One Sabbath morning in a small Midwestern church, the pastor quoted Romans 4:24 like this: “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we obey him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
“Amen!” someone said.
The pastor replied, “No, the text does not say obey. It says, believe!”
Since then, I’ve listened closely to reports about being saved. How often do people put Jesus-plus-something-else in their testimonies? Some of the additions I’ve heard:
Genealogical salvation. “Jesus plus my heritage gives me a spiritual edge.” But no! The Jews’ pride in descending from Abraham added nothing to their standing with God (Luke 3:8). It doesn’t matter if one’s heritage is from Israel, Britain, or wherever. People from all nations will be among the redeemed (Revelation 7:9) who credit their salvation to God and the Lamb plus nothing.
Educational salvation. The more you know of Bible and theology, the closer you are to the Lord. On the contrary, the Bible says that salvation is universally available by faith, not by some higher knowledge. How much knowledge must be added to Jesus to be saved? Christ saves — to the uttermost — those who come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25).
Doctrinal salvation is closely related: A certain understanding of a pet subject is required for eternal life. We once visited a church saying that people who do not believe Jesus was three full days and three nights in the tomb are worshiping the wrong Jesus and will not be saved. This sort of teaching assumes that God owes us eternal life because we “have the truth” about certain doctrines.
Behavioral salvation. Salvation by good works has many adherents. A young pastor’s financial support is stopped because he will not present head covering for women as a point of salvation. Basing action on truth is great, but doesn’t gain eternity. “ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
Experiential salvation. Here is another kind of work that has advocates. Speaking in tongues, a ‘burning in the bosom,” or some other manifestation is urged upon people as evidence of being the true people of God.
Denominational salvation. Only loyal members can be God’s people. A seeker’s focus is turned toward a church organization, and her spiritual well-being is determined by her faithfulness to it.
Each of these and all other man-made additions to the gospel of God’s grace in Christ serve to divide, to produce feelings of superiority, and to give false hope.
Thankfully God provided a better way. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Peter was right. There really isn’t any other way to the Father, except Jesus.
This article was first published in Ministerial Forum, October-December 2005. Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.