Have you noticed that a lot of religions focus on works? We love the idea that we can accomplish some goals, check off some boxes, and make it to heaven. Some religions ask you to work really, really hard, whlie others demand much less. Yet, what the Bible teaches stands in stark contrast to those ways, created by man.
As I continue my study of the book of John, I read this verse.
John 6.28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
It reminded me of the famous one in Romans…
Romans 4.3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
I cannot tell you how hard people work to change this simple, foundation teaching in the New Testament. So many denominations and non-Christian religions want their followers to earn their salvation. Yet, the Bible makes it clear, We cannot earn our salvation.
To help people understand why, I point out that, when one has committed a grievous felony that requires the death sentence, no amount of work prior to, or after the incident will alleviate the penalty. Indeed, if a judge allowed one person off the hook for such good behavior, but hung others who committed similar crimes, people would question the judgement of the official.
So why do we do it? Why have we repeatedly, throughout history, try to earn our salvation? I believe the answer finds its roots in pride. If we could earn our salvation, even to some extent, we could boast about what we did. Goal oriented, we look for ways to earn status, reputation and power at any chance we get. MMOs keep millions subscribed to their games using this simple human psychology fact. Decades ago, martial arts struggled to get enough people to attend their classes. Then, someone had the idea to add a colored belt ranking systems. The idea of progressing and ‘ranking up’ drew and kept larger numbers of people. We love the idea that we earn our way to higher status, or even to heaven.
The Bible answers this concern clearly in Ephesians.
Eph 2.8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Jesus explains, simply, that God requires us to have faith, to turn to Christ, turn away from our sin, and put our trust in Him. To add more to that, would be a disservice to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Does that mean that Christians can sin all of the time, with no thought for consequences? Far from it. However, I must save that topic for another, future post.