I have always wondered why people insist that Christianity is about being good. That all decent, good people are going heaven. Hence our salvation would be based on works or our behavior. But the Bible is telling us the polar opposite:
You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. (Eph.2: 8-10)
We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift. Faith is a gift. Grace is a gift. Jesus is a gift. It’s all God’s work from start to finish. Even the idea is God’s. Our role is to receive these gifts and believe. Like Lewis Sperry Chafer has stated “Anyone can devise a plan by which good people may go to Heaven. Only God can devise a plan whereby sinners, who are His enemies, can go to Heaven.”
However, we know that a person isn’t made righteous by the works of the Law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We ourselves believed in Christ Jesus so that we could be made righteous by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the Law—because no one will be made righteous by the works of the Law. (Gal. 2: 16)
We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Not by being good and doing good. That will come later, when the Holy Spirit works in and through us. God has planned great things for us to do when we are inspired and empowered by the Spirit. Those works are fruit of the Spirit and we will always be just vessels of God’s grace. But those works don’t save us, only faith in Jesus does.
I died to the Law through the Law, so that I could live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. I don’t ignore the grace of God, because if we become righteous through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal. 2: 19-21)
In defense of Grace, Amazing Grace, saving grace. There is a distinction between good people and people who use good to further their own status. Good people show up all over the place – and it’s not helpful to raise questions about their integrity, motives or spiritual status. Grace Alone has made for lots of lazy Christians who talk the faith but hardly live the faith – but that’s okay, because they’re saved by grace (Paul deals with this in Romans).
This is a distinction based upon a misreading of Paul, filtered through Luther – sadly, we end up reading Jesus and the Old Testament through Paul, rather than the other way around. We need to read Jesus in the light of the Old Testament, and Paul in the light of Jesus. We’re still stuck in the old Reformation paradigms, which are of value, but limited value, not absolute.
The doctrine of grace, as noted here, can make us spoilsports – we see good, as the Pharisees did, and reject it, because it “lacks” the verbal or whatever-witness we expect. Where there’s good, there’s God! Where there’s God, there’s good. God constantly creates good in all sorts of places so that the “elect” don’t get uppity (see latter half of Genesis 12 where Pharaoh lectures Abram on ethics and morals). Christians have often used this idea in a one-upmanship style – that we have the “true and right” understanding, and while the framers of the doctrine intended a great humility, in the souls of some, it’s the doctrine that has come to mean more than the grace, and thus the pride of knowing the doctrine rather than grace.
We have been co-crucified with Christ. When we receive God’s grace, we are saved through our faith in Jesus. Then it is not us but Christ doing those good deeds. We can only boast in the cross. We can only brag about God’s grace. And even that is free for all.
If we say that Christianity is about being good and all the good people are going to heaven, we are making the crucifixion unnecessary. We are ignoring God’s grace, downgrading the power and meaning of the blood of Christ. Lord, have mercy!
*Resource: Mari-Anna Stålnacke