I heard some disturbing news recently involving a survey of “evangelical Christians.” It seems that of 3000 people surveyed, 83% responded that the “way” to “make it” to Heaven was by being good, by doing good works. And another 54% stated that they believe good people of other faiths can go to Heaven, as long as they are “good.” Now, I don’t know what defines these evangelicals, but that news disturbs me on several levels.
First, I am afraid we have equated the acquisition of God’s grace with the standards of the world; that if we are good little boys and girls we will receive eternal life in Heaven. That is in no way even close to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian Bible nowhere promotes this theology.
Second, even if salvation through good works were a “viable offering,” it is just not possible. God’s word, the Old Testament especially, shows us that it is not possible to achieve the reward of Heaven through righteous living, as nobody is able to obey the Law. In fact, James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” That means if we mess up, anywhere, even once, that is enough for us to be separated from God…No Heaven.
Third, it concerns me that the accurate message of the Gospel may not be being preached from the pulpits (what are we as churches thinking?), or that the people sitting in the pews are not getting the message. OUCH! Good works have nothing to do with making your way into Heaven and standing before a Holy God.
83% of evangelicals, and I would imagine quite a bit of the rest of the world may think people are going to waltz into the Kingdom of Heaven because they did a lot of things right, or maybe because they gave a bunch of money, or went to church, or even helped an elderly woman across the street, but Heaven is not the Boy Scouts. The only way to be granted access to the throne of the Father is through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” That means through Christ, through His work on the Cross, not through any works of our own, and not through any other faith. Let us in no way assume for a moment that our work is meritorious enough to grant us an audience before a Holy and Righteous God who cannot but judge sin.
God does expect good works out of us but those which are subsequent to salvation in Christ, meaning those good works are expected as a result of being saved, not as a condition to salvation itself. James 2:17-18 says, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’” The key word there is “by.” I will show you my faith by my works means the faith in the heart of man is revealed to the world in outward acts of good works. Placing works as a prerequisite to salvation is placing the cart before the horse.
If you hear nothing else of what I am saying, please hear what Paul said to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is through faith in Christ alone. Salvation is a gift from God. So let us not brag about anything we did to receive our entrance into heaven.
Let us accurately understand the Gospel so we may effectively communicate it!