Vol. 6, No. 7
~ Page 14 ~
There is a belief commonly shared among both active churchgoers, and non-churchgoers alike that says, As long as a person tries to be good, to be morally upright and to treat people fairly, he will be all right eternally.
Those who make this argument generally do so in defense of themselves or others who have little or no religious involvement or commitment. They often seek to bolster their position by saying that they can be just as close to God on the golf course, along the trout steam or on the ski slopes as others are in a church building. The argument is not nearly as convincing as they think it is. Is there any support for this way of thinking in the Bible? The answer to that question is an emphatic no!
Before I proceed, I need to acknowledge that faithful church attendance is no guarantee of salvation either. It is possible to be a faithful churchgoer and still be a scoundrel. So, no one should jump to the false conclusion that church attendance is all that God requires. As the late Jess Nutter was often heard to say, Sitting in a church building no more makes you a Christian than sitting in a hen house makes you a chicken.
Cornelius is an excellent example of the point I am making. He was a Roman centurion (a solider over 100 men) stationed at Caesarea, a city on the Mediterranean seacoast. According to the account of this man's conversion, he was devout, generous and prayerful (Acts 10:1-2). But what was his spiritual condition? In spite of these commendable and essential qualities, he was still lost. It is true that God heard and responded to his prayer. But, it was not his prayer that saved him. It was not until he heard the preaching of Peter, believed it and was baptized that this good man was saved (read the full account of his conversion in Acts 10 and 11).
It is wrong to equate religion and morality with salvation. It is possible for one to be very religious and morally upright and yet be lost. Cornelius was all of these things, but still needed to learn of Jesus. Christ himself offered this warning: Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness(Matthew 7:21-23). He was talking about religious people! Are you a Christian?