Aug 23, 2016, 9:49 AM
"This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1Timothy 1:15)
The most common meaning one could give to the word 'saved' is that sense of having survived an accident that could have cost you your life. Expressions like 'saved by the skin of one's teeth' and 'saved by the bell' denote a narrow escape from death. When a Christian asks you 'are you saved?' it does not mean did you survive the accident? No! 'Are you saved?' goes much deeper than that. It means do you know the Lord Jesus? Are you living by his teachings? Do you believe in him enough to know that he saves from death? Have you been saved from sin? Sin is a killer disease that does not discriminate. Everyone can be its victim. Someone who is saved does not have a sin problem. He can stare death in the face because he is not bound by it. In Matthew's Gospel, it is revealed concerning Jesus' birth that Mary would bear a son, "and you will call his name Jesus - because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) That is the definition of the name Jesus, someone who has come to save humanity from sin and death.
SAVED BY GRACE
Many 'religious' people think that by doing what is good only they can win the heart of God. Little premium is put on prayer, worship and adoration - associating with other Christians even less so. Their comportment dictates the terms on which they would serve God.
Nobody will ever get to heaven merely on the basis of his sense of right and wrong or because of his belief in a supreme being. That is not biblical. The Bible refers to that as "works" - what we want people to see. We end up believing in the things we do. To qualify for heaven we will have to meet certain criteria, those laid down by God - goodness is a virtue every one should seek but it would not get you to heaven. How easy that would be it were the case.
Some religions, put emphasis on goodness to the extent that they talk in terms of a cancellation of the evil things by the degree of good deeds accomplished. So the more you chalk up some good deeds the lesser the number of sins on your slate. That equation is not biblical either. We are responsible for our actions and therefore must account for them on judgement day. There is no scale with which God is going to weigh our good deeds against our sins. The Book of Life will reveal it all.
Paul in his writings explains that humankind is saved not by our deeds but because we believe in the finished work of our Lord Jesus on the cross where he nailed sin once and for all. It becomes therefore a question of our degree of faith to determine whether we are saved or not. When God spoke to father Abraham and assured him that a servant in his household would not be his heir, he believed. God then took him out into the open and said to him: "Look up at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be." (Genesis 15:5) Because Abraham believed and did not doubt, the Bible tells us it was "....credited to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6) He became justified in God's eyes for taking God at His word. His acceptance of God's word and his staunch faith were all God required of him to make him a good person. For it is "by grace you have been saved through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2.8)
Paul declares that if we base our righteousness on the fact that we are obedient and true, or that we are law - abiding citizens, it kind of lifts our ego and we pride ourselves in our achievements. This leads to boasting. It is NOT by our good deeds that we have been saved, "....so no one can boast" (Ephesians 2.9)
Paul stated categorically that "it is God who justifies." (Romans 8:33) To 'justify' means to make right, to clear us of all sin, to say we are not guilty - that is the work of God. It is not the law - that is by obeying the law that we will be justified. A cursory look at some of the major biblical characters will confirm that none of them could claim to be sinless. Only our Lord Jesus knew no sin, neither was any guilt found in him. (1 Peter 2:22)
Our Lord Jesus in His teachings gave us a vivid example of what "works without faith" means when He said: "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!" (Matthew 7:22) Many who believe that goodness is equivalent to righteousness will be disappointed like 'these many' who claimed to have done things in Jesus' name; yet Jesus could not recognise them. The thing is, the devil also does miracles and what distinguishes the player here is his/her faith in God.
Paul never ceased to underline this aspect in our faith walk. "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ... because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16) Again in the book of Romans chapter 3 verse 20, Paul drives home the point. "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law rather through the law we become conscious of sin." Grace - unmerited favour - is the operative word here. We have absolutely nothing to do to contribute to our salvation. It is a gift from God, besides it is free. If we are saved by grace "it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would not be grace." (Romans 11:6)
The bottom line is that grace is not something one can earn by good deeds. We are all sinners. "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 3:24) All we need do is first to believe. Having believed, a spiritual transformation takes place afterwards. When we become saved we experience a growing need to have others saved through a direct contact with the Saviour of humankind - our Lord Jesus. It is by fulfilling the commandments of our Lord that we can be objects of His grace. "....he saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of his own mercy that he saved us, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life by washing us." (Titus3.5)