Sometimes it is necessary to remind oneself that salvation is not a matter of religious observance of rituals or laws, or self-righteous denial of foods or drink, but it is ONLY the result of what Christ Jesus did on the cross.

As I was studying in Philippians 3, it became apparent that the Apostle Paul was persecuted because of his recognition of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.  You could call Paul a “Pharisee’s Pharisee”, in that he was zealous for the law and rituals of the Pharisees, far above that of his contemporaries.  But once he had that experience on the road to Damascus, Paul was forever changed, and once that happened, he became the enemy of the religious establishment.

            It is written in Philippians 3:1-14,

 1  Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

 2  Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

 3  For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

 4  Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

 5  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

 6  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

 7  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

 8  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

 9  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

 10  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

 11  If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

 12  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

 13  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

 14  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

            The amazing thing is how profoundly Paul was impacted by his meeting with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.  That Paul would totally forsake all he had been taught, and teach Christ is the only source of salvation, even at the cost of all he had worked for, and at the hazard of his life, speaks volumes of the truth that he had grasped, that his eyes were truly opened to see that his “works of righteousness” that he did before were as filthy rags to God.

I can imagine the conflict he must have had with his own mind, to be able to walk away from all he previously knew, to become one of the strongest disciples of Christ to ever live.  And Jesus told him he would suffer much for His name, and yet Paul went in fully aware of what awaited him, and did it eagerly.

How many of us today would be willing to forget everything they thought they knew about God to lay hold onto Christ Jesus, forsaking their own “righteousness” of observing their chosen religious acts, to proclaim Christ Jesus as their only salvation?  It’s a bit scary to turn loose of the “bird in your hand for the one in the bush”, and rely ONLY upon Jesus for your salvation.  But Jesus DID say that no man comes to the Father, but by him.  That rules out observing diets, the Sabbath, the Law, and Moses, and all those things that once felt “comfortable”, and “reasonable”, to clamp onto Jesus for dear life and trust Him to bring us unto salvation.

I personally battled with those things for years, having been brought up in the Old Testament, that salvation came from observing Laws.  When Jesus came into my life, then I tried to add Jesus to my recipe of salvation by works, only to go through a lot of confusion and grief, trying to reconcile the Old Covenant with the New, and finding I just couldn’t do it.  It was like trying to mix oil with water, you could stir them up and make them mix, but as soon as you quit stirring, they separated again, because they were never created to mix in the first place.

It’s odd to me how Jesus said in John 4:21-26 as He spoke to the woman at the well,

21  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

 22  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

 23  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

 24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

 25  The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.

 26  Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

            Jesus indeed said, “Salvation is of the Jews”, making one think that observing their laws and rituals would result in salvation, but when reading on, we readily see that Jesus was born a Jewish man, and later, salvation would be by HIM, and not the Jewish laws.  Imagine the boldness of that statement: the general consensus being that if one would be saved, they had to keep the laws of Moses, but NOW, all that is changing, and salvation would be by Jesus ONLY, not our religious observances, but by grace, and grace only.   And it’s hard even today to turn loose of the feeling that one must HELP Jesus save us by adding our own righteousness to His sacrifice.        

There are denominations yet today who observe this and that, and are convinced their righteousness before God must surely be their works, leaving Christ out of the picture altogether.  But if not for what Christ Jesus did for us, there would be no salvation to be had by any means, for it is written in Ephesians 2:1-9,

 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

 2  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

 3  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 

 4  But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

 5  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 

 6  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

 7  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

 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.

            Why is it so difficult to rely only upon Christ Jesus for our salvation?  Our human nature wants to HELP, we want to add OUR WAY, to God’s way, and like water and oil, that just doesn’t mix.  And thus so many are confused and frustrated, when they can’t make it work.

The greatest gift God has ever given mankind is salvation offered to “whosoever will”.  He doesn’t need us to add anything to make it work, but just to accept it as a GIFT, and not a WAGE.  And like it says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Will our works change once we have received Christ Jesus?  Sure.  But we must make sure our works are not changing in order to “EARN” our salvation.  Like it is written, it’s not a wage, but a gift, and we are not to confuse the two.

How about YOU?  Have you received the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our LORD?  Or are you still trying to earn your way in to God’s Kingdom?  There is no greater gift that that of salvation, and there is no greater gift you can give to your family and the world, than your changed life for Christ Jesus.  And one size fits all, so don’t worry about having to exchange it later, you’ll be most happy with your gift just as He gave it!