Henry: Do you know for sure that you’re going to heaven?
Charity: I don’t think God is ever going to stop loving me, so… yes. I think I’ll be in heaven some day.
Henry: You may ‘think’ you are going to heaven, but I have faith in Jesus, so I have been assured of my salvation. I know I’m going to heaven.
Charity: Isn’t that kind of arrogant? Aren’t you assuming that you have a special place in the eyes of God while the rest of us occupy some less esteemed position? I thought God was not a respecter of persons, Acts: 10:34.
Henry: Yes. But, you should keep the context in mind. Peter goes on to say in the next verse that in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted by God.
Charity: But, how can God claim not to esteem one person over the other when he clearly makes a distinction between those who fear him and do good works and those who do not. I at least fear God and do good works, so I still don’t perceive a difference between you and me. Still, it seems God respects us but he does not respect others.
Henry: Doing good things will not get you to heaven. As they say, the road to hell is wide but the narrow path leads to heaven. Some will find it, many will not, Matthew 7:13-14. And there is a difference between you and me. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6. And, God esteems all people the same because he loves us all equally. It does not mean, though, that we aren’t divided into groups: the saved and the lost.
Charity: What does the division of humanity ultimately result in?
Henry: The natural result of sin is death, Romans 6: 23. But the gift of God is eternal life. We must receive the gift of life from God if we are to go to heaven and that involves having faith in him.
Charity: I have faith in God. I trust him. He loves me and I think I will be with him because he loves us all equally as you say. If he loves us all equally then we all have received the gift.
Henry: No, no, no. You’re get this all wrong. We are divided into the saved and the lost. Some have received the gift and some have not.
Charity: You mean, God gives the gift to some and not to others?
Henry: Not exactly. It’s given to all, but every person has to decide if they will receive the gift. Those who receive it will be with God. Those who do not receive it will be separated from God.
Charity: But the verse didn’t say we had to receive it. It just said it was a gift.
Henry: But, if I give you a million dollars, you must receive it in order for it to be yours. It is the same with salvation. You must receive the gift of salvation or it is not yours.
Charity: That makes sense, but how do you know if you have received it? Is there some method of confirmation that eternal life is in your possession?
Henry: If you confess Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, Romans 10. Call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved.
Charity: So, my salvation is all on me? Doesn’t confession and belief fall under the category of good works? I must assent to certain propositions, namely that Jesus existed, that he was the Christ, that Jesus died, that God exists, that he raised Jesus from the grave, that Jesus is alive, and that he offers me eternal life as a gift. Not only that but I must confess all of this verbally or mentally. That’s actually a lot to do, considering that I’m not sure about any of this. You may be convinced all of this is true, but I am not fully convinced. I’m not rejecting this, don’t get me wrong, but I really have to do some historical research on Jesus, and verify this method of salvation. I can’t believe or confess something that I’m not fully convinced of. This ‘gift’ is turning out to be a lot of work.
Henry: But you don’t have to do any research, you just have to believe and confess.
Charity: Well, that would be half-hearted belief. I would hope this was all true, of course. But, do you think God wants people to believe all these things without knowing whether or not they are true?
Henry: You can take my word for it. It is true. Actually, don’t take my word for it. Read the Bible. It will verify all of this.
Charity: You’re adding to this list of works I must do.
Henry: Wait a minute. I didn’t have to do all that historical research. In fact, I didn’t really have to search the Bible. These verses were pointed out to me by my family, my friends, and my pastor. I believed them all and I accepted Christ as my Savior. I showed you the same verses that were shown to me. In hopes that you might be saved as well. Besides, salvation comes not by righteous works by us, but God saves us by his mercy. Salvation is from God, not us. It doesn’t come by works, Ephesians 2:8-9.
Charity: You’re confusing me here. You did tell me I had to assent to a certain number of propositions and at least confess with my mouth a few of those propositions before I can be saved. Those are good works. You can’t tell me to do things and not to do things at the same time. Now that I think about it, I have to believe you too — that you’re not trying to lead me the wrong way. I’m sure you are sincere, but so are so many others who espouse other beliefs. I’m not saying you’re deceiving me, but what if you yourself are deceived? How do you know your family, friends, and pastor weren’t deceived?
Henry: Now look here, God is good. He would not deceive me, nor did he send into my life a bunch of lies. God is truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6. I believe the Bible is true and I believe in Him. He is worth believing in, and I am telling you about him. He is the truth.
Charity: Henry, I didn’t have the luxury of growing up the way you did. I’m just not sure about the things you are so sure about. I wish I was sure. But, you aren’t helping things when you tell me salvation doesn’t come from works and then tell me some things to do and believe. I either must do these things or I must not. This ‘gift’ you talk about is very complicated.
Henry: But, these things aren’t good works. They’re not in the same category as works. They are beliefs.
Charity: You’re telling me beliefs are effortless? What about the wrong beliefs? Are they effortless too? Do beliefs just come upon me without my say so? Do I have no choice in this? If I have a choice, then it takes my effort and therefore I must exert mental work, and, at least when it comes to me, I must research these things you mention to see if they are true. Doesn’t the Bible say to test the spirits to see if they are true because not all of them are from God, 1 John 4:1? And doesn’t the book of James say that faith without works is dead, James 2:20? Is a dead faith a faith that God honors?
To Be Continued…..