Abraham (also called Abram) is one of the most famous characters of the Old Testament. He is the father of the Jewish people, and several other nations as well. He was a man greatly honored and loved by God. God saw Abraham as “righteous,” but Abraham did not earn His righteousness by perfect behavior. No, Abraham sinned against God at times. But God credited Abraham with righteousness because he believed God. Read the account below slowly and you will see why God forgave Abraham of his sins:
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 12:2-6)
In this passage God tells Abraham something that is hard to believe. God tells him that he will have a son who will have many descendants. This was hard to believe because both Abraham and his wife were very old. From a medical standpoint, it was impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have a son. But God told him that he would have son.
Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness. This means that God forgave Abraham his sins on account of his belief. You see, Abraham did not impress God with his good deeds. No one can impress God with their good deeds. Even mother Teresa could not have earned her way into heaven on account of all the starving children she fed. She was still a sinner that hurt other people. She had secret sins that no one else knew about. All of us are sinners. The only way we will be saved is if we believe God’s promises.
God’s promise to Abraham was that he would have a son. God’s promise to us today is that GOD has a son, whom He sent to Earth to die for us. His name is Jesus. Jesus not only died for us, but God also raised Him from the dead. If you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and you also believe that God will raise you from the dead, then you will be saved. But if you deny the power of God and keep living for you own selfish desires, then you are making yourself God’s enemy.
True Christianity preaches that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works of the law. This means that God saves wicked, horrible people who repent of their sins and believe in God’s promises. God does not save perfect people who have earned their own salvation through good deeds and religious rituals, since no one is good enough to get saved this way.
One way we can prove that God saves through faith rather than works is by the account of the miracles recorded in the Bible. The people who did this miracles were not perfect people. They were sinners who had messed up, but God performed powerful miracles through them anyway because they had faith:
So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:5 NIV)
The question that Paul asks is a rhetorical question. The answer is by believing what your heard. Paul himself had been used by God to perform many miracles:
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:11-12 NIV)
Indeed, all the miracles in the Bible were performed through faith. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of names of Old Testament “heros” who accomplished great things by their belief:
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:32-38 NIV)
These people, these great heroes of the faith were sinners like you and me. But they repented and believed God’s promises, and he used them to accomplish great things. If you want to serve God, the only way to serve God is through faith: believing in God and his promises, trusting in Jesus Christ alone. Do not think that God will do a miracle just because you are a good person. You cannot earn a miracle by giving money to the poor, or kneeling before a priest, or eating the eucharist, or saying prayers to a statue of the “saints.” God’s blessings are given to us through faith, not through our own works. They are a gift from God, not something that we are able to earn with all of our effort.
Some churches teach you that God will supernaturally and mystically regenerate your soul and give you faith if you submit to the physical acts of baptism and or/communion at the “right” churches. But I know they are wrong. On the contrary, I believe that anyone who submits to baptism or takes the eucharist without already believing in Jesus is committing grave sin, and should repent of it. These acts are worthless if you do not already believe, and they heap judgment on those who partake of them without humility and faith in Jesus Christ. Do not expect that being baptized or taking communion will give you the faith you now lack, rather, take communion and be baptized only if you already believe.
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (I Corinthians 11:27-28 NIV)
The only way that anyone can be saved is by grace through faith, by simply believing in Jesus Christ and know that His death on the cross was sufficient to save your soul. Yes, it is important to get baptized and take communion as well, but you do not earn or improve your salvation through doing these things. Many churches put an unhealthy emphasis on such rituals as communion and baptism, and even make up a few extra rituals such as confirmation and last rites. The clergymen at these churches will try to use fear to keep you at their church, they warn you against going to a church that doesn’t have all the perfect liturgy or tradition. But I warn you, do not trust in a clergyman, or his fancy vestments, or his liturgy to save you, God will save those who are humble and believe in Jesus alone for salvation. You do not need to be an expert in church tradition to go to heaven, you only need to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ who died for you and loved you. It is by believing the word of God that you are saved, not by performing any extra “works”:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? (Galatians 3:1-3 NIV)
The Apostle Paul stresses in this Bible passage above that we are saved and receive the Spirit of God not by works of the law but by believing the truth that we have heard about Jesus. Our belief in Jesus, our faith, did not come from ourselves, it is a gift from God. Therefore, since we have begun by means of the Spirit we should cling to our first faith like children, and not try to finish by means of the flesh, that means, not try to add to our salvation by sophisticated rituals and rules. We are sinners who would have been sentenced to hell apart from God’s grace; we can only be saved by mercy, not by our own good works. If we try to add to our salvation by our own good works or church rituals, then we are admitting that our original faith wasn’t enough; we are saying that our conversion was in vain. Therefore, let us not sin against Jesus by trying to add good works to the salvation that He accomplished for us on the cross, but let our faith for salvation be in Him alone, not in priests or confirmation class, or the specific liturgy of the baptism and communion. Your baptism and communion is only pleasing to God if you have faith.
2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul wrote a very serious letter to the church of the Galatians, to warn them that they were leaving the faith and falling into serious error. The Galatian church was a wonderful church of eager new converts. They had been saved out of the horrors of paganism by God when they repented of their sins and believed in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. But afterwards false teachers came into their church teaching that they had to believe and be circumcised in order to be saved. In the beginning of chapter three Paul energetically rebukes them for listening to these false teachers:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3:1)
Paul is calling these gullible young Christians foolish and bewitched because they have been so easily fooled by false teachers. They had been clearly taught by Paul that Jesus Christ was crucified for their sins, and only through believing in him can the be saved. They should have known better than to follow false teachers with impressive-sounding credentials who claimed that there was more that they had to do to be saved. By adding to the simplicity of the gospel message, they were actually throwing out the gospel all together. They were giving up everything important in order to impress some false teachers.
Sadly, there are many evangelicals who are doing the same thing today. They know that salvation is only by grace through faith, but they have been seduced by theologians and church official sto believe that there is more that they have to do to be saved. They are returning to orthodoxy, they are being enslaved by the manmade traditions of the past. Some evangelicals have gone back to the old churches who have taught them that they can contribute to their salvation, or at least improve their standing with God through human rituals performed by a specially ordained priesthood. Let me be blunt with you: being confirmed, fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, keeping the Sabbath, having a priest pray for you, taking the sacraments from someone in special garments, will in no way improve your standing with God, on the contrary it may undermine it. A true relationship with God must be founded on faith in Christ-alone for salvation, not faith in the church or faith in festivals and rituals. Don’t trust people or ministers, trust God alone. Atonement is provided only through the blood of Christ, and it is offered free to all lay-people by God independent of any human-appointed clergy.
If you are a “bewitched” Evangelical reading this today, I advise your to repent today, and ask God for forgiveness for sinning against His Son. Stop trusting in the special rituals or the special communion bread to save you, trust in Christ alone.
Christians are saved by grace when we believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. This means that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation: it was accomplished completely by Christ who died on the cross for our sins.
Sadly, some Christian try to add to their own salvation by their own works. They think that they can redeem themselves in part through religious rituals in addition to believing in Christ for salvation. But these religious customs, habits, do not add to their salvation. Rather, if they trust in their own effort to purchase salvation, they are in effect denying the power of the cross:
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law,Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21 NIV)
If we could save ourselves there would be no reason for Christ to die. But we cannot save ourselves. Therefore let us not set aside the grace of God by trying to earn our atonement by our own effort.
In my last post I quoted from Galatians 2:19 to show that one of the reasons God freed us from following the regulations of the Old Testament Law, was so that we who have been born again would have more time and energy to focus on pursuing our hearts desire to serve God more directly:
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.” (Galatians 2:19 NIV).
Our verse for today expands this thought of living for God:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
A Christian who has faith in Jesus Christ has been crucified with Christ on the cross. We have died to our old way of living, we no longer love ourselves more than we love others, and we no longer live for ourselves, but Christ lives in us. Practically, this means that we have surrendered our hearts to God and are using our efforts to push his agenda of love and forgiveness, not pushing our own agenda of self-worship. This is possible only because of His Holy Spirit that now lives inside us. Our belief becomes the primary motivation for our actions. The life that we now live in the body we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. Therefore our lives will be changed to be like Christ’s: we too will love others and give of ourselves for others, even literally dying for them if necessary.
This is in part possible because we have died by the law. Instead of wasting our energy trying to follow complex religious rituals in everything we do, we now spend our time trying to follow the law of love with everything we do, paying close attention to how our actions affect others, and reflect on the God we serve.
Us Christians believe that the entire Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is the inspired Word of God sent down to Earth to teach humans. Why, then, do we Christians not follow the Old Testament rituals that were given to the Jewish people? The answer, first of all, is that no one was ever saved by following the laws, since they are impossible to keep. Old Testament Jews who honestly tried to follow the laws were saved by grace through faith, that means God forgave them for their inability to keep the law because they believed in Him. The Old Testament is explicit in many places that God forgives the sins of those who transgress, provided that they repent (Psalm 51).
Now, though, that the New Testament has been revealed, and we have heard about Jesus Christ the Son of God, the perfect sacrifice for our sins, we know longer have to spend our time trying to keep all the Jewish rituals. In his epistles to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul explains why God no longer wants us to try to keep the Old Testament law:
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.” (Galatians 2:19 NIV)
God purchased us through His blood so we no longer have to keep the law in order to be saved. We died to the law in order that we might live for God. This means that instead of spending all our life trying to meticulously keep a lot of rules, we can now go straight to the heart of the matter, learn from observation the lesson that the rules were trying to teach us in the first place, and please God more directly.
For instance, instead of spending our lives making sure that we are eating kosher food, we now spend our lives making sure that we are living holy lives. Eating Pork does not defile us, but hating our brother does, therefore our focus is now on living in love, not on spending time trying to classify human foods into various catagories. No longer are we required to circumcise our flesh, now our focus is on the circumcision of our heart, which is accomplished in Christ (Colossians 2:11 NIV). Our focus is now directly on Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. All the other laws were simply given to teach us lessons about obeying these two laws anyway: about living in love. Now that the lesson has been illustrated for Generations, and the Holy Spirit has been put into our hearts, we can now live for God without having to mess with all the rituals. We can understand and obey the meaning behind the passover without eating the passover; we can appreciate Christ’s atonement for us without actually performing the day of atonement sacrifices etc. We now have freedom to serve God more directly, more freely, more genuinely, since we are no longer focused on fulfilling all the particular rituals.
In the Bible in Galatians chapter Two the Apostle Paul is refuting the teaching of some Jewish Christians of his day who claimed that a person had to do certain works, perform certain rituals in addition to believing in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Paul explains that if you add works to the gospel, you essentially destroy the entire gospel message:
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. (Galatians 2:17-18 NIV)
What Paul is saying here, is that all the Apostles and early Christians had originally agreed that they were justified in Christ, as Jesus had taught them. This meant that they were saved not by their own good works, but by the work of Jesus Christ in dying on the cross for their sins. Now, some of these early Christians had decided that this was not enough: that all Christians had to be circumcised and follow the Jewish traditions in addition to believing in Jesus in order to be saved. Paul says that this new teaching is false, because those who still need to do more good works to become saved find themselves also among the sinners, because Jesus’ death on the cross apparently wasn’t enough to save them from their sins. Christ fulfilled the requirement of the law for us, so that if we are saved by faith, we are judged as keeping the law. But if we then go back and say that we need to keep part of the law in addition to being saved, we have now put ourselves back under the judgment of a list of rules that we are incapable of keeping on our own. Thus, by rebuilding the requirement for myself to perfectly keep the law, we would put ourselves in a situation where once again we really would be a lawbreaker.
The application of this today, is that ANY RELIGIOUS GROUP THAT TEACHES THAT YOU MUST ADD SOME WORKS TO FAITH IN CHRIST IS PREACHING HERESY. You do not have to believe in Jesus and be confirmed in church, you do not have to believe in Jesus and work your way out of purgatory, etc. You simply have to believe in Jesus, which will result in you being transformed by the Holy Spirit to do much better, more genuine works than all those who work for their salvation.
No one will be saved by keeping the Old Testament law, because no one is able to keep it perfectly. The Law is a good teacher; it tells us a lot about good and evil, but salvation has always been by only grace through faith. In the Old Testament times God granted salvation to some of those who tried to keep the law in humility, because they believed in God’s forgiveness and their desire to please him was genuine. But others who tried to keep the law were simply self-righteous hypocrites who wanted to lord it over others. Neither group ever managed to keep the law perfectly, but those who were humble were granted grace.
When Jesus came and delivered the gospel, God explicitly revealed that keeping the law is not necessary for salvation. God had given the law in order to show people their sin, but in time the Jewish people had become prideful and misused it. For this reason the early Jewish Apostles were clear that salvation is by faith, not by keeping the law:
Here’s what the Apostle Paul said:
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16)
And the Apostle Peter:
“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:7-11 NIV)
James the brother of Christ also agrees that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised to be saved. Although he does ask that they not eat food that has been defiled with blood or idols, so that they do not offend their fellow Jewish believers:
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 “‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’[b]—
18 things known from long ago.[c]
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”