Listening recently to friends talk about religion prompted me to reaffirm my own understanding of the subject, so I’ve done a little research and I hope this helps everyone understand the subject matter better. What triggered my desire to define this clearly for them, was the statement one of them made that in effect said their good deeds, righteous living and Golden Rule ethics would be enough to insure salvation. I don’t think so and here is why.
Grace is defined as the unmerited granting of mercy. In other words “undeserving.” The following Bible passage explains grace and faith perfectly. Faith, in Christianity, is the belief that Jesus is the only Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary and was killed for the salvation of mankind’s sins, rising from the dead and ascended to Heaven.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
The first sentence tells us that we have been saved, even though we do not deserve it, simply through our faith. This salvation cannot be earned through our deeds, the passage says, “this is not from ourselves, it is a gift from God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” In other words, our salvation has nothing to do with our ability to earn it, deserve it or create it by our actions, even going so far as to negate our ability to boast about it because we didn’t earn it to begin with.
So much for the old standard-bearer argument that says, “I just do good things and try to be a good person and don’t hurt anyone else and that is good enough to get me into heaven.” That is NOT what I read in the Bible.
The second sentence is even more insightful and tantalizing, stating we are God’s handiwork, created to do good things which God prepared in advance for us to do. So again, we can’t “earn it”, but God makes it clear that we are put upon this earth to do good things, which he has already prepared in advance for us to do. I read this as an admonition to not sit back and rest on our laurels, simply because we believe God’s grace has saved us. God is making it clear that He has a plan for us and it is not that plan that gets us to grace, but it is a plan of God’s design, nevertheless to be understood, obeyed, and pursued.
John 3, New International Version (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
I read this passage as a clear warning: If you know about Jesus and reject Him, you are condemned; this is plain language within the biblical text. It seems clear that in this passage “light” is interchangeable with truth, Godliness and righteousness.
All in all the message in this case and for this subject is clear as crystal; we get to heaven only by God’s grace. We can do nothing to earn or deserve God’s grace, we simply profess our faith in Him, worship Him and obey Him and our salvation is guaranteed. If we come to know Him and reject Him, we are condemned to death without salvation.
I hope this helps.