Saved by Faith and We Can Enter God’s Kingdom? Not Exactly
One day, when I preached, I spoke of the great disaster that was about to come. So I exhorted brothers and sisters to attend meetings actively, put more effort in reading the Bible, and follow the Lord’s way in real life, so that we could watch and wait for the return of the Lord. But I saw some brothers and sisters remain weak and full of doubts whether they could be raptured to the kingdom of heaven. Then I explained, “Brothers and sisters, the Bible says, ‘For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Rom 10:10). As long as we believe in the Lord in our hearts and confirm our belief in Him with our words, our faith will allow us to obtain eternal salvation. When the Lord comes again, we will surely be raptured to the kingdom of heaven.” Hearing what I said, brothers and sisters were all happy and they had some strength. At this moment, co-worker Zhang stood up and said, “I don’t think so. The Lord Jesus said, ‘But he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Mat 7:21). This clearly tells us that only those who do the will of God can enter the kingdom of heaven. Although we have been saved, we’re still committing sins during the day and repenting at night. This’s not doing the will of the heavenly Father. I think we will still be unable to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The brothers and sisters were just happy, but a few words of co-worker Zhang quelled their excitement at once. I looked around, thought for a short while, and said hastily, “Brothers and sisters, brother Paul said in the Book of Galatians 3:26, ‘For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.’ This shows that we believe in the Lord, so we are His children. In that case, we will definitely be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Co-worker Zhang took my words, “Brother Ma, I don’t agree with what you’re saying. 1 Peter 1:16 says, ‘Be you holy; for I am holy.’ And Hebrews 12:14 says, ‘and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ From these two verses, we can see clearly that God’s substance is holy. Although we have been saved, we often sin and confess, and we don’t become holy. We are unworthy to see the Lord’s face. How can we enter the kingdom of heaven?”
At this point, brother Chen stood up. He pointed at the Bible in his hand and said seriously, “Brothers and sisters, apostle Paul already told us clearly in the Book of Romans 8:33–34, ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns?’ We have been God’s elects. Both our sins of the past and those of the future have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus. He doesn’t see us as sinners. We have been justified, so we will certainly enter the kingdom of heaven. This is undoubtable. I agree with brother Ma’s point.”
Co-worker Zhang firmly said, “Brothers and sisters, since the Scripture says, ‘and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord,’ and the Lord Jesus also told us that only those who do the will of the heavenly Father can enter the kingdom of heaven. This is sufficient to prove that only those who attain holiness can enter the kingdom of God. We must keep the Lord’s words.”
I said loudly, “My fellow co-workers, on the question of being saved, Paul already told us clearly, ‘For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God’ (Eph 2:8). ‘And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work’ (Rom 11:6). Paul’s words are very clear. The Lord’s salvation is freely given to us and does not depend on our works. If this depends on our works, then is that called the Lord’s grace? Now we can rely on the Lord’s grace to be saved into the kingdom of heaven.”
Brother Chen raised his hand and said, “Brother Ma is right. Paul in the book of Timothy also said, ‘Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began’ (2Ti 1:9), so we who believe in Jesus can enter the kingdom of heaven based on His grace. If it were based on our works, who then could be saved?”
Co-worker Zhang stood up with emotion, and said, “Brothers and sisters, whether we believers can enter the kingdom of heaven is decided by what the Lord Jesus said or by what Paul said? Is it the Lord Jesus’ words that have authority or Paul’s words? Do we confess that the Lord Jesus is the truth, the way, and the life?” Everyone looked at each other, and said, “Of course we do!”
This word of brother Zhang reminded me. I thought: “Right! We believers should focus on the Lord’s words, but why do I keep speaking of Paul’s words?” Thinking of this, I calmed down and continued to listen to brother Zhang’s fellowship.
Co-worker Zhang said, “Since we confess that the Lord Jesus is the truth, the way, and the life, and what Paul said opposes what our Lord Jesus said, that would explain what Paul said carries tares. It comes from human will and is not the truth. I would rather believe what the Lord Jesus said, ‘But he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ This is the sole standard for entering the kingdom of heaven.”
At this moment, brother Guo also stood up emotionally, and said, “We believers in God should set the Lord Jesus’ words as the standard. Because the Lord Jesus is the only Lord of the kingdom of heaven. His word is the only truth, and the only authority. His word carrying authority means what He said counts. Paul is not the Lord of the kingdom of heaven, his word does not carry authority, nor do they count. Paul is nothing more than an apostle, having a corrupt human nature. He himself need God’s salvation. Whether everyone can enter the kingdom of heaven is still decided by the Lord Jesus. What rights does he have to decide if others can enter the kingdom of heaven?”
Seeing that everyone nodded with approval, I asked, “Brother Zhang, you’re right. We who believe in the Lord should have the Lord Jesus’ words as the standard. But I have not yet understood the difference between being saved and entering the kingdom of heaven. Could you share your opinion?”
Co-worker Zhang said in a calm way, “I’ve studied this aspect of verses over and over again these few days. I think being saved refers to being free from the condemnation of the law, and that it refers to sins being forgiven. But those who have been saved can still resist and oppose God through sinning, so they don’t become holy and they still live under Satan’s domain, while those who can enter the kingdom of heaven ought to be those who do the will of our Father in heaven, who obey God’s words. They are those who know God and submit to God, who are compatible with Him. So, being saved and entering the kingdom of heaven are two different matters. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘many are called, but few are chosen’ (Mat 22:14). This shows that people who come and believe in the Lord are many, but few can enter the kingdom of heaven in the end. It also manifests God’s righteous disposition.”
Brother Guo also said, “I agree with brother Zhang’s point of view. The Lord Jesus said, ‘the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Mat 11:12). We can see from the Lord’s words that entering the kingdom of heaven has its standards. It’s not so easy to enter it as what we thought. We can’t get into it just by relying on grace. We must work hard to follow the Lord’s way before entering it.”
Although what they said makes sense, I still had doubts in my heart. Then I said, “To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must do the will of our heavenly Father. This is right. But haven’t we been imitating Paul, forsaking everything for the Lord’s work? Even many brothers and sisters never get married, offering their whole life to the Lord. They cross mountains to preach the gospel of the Lord. It can be said that every Christian suffers a lot and pays much price so as to enter the kingdom of heaven. Is this not doing the will of our heavenly Father? I believe that as long as we carry on like this, we will definitely enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Co-worker Zhang put down the Bible in his hand, and he said, “Brothers and sisters, we can study the Bible carefully. The Lord Jesus has never said that if we forsook everything and labored for Him, we would enter the kingdom of heaven. The Lord Jesus only said, ‘But he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ I think that those who truly do the will of the heavenly Father should be those who love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind. They work and suffer for the Lord not in order to covet their own benefits and prospects, but completely to love God and repay His love. They can care for God’s will in everything, and whatever they encounter, they no longer sin or resist God. All that they do is in order to break away from sins and become holy. Only such people who work for the Lord will be qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Brother Guo who was in deep thought said, “Brother Zhang is right! The Bible says, ‘he that does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous’ (1Jn 3:7). The righteous here are not those ‘justified by faith,’ but those who do the works of righteousness and never sin. While we may now lay all aside for the Lord’s work, we still often sin and are not truly righteous. We are not worthy to enter the kingdom of God.”
I didn’t agree with his opinion, so I retorted, “But Paul said, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness …’ (2Ti 4:7–8). We preach the gospel, toil and labor for the Lord, and keep the Lord’s way. Isn’t this doing the will of our heavenly Father?”
Co-worker Zhang said very calmly, “Brother Ma, based on your opinion, when the Pharisees traveled over land and sea, suffering much for spreading the gospel everywhere, and having some outward good behaviors, were they then doing the will of our heavenly Father? As we all know, the Pharisees suffered and sacrificed outwardly for God, but they could still oppose God and nail Jesus on the cross. That’s sufficient to prove that outward sufferings and good behaviors do not represent doing the will of our heavenly Father, nor do they represent knowing and submitting to God. In the same way, today we suffer for the Lord, we have some good behaviors outwardly, but we can still sin often and resist God. We are still not those who do the will of our heavenly Father, and are still not worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven!”
At his words, I was utterly convinced. It is a fact that we all live in sin. When we work for the Lord, we still have our personal intentions and viewpoints of exchange, as well as a desire for blessings. This is also a fact.
Everyone heatedly shared their own views and knowledge on this topic. When our gathering was nearing its end, I said happily to the others, “Brothers and sisters, Thank God. This debate today allows us to understand that being saved isn’t equivalent to entering the kingdom of heaven. It turns around my incorrect point of view. We can’t be saved by grace. I realized that no matter how we believe in God and labor for the Lord, as long as our sins remain, we can’t truly achieve doing the will of God. So we can’t be approved by God, nor can we enter the kingdom of God. It can be seen that God is the God who is holy and righteous. We can’t always believe in God with our own notions and imaginations but should pursue according to the standards for entering the kingdom of heaven that God requires of us. Only in this way, can we finally act in harmony with God’s will, and can our belief in God be approved by Him.” Brothers and sisters all nodded their heads and agreed.
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