What “Saves” a Christian?

by Vince

I finished last night Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived. I have mixed reviews about the book; I appreciated some of the questions Bell asks but I didn’t always agree with some of his conclusions. In the end, it is a somewhat choppy read (his writing style is as if he is giving a sermon) but lighter than what I’ve been reading lately.

Chapter 1 asks a lot of good questions. The general question asked is this: how is a Christian “saved”, meaning how do they get to heaven and have their sins forgiven? I grew up in the Protestant faith the past 6 years with the idea that you are forgiven as a Christian by believing Jesus is your Lord and Savior, that he was born a virgin birth, performed miracles, suffered on the cross, died, was buried, and rose on the third day. I also have been taught to believe that being “saved” requires you to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus.

I don’t see anything wrong with believing the above tenets. A problem that arises is that the second one – having a personal relationship – is written nowhere in The Bible.

If we are to go back to The Bible, most notably the Christian New Testament (and not simply the beliefs of The Bible that have arose over the past 100 or so years), we will find some “unorthodox” ways of being “saved”. An important note to add: it can be questioned whether some of these people listed are even Christians!

Luke 23: the man hanging next to Jesus on the cross is assured that he and Jesus will be together in paradise. Is it what we say that saves us?
Matthew 6: forgive others, you then are forgiven. Don’t forgive others, you won’t be forgiven. Do we have to forgive others to be saved?
Matthew 7: not everyone who says ‘LORD, LORD’ will enter the kingdom, but only those who do the will of the Father. Do we have to do the will of the Father to be saved?
Matthew 10: those who stand firm till the end will be saved. Do we have to stand firm to be saved?
Luke 7: a woman who has lived a “sinful life” washed Jesus feet with perfume. Jesus tells her that her sins have been forgiven. Will washing Jesus’ feet with your tears and perfume get you saved?
Luke 19: Zacchaeus tells Jesus that he gives half of his possessions to the poor and he pays back anyone he has cheated four times the amount due. Jesus responds: today salvation has come to this house. Does saying what we are going to do save us?
Mark 2: Jesus is teaching, some men cut a hole in a roof, lower their friend down to be healed, and Jesus sees their act (the friends of the paralyzed man in need of healing) of faith and responds ‘son, your sins are forgiven’. Are we saved because of who our friends are or what they do?
1 Timothy 2: women will be saved through childbearing. Are you saved as a woman through giving birth to a child?
Acts 22: Saul (soon to become Paul) has his conversion on the road to Damascus. The gist of the story is this: Paul is asked a question, he then responds with a question, and then he goes into a city to do something. Are we saved by the questions we are asked, by what questions we ask in return, or by going somewhere and doing what we are told?


So in the end, Christian community, what saves us? It doesn’t seem so clear and unambiguous after all, does it?

P.S. – read Rob Bell’s book for yourself and don’t simply be told what the book says or stands for.

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