In the realm of Christianity exists two primary and distinct methods of salvation, at the very least. The first, and simplest method, is liberalism. In this method, it is believed that by accepting the gift of salvation, Jesus' death on the cross, you are saved, and that all your sins, past and present will be forgiven; all you need to do is repent. It also teaches that the devil, Satan, will continue to plague us until the second coming, and that we will never be able to stop sinning until the day that we meet Christ in the sky. The second method is known as conservatism; a more extreme view within this group that won't be discussed in depth is legalism. While this method also involves accepting Jesus' death on the cross, it also involves walking daily with Christ; His grace not only pays the price for your sins, it also helps you overcome them, so you sin no more. In short, Christ has given you the grace to sin no more. These people believe that you can be perfect on this Earth, though it will not happen instantly after conversion, but rather over a period of time. Legalism is the belief that sinning is like the legal system: for every sin you commit, a crime stacks against you in the books of heaven; and for each sin, you must ask forgiveness, so that you can be innocent once again. And thus, you are saved if at the end of life, you have no sins in the record books. (Note that, these are the primary views within each group; this does not take into account extreme views on either side, other than legalism.)
How is it that there arises many distinct views of salvation within one church, based on one set of holy writings, and with one Saviour? Clearly, only one group can be correct. Why? Because if the liberals are correct, then the conservatives are unloving Pharisees who slapped several unnecessary laws onto the Christian church. If the conservatives are correct, then liberals are sinful, corrupt people who do not know their Saviour. Though this does not mean Christ cannot save misled yet sincere people from both sides.
How then can we know the right way? "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim 3:16, 17). From the Bible, then, and from the Bible alone, will be the search, because that is the only authority that both sides uphold as infallible. However, both sides have used the Bible in defence of their position. By the previously mentioned verse, we know that Scripture is perfect in its entirety. Therefore, one side clearly misinterpreted the Bible, first of all; and secondly, the other side will be able to explain all of the arguments and verses of the wrong side. This does not mean that the wrong side will not be able to explain any arguments of the correct side, but, to my understanding, and it is my hope that, it will not be able to explain all.
And so we are off! And where this will end, I don't know, because I at this moment do not know the answer myself. I have typed this essay in order for me to organize the arguments myself, and hopefully come to a conclusion. As a result, I have no thesis to begin with. However, I do believe that you will enjoy and treasure this search for salvation as much as I will.
"At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, 'Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.' But he said unto them, 'Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice", ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.'" (Matthew 12:1-8)
The argument for this verse was that it is clearly okay to prepare food for consumption on the sabbath day, or more simply, cook. After all, the disciples were wandering through a cornfield, and picking corn off the stalk, and eating it. Certainly that's far more effort than modern day cooking in the kitchen, is it not? However, there is another way of looking at this story. The disciples were travelling through a corn field (due to there being few roads in ancient Palestine) and looking at the corn stalks, they began to hunger. At this point, they went into the field, and satiated their hunger. Quite different from spending your entire day baking food, isn't it? But however you look at it, this really isn't about liberalism or conservatism's method of salvation: this is about what is proper on the Sabbath, and that really isn't the point of the essay. Although it clearly illustrates that Jesus is not against humans doing necessities on the Sabbath, whether that be eating, sleeping, or breathing. Neither, though, does this condone spending an entire sabbath on these activities.
"And, behold, one came and said unto him, 'Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' And he said unto him, 'Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.' He saith unto him, 'Which?' Jesus said, 'Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' The young man saith unto him, 'All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?' Jesus said unto him, 'If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.' But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said unto his disciples, 'Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.' When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, 'Who then can be saved?' But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, 'With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.'" (Matthew 19:16-26)
The conservative argument for this verse is to note this comparison: Jesus said, "If thou wilt be perfect...", and the young man only at that point turned away. Then, Jesus said that a rich man, presumably talking about the young ruler, shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. In short, the rich young ruler would not be saved, all because he wasnĄ¯t perfect. And thus, the conservatives argue this is proof that you must be perfect in order to achieve heaven. Another place where conservatives have an argument in this section is near the beginning: "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? ...if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." It says quite clearly that one must keep the commandments to enter into heaven. However, the problem with this is that the question originally asked already had errors, using a works-based salvation. Christ seemed to play along with him in answering the question, by saying "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." Now, we know that Christ could read thoughts. We also know that Christ was God. Through this answer, we know that the rich young ruler did not believe Christ to be God. As a result, Christ did seem to play along with the man, and He gave him the works-based way to salvation: keep the commandments. And truly enough, that is one way to heaven. But it is also one that no one can accomplish, neither is it the path we are looking for. This phrase could be interpreted to mean that we need to keep the commandments after we meet Jesus, and work our way to perfection; but this verse by itself, given this context, isn't very convincing. As for the liberals, they have an answer to the first argument, which is found in the verses following Jesus' implication that the rich young ruler, who had kept all the commandments from his youth, would not make it to heaven: "Who then can be saved?" "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." The argument is that we cannot make it to heaven of our own accord; it is only God that can save us. However, this may work either way: while it may be argued that it is only the grace of God that will get us to heaven (which is true), and therefore we cannot by any means of ourselves make ourselves better ("impossible with men"), it may also be argued that only God can give us the grace to overcome our sins. Conservatives, zero; liberals, zero.
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16)
In this liberal argument, the path to salvation is rather clear: believe and be baptized, and you will be saved. Believe in what? The devils believe that Christ exists, and they certainly won't be found in heaven. Clearly, the word 'believe' here can be equated with 'faith'; faith that the merits of Christ's blood are enough to save you, and cover all of your sins; faith in Christ's love, that He loves you enough to extend His grace to cover your sins. The common belief that your sins are too great to be covered by Christ's sacrifice -- so widespread that one can quite simply conclude that Satan is the author of that thought -- goes to support this idea, since Satan desires our destruction, and he has dedicated much effort on this point. However, another verse does quite clearly answer this argument;
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, 'Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled;' notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, 'Thou hast faith, and I have works; shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.' Thou believeth that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, 'Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called Friend of God.' Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:14-26, emphasis supplied)
But isn't it grace whereby we are saved, through faith, and not of works? (see Ephesians 2:8,9) The example James uses is that of Abraham offering his son on Mt. Moriah. Now, lets imagine faith without works. Abraham at the top of Mt. Moriah, saying, "God, I believe in you when you told me that in Isaac my seed shall come. However, I won't offer him up like you asked. What, human sacrifice, are you crazy?" Now, the problem here: if God said that in Isaac Abraham's seed would come, then God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, certainly He would either have to stop Abraham or raise Isaac from the dead, wouldn't He? Otherwise, He would break His word. By carrying out the works, Abraham expressed his faith in God's promise. And so, the conservative argument: without works, what is our faith in Jesus? This also takes care of the earlier point, where belief and baptism are the requirements for salvation: faith without works is not real faith! A liberal counter to this all is, "Exactly what works are there for us to do, that by failing to do we'd be going against our faith?" Well, James does specifically mention a hungry, naked person who came to you for help.
"When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall He sit upon the throne in his glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.' Then the righteous shall answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, 'Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.' Then shall they also answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?' Then shall He answer them, saying, 'Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.' And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:31-46)
From a liberal perspective, Christ seems to make clear the path to salvation: the saved do charitable works for the poor, the lost do not. Certainly then, who needs to worry about keeping every last commandment? All we need to do is show love to all members of humanity. As long as we get the love thing down, God will extend His grace to cover our sins, and so we won't get nailed for stealing all those forks from the Wendy's down the block. That we still do, for that matter. But we're poor; we need it, don't we? Certainly we don't need to be perfect or anything; we aren't Christ, are we?
"'Master, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said unto him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'" (Matthew 22:36-39)
And I quote, from a paragraph ago: "As long as we get the love thing nailed down, [we don't need to worry about any commandments, or being perfect, or anything like that]." Well, look at that! That 'love' thing is a commandment! In addition, the two commandments stated above are more or less a summary of the ten he gave at Sinai. And thus, sin, a transgression of the law, becomes not just an action, but more often an inaction. To enter into heaven, one it seems must keep the commandments -- the ones that involve showing love to others, whether rich, poor, or deserving; and the ones about showing love to God, by worshipping Him alone, treating Him reverently, and spending time with Him. These are the works which show our faith in Christ. How does helping others show faith in Christ? This will be picked up later.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for ChristĄ¯s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)
Through reading this at first glance, it appears that Paul has been having trouble with the ĄŽsinĄ¯ problem, and SatanĄ¯s attacks. Paul, the apostle, the writer, the missionary, and most certainly the saint. It seems that he says that GodĄ¯s grace will cover our sins, and we need not worry about them; for that matter, we should glory in them, because it is there that His power is shown the best, the clearest. However,
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1,2)
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." (Romans 6:6-16)
What about this? This seems to totally contradict the first thought, that was written by the same person! Looking at the second verse for a liberal counterargument to the obvious thought, I can't find one. I can find a conservative argument to the first verse: What is the 'thorn in the flesh' that Paul speaks of? It isn't necessarily sin, even though he calls it the messenger of Satan that buffets him. It may possibly be bad looks that make it hard for him to evangelize when people avoid him based on outward appearance; it might be a speech impediment, that makes it difficult for him to preach (though this one is less likely as he had some pretty long sermons written down); it could be slowness of body, and being unable to travel quickly, causing him to be able to accomplish far less than he had hoped for; it could be a number of physical impediments that prevent him from accomplishing more for God than he actually did. This would make sense, as something like that would be worthy of being called a 'thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.'
Okay, it is now quite late, and it appears that I will be unable to finish this essay in one night. So I will go on an intermission here, which you may feel free to take as well, and attempt to pick up from where I left off shortly.
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