Did Pope Francis say that even an Atheist can be saved by works alone? Well not directly, but in a roundabout way he may have alluded to that is how we are redeemed. Emphasis is on, may. You know me; I can’t ever let misinformation float out there without clarification.
Don’t get me wrong. Pope Benedict has set an awesome tone for Christianity all over the globe. His first message and his continuing message is that of humility and service to the kingdom by caring for and ministering to the less fortunate. He shatters the old glass of the appearance of elitism within the church. I have had an issue with that for a long time. Not with all churches and certainly not those that are reflecting the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. But I have to address this video blog from Huff Post Live and the accompanying article.
To set the record straight, I have a huge problem with secular media offering commentary on spiritual matters. Their motives, purposes and commentators are not in my humble opinion fit to do play by play on the church. I do think they are an important sounding board for Pastors and church leadership when you want to hear the objections and concerns of everyday people regarding organized religion. A side note: While organization is not a prerequisite of religion as it is being defined in the world today, generally a religion is organized after a few people take a hold of it. But we are not talking about religion. We are talking about a way of life based upon a scriptural truth upon which the Christian Church is founded. You have to make the assumption that if you are talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then the Holy Bible is a relevant and credible source of instruction from God. A belief system shrouded in faith in God, as a trinity and Christ is part of that trinity. As such Christ possesses the deity and characteristic of God because he is God. If we were talking on a global level, perhaps we could debate that issue. We are not; we are talking about the Church and its foundational beliefs. We are also talking about the Pope the earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church, largely believed by many to be the voice of Christ’s church as he established it.[i]
In their web content on May 22, 2013 at www.huffingtonpost.com, the Huffington Post reported the following;
“Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists.
During his homily at Wednesday Mass in Rome, Francis emphasized the importance of “doing good” as a principle that unites all humanity, and a “culture of encounter” to support peace.
Using scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Francis explained how upset Jesus’ disciples were that someone outside their group was doing good, according to a report from Vatican Radio.”
The headline read, Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics for those of us who are students of the Bible and regularly attend church and believe in God, this has a far reaching connotation that may be overlooked by many. I just wanted to clarify the matter for those who are committed to being skillful in Apologetics and the tenants of their faith. For many Christians this might look like everybody can get into heaven by doing good works. The thought process even spills over to people who are at a crossroads with their decision to confess Christ. One common objection to surrendering to Christ as their Lord and savior is, “I am a good person so I should go to heaven.” Well, that is not exactly true.
The pope used scriptures from Mark that were not articulated. This makes it difficult to specifically address the exact scripture. However, the substance of the message reported is clearly a part of a premise that we find well outlined in the Gospels and Pauline Epistles. Christ came to pay the ransom for the Jew and Gentile, (Non-Jew). That pretty much seals the deal that everyone has the ability to be saved. Either you are a Jew or you are not. Redemption refers to redemption from sin. Redeemed means bought or paid for. Our ransom for our sins was paid by Christ when he died on Calvary’s cross. 2 Corinthians 5:14 New Living Translation, (NLT), “Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live.” In Romans 6:23, NLT, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So in its proper context, Christ did redeem us all. It doesn’t matter who we are, he died for all of man, his creation so that we would be with him forever. This brings me to my next point. Just because Christ died for our sins does not mean we are going to heaven. OMG! What did you just say Pastor Offer? Just because Jesus died for our sins does not mean we are going to heaven. As you just saw in Romans it says that the FREE GIFT of God is eternal life. Just because my wife buys me a suit doesn’t mean that I can wear it. There is a little ceremony involved with that proposition. First she gives it to me, and then I accept it. Once I accept the gift, then I can wear it. God loves us and has offered the gift to us, but we have to accept it. This is where the overall interpretation of the Pope’s message, and perhaps the message itself, falls off the tracks.
John 3:16, KJV, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” It is through the shedding of Jesus’ blood that our sins are covered by his perfect sacrifice. There was no other person that could have died for all of mankind’s sins; past, present and future. Jesus is it. So, Oprah and whoever else disputes it, there is but one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. John 14:6, NLT, Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” So Jesus declared it, that he was the only way to get to the Father in heaven.
Let us look at Romans 10:9 just to bring home the point that I am making. That scripture outlines the path to salvation succinctly by saying, “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Point one: If you want to have eternal life you have to first confess that Jesus Christ is who he says he is. From the Christian perspective there is no compromise and no chance of deviation from God’s plan. If you want the FREE GIFT of salvation and take advantage of your redemption, then you must confess Christ. Ergo, accept him as your Lord and savior. Acceptance that he did in fact die for you and he was that perfect sacrifice for you, is you admitting that you are first of all are a sinner and that you needed a sacrifice for your sin. Remember Romans 6:23, Christ paid that wage for you on your behalf before you even knew there was a God.
Point Two: You have to believe he is a live. If he is not alive, he was a dude that died as a sacrifice for you, but he wasn’t any better than a goat on the altar. But if you believe that God has raised him from the dead, the rest of the Gospel comes alive. Jesus is alive and risen from the dead. Jesus is coming back for all who died in the hope of the Gospel and those that are alive waiting for his return. He will come back and take us to be with him in heaven for ever. Thus, we have salvation and a completed redemption.
Now about this good works thing. It sounds like the Pope was sharing that there is good in everyone and there is still hope for everyone to be saved. I believe that too. All Christians should believe that as well. Otherwise, what is the purpose of sharing the Gospel with everyone? Jesus commanded Christians in Matthew 28:19-20, NLT, “19 – Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 -Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He wants us to teach them all of his ways. The only way to salvation is through confession of and faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing about works is even mentioned as a method of salvation. That sounds vaguely familiar of some other religious doctrine but not God’s. Ephesians 2:8 and 9, KJV, “8 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 – Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Works doesn’t cut it. Salvation is the product of God’s grace activated by our faith.
While an atheist, ax murderer, terrorist and the world’s worst sinners have access to the Kingdom of heaven through Jesus Christ; their good works are not to be confused with a pass to get into heaven. Good people don’t get into heaven. Believers get into heaven. Atheist, unfortunately, do not believe in God. They do not believe in Jesus. They do not believe in Heaven or Hell. Yet, in the Holy Bible, which is the basis for all that is Christian, all of these things are true and must be accepted in order to fulfill the requirements for Salvation. Without them, there is no need for Christ. But the reality is, they are real and Christ has provided a real solution to the judgment issues we all face when we die. I leave you with this one final scripture on the issue of being good. Romans 3:10, NLT, “As the Scriptures say, “No one is good — not even one.” It is only through the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ that God can see us as good. Our righteousness is not righteousness and is at best a pile of horse poo. But God’s righteousness which is given to us through the precious flow of Jesus’ blood makes us whole and righteous in the eyes of the Lord. It is at that time, that we are under his grace and can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and join all of the angels, our Lord Jesus and the Father himself.
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