The gospel is so very simple. The Son of God became a man, died on the cross for your sins, and rose again from the dead three days later so that He could offer us salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, totally apart from our works. Faith is merely the instrument through which we receive eternal life as a free gift. We cannot merit it; once we have that salvation, we cannot lose it for any reason.
The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:22-23).
Jesus’ work of redemption is the basis of your salvation by faith, apart from works, which ensures that only He gets the glory.
Sadly, many people find that message to be too good to be true.
Instead of believing the one true gospel, they turn to false gospels that add works and behavior as co-conditions with faith for salvation. Instead of believing in salvation by faith alone, they believe in salvation by faith plus. Plus what? How many types of works salvation are there?
Inspired by Roger Hargreaves’s Mr. Men series of children’s books, here are ten versions for your consideration.
Mr. Perfectionist: You must believe in Jesus as your Savior, but you must also be perfect to be saved. You can never sin, even once. If you do, you’ll be lost forever. This extreme view is usually limited to single people who don’t have spouses or children to remind them of their many faults.
Mr. Moralist: Only good people will be saved. That doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, but you have to be a basically good person who has never committed any mortal sins such as murder or adultery or believing that Florida Georgia Line is country music.
Mr. I Tried My Best: You don’t need to be perfect or even better than average, but you have to at least try your best to be good to be saved, and then God will try His best to show you mercy.
Mr. Judaizer: Salvation depends on following the Jewish Law, especially the extra holidays.
Mr. Marathon: When you believe, you start the marathon of salvation, where eternity depends on crossing the finish line by faith and good works. Unfortunately, if you drop out, there are no participation medals.
Mr. Elect: Salvation is by grace in the sense that God secretly predestines and elects certain people to heaven. God regenerates the elect, gives them a special gift of faith, declares them to be righteous, and will cause them to persevere in faith and good works until death. The problem is that no one finds out if they’re elect until it’s too late, no matter how patriarchal your beard looks.
Mr. Sacramentalist: You receive salvation through participation in the sacraments. While you cannot save yourself by your own efforts, the sacraments give you the extra power to be able to do it. And if you still can’t climb up the ladder of divine ascent, the blame must rest with you because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that system.
Mr. True Church: The only way to be saved is to belong to the true church. That’s usually the biggest one or one of those weird ones that started in the 19th century.
Mr. Repentance: Salvation is by repentance and faith, where repentance means feeling sorrow for your sin and at least giving up the biggest ones. Since you need to keep on repenting to stay saved, re-dedicate your life to Christ once a quarter just to be sure.
Mr. Doctrine: Salvation is by faith apart from works, but your faith must include understanding and believing a long list of doctrines. This may not seem like a form of works salvation until you find out about all the books, lectures, classes, and conferences you need to learn all that theology.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.