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What must one do to be saved?

Part 3 of three parts:
What did Jesus teach?

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Interpretation of Mark 10:18-25 (Continued):

Jesus adds three additional requirements for salvation. Again, all are "works:"

bullet "Defraud not." Jesus adds this requirement between his reference to the 9th and 5th commandment. He may have considered it to be a type of corollary or a commentary on the 9th commandment. Defrauding someone might be considered a type of false witness. On the other hand, some commentators somehow believe that defrauding others is equivalent to coveting other's possessions; they suggest that this is a reference to the 10th commandment. 2
bullet "Sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor." This appears to mean that one is to convert any assets not absolutely needed to maintain a simple standard of life, and give the proceeds to those in need. However, some suggest that the sentence should not be interpreted literally; it really means that one should value God more than one's riches. 3
bullet "Come, take up the cross, and follow me" This apparently means to become a member of Jesus' inner circle, accept a life of simplicity and poverty, and travel the countryside with Jesus and his disciples. This option does not appear to be applicable to people alive in the 21st century, unless it is interpreted symbolically.

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According to these statements attributed to Jesus, salvation is by doing good works:

bullet Help the poor and disadvantaged:

bullet Those who are without food.

bullet Strangers.

bullet Persons in need of clothing.

bullet Those who are sick.

bullet The imprisoned.

bullet Dispose of your assets and give everything that you can to the poor.

bullet Honor your parents.
One must also avoid certain evil activities:

bullet Adultery.

bullet Killing.

bullet Stealing.

bullet Bearing false witness.

bullet Defrauding others
Religious duties have little or no impact on one's salvation. It does not matter whether one:

bullet Worships Yahweh, or another God, or a Goddess, or perhaps no God at all.

bullet Creates statues and other images and bowing down in front of them.

bullet Takes the name of Yahweh in vain.

bullet Does not keep Saturday, the Sabbath day, holy.
If we are to accept these two passages at face value, it would appear that Jesus taught that salvation is purely a matter of the balance between ones good and bad works. A person's beliefs and practices concerning God do not matter. Thus, followers of any religion -- or none -- have an opportunity to go to Heaven.  The only criteria for salvation are the acts that one performs which involve other persons -- particularly one's parents, the disadvantaged, the needy, the sick, the imprisoned, etc.

Comparing these passages with others in the Christian Scriptures:

bullet A passage in Revelation 20:11-12 supports the concept of all people being judged according to their works, as recorded in books in Heaven:
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." [Emphasis ours]

bullet Many passages in James also supports salvation through works. Centuries later, Martin Luther demoted the book to a mere appendix at the end of the Christian Scriptures, because of its emphasis on works.

Consider James 1:27:
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

There is also James 2:14-24:

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?"

"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."....

"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God."

"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."

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Many additional verses in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke reinforce the concept of salvation by good works only. However, most of the other books in the Christian Scriptures teach very different criteria for salvation:

bullet The gospel of John primarily teaches that salvation is achieved by belief in Jesus -- particularly as the Son of God.
bullet The writings of St. Paul mainly teaches salvation by belief in Jesus -- particularly belief of his resurrection.

Implications in today's society:

In today's culture, the passage in Matthew 25 might translate into alleviating the suffering of all persons in need, whether they are on welfare, are sick and lack health insurance, are imprisoned, etc. That passage and Mark 10 appear to call into question the prime directive in North American society: The American Dream, which is to work hard, accumulate wealth, and enjoy one's possessions.

The passages provide much food for thought for government laws regarding:

bullet Abortion access.

bullet Benefits and protections for common-law couples and married couples -- both same-sex and opposite-sex -- and their children.
bullet Hospice care.

bullet Income tax rates, particularly for higher income earners.

bullet Physician assisted suicide.

bullet Universal health insurance.

bullet Welfare services.

bullet How governments and people in the developed countries should treat refugees who are seeking freedom, security, and stability.
bullet etc.

References used:

The books cited are not necessarily still in print.

  1. Philip Comfort, Ed., "New Commentary on the Whole Bible," Tyndale House, (1990), Page 89-90.
  2. Ibid, Page 209.
  3. Ibid, Page 210.
  4. Harold Willmington, "Bible Handbook," Tyndale House, (1997), Page 544.
  5. Charles Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, (1971), Page 639 - 640.

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or Home > Christianity > Christian themes > Beliefs > Salvation > here

Home > Christianity > History, Beliefs, etc, > Beliefs > Cardinal beliefs > Salvation > here

Copyright 2006 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-AUG-22
Latest update: 2016-JMAR-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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