What We 'Know' or 'Do' Isn't Enough in the Christian Life

Do We Know Jesus? HOW Will We Give? HOW Will We Serve? These Are Bigger questions

Back in the days when I got out and preached quite a bit I would sometimes suddenly say to a congregation, "Being here this morning will not save a single one of you; I don't care if you haven't missed a single meeting in 30 years. Being saved is not about 'doing' something, it is about knowing someone!" People often looked pretty shocked when I said that.

I had an email recently, it went like this:

"There are things in Christianity I don't understand although I still think it is the greatest of the major world religions.

How can God create a world with millions of people yet have a 'plan of salvation' which He does not reveal to many people. Even worse, we are told by Calvinists that most people (if they are elected to reprobation and the majority, it seems, will be), will be sent to Hell no matter how well they might behave. I cannot find this compatible with many of the words of Jesus.

I don't expect you to clear up all the difficulties I see in Christianity but, from what I have read on UK Apologetics, you do seem to offer some clarity at last. You seem to be saying, forget about all the difficulties/confusions/misrepresentations which have been put abroad as true Christian teaching, it is Jesus Himself who is our salvation. It is about a person who was both man and God. Now, I can take hold of that."

I can identify with this emailer.

People often ask me 'what can I do to find God's favour,' or, 'what must I do to become a Christian?' - they have this 'do' mentality, whether it is accepting certain propositions, or doing certain works, such as obediently going to church twice every Sunday. I often say, actually you can't do anything, it's all about whether the Lord of all the ages will come to you and 'do' something.

Back in the days when I got out and preached quite a bit I would sometimes suddenly say to a congregation, "Being here this morning will not save a single one of you; I don't care if you haven't missed a single meeting in 30 years. Being saved is not about 'doing' something, it is about knowing someone!" People often looked pretty shocked when I said that.

That young man who approached Jesus had that same mentality (Matthew 19:16-24). He wanted to know what to 'do' to be saved. Jesus, of course, immediately knew where he was coming from. He referred to the fine principles within the commandments, the young man said - in effect - 'I'm already doing all of that.' He obviously lived according to pretty good principles but he knew in his heart that that was not enough. Jesus confirmed that. Jesus told him to sell his property and to become a disciple of His (that is,Jesus) - what an opportunity! Jesus said, forget about striving to 'do,' rather, go out and 'give.' Of course, as a disciple of Jesus, one can give in an especially big way; obviously, I know we should do certain things as well but it is about having the correct emphases here. Truly knowing Jesus and truly being a from-the-heart giver places one in a strong position in the Christian life; of course, one needs to learn and grow, that can't be denied, and I don't deny it. Yet properly understanding all the true doctrines of Christianity - even to their greatest depths - will save no one; 'doing' all the right things will save nobody. In the final analysis, where is our heart?

My questioner here raises larger questions, including how Christianity has undeniably often been misrepresented by those who should have had more understanding and more pastoral skills. Reprobation, for example, never has been a biblical teaching. We are commanded to choose and to choose life, we are never told, 'no matter what you choose, your fate is already decided, and the majority of you are bound for Hell!' What a wicked and monstrous perversion of Christian teaching that is! It is the result of pulling certain Scriptures (such as Matthew 7:13-14), out of place, quoting them in the wrong context. Augustine believed that unbaptized little babies who died were headed straight for Hell; he inherited a pessimistic and fatalistic view of the prospects of human salvation straight from the Manichaeism which was his background. Sadly Calvin, in later taking on much of Augustine, also tended to take on some of the gloomy Manichaeism. We can rest assured that Christ will eventually be victorious and just as our adversary has caused the teaching of sin and death to be widespread and pervasive, the influence of the second Adam, Christ, will be even more widespread and pervasive and, ultimately, He will be entirely victorious! (Isaiah 9:7; Philippians 2:10; Romans 5:15-19). Let us just look at that last Scripture:

15. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
16. Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
17. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18. Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
19. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

So that is not a bleak assessment at all. Yet - even now - some sections of evangelicalism act and behave as though it is Satan who will be the final victor. Just a few years ago I heard a leading Canadian evangelical speculate on Hell. He seemed to believe that the majority would go there, he also appeared to believe that these huge numbers will be entirely free to go on sinning in Hell for eternity! WHAT? Where would Christ's complete victory be in that? So it was seriously being postulated that - right at the end of time - you will have a 'Hell' of millions perfectly free to go on sinning even in a supposedly disembodied state, and a Heaven of far smaller number enjoying Eternal Life; where is "every knee" bowing to Christ in that? That turns many of the biblical promises on their head, having most 'knees' bowing to Satan! It rejects the clear teaching of Romans 5:15-19. I consider myself fully an evangelical, but I sometimes despair of the behaviour and claims of certain parts of evangelicalism.

I'm afraid that the young man who approached Jesus seems to have rejected the priceless opportunity offered to him. He was wealthy and, like so many such people, felt a commitment to his wealth. Yes, he wanted to know how to be saved but probably more out of pure philosophical inquisitiveness; his attitude was not, "I will do anything to serve you, Master," but rather, 'what can I do to be saved without changing my lifestyle?' That is not the right attitude at all. However, I hope he later repented.

We can have complete confidence in Jesus Whom believers may look upon as an elder brother who went on ahead for them to 'spy out' the promised land. The true promised land is in Heaven and Jesus has already paid the full passage for anybody who would come to Him and serve Him. He has promised room for all, indeed, 'many mansions' are available (John 14:1-4) for there is no 'housing crisis' in Heaven. Meanwhile certain believers should be a little less concerned about 'doing,' and more concerned about giving and having a daily walk with the Lord Jesus! Understanding all the correct doctrines? Oh, don't get me wrong those things are important and it bothers me how many have admitted to me that they could not stand up and give a good, logical defence of their Faith, quoting about 5-6 scriptures. Nevertheless, saying all the right things is not enough. Our salvation is in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ - not in things we can do. He is the Lord of our salvation.

1. Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
2. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
4. You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:1-4).

9. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11. and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11).

Robin A. Brace. January 17th, 2013.