Monday, February 11, 2013

Way to Heaven? Not by Works!

          Once we learn from the Bible that God’s grace is firmly imprinted in our salvation (new birth a.k.a born again experience), we could move over to see how we (believers in Christ) are judged. We are fundamentally examining both ends of our Christian life – our new birth and death (i.e. what happens after our death). Let me clarify that the judgment I am referring to is our post-death judgment.

            Judgment is a reality, for it is explicitly stated in the Bible. First, it is God who judges man (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 2:5, 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:5). Second and more specifically, the second person of the blessed Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, will judge the living and the dead (Matt 25:31-46; Acts 10:42, 17:31). Third, the believer in Christ will be judged as it is mentioned in Romans 14:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 (these are letters Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and Corinth). The unbelievers of the Lord Jesus will also be judged (Romans 2:5-11; Revelation 20:12). Finally, those who believe in Christ will be judged on the basis of their earthly deeds – whether good or bad (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).

            The Bible states that believers in Christ are created to do good works, which should be a natural outcome of their life in Christ (Cf. Ephesians 2:10, John 15 et al.). It is imperative to affirm that those who believe in Christ will not be eternally condemned (John 5:24; Romans 8:1) but will indeed live unto eternity. Believers in Christ are only saved by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus, and not by works they do in this world. The believer’s judgment will not relegate a believer in Christ to hell, but this judgment evaluates and bestows various degrees of rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:19, 46, 6:2-6, 16-18; Luke 6:22-23, 35, 12:42-48, 19:17,19; 1 Corinthians 3:8, 12-15, 13:3, 15:58; Hebrews 11:35; 2 John 8; Revelation 22:12).

            So, the believers are saved ONLY by grace, but are created to do good works, hence we conclude that doing good works bears no role in our salvation. Permit me to illustrate this now, and for the sake of illustration we will consider the first act of sinful nature – sexual immorality (Galatians 5:19, NIV).

            If a believer falls into temptation and unfortunately dies while in adultery, many Christians would tend to think he is hell-bound. This man did not even have an opportunity to repent, so that lends credence to this doctrine. However, I think differently! I do not think this person is hell-bound, but in fact he is heaven-bound. A believer’s unconfessed sins do not transport him to hell. If believers are saved by grace, then they are saved by grace. Period. Good deeds or bad deeds of a believer in Christ will not relegate him to hell. Please remember that when a person accepts the Lord Jesus as his God and Savior, he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ. He is forgiven of all his sins.

            Well, I hope another illustration will reinforce my point. Let us again consider sexual immorality. I share this illustration that I read sometime ago. Let us assume a believer living an adulterous life. Let us also assume that his church elders approach him and advise him to quit his adultery, repent, and live clean. This person refuses to listen to them and continues with his adulterous lifestyle. The church elders now approach him for the second time and warn him that he is hell-bound, if he refuses to repent of his sin (adultery) and live clean. Stop and think. According to the doctrine of the church elders, this believer will go to heaven if he stops his adulterous life. Now, where did the grace of God disappear? Are we not saved by grace? Isn't this doctrine promoting salvation by works – that if we live clean we go to heaven, else we go to hell?

            If only sinless people can go to heaven, then God alone would inhabit heaven. Please permit me to stretch the illustration further. The Lord said “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28, NIV). The Bible categorically states that even a lustful look is adultery, and anger equivalent to murder and deserving hellfire (Matthew 5:21-22)! How many of us are absolutely immune to sensuality and anger of various forms and sizes?

            Let us continue to travel within this thought. The second act of the sinful nature is “impurity.” What is impurity? One approach to understand impurity is to gain knowledge on purity. Purity lacks imperfection and even potency for imperfection. Impurity, on the other hand, is an embodiment of imperfection. The Bible teaches that God alone is pure and perfect. None of us are pure, for we are all sinners. If my work of good or bad deeds is going to determine my eternal status, then none will go to heaven, for we are all impure (sinners). In other words, no amount of good works will fetch a believer in Christ a ticket to heaven.

            We are created to do good works, and a believer in Christ will do good works. This is how Christians should live. The doctrine of our salvation (grace through faith) does not promote sin in our lives. Instead, the one saved by grace should realize his unworthiness to be in the presence of a Holy God, and live a life that pleases the Holy God, in utter gratitude, until his last breath. Anyone who teaches that grace of God is a license to sin will experience a severe judgment (Cf. Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2, NIV).

            It is God’s will that we live to believe and please our Triune God through our thoughts, words and deeds, so may we do just that. Amen. 


Sam Carr said...

Raja, if we are saved by grace, and all our sins forgiven, then what is it that we are being judged for? Don't these two teachings contradict one another?

Raj Richard said...

Sam Annan, I don’t think these two teachings contradict. The parable of ten minas (Luke 19:11-27) is a good case in point. Each disciple is given spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:7, 11; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). When the Lord comes again in all HIS glory and splendor, the disciples will be judged for what they have done with these gifts. Then, Christ, the Just Judge, will give HIS disciples rewards based on their works. As I have mentioned, the believer’s judgment is not to relegate the believer to hell. This is my understanding.

Sam Carr said...

Raja, it's a fine distinction isn't it? Are the things we do wrong as believers sin or not sin? If they are sins, then whether sins of omission or of commission, they are forgiven aren't they? Then this judgement cannot be about sin.
There isn't much doubt about what the bible says, but our attempts to then fit all the bits together as a theology, well that's a different story.

Raj Richard said...

Sam annan, Things Christians do wrong against God are indeed sins. But these sins are forgiven by a one time sacrifice of God. That's the beauty of Grace. We deserve NONE, not a speck to be in Heaven. But we are there by God's grace. Luke 12:48 is a verse that leads our thought especially in this context. Having received grace, how do the Christians live? Thanks for speaking, enjoying your thoughts as always. Keep em coming, anna.

sarah said...

Thanks Raj for the post. As we have shared earlier, God took a ' risk' in letting us know that we are completely forgiven, past/present/future. We have grown up with this thought that God is a punishing god( that He is), but the grace part is overlooked. One v erse that helped me personally is John 5:24 : ..., whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Hence No condemnation to those who are in Christ and he/she has already moved from death to life.
We have already started our life with God here and now. Physical Death is only a point. Moreover, our names are written in the book of life and God does not erase our names once written because He does not make mistakes like we make. Once written , it is written. Jesus prayed that Father those whom you have given me, I will keep them safe. We are in safe hands. Rejoice !! But God expects us to live differently once we are in Him . He expects us to be distinct. Thank you for reading with me.Sarah Bhuyan

Raj Richard said...

@ Sarah: Agree with you big time. Distinctive living is what we are called for. Thanks for your comments. God bless.