Are We Able to Earn Our Salvation?

 And we all have become like the unclean, and all our deeds of justice like a menstrual cloth, And we all wither like a leaf, and our iniquities take us away like the wind.

Isaiah 64:6

Are we able to save ourselves by performing the correct acts at the appropriate times? What is the formula for salvation? What if we didn’t go to the right number of church services or didn’t give enough money to the right church denomination? What if we smoke or consume alcohol? What if we didn’t wear the proper clothes? When I was a young person, I remember there being a suit and tie debate where if someone didn’t “dress their best” for church, there were likely deeply rooted spiritual problems, or the person had a rebellious heart. One of the common misconceptions when someone leaves behind church traditions and starts keeping God’s commandments, is that the person is trying to earn their salvation.

Deuteronomy 6:24–25 (LEB): 24 And so Yahweh commanded us to observe all of these rules and to revere Yahweh our God for our benefit all the days that we live, as it is today. 25 And it shall be righteousness for us if we diligently observe and do all of this commandment before Yahweh our God, as he has commanded us.’

After Moses retold the story of the Creator God, “Yud Heh Waw Heh“, who had given the commandments to the people of Israel, he continued by telling the people why they were commanded to obey these commandments. There are three reasons given to keep God’s commandments in the verses from Deuteronomy 6 above.

  1. To revere Yahweh. Revere is used for the Hebrew word Yirah, which means to fear, honor and respect.
  2. They are for our benefit. Benefit is used for the Hebrew word Tov, which means, good, well being, prosperity and joy.
  3. It shall be righteousness for us. Righteousness is used for the Hebrew word Tsadiqah, which means ethically right, honesty, justice and moral conduct.

The idiom “fear God” means to keep the commandments. We keep His commandments out of respect for who God is and because He will save us. The Messiah Yeshua told us the commandments were eternal life.

John 12:49–50 (LEB): 49 For I have not spoken from myself, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So the things that I say, just as the Father said to me, thus I say.”

Doing what the Father told us to do is what makes us righteous. It is not because we perform righteousness, but because we are doing what He told us to do. Our good deeds are meaningless if they are not in line with God’s commandments. These are the deeds we determine to be important, not the commandments of God. One must learn the difference between the traditions of men and the commandments of God.

Isaiah 64:5–6 (LEB): You meet with the one who rejoices, one who does righteousness. In your ways they remember you. Look! You were angry and we sinned against them in ancient times and we were saved. And we all have become like the unclean, and all our deeds of justice like a menstrual cloth, And we all wither like a leaf, and our iniquities take us away like the wind.

Our deeds are like filthy rags, but this is not talking about His righteous deeds. Doing the Father’s righteousness is to our benefit because it will keep us safe, it is healthy and we will be blessed. If we look around us, most of the problems in people’s lives come from not obeying God’s commandments. It is not punishment as much as it is the way the system is designed, much like the laws of physics. Everyone knows if they fall from a high place they will fall at an acceleration rate of 32 feet per second or 9.7 Meters per second. No one questions this, even though most have not conducted the experiment themselves. We can witness someone falling and hitting the ground and rationalize it knowing that is what happens when someone “breaks” the laws of physics. Yet when we look at someone living a life contrary to God’s laws, dealing with various issues and turmoil as a result, it is not as obvious to the bystander. God gave Israel the instructions to successively live on planet Earth, and they handed it to the rest of the world through Yeshua the Messiah. This is the reason Yeshua is called the door. All of the promises were given to Israel. They only get extended to everyone else through the “seed” of Abraham, which is Yeshua.

John 10:1–10 (LEB): 10 “Truly, truly I say to you, the one who does not enter through the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up at some other place—that one is a thief and a robber. But the one who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. For this one the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he sends out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And they will never follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what it was that he was saying to them. Then Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All those who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep do not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and will go out and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only so that he can steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Keeping God’s commandments are beneficial to us because there are blessings associated with them. Here are a few of the blessings for keeping God’s commandments. This is the abundant life Yeshua promises.

Leviticus 26:2–5 (LEB): “ ‘You shall keep my Sabbaths, and you shall revere my sanctuary; I am Yahweh. “ ‘If you walk in my statutes and you keep my commands and you do them, then I will give you rains in their time, and the land shall give its produce, and the trees of the field shall give their fruit. And for you the threshing season shall overtake the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall overtake the sowing, and you shall eat your food to your fill and you shall live securely in your land.

If one keeps the Sabbath day holy it does not mean they are working for their salvation. It is simply aligning oneself with the kingdom of God. All of the commandments are this way.

John 14:23–26 (LEB): 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and will take up residence with him. 24 The one who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. 25 These things I have spoken to you while residing with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name—that one will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything that I said to you.

The Israelites knew that they would not reap the benefits of the covenants by trying to earn them. How can a man impress God to the point where God thinks they are worthy of a gift from the Almighty?

Genesis 26:2–5 (LEB): And Yahweh appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land which I will show to you. Dwell as an alien in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. And I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and I will give to your descendants all these lands. And all nations of the earth will be blessed through your offspring, because Abraham listened to my voice and kept my charge: my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

Abraham caused God to bless all the nations of the Earth, “because Abraham listened to my voice and kept my charge: my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” What if everyone did this? The world would be a much different place. Often the thief on the cross is used as an example to try to say that we do not contribute anything to the difference between life separated from God, and life in the kingdom of God. Is this true?

Luke 23:39–42 (LEB): 39 And one of the criminals who were hanged there reviled him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself—and us!” 40 But the other answered and rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, because you are undergoing the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong!” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”

One thief acknowledged his guilt and one didn’t. One asked Yeshua to remember him in the kingdom, and one didn’t. If the one that repented was able to get down off of the cross and return to a life of sin, what would his end be? Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader, met Yeshua at night and these are some of the truths he spoke to him.

John 3:3–7 (LEB)

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is an old man? He is not able to enter into his mother’s womb for the second time and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘It is necessary for you to be born from above.’

John 3:20–21 (LEB): 20 For everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. 21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, in order that his deeds may be revealed, that they are done in God.

Yeshua told Nicodemus one has to be “born from above” and born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God. This is a transformation that gives us a new body at the resurrection because “flesh and blood” cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is our role in obtaining eternal life? Can we do anything that will save us? The answer is of course “no”, because it is a gift from God to pardon us, but it appears there are things we must do in this walk leading to eternal life. The Spirit transforms us when we repent and yield to God. Repenting is doing something. “Practicing truth” is keeping God’s commandments. “Practicing evil” is not keeping God’s commandments. The thief on the cross that repented is the one that will be in the kingdom on the day the dead are raised. The one that mocked Yeshua will not. There is a substantial difference between the two.

Mark 10:17–22 (LEB): 17 And as* he was setting out on his way, one individual ran up and knelt down before him and* asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do so that I will inherit eternal life?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all that you have, and give the proceeds* to the poor—and you will have treasure in heaven—and come, follow me.” 22 But he looked gloomy at the statement and* went away sorrowful, because he had many possessions.

Do we want a “thief on the cross” experience and reserve a place in the kingdom at the last minute after a life of sin, or do we want to please the Father our whole life by keeping His commandments and practicing the truth? Fear God and keep His commandments just as Moses and Yeshua both told us to do!

Featured photo was provided by Emma Vail Photography.

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