Salvation By Works Is Cultural Legalism
Posted by Job on May 2, 2011
Though the theological reasons for why salvation by works is unattainable are numerous, there is one practical reason that is often overlooked both by religions that teach salvation by works (Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, liberal and “moderate” Christianity streams which promote pluralism and inclusivism) or various “faith plus works” salvation formulas (Roman Catholicism, some strands of Pentecostalism) is that there is no single, universal standard for good works. Incidentally, this is also a problem for Christians who advocate works-based sanctification.
Consider as an example the conversion testimony of one John Bunyan. He records that he began the road to salvation when being convicted of guilt of a host of sins, including bell ringing. When I first read this, I was stunned and assumed that “bell ringing” must necessarily be some colloquialism for sinful or riotous behavior in the vernacular of his time. But upon further reading, it appears that Bunyan was in fact troubled with guilt over his love for ringing church bells for amusement!
Now granted, there may be some context here: perhaps Bunyan listed this as part of a pattern of behavior that he indulged in because of his tendency to live for his own amusement absent self-control or Godly purpose, and in that sense it went along with his love for drinking at bars, cursing and partying. Still, when one considers that a large portion of the contemporary Christian population is not averse to entertaining itself with R-rated movies (and similar music and books) filled with profanity, swearing and blasphemy, violence, nudity and sexuality, and subversive/rebellious themes, it makes the very idea that anything untoward would be associated with ringing church bells amazing!
And that is an oft-overlooked dilemma in “salvation by works.” The fact is that the definition of “good works” and also “evil works” is often defined by man (if only in part) and as a result changes according to place and time as man and his culture changes. But God does not change! Though God is full of patience, grace and mercy and may deal with different men in different ways according to His prerogative, the fact is that God’s attributes remains the same, and those attributes include His perfect holiness and righteousness. So, while being able to please some man-made religious system in one context or another will require different levels of righteousness, different acts of righteousness, and different amounts of tolerance for unrighteousness, man’s pleasing God will always have the same standard, which is faith in Him through His Son.
It simply can be no other way. Practices that are abhorrent, brutal and backwards according to some cultures and religions are embraced by others. Even in today’s world where intercontinental travel and mass communications has resulted in some form of “leveling” of cultural acceptance, such things as cannibalism, bestiality and incest still goes on in some cultures. Even in our own culture, some things that were considered very sinful or shameful a mere generation or two ago are now not only deemed as fine, but have been embraced by not a few churches! So, how is it possible to articulate a works-based salvation or sanctification in this reality?
The answer: one cannot and should not. Instead, salvation is of the Lord. Renounce salvation by works and instead put your faith in trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation today. Click on the link below to understand and begin this process.