TABLE OF CONTENTS
Salvation by Grace
Typically, in all religions of the world, behavior of man is directly linked to his attaining of salvation. In other words, these religions and faiths lay out a set of rules and commands that man must live by and keep in order to gain their salvation. This list of “DOs” and “DONTs” will be the measure by which men are able to judge the quality of their walk with God. This obviously includes Judaism (in its most human and superficial form) and Islam, both of which put emphasis on law-keeping as the means by which one can attain salvation.
Islam, for example, lists a number of things a believer must do each day in order to satisfy the requirements of their god as revealed by their prophet. This includes a number of times one should pray, tithing, and ideally a pilgrimage to Mecca among other things. Failure to comply with these rules is basically throwing your salvation. This general idea is not new and comes back all through the history of mankind. Logically speaking, most humans will and still think good people who do good things will go to heaven and the other bad people who do bad things will end up damned.
This is where Christianity is in deep contrast with other faiths. This can come as a shock even to professing Christians, but according to the bible, bad people will get to heaven before those who consider themselves good according to this concept of law keeping. This is clearly seen in the life of our Lord Jesus:
30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Looking at these verses, the Lord put a sharp contrast between people who knew they were sinners and the Pharisees who considered themselves good because of their law keeping. Jesus also said that prostitutes and publicans will get to heaven before the Pharisees will.
According to the bible, we can make two main statements of theology that make True Christianity unique:
- Good deeds are going to be of no use to get to heaven
- In light of salvation by grace, bad deeds are going to be no hindrance (provided we repent of them)
In the next section, I will list some reasons why these unique statements of the Christian faith are true.
Why Salvation By Grace?
The main reasons listed in this section back up why we all need the grace of God as the true means of salvation through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Debtors Not Creditors
The bible is clear about God being Holy. After the fall of man from the garden of Eden, we are in debt toward God in righteousness and holiness. The idea that man can do good deeds to repay his debt is only rational from a human perspective but from God’s perspective, it is useless. We can never repay God our debt since God is not an equal party with us. We can never repay this debt by creating a credit account where, by outweighing bad deeds, good deeds allow us to earn our salvation.
The Lord Jesus Christ was clear that we cannot do anything on our own and that everything good comes from God. Jesus also says that even if we do our best, we will always be on the debit side and we are still to act as servants:
Luke 17:10 – So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
In the light of this, all our lives, with the exception of Jesus, will always be in debt to God and there is nothing we can offer to Him to pay Him back. This is very important to understand why we need a savior.
Since our actions don’t repay our debts toward a Holy God, what does He require of us in this life? The answer is simple: Faith!
God says in His Word that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, my friend, you can be assured that this is the first thing God requires of us, Faith in Him. For more information on faith, please follow the following link concerning Salvation through Faith.
This is the primary thing that the Lord Jesus wanted His disciples to know by themselves when He walked with them on earth. He wanted them to BELIEVE in Him! In John 6, people asked Jesus what they should do to work the works of God:
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
No One is Good
This is another shock to many Christians who think salvation will be automatic to those who are “good”.
What does being “good” mean? Is it helping an old lady cross the street, or feeding her hungry cat? Is it following the laws of the government perfectly and paying our taxes? If we do these things, are we proving that we are “good”? Does that erase our bad deeds and does that make us ready to be accepted into heaven? The answer from the bible is again a clear negative.
When the rich ruler came to Jesus to ask Him about eternal life, the Lord knew what was in his heart:
18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
The rich ruler didn’t know who Jesus was and believed He probably was a prophet. When the ruler asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus knew he believed he could make it by being good. When he called Him “Good Master”, Jesus was quick to answer him that none is good but God. Jesus was not implying that He was not God as some try to say (among them many Muslims). Jesus, knowing this man didn’t know who He was, wanted to show him that only God is good because to Jesus, the standard of being “good” is total perfection.
Therefore, no one can stand before God and say “I am good” because to Jesus that would mean “I am perfect”. Yes, Jesus said “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) but He knew that man by himself could not attain that perfection (except by being In Him).
This is also clear from Isaiah’s famous saying:
Isaiah 64:6 – all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags
Paul who according to the law was blameless said he considered this as “dung” compared to the excellence of knowing Christ.
The thing is even after we do good deeds, our nature doesn’t change, we are only performing on the outside. And to Jesus, the inside is what primarily matters. The Pharisees of His time hated this teaching because they trusted in themselves. After all, they followed the law very well and they were “good”.
On The Bright Side
If good deeds are no use to earn salvation, what about bad deeds? Can they keep us out? The bible says also no and that is the other side of salvation by grace. But then why bother to be good when our bad deeds don’t hinder us?
This question can be tricky if we don’t understand the gospel of Christ well. Dear friend, we as Christians don’t do good to earn heaven but we do good because we already are going there. The New Testament says we are not saved BY good deeds but we are saved FOR good deeds. When we are saved, we enter the plan of God that He predestined for us before the foundation of the world.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The Lord says to us “I will take you to heaven right now; now you be good and walk in My works”. Jesus Christ was criticized by the Pharisees for being a friend of sinners. He chose Matthew, a tax collector, as one of His apostles. He went into the house of Zaccheus who repented of taking more taxes from people than he should, Jesus said that salvation has entered his house on that day. Jesus loved sinners and He wanted to heal them as a doctor. After He showed compassion on them, He then told them to repent of their old ways. Jesus did not act the same with the self-righteous who thought they were in good standing with God. This is all over the gospels in many parables (the prodigal son, the Pharisee and the publican in the temple, the wage differential parable, etc.).
Now does that mean that we can go on doing sin because we are saved? The answer of the Bible is a clear NO! If we have been given free admission, that doesn’t mean we can mock the mercy and grace of God. Whether we have been relatively “good” or bad, Jesus says “I will save you provided you leave the past behind“. That is repentance, the right response of a TRUE Christian who understands the love and grace of God.
Dear friend, salvation by grace is true. It is the FREE gift of God, an extended offer that we have to accept. We can never buy God’s love by our good deeds, He will give it to us for free. That is the good news! Anyone can be saved right now because anyone can come to Christ right now!
There are typically two reactions to the good news. Some repent and rejoice but the others resent this very deeply and think it unfair like the prodigal son’s older brother. To the natural man, it will always be unfair. Is it unfair to you? If it is, get rid of that pride that is left, dear friend. God’s grace is greater than we can comprehend, trust His righteous judgment.
John 21:18-22 (Jesus speaking with Peter)
18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.