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Monday, June 19, 2006

Caught Up in the Loopholes III

What if some at the Judgment are judged according to their works and found worthy? Does this mean they have a chance to get into heaven, even if they weren't "saved"? Could this be a loophole for those of other beliefs who live pristine lives and do good works to be "saved" in the end?

When we stand before God at the Judgment, there will be no loopholes to save us. Our works cannot save us because, “There is none that doeth good [or is worthy], no, not one” (Psalm 14:3.) God’s standard is PERFECTION (see Matthew 5:48), and there is only One who lived a perfect life, and that is Jesus Christ. No matter how pristine our lives may look to others or how many good deeds we have done, it is not enough to get into heaven by our own self-righteousness. Jesus is the only way to the Father-our only sure salvation.
God gave us the Ten Commandments (His Law) to act as a mirror to us to show us our sinfulness: “so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the Law; rather, through the Law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans
3: 19-20) Not one of us can say that we are completely without sin.

God’s penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from Him, because He is so Holy He cannot even look upon sin or allow it in His presence. God requires payment for sin, “and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22) Jesus shed His blood to make the payment for our sin. He makes us pure, as if we had never sinned, before the Father.
Without Him, we get the punishment we deserve, whether we feel our sin was “that bad” or not- God says it is.
Justice is something we earn and deserve for the sins we commit, but God’s grace and mercy is undeserved and something we can never earn on our own. Good works are important, however, because our obedience to God is the proof that we love Him. Works are not our means of salvation, but our method of demonstrating our gratitude for the salvation we have received as a free gift.

Those of other beliefs have sinned against God by breaking the First and Second Commandments- even if they had kept all the others- by worshipping false gods. I don’t dispute that many are sincere religious people-but, you can be sincere and be sincerely wrong in your beliefs. Remember that “there is a way that seems right unto a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) God takes sin extremely seriously and His anger and wrath is on those who break His Commandments and worship the idols of false
religions: (Leviticus 26:30) “And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.” This is only one of many, many verses in the Bible which warn against idolatry and tell of the terrible destruction to come for those who choose to disobey God’s Laws.

God wants to forgive those who truly repent and turn to Him, but you can’t have one without the other. You can’t repent and then trust in yourself to earn you a place in heaven, nor can you trust in Jesus and give your life to Him without recognizing your sinfulness and repenting of it. We can be secure if we are trusting in Jesus to save us. Don’t put your faith in your own efforts of trying to balance your good works with your bad ones hoping to make it into heaven. You don’t stand a chance without Jesus!

5 Comments:

  • In what follows, remember that I am emphatic that Jesus is the One who can save us, and that good works alone will not gain us salvation. Because, although I agree with the basic idea of this post, I don't think you've expressed it clearly.

    The problem is that the Bible itself contains examples of people being saved without faith in Christ, based on their "good works" of obedience to God's commands. Various people in the Old Testament, we are told explicitly, were saved - Abraham, Moses, Elijah and so on. Indeed, Abraham is used as the prime example of saving faith, even though his faith was not in Christ.

    Now, it is perfectly true that Abraham was following God - and that his faith was imputed to him as righteousness. But the point is that he did *not* have faith in Jesus. Where, then, in the picture you've painted, does this leave various categories of people who never knew about Jesus because they lived before He was born, or because no one had brought them the Gospel? If such a one followed wholeheartedly the messages they had from God, would they perhaps have this "imputed to them as righteousness", as Abraham did?

    I'm not saying that it definitely happens, but I am saying that it definitely did happen in the history of the Jews. And I wouldn't want to rely on it to save me! But the world isn't as simple as we sometimes want to make it.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 6/20/2006 08:04:00 AM  

  • John,
    After the advent of Christ, there is no salvation under any other name, not is there any way to the Father but by Him.
    Thus, your question, while academically interesting and possibly leading to a fun discussion, is entirely irrelevant to us today. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Christ is our righteousness, and to imply that "he did not have faith in Jesus" misses what is a foundational aspect of the Triune God - that Christ is God incarnate, and that Abraham's belief in God was a belief in the one who said "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day", for, "before Abraham was, I AM."
    That the incarnation did not occur in time as we know it until after Abraham's earthly life no more restricts him from being a recipient of grace than it does the rest.

    "What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

    “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
    Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised."
    Romans 4:1-12

    The world isn't simple, but the gospel is. It pleased God to choose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. While you and I may discuss the sacrificial system and pre-Christ faith in a fashion that engages us both, we cannot deny that any who read this have no other way to God except through faith in the Christ who has died, risen, and will come again.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/20/2006 10:05:00 AM  

  • Hammer,
    " After the advent of Christ, there is no salvation under any other name, not is there any way to the Father but by Him."

    Where do we read that in the Bible? That temporal distinction (before/after Christ) is not found anywhere I can think of. Christ is, was and always will be The Way, The Truth and The Life. Abraham's righteousness came explicitly, we are told, not because he believed in Christ but because he believed God and did what he was told. This is a fine distinction, but crucial. Because the God in whom Abraham believed was one about whom he knew almost nothing. He did not have the Law, the Prophets, certainly not the Gospel. He simply heard and trusted. Is this path not open to those who (because of time or geography) did not hear the Gospel?

    We could say that the rules changed with Christ's coming - but we have to justify that statement. More than that, we have to justify the change to the status of those who have not heard the Gospel. Before Christ, they could be saved if they believed in God; afterwards, they could not be saved unless someone came and told them about Christ.

    It's a genuine problem, it seems to me. And not one that can be answered quite as easily as original post suggests. For example, Jews certainly do not break the first and second commandments, for their God is our God; they simply misunderstand what God has done and do not accept the ways in which God has revealed Himself. They do not accept Jesus, and so do not accept God's salvation.

    I'm not disagreeing with the main point of the article - salvation is through Jesus alone. I was taking issue with the implication that the only possible method of salvation is to hear the Gospel and accept Jesus as our saviour. The Bible itself shows that this is not so - God sometimes acts in ways that fall outside our human limits.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 6/20/2006 11:32:00 AM  

  • John,
    With my "advent" comment, I was speaking of something I have been doing a lot lately - focusing on the reality of our lives. I tend to leap into discussions of theology that often have little effect on my actions now. Many of those who would ask such a question as is presented in Mrs. Hammer's post are not Christians looking deeper, but non-Christians looking for an excuse.
    My "advent" sentence was not meant to contradict the rest of my comment. Of course He is and always was and always will be the Way, the Truth and the Life! I merely meant to clarify, that for the man today, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God", and "how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10) That seems to be Biblical justification to me.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/20/2006 11:52:00 AM  

  • Fair enough - I'm in no way disputing that preaching the Gospel is a Good Thing, nor that we should try to share our faith. But it does have an effect on how we approach those of other faiths, and also influences our picture of God. So, even the "abstract" question is (as so often) not totally abstract. The danger of the absolute way of talking about it is that it excludes ways that God is known to work.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 6/20/2006 11:58:00 AM  

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