Although I have been Christian for some time, about a year ago I read once again the 25th chapter of Matthew, which made an impression on me that previously it had not. In the chapter, Jesus Christ offers some definition about who are sheep and who are goats, goats being the ones who are destroyed on Christ’s return.
Before continuing with the discussion, please read Matthew 25:31-46:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.‘
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
As far as I can see, these words send a clear message. The message is that if we do not do as Christ said, our end will be disaster. This seems to clash with what many Christians believe with respect to salvation, that faith alone saves us. Christ says in this text that obedience saves us. It reinforces or is compatible with what Christ taught in Matthew 7:21-27:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Of course, it is clear that we do not save ourselves, but are saved by grace through faith. But the words of Jesus Christ cannot be obviated. He says we must do what he says, or otherwise we will end in disaster. There is no way for a Christian to deny or dispute this.
And yet, many Christians do dispute this. When I show them these statements of Christ, they have accused me of meaning to establish a works-based salvation, as they put it. They do headstands and somersaults in an attempt to prove that Christ does not mean what he means.
I do not understand what their motive could be for disputing the words of Christ. But it seems to me that many Christians are not saved at all, and that they are heading for disaster, not for salvation.
How do you get through to this kind of Christian? Is there a way to convince them to take Christ seriously?