by Jay Johansen | Nov 5, 2011
The Bible has a lot of rules. Many people jump to the conclusion that the way to get to Heaven is to follow all these rules.
But in fact that's not what the Bible says at all. Maybe at least part of the problem is that people confuse what God expects of his people, with what you have to do to become one of God's people.
If that's not clear, let me give a simple analogy.
Many companies have a set of rules they expect their employees to follow. My present employer is too small and informal to have an actual rule book, but at my last job we had an employee manual that included rules like: No drinking during work hours. Complete a timesheet every week. Call into the office when you're too sick to work.
Suppose you want to get a job with this company. So you refrain from drinking during working hours, you make up a timesheet form and fill it out and every week, and any time you're sick you call their office. But you never actually contact them and apply for a job. Will this make you an employee? Will they start sending you paychecks? Surely not. They'll probably be rather annoyed when you call in to tell them you're sick.
How do you get a job? Of course the details of the process vary, but ultimately, the company has to give you a formal job offer and you have to accept it. Following the company's rule book does not make you an employee. After you become an employee, then you are expected to follow the company rules. Some of these rules might be generally good things to do -- like refraining from excessive drinking. Others might only make sense in the context of working for this company -- like filling out a timesheet.
Likewise, you don't become a member of God's church by following the church rulebook. You beomce a member of God's church by accepting God's offer of salvation. God has a standing offer that anyone can become a member of his church: all you have to do is accept the offer. If and when you accept this offer, then he expects you to follow his rules. But that's not how you get in. Many of these rules are generally good things to do -- like do not kill and do not steal. Others only make sense in the context of membership in the church -- like attend services with other members regularly and pray for guidance.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." [Ephesians 2:8-9] Salvation is a gift from God. You cannot work your way into Heaven. You cannot earn it. You can only accept it.>
© 2011 by Jay Johansen