There is an entire category & field of teachings on which the average Christian ignores most of what the Bible truly has to say, and that's the very fundamental topic of Salvation. Most Christians only know a single verse about Salvation, and that's the one where Paul says, "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil.2:12). They interpret it to mean, "You see? You can lose your salvation if you don't watch out, if you don't stop sinning, and if you don't come to our church regularly."
But is that really what it means? Does Salvation only work - in other words, did Jesus' death on the cross only do the trick for you if you successfully manage to stop sinning during your life-time and you faithfully go to mass? Doubtlessly, many people attend church regularly in hopes that the latter is true; that they will escape hellfire by their weekly one-hour sacrifice, but how many people would actually be in heaven, if the former were true - if only those are saved who have stopped sinning?
Some folks seem to be scared that there's not room enough in heaven, if they "allowed" too many people in, and that their churches would be too empty if it were too easy to get saved. Now, while the latter would obviously be a tragedy, let's have a closer look at what else the Bible has to say on Salvation and what one has to do to be saved, to have eternal life, as Jesus said, and in other words, to go to heaven:
In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the apostle John describes how Jesus was more than an ordinary man, namely that He was actually the "Logos," the very Word of God, the One through Whom and by Whom the World was made, and that actually He was God. Not God the Father, but God the Son, Whom the Father had sent to become flesh for us and to die for our sins (see Jn.3:16). John also describes how the majority of the people back in those days did not receive Him, but that they rejected Him as the darkness rejects the light, but in verse 12 he says, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God."
Now, a lot of people don't take the Bible literally, since that would mean that the earth had been created within 6 days, a little more than 6000 years ago, which totally contradicts what they have been brainwashed with all their lives (which I have expounded on in greater detail in former blogs, as have others). Let me suffice it to say that those, whose God is not great enough to have made the world in 6 days, obviously won't have the faith that He could have saved you from your sins without your feverishly striving to become perfect on your own.
But for the rest of us, let's have a look at that verse: "As many as received Him (Jesus), to them gave He power to become the sons of God." That seems to indicate that all you have to do in order to become one of God's children (and we're not all God's children from birth, as most would claim: we're all God's creatures, but obviously not all of the same Father spiritually, see John 8:44), is to receive Jesus and His coming, the purpose of which was to pay the price for your sins on the cross, as predicted in Jewish and pre-Jewish symbolisms throughout millennia beforehand, from Abel's first sacrifice (of a lamb) to the Passover.
Now, once you are a child of God, can you lose your status as "child of God" again, let's say, by doubting or by sinning? Can one "un-become" a child of God again, according to behavior? In other words, "yesterday I was a child of God, because I was behaving well, but today I'm not, because I happened to come across the image of a scarcely clad woman on a billboard sign, and it made me have unclean thoughts"? Well, if God made physical families to illustrate His spiritual Family, then let's use our brains: you may have a son or daughter who may have strayed from the straight & narrow, who may have become a thief, a prostitue or even a murderer, but by law, they're still your child, right? Even though some may say, "you're not my son or daughter anymore," the law says something different. Likewise, God is bound by His law, which is His Word, and that seems to say: once His child, forever His child, no matter what you do! We become and remain God's children not because of what we do (except the act of receiving and accepting Christ), but in order to learn and become able to act the way God would like us to. He gives us the power to not only be, but also behave like His children, eventually, simply by the act of receiving Him. Of course, in order to learn to act like a child of God, and to become a fully mature son or daughter, we must continue receiving Him (through His Word and Spirit) every day. But even if we don't, and don't ever behave like one (as unfortunate as that may be), we still remain His children. There can be no uncertainty about that (although there is, sadly, among the majority of people).
But we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what the Bible has to say on this topic. In Chapter John writes: "He that believeth the Son hath everlasting life," and later, in his first epistle, again: "he that hath the Son hath life" (). Note that it doesn't say, "providing he stops sinning forever and keeps going to church every Sunday."
The scripture that changed Martin Luther's life from one of a self-castigating monk, living in the usual, catholic eternal insecurity and into that of "the most important religious figure of the last thousand years" who brought to life the reformation and thus the protestant church, is another one which most "salvation by works" adherents simply choose to ignore (it's too easy for them that one should only have to receive the gift of salvation without having to do something to earn it): In Ehphesians 2 verse 8 & 9 Paul wrote, "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." What good work can you possibly do that would merit Christ's sacrifice for you on the cross? Isn't it a little preposterous to assume that anything you could do could ever live up to "deserve" that, no matter how hard you try?
It's understood that God would prefer that we should start behaving better. But He does not make His gift of salvation depend on anything we do (no, not even church attendance). Besides, He has His own little ways of making us behave. What does a human father do in order to teach his child how to behave (well, at least fathers used to): discipline or correct the child. If you're God's child, He won't let you get away with living the wrong way without allowing you to pay the consequences for it. God disciplines us, His children (see Hebrews 12:6). But He doesn't say: "for this you don't deserve to be My child any longer."
Jesus said, "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out." Or in modern English: "If someone comes to Me, I won't kick him out!" (John 6:37).
So, what did Paul mean then, when he said, "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling"? Especially if the very next verse says something to the opposite extent again: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." How can you "work out your own salvation" when it's a gift of God, and it's God Who performs both, the desire in us to do His will, as well as the enacting of it? Well, obviously, in the light of all the other Scritpures (and there are more, but this is only a blog, not a book), Pillipians cannot be referring to our eternal salvation or that which we would be referring to as Heaven, since that is a gift, and that's settled. But as far as the physical manifestations of that salvation in this earthly life are concerned, we're going to have to work at it. And since we have a powerful spiritual adversary who tries his darndest to get us to forsake God's way, who tries to stop us from doing good, and tempts us to do evil instead, and commit any little sin he can think of, it requires some healthy fear of God and serious effort to win that fight.
In other words, if you don't only want to be a child of God, but also want to act and behave like one, you're going to have to do more than go to church and say "I'm a Christian." Church Christians are really making it easy on themselves when they say, "Well, I'm fulfilling my part of the deal: I counteract my eternal insecurity by faithfully attending church every Sunday. So, my salvation is a little bit more guaranteed than yours, if you don't go to church." In reality, to really act worthy of the gift of salvation, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for even thinking that one hour a week would make up for that. Jesus gave His all for us on the cross, and all we give Him in return is an hour a week? If that's what being saved or being a Christian means, then it's no wonder the churches are getting emptier and the world is becoming more and more appalled by "Christianity."
To wind up this discussion on eternal Salvation by grace, I want to quote another of my favorite scriptures on the subject from the Gospel of Mark: "Whosoever shall not receive the
Too simple, you say? Well, obviously not for God. "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts ).
P.S.: One of the biggest struggles St.Paul had with a large part of the early church was with those who thought they had to "help" God to keep them saved by keeping parts of the old Jewish traditions, such as the circumcision, or sticking only to "clean" or "kosher" foods, etc. Galatians chapter 3 is one of those examples of writings he dediated to those who thought they had to complete God's spiritual work of salvation by their own carnal contributions.
Similarly, millions of Christians today believe they have to observe certain rituals (the most popular of which being the Sunday morning ritual) in order to "stay" saved or be saved at all. It's no wonder that Christians at large don't feel anywhere near capable of complying with Jesus' instruction to all of His disciples to "preach the gospel" and tell others about Him. If it's so difficult to be saved that most even don't know for sure themselves whether they are saved or not, then, what's the use in telling anyone else about it? Blessed are they of childlike faith, who have received the Kingdom as a child and have found out that it simply works, and that it must thus work for others, too.
It's not only easy to get saved yourself, but it's also easy to get others saved, too. It's called "winning souls." All you need to do is get someone to pray with you to receive Jesus. It's as simple as that. Let all the other "why-make-it-easy-whe-you-can-make-it-complicated" types struggle up their self-made "stairway to heaven," but "beware lest ye be led astray from the simplicity of Christ" (see Col.2:8, 2.Cor.11:3).
While not every aspect of the Christian faith is necessarily simple, this fundamental one of salvation is. So simple, in fact, that any little child could grasp or receive it.