I was asked in a recent comment ‘What is Christianity?’ To be more accurate, I was asked; ‘Perhaps you would be able to explain what you take Christianity to be?’ The same person also commented ‘… isn’t the purpose of Christianity, the end goal, to get into heaven? You accomplish this via doing good etc.’ We will see from the Bible verses that follow: we do not become Christians by doing good.
Without being evasive it’s important to preface my reply with this; It isn’t ‘what I take’ Christianity to be that counts. It’s what God says through His Word that counts. What the Bible teaches is quite plain so anyone can check what I’m saying with the Bible text itself. In fact, please don’t take my word for it – check it out and read it for yourself! So ‘what I take Christianity to be’ is what the Bible plainly teaches and says it is. But yes, it is ‘my take’, the same take that has consistently been taught by the Historic Christian Church for the last 2000 years. I’m not saying anything new. To ask ‘What is Christianity’ is to ask What is a Christian? and What is a Church? And further it’s to ask What is the Gospel? These are THE most fundamental questions to ask. I’m not addressing the concept of a ‘Christian’ culture, or some form of social Christianity or of a National consciousness. And for the record, the UK is NOT a Christian nation. Being born in the UK has NEVER made a person a Christian, any more than being born in a bakery will make a person a loaf of bread (choose your own metaphor).
If you are still with me I’m going to quote some verses from the Bible that show plainly and beyond doubt that a person does not become a Christian by being good or doing good things. It depends solely on what someone else has done. Namely, it’s what Jesus Christ has done that counts.
Jesus is speaking in Luke 18:9-14
Luk 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
Luk 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Luk 18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
Luk 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
Luk 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!‘
Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Apostle Paul writing to the Romans 3:10-28
Rom 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Rom 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
Rom 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Rom 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
And Romans 5:1-12
Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Writing to the Galatians 3:1-13
Gal 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Gal 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
To the Ephesians 2:1-10
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Eph 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
And writing to Titus 3:3-7
Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Tit 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Tit 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
I’ll leave it at that, but the Bible teaches clearly and plainly that Salvation is not earned, it is a gift. A gift that is received through faith. Not airy fairy faith, but faith in a person – The Lord Jesus Christ. And what that person has done for sinners like me.
What exactly then has Jesus done that we couldn’t do for ourselves? How appropriate the timing of this post. What is Good about ‘Good Friday’ is that Jesus has paid the price of my Redemption in full by dying in place of the sinner. The charge against us as sinners is that we have not kept God’s law perfectly in every part. But Jesus has. We have not loved God with all our hearts & soul, but Jesus has. We need someone who can do it for us – Jesus has done this. And so the command of the Gospel is to Repent & Believe. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). In the light of all this John 3:16 makes perfect sense. Our response should be in the light of what God in Christ has done is to cry ‘Have mercy on me a sinner’.
This will all be quite shocking to anyone that’s never come across this before. But it’s what Christianity is all about. There’s something in us that wants to add something, or do something, to work our way into heaven. The Gospel message is incredibly radical: there’s nothing like it. We are called upon to simply trust in the work of another. And this Jesus didn’t just die, but rose from the dead having paid the price of Redemption in full. ‘It is finished’ Jesus cried from the Cross.to die no more. (John 19:30)
Verses 2 & 3 from the Hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ sum it up beautifully:
2. Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.
3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
‘Rock of Ages’ Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778
Finally, just because someone by the Grace of God becomes a Christian, a Saint, a believer, that doesn’t make them perfect. But it does make them forgiven, Justified & Righteous because they have been given (not earned or even deserved – Romans 6:23) the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus lived the perfect sinless life required by the law of God (Hebrews 4:15). And historically this is what the Reformation was about and still is about. A sinner is saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, by Christ Alone and to the Glory of God Alone.
Now, dear reader, you may not like this, but it’s what the Bible teaches. There is no hope outside of The Lord Jesus Christ. It is His work Alone to save. And if you are a believer, thank God for His Salvation wrought upon the Cross and now raised from the dead to die no more (Hebrews 7:25).
Repent therefore and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).