Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Salvation By Comparison

By Alexander Samuels

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but my Me" (John 14:6). According to a Newsweek/Beliefnet poll, 68 percent of evangelical Christians no longer believe these words of Jesus to be true. What they really believe is that as long as you are a "good" person you will go to heaven.

In an article today from AgapePress ("Survey: Two-Thirds of Evangelicals Doubt Jesus' Words Regarding Salvation Thru Him Alone"), Fred Jackson writes that most evangelicals have long been taught and have accepted what Jesus said in John 14:6, adding . . . "But now a new Newsweek/Beliefnet poll is showing a shocking number of people who call themselves evangelical and born-again have come to reject those words." In overwhelming percentages, the majority believe that people of all faiths may go to heaven if they live a "good" life.

Usually, evangelicals are considered rock-solid Bible-believing Christians. The primary principle of Christian teaching is that all men are sinners and they must be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Either this is not being taught in our churches or those who attend our churches have been influenced by some aspect of our culture to reject this teaching.

Who is good and how is it being defined? Jesus said, "There is only One who is good" (Matthew 19:17), and that "One" is God. Paul writes, "There is no one righteous, not even one . . ." (Romans 3:10). But Paul gives us the hope of a righteousness that is available to us: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:22-24). [Emphasis added]

According to God's standards, no one is good. All have sinned and fall short; it's in our nature. God, however, has a plan. He "justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). The human plan is to justify ourselves by comparison. We want to point to others who have lived lives much worse than ours and say, "We deserve to go to heaven because we lived better lives than they did."

That may be a "politically correct" opinion, but it is not a Christian opinion. The God of Christianity gives us no other options. We are either saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ or we are not saved at all. This is why Jesus gave us the Great Commission: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you'" (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Bible and the words of Jesus leave us no option. We cannot call ourselves Christians and believe that people are saved by some relative standard of living a "good" life. Jesus did not leave us that option when He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but my Me" (John 14:6). [Emphasis added]


At Wednesday, August 24, 2005 12:51:00 AM, Blogger Roch101 said...

Sola fide is one view (a cause of the Reformation, I believe). There are other Christians who, no matter what you may decree, believe that works are something other than "some relative standard of living."

James 2:24

At Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:21:00 AM, Anonymous Alexander Samuels said...

Roch 101:

You are absolutely right. There are denominations who believe that you are saved by your works (by living out the characterics of Christians as described in the Bible).

The reformers countered this by saying, "You are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. What this means is that you are only saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. However, if you are truly saved, your faith will be accompanied by good works.

The book of James addresses this issue. It is easy to say that you have "saving faith," but if that faith is not accompanied by "good works" or the "fruit of the Spirit," then it may be looked upon doubtfully by other believers. We must remember, however, that only God can truly know the human heart.

The Catholic religion is actually a works oriented religion. Catholic theology allows for the saved to actually lose their salvation. If the sin is not to serious, they may earn their salvation back through good works.

Salvation in the Reformed Church is taught to be sola gratia, by grace alone. We have no merit (or goodness) of our own by which God is obligated to save us. Grace is the undeserved favor or mercy of God toward us. If our salvation is by works, then we can never truly know if heaven will be our home because we cannot say objectively that our works are good enough to get us into heaven.

Yes. There are protestant denominations who hold this view. Thanks for pointing this out.

At Wednesday, August 24, 2005 2:24:00 PM, Blogger Erik said...

It is probably true that many so-called evangelicals no longer believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. But, maybe there's another explanation for why such a high percentage of people answered yes to that question. The question asked by Newsweek is a horribly worded question. It says "Can a good person who isn't of your religious faith go to heaven or attain salvation, or not?" My answer would be a qualified yes. Yes they can go to heaven if they eventualy have a true saving faith in Christ alone. Just because they don't believe in Him now, doesn't mean there's no possibility that they won't sometime down the road. I think a better wording for the question would have been "If a good person who isn't of your religious faith were to die without changing his beliefs, would he go to heaven or attain salvation, or not?" Then the answer would obviously change to a no.

At Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:06:00 PM, Anonymous BGH said...

It is interesting to me that in the last couple of years it has become vogue for the more liberal evangelicals (if you can accurately describe them as that) believe it ok to now have their own personal interpretation of the scriptures. I'm not qualified to translate the original Hebrew or Greek language but trust in the ones that have to do an accurate job. So many translations now and they all say virtually the same thing - I think I'll land on the trust that the Bible is God breathed and inspired. I believe Jesus is God and you'll only get to live eternity with Him if you have the saving relationship with Jesus.

I've heard (and read) of at least 2 nationally reconginzed non religious persons that started out to disprove the Bible but during their discoure turned totally to God and now expound the Bible's excellence and accuracy. They are Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. Has anyone heard of ardent followers of Christ that have turned against God and the Bible in their quest for truth?

At Thursday, August 25, 2005 9:34:00 AM, Blogger Tim said...

So many people who call themselves "evangelical", or even Christian, do so for cultural reasons. The church they attend, family tradition, etc. They, often, do not examine themselves to understand what they truly believe. I would also agree that the wording of the question has much to do with the answer. For instance, "a good person, who isn't of your religious faith" may be interpreted by many as someone from a different Christian denomination, not necessarily a different religion all together. Also, do not discount the effect that words like "reject those words" have on the reader. Many magazines like Newsweek and US News & World Report often run "religious" articles that are obviously biased against evangelical Christianity. It is often best to consider the source when judging the truth of these polls.

For another perspective on the topic in general, please visit my blog at www.vallofides.blogspot.com ("Did you feel that?" Parts 1 & 2). (If Mickey does not mind the self-serving plug).

At Thursday, August 25, 2005 4:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are people who believe Matthew 25:31-46 as basis for being saved by works. Jesus talks about being judged according to works.

At Thursday, August 25, 2005 6:36:00 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

In Matthew 25:31-46, the good works are not mentioned as the cause of the kingdom being prepared for Christians but it is descriptive of their characters, and is evidence of the grace of God in them. Because they were blessed of the Father and were the children of God, they were inspired and willing to do the good works which Christ testifies to in these verses.


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