person - the answer is Jesus - "Only Jesus." It’s been a long time, but we used to sing the chorus often, "He’s all I need, He’s all I need, Jesus is all I need."
The message for today is as simple as I hope it will be memorable - "Only Jesus."
With a title like this, it’s important, first of all, to make sure we are not getting it confused with the "Jesus only" teaching which nearly derailed the Pentecostal movement in it’s formative days.
The Assemblies of God began in 1914 as a loose fellowship of pastors and churches. No creed was drawn up by the leaders at that time because they insisted that their only written authority was that of the Bible. However, with the strong emphasis on personal revelation, many ideas were espoused and promoted by influential pastors. One such idea came to be known as the "New Issue," otherwise known as the "Jesus Only" movement within early Pentecostalism.
It all started in 1913 at services conducted by Mary B. Woodworth-Etter in Arroyo Seco, California. Early one morning John G. Scheppe, after praying through the night hours, received what he believed to be a new revelation concerning the power resident in the name of Jesus. He ran through the camp, waking everyone with this good news. Soon after, R.E. McAlister, after searching through the Scriptures, made the observation that when the New Testament Apostles baptized converts, they did so in the name of Jesus only.
Soon, large groups of Christians were being rebaptized "in the name of Jesus," which was viewed as a door into increased blessings from God. The message was picked up by a prominent Pentecostal preacher by the name of Frank J. Ewart who tied it in with Jeremiah 32:22, saying that this baptism in the name of "Jesus Only" was the "new thing" prophesied by Jeremiah.
By early 1915, through the concerted efforts of a couple of preachers, the message had spread across the country. However, the problem was not limited to promised spiritual blessings through rebaptism - it soon evolved into a denial of the Trinity, with proponents saying that while God is a threefold being (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), he is but one person, Jesus Christ. These preachers also began to teach that only people who were baptized in the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues were truly saved.
In response to these departures from Biblical doctrine, two councils were called (1915, 1916) in which these matters were discussed, and what we now know as the "Sixteen Fundamental Truths" were adopted to give guidance to the church’s teachings.
(Taken from an article by Timothy M. Powell, "’Jesus Only’ and the Assemblies of God" in the 1979 Fall edition of "Paraclete.")
So what then do we mean by "Only Jesus"? Because what we believe is based on what the Bible says, we’ll allow the answer to come from Scripture. But first, we must acknowledge that to say "Only Jesus" will probably elicit strong criticism. Why?
"Only Jesus" is too simplistic - in most people’s thinking, simplicity is for the simple minded, complexity is superior because it shows a higher intellect. Pridefulness makes us all want to think of ourselves as being smarter than the next person. To say, "All you need is Jesus" is just too simple. Even a child can understand it, and certainly we’re beyond that. So we spin out our complex religious philosophies, pat ourselves on the back, and actually miss the point.
Secondly, the simple message, "Only Jesus" is in direct opposition to the religion of "works." Look at all the man-made religious systems of this world, including aberrations of Christianity, and you will see that they are all built on the idea of the evil-works/good-works scale. If at the end of the day your sins are stacked on one side of the scale and your good works on the other, if the good outweighs the bad, then you will make it to heaven. But that’s not true Christianity - all you need is Jesus, "Only Jesus".
Also, and especially in today’s world, those who proclaim "Only Jesus" will be charged with the really big sin of intolerance. To say that there is only one way to know God and be ultimately received into heaven is to suggest that other religious beliefs are plainly wrong. We are told that in order to live peacefully with all men, we must believe that not only are all men created equal, but that all religions are created equal. Therefore, no one who claims to have the truth can be challenged. But if all claims to truth are indeed truth, then there will end up being no truth, for if there is no falsehood, there can be no truth. Also bear in mind, the success of the doctrine of tolerance will bring an end to all evangelism and missionary endeavors, which of course will result in disobedience to the Great Commission.