I received a great response from a reader of a recent post, “Does Salvation and Heaven REQUIRE a Public Profession of Your Faith”. In that article, I offered the point that “being a good person will not save anyone”. He presented a Scriptural counterpoint to my statement.
In support of his claim, the reader above quoted Matthew 25:34-36 which states:
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”
His challenge was the question, “Is the Good, Just and Sovereign Lord *bound* by your interpretation of scripture? How do you explain away Mat 25:34-36 – where Jesus tells us plainly that men are blessed and saved on account of their charitable acts?”
The Importance of this Question
This is probably one of the most important questions anyone could ask this side of the grave. It speaks to how each of us will spend eternity, in Heaven or Hell. It questions the importance, or more specifically, the timing of “good deeds” as a method of obtaining eternal life. Finally, it offers the opportunity to contrast Biblical Christianity with nearly every other religion.
What a great question and challenge! Thank you. This is one of the most important questions one could ask about Christianity and Heaven vs. Hell.
I would offer the following brief answer…..
In Matt. 22:36-38, Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:27 along with many other places in Scripture, God’s greatest commandment is to…
Matthew 22:36-39 – “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
So, if one is born-again, has the Holy Spirit in their heart, and desires to follow God in all that He commands, it would be logical to assume the saved Christian would desire to follow the verse you referenced, Matt. 25:34-36 [see above]. It is an illustration of “love your neighbor as yourself”. Those who do not follow this principle are likely to be “cut off” as the verse you used would also imply. However, and this is key, the verses you quoted are NOT saying that everyone who is kind to others are going to Heaven. Scripture is saying, here and elsewhere, that those who are already saved and have the opportunity to be kind to others should be demonstrating that behavior. There is a whole chapter on this theology found in 1 Corinthians 13, referred to as the “Love Chapter” in the Bible.
A Biblical Illustration
Remember the second thief at the cross when Jesus said, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43). That man had no way to be “kind to others” as he was literally saved on the cross, next to Jesus. He was a thief and was crucified (the worst method of killing a prisoner the Romans had) for his behavior.
In Ephesians 2:8-9 as well as other places, Jesus directly addresses what it takes to go to Heaven. It reads…
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
We are saved by God’s grace, not by being kind to others (works). Other verses make the point that a Christian’s works, such as kindness, are a demonstration of their faith, not a road to salvation but an outcome of our salvation.
James 2:18 – But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Of course, many will rightfully criticize Christians for harsh words, narrow-mindedness, and other beliefs that are contrary to today’s moral viewpoints. It is so true that we are all sinners and often fall far short of the love we are supposed to express to mankind. But again, God’s grace covers over a multitude of evils (1 Peter 4:8-10) if we will just accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
Romans 10:9 – that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Both Christians and non-Christians, all forms and flavors of “religion” desire to help and encourage others. But God does not weigh deeds or works on a scale in determining who goes to Heaven and who does not. This one point distinguishes nearly all other religions from Biblical Christianity. The Lord offers salvation to anyone and everyone by providing His Son as payment for our sins. Our only responsibility is to accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
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