Do You REALLY Believe in Salvation by Grace?

Do You REALLY Believe in Salvation by Grace?

Here’s a Quiz to find out

It’s not unusual for people to overtly espouse a certain belief or practice, but to unwittingly hold opposite beliefs in their heart of hearts. An example from the political sphere: Nearly everyone, on the right or on the left, publicly espouses freedom of speech. But many people—including leaders and other public figures—do not translate that belief into comprehensive freedom of speech. Rather, they understand it to mean freedom of speech for people in their camp; people in the other camp, when speaking lies or even outrageous viewpoints in public, need to be silenced. It’s important to note that most people are not being duplicitous. It’s not that they are secretly and intentionally hiding their fascist-leaning beliefs while consciously holding opposite opinions. Most such people have deceived themselves into thinking they are advocates for truly free speech, when in fact they are not.

Among Christians, one of the most common divergences between stated and actual (conscious and unconscious?) beliefs relates to salvation solely through God’s grace. We have met dozens of believers who would swear on their mothers’ graves (if Jesus hadn’t said we shouldn’t swear!) that they firmly believe in salvation by grace through faith. Yet they remain cheerfully unaware that their everyday conversations and actions belie that position.

Rather than create a lengthy discourse on the subject, we instead will simply introduce a brief test. We are always quick to point out the reality of normal curves, and we will NEVER say that something is always true or is never true 😉. But we believe this quiz provides a pretty accurate assessment of most people’s genuine attitude toward grace (vs. toward works, i.e., what a person does) as the basis of salvation.

Do you really believe in grace? Here’s a Simple Test

There is but a single question:

If a believer commits suicide, will that person be “saved”—i.e., be accepted into God’s eternal city?

Those who answer an easy Yes clearly believe in grace. The biblically correct answer to our little quiz is, “Of course this believer is covered by the grace of Jesus! Of course this person will enter into eternal life!”

Those who answer No, or who hesitate in tongue-tied “Buts” and “Howevers” and “Ifs” and Maybes,” clearly do not genuinely accept grace. Rather, deep down in their hearts, they still believe that somehow we are granted eternal life on the basis of what we do. Or, in religiousspeak, our “works.”

We have had nearly identical discussions about this matter with a number of people. The typical argument: “But we’re dealing with someone here whose very last act on earth was to commit murder!” and, “It was a conscious act, with clear intention to commit an egregious sin!” and so on. Unambiguously, these people believe that someone who commits suicide will be kept outside God’s eternal kingdom because of something that person did. Which is a renunciation of the entire concept of salvation by grace. A major factor in this kind of theology centers on the sinful deed’s being the person’s very last act as well as its being an egregious act (dealing death).

There no doubt have been millions of believers through the centuries whose very last act or last words or last thoughts were not godly, were contrary to God’s heart. Consider your life and ours: Do we all not switch back and forth throughout the day with thoughts and actions that are sometimes of God, sometimes selfish? [Each of us, i.e., B&E, feels that sometimes we can flip back and forth every few seconds.] The question for legalists seems to be which religious “mode” we’re in. Does our eternal salvation then depend on a flip of the coin—which “mode” we’re in (godly or fleshly) at the instant we die? That would be bad news indeed!

Following the lead of scripture, we proclaim good news: That the blood of the Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world, covers us 24/7, even when we’re taking our eyes and hearts off of Jesus and speaking or acting for completely selfish reasons.

Keep in mind also that suicide is most often an act of desperation in a person who sees absolutely no way out—a terrible position to be in and one that certainly breaks our Savior’s heart!

We would not be surprised if, sometime after a suicidal person enters into our Lord’s presence, Jesus doesn’t sit down with him or her and explain that that wasn’t the best choice—that there had been alternatives that would have led to greater blessing for everyone concerned. But there’s no question of the person’s not being with Jesus.

Families of suicide victims suffer at least as much as the victim. We have known Christians whose family member or friend committed suicide, and who, we feel, carry an unspoken burden of fear that their relative or friend will not join them in God’s eternal city. What a needless burden to bear!

We are eager to proclaim from the loudest possible platform that Jesus saves! Really saves! And he saves the ungodly (i.e., all of us). Your loved one who committed suicide is just as certain to enter into eternal life with Jesus as was Mother Theresa. He/she is with Jesus now. The only reason to believe that someone who commits suicide is not saved is if you believe that anyone who sins in a major way is not saved. And that’s a stretch, since it would mean that no one is saved. Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners!  —1 Timothy 1:15.


The blood of the Lamb

 Jesus was called the Lamb of God. Not the goat, the bull, etc. On Israel’s annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), it was goats and bovines who were sacrificed at different times for the forgiveness of sins. There was no association of sacrificial lambs with atonement, i.e., with forgiveness of sins.

The sacrificial lamb in Israel referred not to forgiveness of sins but to the Passover lamb—the lamb whose blood was placed above Israelites’ doors so that, when God passed over the land of Egypt on that mysterious night back in the 13th century B.C., those who were in the house would be spared from Death.

By God’s design, Jesus’ sacrifice was at Passover, not Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In some way that we cannot fathom, God apparently could take care of the forgiveness—after all, he chose to bear the sins of humankind so that we wouldn’t have to. But there was still the question of Death. We had all sold ourselves as slaves to an evil master, whose chief lieutenant was Death. It was one thing for God to forgive us. But we were still owned by Death. A forgiven corpse is still a corpse. Then appeared the perfect, unblemished Lamb, sacrificing himself, offering his own precious blood, so that we could dip our fingers in it and place it over the doors to our hearts, and we would be spared from Death.

In Israel in the 13th century B.C., and in our own lives today, there were/are no stipulations that said, “If you place this blood on your lintel, and if you are behaving in a certain acceptable way, Death will pass over you.”

No. It was a simple statement: When I see the blood, I will pass over you.  –Exodus 12:13.

The only requirement was the blood. This was about Death, not forgiveness. The forgiveness was already there. Had that not been the case, not for a second would Yahweh have put up with the foolishness, the stupidity, the sinfulness of that ragtag crowd of Semites that he had chosen to call “His People.” God in his endless mercy could simply declare forgiveness, nevertheless at immeasurable pain and cost to himself. Yet even forgiven humans still were owned by Death. Which is why Jesus was the Passover Lamb of God. Through his willing self-sacrifice, he provided that blood that shields us from Death. And all we need is the faith to remain in that house with the blood over the door. That’s all. We might be doing terrible things; but Yahweh said that, when he saw the blood, that household would be spared from Death. The only requirement was the blood. Likewise, when our God sees the blood of the Lamb that we by faith place over our lives, Death cannot and will not touch us. Period.


But Aren’t You Giving a Free Pass for Anyone to Commit Suicide?

Yes. Anyone who wants to “check out” of this wicked existence certainly can do so. In no way do we believe it is appropriate (except possibly in certain exigent circumstances, e.g., an extremely miserable, terminal illness, when the eyes-wide-open exit would be a grace not only for the suffering individual but also for that person’s family and friends). But yes, any believers who desire to do so can kill themselves without compromising in any way their relationship with their Savior. Just as, hundreds of times over on a daily basis, we turn our hearts as well as our actions away from God and embrace sin—but that in no way compromises our relationship with our Savior.

We nevertheless must emphasize that, in the large majority of instances, suicide is an act of unbelief. It’s a bad choice. It signals an individual’s conviction that God is unable/unwilling to redeem an intolerable situation; that the individual’s momentary subjective pain trumps the pain of the myriad family members and loved ones who would be devastated after the suicide, and that the individual’s momentary subjective pain trumps the needs of those people whom the individual could love and bless in future years. Suicide in most cases is a selfish act that is nevertheless pitiable and deserving of the deepest empathy and compassion and love. Most people who commit suicide are in an incomparably dark place, filled with pain, with no way out. Such people deserve our deepest compassion. People who kill themselves during deep depressions inevitably create unimaginable pain for those who love them. It is sin. But we must never lose sight of the promise: Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners!  —1 Timothy 1:15.

It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith (and even that is not something you have done—it is God’s gift); you are not saved because of anything you do, so that no one may boast.  –Ephesians 2:8-9 BCM

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.  –John 12:32 BCM

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  –2 Corinthians 5:19 RSV

God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.  –Romans 11:32 RSV


Postscript: An alternative quiz question

If the question about suicide doesn’t work for you, here’s another one, thrown in for free:

In Acts 5, we learn that a couple of new (and well-off) Christian believers, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, sold a parcel of land and pretended to donate 100% of the proceeds to the local fellowship of believers. In fact, they surreptitiously kept a significant portion of the profits for themselves. Peter prophesied to each of them, and each of them fell dead. Here’s the quiz:

Did Ananias and Sapphira pop immediately into the arms of Jesus, or did their sin invalidate their salvation?

The answer: Of course they were saved! Sure, they sinned. They died in the midst of propagating a major, hypocritical lie. But you know what?

Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners!  —1 Timothy 1:15.