4.1 If I follow God will that not be all right?
Deuteronomy c11v1 says, “Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, always.” Properly following God includes keeping all His commandments all of the time. Have you done that?
4.2 Can I atone, or make up, for my own sins? Can I do penance, i.e. acts of self punishment, to express my sorrow for my sins?
The word “penance” is not found in the Bible and neither is the idea found there. The Bible tells us that all our righteousnesses (that is, all the best we have to offer) are no better than filthy rags (and therefore unacceptable) before God (4a). As previously said, we have all fallen short of God’s character and right standards and so there is no way that we can atone for our sins. It is not penance that God wants, nor merely being sorry for sin, nor remorse, but repentance.
4.3 What do you mean by repentance?
Repentance is a change of mind about: sin, self, God and Christ. It is a change of attitude which changes life’s actions. It involves not just the mind but also the conscience. It is the sinner’s acknowledgment of their sinfulness, ungodliness, helplessness and hopelessness before God, and their need of grace. It is an about face. It is taking sides with God against one’s self. It involves sorrow for sin, but it is more than this as you can be sorry for sin and yet not turn away from it.
4.4 Isn’t there some way I can earn or merit my salvation as that would please me?
- Earning salvation by works is such a popular teaching because it makes people think that they can be their own saviour. It gives a place of honour to people’s sinful nature which God’s law rightly condemns.
- Due to your own sin there is no way you can earn or deserve salvation. Supposing a robber was convicted of stealing five million pounds and he pleaded that since the robbery he had done good things and so should not go to prison. Should the judge let him off his crime’s just punishment because of his good deeds? No. To let him off would be unjust because the good deeds did not wipe out the fact of his theft. That principle also applies to God and us.
- God says that anyone who receives salvation is saved by grace, i.e. undeserved favour, alone. Romans c3v19 says “Now we know that what things soever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified (made right) in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” As quoted before Ephesians c2v8-9 says, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
4.5 But I must take responsibility for myself. Isn’t that all right?
If you take responsibility for yourself then, because of your sin, you must yourself bear the just judgment of God in hell forever and never see heaven. Is that what you really want?
4.6 Then do I understand that you don’t believe in doing good works?
As we have already noted, God’s Word teaches that we are not saved by doing good works, but once we are saved, we should be characterized by good works. So good works, which God can help us to do, are not the cause but they are the effect, or not the root but the fruit, of salvation (4b).
4a Isaiah c64v6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
4b Ephesians c2v10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”