Gaining Salvation






            Joseph Francis Alward  
                © Copyright 2001 



The Bible's description of God's plan for your salvation is not at all simple.  In fact, different Bible writers have totally contradictory views on the method of "salvation."



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Have Faith and Be Baptized



The writer of the gospel Mark believes one only has to do two things to be saved:  One has to believe, and one has to be baptized:


Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will condemned.  (Mark 16:;16)


But, is is really that simple?  Just believe in Jesus and God and be baptized, and that's it?  You're saved? Not according the writer below, who has Jesus saying nothing about believing and baptism.  According to the writer below, all you have to do to be saved is to obey the commandments and give your treasure to the poor.



Save Yourself with Good Works

According to the writer of Luke, Jesus says that one will inherit eternal life if one does the following things:  Obey the commandments, and give to the poor all that one owns.  Thus, by doing these good things, one gains salvation.


The man asked him, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" 


You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother…Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." (Luke 18:18-22)



Where in this Lukan passage is the requirement to believe, and be baptized, that the writer of Mark said were the two prerequisites for salvation?  How come the writer of Mark didn't know that all you had to do to be saved was obey the commandments and give your money to the poor?


That's not the only problem.  The writer below says that nothing you do can save you. 



Nothing You Can Do Will Save You


According to Paul, even before the time of creation, every person's fate was preordained--decided in advance by God, so nothing we do on Earth can change our destiny.  If God had decided at the time of creation that you, or I, would be sent to the fiery pits, there's nothing you or I can do about it.


God could have predestined that all be saved, but for reasons only God understands, apparently, God unmercifully and deliberately made flawed humans who would not be saved, all for the purpose of demonstrating his power.  Thus, some humans would be saved, and some would be lost, but nothing man can do would change the outcome, for no one can prevent God's will from being done. 


Here is what Paul wrote:


For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

Paul then described (see below) how God hates some people, but loves others, giving Esau and Jacob as examples.  Paul states that God made the Pharoah unrighteous for the purpose of bringing the ten plagues down upon him, so that he might have an excuse to display his immense powers.  It is not for the common man destined for hell to complain, Paul says, any more than the common pot has a right to complain, for the pot maker has the right to make his pots any way he wishes, and if it weren't for the pot maker, the pot wouldn't exist in the first place.


If you're lucky, God predestined you to be one of the uncommon, righteous "pots," and so you will be saved.  But, you WILL be saved, no matter what you do, for it was God's will, decided long ago, at the time of creation, that you would be saved. 


On the other hand, you will NOT be saved, no matter what you do, if you are one of the unlucky pots.  Thus, no amount of good works and faith will save you if you weren't predestined to be saved.  This utterly contradicts what the writers of Mark and Luke said, above.


Here is what Paul said:


Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."  What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!  For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.


For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.


One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  (Romans 9:13-21)  



Thus, according to Paul, if you believe the Bible is the word of a god, then you're either a common pot that will be cast into the fires of hell, and there's never anything you could do about it, or else you're a noble pot, and will spend an eternity in the kingdom of heaven, and there's nothing you can do to prevent it.