Depending on the angle from which you look at it, the question of merit based salvation takes on various forms. One might question whether his or her good deeds outweigh the bad. Will that individual be saved? What about the person who dedicates his or her life to charity or societal betterment? And is there such a thing as deathbed conversion? Can an individual who lived a life of extreme wickedness be saved at the very end of his or her life, while someone who lived a life exemplified by virtue not? What about those who have never heard the name Jesus?
Part of the confusion surrounding this question is a faulty understanding of the position of man in relation to God and an incorrect picture of heaven and hell. The question isn’t really about God casting people into hell for anything they do or don’t do. By our very nature, there is an impenetrable barrier separating us from God, and all of us are destined for hell. It does not matter how much good an individual does. He or she is still infinitely indebted to God. There is no possible way to earn a spot.
Because God loves us, He provided the only possible way to satisfy justice and morality for us to avoid hell. Only the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus could satisfy the requirements of the law and provide salvation. No other means rests on a solid moral foundation.
The question regarding one’s knowledge or lack of knowledge of Christ and accountability to Him finds an answer in an understanding of God’s sovereignty and control over all things. This is a topic that will require its own post to address properly. Suffice it to say for now that there is enough revelation that every individual is without excuse.
The question every individual needs to focus on is whether or not he or she believes God at His Word and wants to spend eternity in God’s presence, where life is all about a relationship with and worship of Him-heaven, or eternity in His absence-hell. God will not force a person to live in His presence. That would be like pursuing a romantic relationship with someone who wants nothing to do with you and holding him or her captive, never able to get away from you.
That is not love. Love let’s go, just as God leaves those who refuse His gift of salvation to their own desires and let’s them go, even if that means eternal separation and the resulting suffering that accompanies the vacuum of wickedness left when the goodness of God is removed.
No matter when in life an individual comes to the realization of his or her personal depravity before a holy God and inability to aid in his or her salvation in any way, that individual may humble his or herself and accept God’s gift of eternal life. It is not about anything done or not done in one’s lifetime but about heart change that places God first. That heart change will be sincere and can occur early in life or at death’s door.
Salvation is by faith alone, It is not by works so that no one may boast. The Bible is replete with verses emphasizing salvation by faith alone that explicitly state not by works. The few verses that proponents of works based salvation use to justify their view can all be interpreted in the context of post salvation behavior modification as acting in love in response to God saving us by faith. Salvation comes first, followed by works that visibly justify the faith-based transformation in the eyes of the world. If salvation is genuine, there will be works, but the works are a response and not a means for obtaining salvation.
There is no way to take the Bible as a unified whole and justify works-based salvation. Works salvation arguments necessarily disregard faith-alone passages in scripture that cannot be interpreted without contradiction.
It is all about God and what He has already done through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The only part each of us plays in our redemption is to give up any notion that there is anything that we, ourselves, contribute to our salvation.
Salvation and an eternal heavenly home cannot be earned. It is a gift from God based on faith. Have you accepted it?
If not, take time today to secure your eternal home.