What must one do to be saved?
Part 2 of three parts:
What did Jesus teach?
Passage 1: Matthew 25:34-45 (Continued):
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an
hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a
stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we
thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and
say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one
of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye
cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:"
||"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat:
||I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink
||I was a stranger, and ye took me not in:
||Naked, and ye clothed me not:
||Sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not."
"Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an
hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did
not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto
you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to
me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into
life eternal." [Emphasis ours]
Interpretation of Matthew 25:34-45:
The message appears clear and easy to understand. Personal salvation
is by works only. It is given to all those who care for the poor and disadvantaged
-- people who care for anyone who is without food, without friends, in need of clothing,
are sick are imprisoned, etc. Salvation and eternal life in Heaven is denied to anyone
who did not help the needy while he or she was alive on Earth. One interesting
twist is that the "sheep" were surprised that their good works were in any way
related to Jesus. They had apparently helped the poor and disadvantaged out of
love and compassion, and not with any expectation that their good works would
have an effect on their eternal destiny.
The author found the following elegant poster on a facebook page. The original source is unknown:
One interesting feature of this passage is that salvation is solely based
upon a persons acts of charity to others; it is in no way dependent upon what
the individual believes about Jesus' status, or what God -- if any -- the person
worships. So, Matthew 25 would imply that Agnostics,
Wiccans, and others will attain
Heaven after death if
they are kind to others by observing their faith's Ethic
of Reciprocity -- the Golden Rule.
The literal, straight-forward interpretation of this passage reveals that
salvation is by works, not faith. This is a profound thought, which leads
directly to religious inclusivism and pluralism.
This conflicts with the teachings of many religions that only their followers
will attain Heaven. Also, fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians generally teach that
salvation is by faith, not works. They have various
alternate interpretations of this passage that make it compatible with their
Passage 2: Mark 10:18-25, etc:
This passage appears, with a few differences, in Mark 10:18-23,
Matthew 19:16-23 and Luke 18:18-24.
Most conservative Christians believe that the authors of the
Gospels were inspired by God to write material
that is completely free of error. So it does not
matter much which of the parallel passages is studied.
Most liberal Christians believe that Mark is the first of the
four canonic Gospel
to be written. The anonymous authors of Matthew and Luke extensively recycled material
from the Gospel of Mark circa 80 and 90 CE. Since the
original message of Jesus became corrupted with developing oral traditions in
the decades after Jesus' execution, the earliest Gospel would be typically the most
The author of Mark wrote:
"And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one
running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do
that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou
me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the
commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not
bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother."
"And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I
observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto
him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and
give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come,
take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and
went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round
about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches
enter into the kingdom of God!" [Emphasis ours]
Interpretation of Mark 10:18-25:
The first two versesin this
passage are curious. The person asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal
life -- that is, to be saved -- referred to him as "Good Master." All
three gospels agree on this wording. Jesus replied that only God was good, and
implied that everyone else is not good, including himself. This is one of the
verses used by the original Christians -- the Jewish
Christian movement which was centered in Jerusalem under the leadership of James, the
brother of Jesus. The verse supported their belief that Jesus was fully man, was the
latest and greatest of the Jewish prophets, was not a God, and was not conceived
in a virginal conception. Being a fully human
prophet, Jesus would have sinned, and thus not been
completely "good." The Pauline Christian movement, which arrived on the scene
some years after Jesus' execution, disagreed with these beliefs. It expanded and eventually
became the Catholic Church.
The remainder of the passage indicates that Jesus taught that
personal salvation is by works only: Jesus first lists five of the Ten
Commandments as instructions that must be followed in order to gain salvation. These
are all related to works that one must do or avoid. Using the
Protestant/Eastern Orthodox sequence of Exodus 20:
Exodus 20:12: 7th
commandment: Do not commit adultery.
Exodus 20:13: 6th
commandment: Do not kill.
Exodus 20:15: 8th
commandment: Do not steal.
Exodus 20:16: 9th
commandment: Do not bear false witness.
Exodus 20:12: 5th
commandment: Honor one's parents.
It is notable that Jesus does not list any of the first four commandments as being necessary for salvation. These are related to one's relationship with Yahweh:
|| To worship no other God than Yahweh.
|| To not make images and bow before them.
|| To not take the name of Yahweh in vain.
|| To keep Saturday, the Sabbath day, holy.
The implication appears to be that one's beliefs about, and responses to, God are not important to one's salvation. Only one's works -- particularly those activities involving other people -- that are important.
Jesus also does not include the 10th commandment as needed for salvation. It states that one is not to covet any of one's neighbor' possessions: their house, wife, male slave, female slave, animals, etc.
The books cited are not necessarily still in print.
Philip Comfort, Ed., "New Commentary on the Whole Bible,"
Tyndale House, (1990), Page 89-90.
Ibid, Page 209.
Ibid, Page 210.
Harold Willmington, "Bible Handbook," Tyndale House,
(1997), Page 544.
Charles Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume
Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, (1971), Page 639 - 640.
Copyright © 2006 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2006-AUG-22
Latest update: 2016-AOR-10
Author: B.A. Robinson