Does Jesus base a person’s salvation on his helping the needy?

I really wish those who take it upon themselves to lecture Christians on how they should behave would take the time to correctly understand what the Bible really says about how Christians are to live. The latest example of Biblical misapplication has come in the aftermath of the Syrian refugee crisis. As thousands have flooded into Europe fleeing intense persecution in Syria the pressure on America to take in these refugees has increased exponentially. Many have taken it upon themselves to declare that Christians have an obligation to welcome in the refugees. The passage I have heard used most to press home this duty is Matthew 25:35-46.

The pertinent passage in Matthew 25 teaches that when Jesus returns He will judge mankind. Those who are given eternal life are the ones who took in the stranger, fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty. Those who are sent to eternal judgment are the ones who refused to take in the stranger, feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. The application is obvious. Since Jesus will judge men based upon their treatment of the needy, then those who claim to be followers of Jesus have a duty to care for those in need. Is this what Jesus is saying in Matthew 25?

A simple reading of the passage makes it immediately obvious that Jesus is not giving a blanket commandment for every Christian to provide for every needy person he meets. When Jesus grants eternal life to the righteous He tells them “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it (cared for the needy) unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Jesus is teaching that how His children treat their fellow Christians is how they treat Him. What is done for other believers is done for Jesus. He makes this same point in Mark 9:41. He tells His disciples, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you he shall not lose his reward.” When Jesus returns He will judge those who profess to be His followers based upon how they have served needy Christians.

When Matthew 25 is compared with the rest of the Bible one realizes this passage cannot be teaching that any one is saved by doing good deeds for others. Versees like Ephesians 2:8 declare salvation is only by God’s grace and is only received by faith without any works to merit salvation. 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from life unto death, because we love the brethren.” A man’s love of his fellow believer does not make him righteous, it is one of the proof’s he has been made righteous. Salvation is always and only the free gift of grace. The deeds of a man in this life are evidences of salvation.

The situation in Syria is serious. Tens of thousands of refugees are in serious need. Every Christian should be deeply concerned about those needs, especially the needs of the Syrian Christians. There is a clear New Testament example of Christian’s caring for the needs of believers across the world in distress. The Christian’s love for others will compel him to do what he can to provide real help those in need. This help cannot be defined based upon a visceral or political reaction, but must be built upon Biblical wisdom. Misusing a Biblical passage to make a point may make good rhetoric, but properly applied Biblical truth is always more powerful and transformative than any sound bite.

Does God look at the “saved” Christian’s denomination, or their heart on judgment day? (Part 2)

In continuing to answer the question, “does God look at the saved Christian’s denomination or their heart on judgment day”, it is worth considering the judgment of the unbeliever that is coming at the end of the world. As was said in the last article, at death the saved person enters immediately into heaven. The unsaved one enters immediately into hell (Luke 16:22-23). One’s destination after death is determined in this life. To borrow from the American legal systemn, in this life sentence is passaged and upon death judgment is executed. For the unsaved hell is a holding place while this age is brought to its conclusion. There is a coming judgment which is described in Revelation 10:10-15. During that judgment the lost will stand before the throne of God and be judged for their lives. In the course of judgment books are opened which contain the record of the person’s life. The judged will be condemned based upon the content of those books. All who come before the Great White Throne of God’s judgment will be condemned. They will be cast into eternal fire and punishment because their names are not written in the book of life. The book of life is the record of all those who have trusted Jesus for salvation. The ones whose names are written in the book of life are those who have trusted Jesus for forgiveness of sin. The unsaved one is not condemned because of his wrong denomination or even his wrong religion. The factor which seals the fate of the unsaved is his disbelief in Jesus.

No one is saved because of the denomination or church of which he is a part. Salvation is not refused to those who are part of the wrong denomination. Though salvation is not at all dependent on one’s denomination, this does not imply that denominations are unimportant or that denominational distinctions are invalid. A saved person needs to be part of a church which helps his growth in Christ not which hinders it. Some churches teach things that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Some churches make unBiblical demands of Christians. Some churches don’t make any Biblical demands of the Christian. The distinctions between churches and denominations are not like different flavors of the same ice cream. Denominations exist for a reason. In most cases the differences between denominations are much more than differences in worship services or whether the guy up front is called father, reverend or pastor. The differences between denominations are ones of doctrine. One denomination teaches something signficantly different than another The attempts to blur the lines between denominations does a disservice to Christians and to denominations by acting like important differences aren’t important at all. For further information you can read this article.

Salvation is accomplished fully by Jesus. All those who trust only Him for forgiveness will be saved regardless of church background, church attendance or denominational affiliation. Though one’s denomination has no impact on salvation, it will have great impact on the Christian life. What church one attends is important. Those who are saved will be best served in churches which clearly and accurately teach the Bible, applying it effectively to the Christian’s life and helping him to grow in service, obedience and imitation of Jesus.