Some folks have reshaped the Bible and the gospel so that it is driven by the plan for personal salvation. The Greek word for salvation is soteria so it is accurate to refer to such thinkers as soterians and their gospel as the soterian gospel. There are ways of detecting whether we are soterians or truly evangelical, and by that I mean letting the gospel be shaped by the gospel text 1 Corinthians 15 or the gospel sermons in Acts or the Gospels (which are in fact the gospel itself), but one rather simple way is to ask how one explains judgment texts.
Here’s the thesis: No one in the Bible, when described in a judgment scene, is asked if they accepted, trust, or embraced the soterian gospel. In other words, “Did you accept Jesus into your heart consciously?” or “Did you walk the aisle to receive Christ?” or “Did you accept that Christ was your righteousness?” No one.
In fact, in every judgment scene in the Bible humans are judged not by a singular act of faith but by works. Every judgment scene indicates that, to use words I first heard from Howard Marshall years ago in a Tyndale House lecture, we may be saved by faith but we are judged by works. Of course, this is a complex issue but I believe the soterian gospel forces a reading of these texts that is not natural, while the apostolic gospel, what I call the The King Jesus Gospel, does not have the slightest trouble with the routine NT observation that we will be judged by works (and this is not about rewards but about destiny). If Jesus is king, if Jesus is the Lord who saves, if the gospel is to declare those facts about Jesus, then the response is to King Jesus, the Lord, and that means a whole-life surrender to him — and that means works are the sure sign (as Jesus teaches, as Paul teaches) that one is a kingdom citizen.
So I will simply put on the table today a few of these texts, and the test is this: Do you permit the plain reading of these texts or do they make your theology squirm some?
Matt. 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day,a ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Matt. 16:27 For the Son of Mana is going to comeb in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
Matt. 25:31 “When the Son of Man comesa in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separatea the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdoma prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me,a I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
1Cor. 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundationb as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
2Cor. 5:6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.