"Now when we come to the four Gospels of the New Testament, we are
surprised to see many discrepancies in them. The teachings of the first three
synoptical Gospels are in many respects fundamentally different from those of
the fourth Gospel. While the first three Gospels lay stress on the purity of
heart and other ethical virtues, the fourth Gospel (John) lays emphasis on the
absolute faith in the name of the only begotten son of God, without which a man
is doomed to hell..." Rev. J.T. Sunderland, "The Origin and
Character of the Bible."
Various Creeds and Bible passages base personal salvation on an individual:
having been baptized,
repenting of past sins,
trusting Jesus as their Lord and Savior,
believing that Jesus is the Son of God,
believing that Jesus was resurrected,
doing good works,
following church rituals and sacraments, and/or
avoiding certain specific behaviors.
But there was no consensus in the Bible as to the precise combination required. Some passages say
that only good works are needed for a person to be saved. Other passages seem to
contradict this by stating that salvation depended only upon belief in Jesus is needed.
Other verses require two or more combinations of belief or actions, often including
baptism and/or repentance.
This section will compare and contrast the writings of five important Christian writers.
These are the five main writers whose books were incorporated into the Christian
Scriptures: the letters of Paul, and the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. (For
convenience, we are referring to the author of John as a single individual. Most theologians
who are not conservative Christians believe that it was written by multiple authors in the name of John).
The synoptic gospels
(Mark, Matthew and Luke) are treated as a group, because they agree closely. The Gospel of
John is treated separately, as are the writings of St. Paul. That is because
their discussion of the nature of Jesus and the criteria for salvation differ