Chapter 13: Why are these not requirements?

Nobody likes to do more than what is needed to get the job done. It is a total waste of time. The same thing applies when it comes to getting saved. When we teach people what is needed to get saved we need to make sure that we tell them everything that is needed to get saved. At the same time, we also need to be careful to not add anything else. If we neglect to teach everything then we will not be great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:19). On the other hand, if we pass our own ideas as teachings from God then we worship God in vain (Mt 15:9, Mk 7:7). We should aim for the balance – to teach what is found in the Bible, and nothing else.

In previous chapters, we have discussed all the requirements for salvation. In an attempt to maintain the balance that we just talked about, in this chapter we will explore what some people add to the list of requirements for salvation even though they do not belong there.

Good works

A good work is something that is done with a good motive. It can be as simple as giving a glass of cold water to a thirsty man on a hot day or as grand as giving a million dollars to charity out of genuine concern for your fellowman. Another term for ‘good works’ is ‘righteous deeds.’

The question then is this: can you be saved if you do one good work? What if you do ten good works? What if you do a million good works?

What if you are a kind old woman who has rarely harmed another and has done countless good works for her fellowman? Can your countless good works cancel out the few sins that you may have committed in moments of foolishness?

The Bible is clear that good works cannot save anyone. We gather this from Eph 2:8,9 and Tit 3:5.

Eph 2:8,9 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.

Tit 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Our salvation is not a result of works, says Paul to the Ephesians. It is not on the basis of righteous deeds, says Paul to Titus.

In passing, note that Paul believed that it is possible for a person to do good works even before getting saved. Otherwise, Tit 3:5 makes no sense. After all, if one cannot do any good works until one is saved then what is the point of even pointing out that good works cannot save? I point this because some people teach that man is so totally depraved (before he is saved) that it is impossible for him to do a good work until he is saved.

So does this mean that the kind old woman I mentioned above would go to hell if she did not meet the requirements for salvation? The answer is, "yes, she would go to hell!"

Many religions differ from Christianity in this aspect – they teach that salvation is by good works. They teach this because they do not understand that God’s expectation is perfection, and therefore, one sin is enough to nullify all the good deeds that a person can do. For a man to be accepted by God on the basis of his good deeds he has to be nothing short of perfect. There is no man or woman (other than the man Jesus Christ) who is perfect. Therefore, good works can save no man.

Why has God made it this way? Eph 2:8,9 says that it is not by works so that no one can boast. It is a humbling thing to realize that whatever we do is insufficient to save ourselves. We are helpless to orchestrate our own salvation. We are completely dependent on the mercy of God. That is why Tit 3:5 says that we are saved according to His mercy.

There are no boasters in heaven. No one will be able to take glory for himself. We will all give the glory to God. This is the new song that we will sing in heaven (Rev 5:9; Rev 14:3) and can learn to sing even while on the earth.

Now some might quote Mt 18:8 to say that obedience is necessary for salvation.

Mt 18:8 "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire."

To them I would say that if they really believed Mt 18:8 then they shouldn’t be having hands or feet or eyes anymore. If they still have these things then their objection is merely for argument’s sake. Nevertheless, we will provide an answer. The answer is that neither our hand nor our foot causes us to sin. It is our affinity to temptation (which I shall call ‘our flesh’) that causes us to sin. And we cannot remove our flesh (the part of us that tempts us).

So what was Jesus’ point in Mt 18:8? It was to illustrate the seriousness of sin, not to point the way to eternal life.

Now some others might point to Mt 19:16-22 (the incident with the young man who loved money) and say that to have eternal life, we must keep the commandments.

To them I would answer that in the Old Testament the way to enter life was to keep the commandments. Jesus first points the young man to the Old Testament. The young man thinks he has met the requirement. Now he couldn’t have because elsewhere (Gal 3:11) it is written that no one is justified by keeping the Law. So to prove the man wrong in his assessment that he kept the Law, Jesus shows the man that he loved money more than God thereby violating the first commandment (You shall have no other gods before Me).

The point that Jesus was trying to make there was that it is pointless trying to earn your salvation by obeying the Law.

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