Thursday, 5 August 2010

Granny & Hitler, or, What good are good works?

"So you mean to tell me that a man like Hitler can say a wee prayer a minute before he dies and go to heaven, while my dear old granny who didn't pray the prayer goes to hell, even though she never hurt a fly? Can you be serious?" It's a common objection to the teaching that salvation is by faith alone, not of works at all - let's have a think about it.

There seem to be two complaints: - First, "No matter how good I am it doesn't matter, I still go to hell"; Second, "No matter how bad he is it doesn't matter, he can still go to heaven." People are left saying, well why bother about good works - having them doesn't get you into heaven, and not having them doesn't keep you out!

Is it true that no matter how good a person is they will go to hell? Well, what does the Bible say? If we keep God's law completely and continually and never disobey Him then we will be accepted by Him (Romans 2 v 7, 14). But that doesn't really do us a lot of good because we know we haven't done that. We haven't been 100% obedient 100% of the time - we know that the Bible is right when it says "all have sinned". What this means is that we cannot be accepted before God on our own performance, because God is absolutely righteous, and we aren't - we are law-breakers, criminals, guilty, condemned.

You see, God is really interested in good works, so much so that He demands them all the time. God has no issue with your good works; His issue is with your sins. He doesn't punish people for good works, He only punishes them for their sins. The good works you have done don't give you a credit allowing you to commit sin, so if you have sinned then you can't escape hell on the merit of the life you have lived - it is because of the life you have lived that you need to be saved! That's why salvation is by faith in Christ, because He is the one who paid sin's penalty. If the person who "has never hurt a fly" doesn't accept the provision of mercy through Christ then they will be punished for whatever crimes they have committed against God.

But what about this wicked person, can they have all that sin washed away by praying a little prayer? No, a little prayer cannot save a sinner or remove a sin – only Christ can save a sinner; only His blood can remove sin, so if someone repents, i.e. changes their attitude to themselves and their sin, and trusts in Christ then their soul will be saved and all their sins will be forgiven. God's grace is that great, and Christ's blood is that powerful.

PS. The person who trusts Christ to save them will find themselves enabled and motivated to good works as never before. He makes a difference for the better in the lives of all who come to Him