Monday, April 27, 2009

What Must I DO To Be Saved?

Is forgiveness truly free? Or must you do something in order to be saved? It is true that many Christians teach and believe that you must do something in order to be forgiven by God (you must believe/have faith). This is not what the Bible teaches, nor is it correct Christian doctrine.

God forgiving us is a gift. A gift is something that is given. One does not do something to receive a gift. If one does something and gets something in return, that’s not a gift but a wage/something earned. If I give you a gift there is nothing you can do to receive it, it’s yours. It’s true that you can reject my gift, but you can’t do anything to gain possession of it. You are in possession of it because I have given it to you. That’s what forgiveness from God is.

The sinful human mind—and the Bible teaches that all humans are completely sinful—responds: yes, but don’t we have to do something? What about faith? What about belief? It’s true that we have faith and believe. However, the Bible teaches that this, too, is a gift of God. Romans 3:28 says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (ESV) (Emphasis mine.) But we also teach that works prove that you are forgiven and therefore being forgiven doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. While true, that doesn’t mean that forgiveness is not free. It means that the forgiveness is given and so are the works that the forgiven person does. God produces those works. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV) (Emphasis mine.) Jesus accomplished salvation for the world, this is the gift.

Consider Jesus’ words on the cross: “Father, forgive them.” Jesus was not speaking simply of those individuals present who crucified Him, He was speaking of every person who has ever lived. This is what Mel Gibson was getting at when he said that he used his hand in the movie Passion of the Christ for the soldier hammering the nail into Christ’s hand because he (Mel) is responsible for Christ dying on the cross, along with everyone else.

The Bible not only teaches that Jesus accomplished the work of taking away our sins, but also accomplished what we could not in regard to God’s Law. Christ came to fulfill the Law. We are unable to abide by God’s Law. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (ESV) Jesus said He came not abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).

So, what must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! This, too, is the work of God [This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent. John 6:29 (ESV)] Thanks be to God!

2 comments:

Peter said...

Paul,

What an awesome proclamation of the gospel and faith. It is so easy to think that faith is something we do, but as you rightly pointed out, faith is also a gift from the Holy Spirit.

I've been reading Oswald Bayer's book "Theology the Lutheran Way" and he really hammers the point that Luther emphasized the gospel as the received gift of God.

rev will said...

Hi Peter:

Thanks. The way this came about was that I was listening to Dennis Prager (who is Jewish) and he completely botched the Christian doctrine of forgiveness. To his credit, he said if anyone who is Christian can correct him, they should email him. So I did. This blog post was a minor revision of my email to him. His response was, "Thank you for your fine letter. What role does repentance play?" So I responded to that as well and am planning on putting that as a blog post as well. Glad you're enjoying the Bayer book. I haven't read it, but sounds good.