Do you agree with any of the following statements?
- As long as I am sincere about my religious beliefs, I think I will go to heaven. I don’t think I have to be a Christian.
- I believe that I will go to heaven, because I do a lot of good deeds and I go to church regularly.
- I’m not worried about going to heaven, since I haven’t done anything really bad.
If you do agree with any of these statements, you might be interested to know that all of them are contrary to what the Bible teaches.
What Will or Will Not Enable a Person to Have Eternal Salvation
Being sincere about what you believe does not necessarily mean that your belief is justified. Everyone who believes that there are various ways to get to heaven is holding to a belief that is contradictory to the teaching in the New Testament of the Bible. So, we will now consider what the Bible says in this regard.
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible. Also, note that to emphasize certain words in the scriptures throughout this article, they have been typed in bold print.]
Proverbs 14:12: There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
John 3:18: [Jesus said] “He who believes in Him [i.e., Himself: God’s Son] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
John 14: 6: Jesus said . . . “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Acts 4: 12: (In reference to Jesus Christ) Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
1 John 5:11-12: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
On page 131 of their book entitled Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart state,
The issue is not how much faith you have, but who do you have faith in?
The value of faith is not in the one doing the believing, but in the one who is believed. You may have more faith than anyone in history, but if you put your faith, for example, in the potted plants in your living room, do you have a saving relationship with God? Do you have forgiveness of sin? Why not, if you’re believing enough? Because the object of your faith is a potted plant!
Subsequently, on page 141 of their book, McDowell and Stewart add,
A person can be sincere, but he also can be sincerely wrong.
The apostle Paul teaches that simply practicing religion does not excuse anyone, but rather it may compound the person’s guilt. In examining the pagan’s religion, Paul points out that it is a distortion of the truth. He says, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25, NASB).
[A] religious person has no advantage if he is worshiping the wrong God, no matter how sincere.
Furthermore, no amount of good works, including going to church regularly, is sufficient to assure a person that he (or she) will go to heaven. Salvation is a gift from God to every person who accepts it. Ephesians 2: 8-9 states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
As for those who believe that they will go to heaven because they are not a “bad” person, the Bible states that everyone, except Jesus Christ, has sinned and that the consequences of sin is spiritual death, which results in eternal separation from God and all that is righteous. Consider the two following scriptures.
Romans 3: 23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 6: 23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There Is Only One Way a Person Can Be Certain of Eternal Salvation
The Bible indicates that there is only one way that a person can be certain that he (or she) will spend eternity with God. This can be accomplished by complying with the two following steps:
- Each person must genuinely repent for their sins (i.e., sincerely desire to turn from sin and to live in accordance with God’s will). [For a discussion of the importance of repentance, click on “Are Both Confession and Repentance Necessary?”]
- Each person must personally trust in only Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life with God. John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Although good works (i.e., good deeds) are not necessary to have eternal life, every person who trusts in Jesus Christ for eternal life should have a desire to do good works as an expression of their love and appreciation for God.
McDowell and Stewart assert on page 69 of their previously mentioned book, “If mankind could have reached God any other way, then Jesus would not have had to die. His death illustrates the fact that there is no other way.”
Just because a person does not agree with Christian doctrine, it does not mean that the Christian doctrine is false or that the doctrine can be disregarded without possibly serious consequences. If a doctrine is factual, it is true, regardless of whether or not you agree with that doctrine. Thus, if God has decided that each person must personally trust in Jesus Christ as his (or her) Savior to be assured of eternal salvation, then there is not another alternative, even if a person believes otherwise.
On pages 724-725 of his book entitled Just As I Am, Billy Graham responds to the question of whether or not it is arrogance or narrow-mindedness to claim that there is only one way of salvation, as follows:
I think not. After all, do we fault a pilot for being narrow-minded when he follows the instrument panel in landing in a rainstorm or at a fogbound airport? No, we want him to remain narrowly focused! And do we consider it arrogant or narrow-minded when a doctor points us to the one medicine that will cure us of a particular disease? The human race is infected with a spiritual disease – the disease of sin – and God has given us the remedy. Dare we do anything less than urge people to apply that remedy to their lives?
Jesus was not just another great religious teacher, nor was He only another in a long line of individuals seeking after spiritual truth. He was, instead, truth itself. He was God incarnate. He alone could say, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
The Bible indicates that there is only one way that a person can be certain that he (or she) will spend eternity with God, and that way is to trust in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation. And, if the Bible is truly God’s infallible word to mankind, then any other perceived way to gain eternal life is just wishful thinking. [Click on “Is the Bible Reliable?” to learn the basis for believing that the Bible is God’s infallible word to mankind.]
[For other articles pertaining to whether or not it really matters what you believe, click on “What Must a Person Do to Be Assured of Eternal Salvation?” and/or “Will Everyone Ultimately Receive Eternal Salvation?”]