I read an article and posted a rather long response yesterday. I realized that I put in so much Theology (what I believe and know to be true based on my understanding of the Bible) that I figured I better offer it up on my own blog, along with a link to the original author’s post below that.
The only thing required for salvation is faith. It’s not faith plus works (righteous living). In a sense, it’s true in that we must repent before we can have faith, and we must have faith before we can repent. Some people say that repentance is also a “Work” because we have to do something. But again, God gives us the changed heart so we can repent.
Repentance is a a very difficult concept for us in the west. Some define it as “Turning from sins” which is partially true. In reality, since the origins of the word means more literally “Changing your mind” I tell folks that you’re “Changing your mind about who’s in charge”. One of the key issues in the gospels is Jesus’ authority. He has authority to judge. He will judge who is “Good” and who deserves Hell. Thus, repentance is recognizing Jesus’ authority over your life. He becomes Lord and can tell you what to do, and you forever after belong to Him. This idea of “Lordship” is what flows from the authority, and what makes it so difficult for western Christians to understand. It is complete, and utter surrender.
There are many “False” conversions and lots of counterfeit Christians in churches. They prayed a prayer and they think they are saved, and thus now qualify as “Good people”. Only Jesus truly knows who is saved and who is not. The passage in Matthew 7:21-23 should scare the heck out of all true Christians! What’s at stake is not simply “Rewards in Heaven” but whether we will make it into Heaven at all.
Thus, it’s not really faith plus works, but it is a work of God through the Holy Spirit, saving those whom He has chosen, softening their hearts to be able to hear the gospel and repent and then follow Jesus. The key verse in all of this is Mark 1:14-15 “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”” (ESV)
What I tell folks is the “Standard” for goodness is the Law. Our church teaches that God gave us the Law so we would know what sin is. Paul says something to that effect in Romans (“The Law brings knowledge of sin” – Romans 3:20). Since, we already know we are sinners through inheritance, we know also that we cannot make it to Heaven on our own. Good people want to believe they do “Good works” and that those works will get them into Heaven. Of course not I tell them, the Bible says “Our works are as filthy rags before God” (Isaiah 64:6).
Folks still want to argue why, and I tell them it’s simply a question of God’s Will. His will is perfect, and good. Only things that line up with HIS WILL can be good. Everything we do is according to our own will (unless we are truly saved and are operating under the Holy Spirit) and is therefore evil. That’s what it actually means in Romans 3:23 when Paul says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (we are all evil on our own). It’s not a question of the value of our works, it’s a question of whether or not we are operating under God’s SOVEREIGN WILL.
Anyhow, I liked your post. I was looking for a place where someone might have finished the saying:
Hell will be filled with good people
and Heaven will be filled with sinners who know they don’t deserve to be there.
At least, that’s what I think I read the other day and was trying to find who said it.