This is a list of some common objections to the Gospel.
- I’ve never broken God’s commandments.
- A lie isn’t a serious sin.
- I’ve only told one lie, and it was a long time ago when I was young and didn’t know better, and it didn’t hurt anybody.
- I’m a good person, so God won’t send me to Hell.
- The Bible says that God loves his children, so He’ll just forgive me.
- God will forgive me if I just say I’m sorry.
- Even the worst sin we could commit is still finite, so suffering an eternity in Hell is excessive.
- I don’t need Jesus to save me, because I’ve done some good works to make up for my sins.
- I think I can get to Heaven by following Buddha or Muhammad.
- So if Jesus is the only way into Heaven, then all those people living in the remote jungle who have never heard the Gospel will automatically be sent to Hell? That’s not fair.
- I think that Jesus died to give us the opportunity to be saved, but we still have to earn it through our good works.
- It was cruel of God to murder His son Jesus, who was innocent.
- I think I’ll just negotiate with God after I’m dead.
- God will give me a chance to work off my sins after death.
- I’ll just be reincarnated until I live a good enough life to enter Heaven.
- So if all my sins are forgiven, can I go murder someone and still get into Heaven?
- Once I’m saved, can I lose my salvation?
- It’s not fair that good people and bad people get the same reward.
- Don’t I need to be baptized to be saved?
Gospel Objection #1 – I’ve never broken God’s commandments.
Let me respond with a few Bible quotes:
- “For there is no one who does not sin.” (1 Kings 8:46)
- “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
- “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
- “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
We know from Romans 5:12 that all people sin because we have all inherited a sin nature from the first human, Adam. In fact, Psalm 51:5 says that we are all sinful from conception. Just ask any parent, did you have to teach your kids how to lie and hit and steal? No, it just comes naturally.
Gospel Objection #2 – A lie isn’t a serious sin.
Revelation 21:8 tells us that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire, so it’s obvious that God takes lying a lot more seriously than we do. So why is lying such a big deal? Hebrews 6:18 and Numbers 23:19 tell us that it is impossible for God to lie. Since a lie is contrary to God’s perfect and holy nature, that makes it a sin, and God can’t have fellowship with sin:
- “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
- “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You.” (Psalm 5:4)
- “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” (Habakkuk 1:13)
- “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
- “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
Gospel Objection #3 – I’ve only told one lie, and it was a long time ago when I was young and didn’t know better, and it didn’t hurt anybody.
Try saying that in a court of law: “Judge, I admit that I broke the law, but it was a victimless crime, it was a long time ago, and I didn’t even know that it was illegal.”
First, ignorance is never an excuse, especially when Romans 2:15 reveals that God’s moral laws are written on our hearts in the form of our conscience. Second, there is no such thing as a victimless sin because Psalm 51:4 says that all of our sins are committed against God and that He is just in judging us. Third, while there may be a statute of limitations on minor crimes, there isn’t any expiration on serious crimes, and as we’ve already discussed, God takes lying much more seriously than we do.
Gospel Objection #4 – I’m a good person, so God won’t send me to Hell.
I was raised in the Catholic Church, and this is exactly how I thought growing up. I thought that if I didn’t commit any major sins like murder that God would just let me into Heaven.
The problem with that kind of thinking is that we tend to compare ourselves with other people to determine how good we are. Meanwhile, Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s standards are higher than our standards. In fact, God’s standard is perfection:
- “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)
- “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’” (Galatians 3:10)
Jesus Himself addressed this topic in Mark 10:18. When someone called Him good, He responded that “No one is good—except God alone.” He also said in Matthew 5:48 that we must “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We’ve already established that no one is perfect, so it seems like we need Jesus’ help to make us perfect before we can enter Heaven.
Gospel Objection #5 – The Bible says that God loves his children, so He’ll just forgive me.
Also, it’s a common misconception that we’re all God’s children. In fact, Romans 9:8 says that only those who are born-again Christians are God’s children. That’s where we get the term “born-again” from in the first place: In John 3, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that humans are naturally born into sin, so we have to die to sin and be born again of the Holy Spirit, and since God becomes our Father after we are born again, we can rightly be called children of God. Romans 5:10 says that anyone who is not born again is an enemy of God, and Isaiah 65:5 refers to unsaved people as smoke in God’s nostrils, in other words very irritating. Hebrews 10:27 says that the enemies of God can expect judgment and raging fire that will consume them.
Gospel Objection #6 – God will forgive me if I just say I’m sorry.
Try saying that in a court of law: “Judge, I admit that I broke the law, but I’m sorry.”
First, a judge who doesn’t punish criminals would not be a just judge. If we expect justice from a sinful human judge, why wouldn’t we expect the same from a holy and perfect God? Let me share a few quotes with you:
- “I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4)
- “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays His wrath every day.” (Psalm 7:11)
- “He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 9:8)
- “For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice.” (Acts 17:31)
Second, if all you had to do to wipe out your sins was just say you’re sorry, then why did God bother sending Jesus to die for our sins? If you truly understand the Gospel, you won’t try to minimize your sins or defend yourself as being a good person. Instead you’ll recognize how serious your sins are, you’ll agree that God should punish you for your sins, and you’ll be so thankful to Jesus for taking the punishment for you.
It says in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” True Biblical repentance is not something to take lightly. It’s not just saying you’re sorry and moving on, but rather a deep humbling of yourself to the point where you’re approaching God on your face and begging for mercy. For example, when God speaks to Job out of a tornado and asks rhetorical questions to remind Job of His might and holiness, Job replies, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
Gospel Objection #7 – Even the worst sin we could commit is still finite, so suffering an eternity in Hell is excessive.
First, according to 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4, God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. That’s the whole reason that He sent Jesus to die for our sins: because we had no hope of saving ourselves, and we needed a savior. So it’s not like we have to go to Hell for eternity–God gave us a way out, even though we don’t deserve it. That doesn’t sound excessive to me, it sounds very merciful actually.
Second, the level of punishment increases in direct proportion to the authority of the victim. Let me illustrate: If I lie to my children, they can’t do anything to punish me. If I lie to my wife, I’ll be sleeping on the couch. If I lie to my boss at work, I’ll be fired. If I lie to the government, I’ll be thrown in prison. It’s the same sin, but higher levels of punishment according to the higher authority of those whom I’ve sinned against. Since God is the highest authority, and since He is infinitely holy and eternal, it makes sense that the punishment for breaking his laws must also be infinite.
Now you’ll ask, “So how is it that Jesus was able to take all the punishment for our sins, but he was only dead three days before he was resurrected? Why didn’t Jesus have to go to Hell forever?” Well actually, Jesus didn’t even go to Hell at all, but we can save that discussion for a later time. John 1 makes it clear that Jesus is God. Since Jesus is God, that means He is infinite. So while we are finite, and must therefore pay for our sins for eternity, Jesus is infinite, and was therefore able to pay for our sins once and for all. In John 19:30, Jesus announces “It is finished” right before His death, indicating that He had completed the payment for our sins.
Gospel Objection #8 – I don’t need Jesus to save me, because I’ve done some good works to make up for my sins.
Try saying that in a court of law: “Judge, I admit that I murdered those people, but since then I’ve done a lot of community service hours and donated to several charities to make up for it.”
Now you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, I admit that I’ve told a few lies in my life, but that’s a far cry from committing murder.” But remember, in terms of determining whether you’re going to Heaven or Hell, God’s commandments are treated as a single unit. If you keep the whole law but stumble on just one point, it’s the same as if you broke all the commandments. A sinner is a sinner; a liar is the same as a mass murderer, and all liars will have their part in the lake of fire.
Trying to save yourself through good works is like trying to bribe the judge to let you off–it’s offensive because it assumes that he’s a corrupt judge rather than a just judge.
And again, if all we had to do to earn salvation was good works, then why did God bother sending Jesus to die for our sins. The apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Paul makes it very clear that “[God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5)
Also, there’s one other problem with trying to earn salvation through good works: Isaiah 64:6 says that before we are saved, all our good works are like filthy rags (literally used menstrual cloths in the original Hebrew) because they are still tainted by our sins. Good luck trying to clean yourself up using filthy rags–it’s not gonna happen.
Gospel Objection #9 – I think I can get to Heaven by following Buddha or Muhammad.
Why would God bother sending His son Jesus to suffer a horrible death if we could just follow Buddha or Muhammad to get into Heaven? What an insult that is to God. That’s like if you received a liver transplant due to your alcoholism and then you continued to drink–what an insult that would be to the organ donor and the next person on the waiting list who could have used that liver.
The Bible makes it clear that Jesus is the only way into Heaven:
- Jesus said: “‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.’” (John 10:9)
- Jesus said: “‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)
- Peter said about Jesus: “‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’” (Acts 4:12)
Gospel Objection #10 – So if Jesus is the only way into Heaven, then all those people living in the remote jungle who have never heard the Gospel will automatically be sent to Hell? That’s not fair.
First, Christians are instructed to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 13:10, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, Acts 13:47, and Romans 10:13-14) Why would Jesus tell us to do that if people who had never heard the Gospel could just get into Heaven because of their ignorance? Why do you think that Christians work so hard to send missionaries around the world? If ignorance were an excuse, then it would be cruel of us to share the Gospel with anyone.
Second, you’re assuming that God would somehow overlook the sins of the people living in the remote jungle. We’ve already established that no one is good, and we’ve already established that God is a just judge who must punish sin.
Third, you’re assuming that the people living in the remote jungle are ignorant, but Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
In Paris Reidhead’s famous “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” sermon, he shared his experience as a missionary to the “ignorant” people in Africa:
- “They deserved Hell! Because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscience, and light of the law written upon their heart, and the testimony of nature, and the truth they knew!”
- “In prayer I told Him it was a mighty…little thing He’d done, sending me out there to reach these people that were waiting to be told how to go to heaven. When I got there I found out they knew about heaven, and didn’t want to go there, and that they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it.”
- “The people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying ‘Someone come teach us’, actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it.”
- “And they’re going to go to Hell, not because they haven’t heard the Gospel. They’re going to go to Hell because they are sinners, WHO LOVE THEIR SIN!“
However, we know that God is merciful and that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21) Therefore, if there were someone living in the remote jungle who truly repented of his sins and cried out to God for salvation, it would be easy enough for God to send a missionary to share the Gospel with him so he could be saved.
Finally, Luke 12:47-48 indicates that even within Hell there are different levels of punishment, and that those who are sent to Hell without a full understanding of the Bible will not receive as heavy a punishment as those who know the Bible and choose to reject it anyway. I’m not sure how you can get worse than complete separation from God, but suffice to say that God is just and that He will ultimately set all things right.
Gospel Objection #11 – I think that Jesus died to give us the opportunity to be saved, but we still have to earn it through our good works.
Mormons believe something similar to this: they believe that Jesus will save us after we’ve done all that we can do on our own. In other words, I’ll do my best to live a holy life, and maybe when you add up my good works and subtract my sins, I’ll end up around 80% of the way to salvation. Then Jesus’ death and resurrection makes up the other 20% to get me into Heaven.
The problem with this belief is that it robs God of His glory, and God says in Isaiah 42:8, “I will not yield my Glory to another.” If you do 80% of the work, then God only gets 20% of the credit for saving you, and He deserves all the credit. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that our salvation is “the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” Imagine being in Heaven and saying to someone else, “Hey, check me out, I only needed 20% of God’s help, but you needed 50%, so I’m better than you.”
Here are a couple more verses:
- Romans 9:16 says that our salvation does not “depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
- Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
When you teach that you have to do something extra to make up the difference, you’re saying that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not sufficient to cleanse you of all your sins. That is a HUGE insult to Jesus.
Gospel Objection #12 – It was cruel of God to murder His son Jesus, who was innocent.
Keep in mind that God didn’t create Jesus; Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). God exists eternally as one God but in three distinct persons. It is a concept that we can never fully understand, but suffice to say that Jesus is God. Therefore, it wasn’t like God was sending someone else to suffer for us, but rather it was God Himself who descended from Heaven to suffer and die for us.
So if Jesus is fully God, then He could have stopped the soldiers from arresting Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, but instead He stops Peter from attacking the soldiers and says, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Jesus didn’t stop them because He knew that without dying for us, we had no hope of salvation. In John 12 Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds;” and in John 13:8 He says, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
In Jesus’ final prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, He submits to the will of God the Father and says, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
Gospel Objection #13 – I think I’ll just negotiate with God after I’m dead.
People seem to hold to this mistaken idea that the Day of Judgment will be sort of like one of those Law & Order courtroom dramas. They think they’re going to deliver this impassioned speech and call witnesses to the stand and somehow sway the jury. They underestimate the depth of God’s glory and might. Whenever someone in the Bible saw even the tiniest glimpse of God’s presence, they would immediately cover their eyes and fall on their face in terror. The contrast between their sin and God’s holiness was so huge that they feared that they would be destroyed on the spot. For example, when the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God, he said in Isaiah 6:5, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
In Revelation 20:11-15 we read what will really happen on the Day of Judgment:
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
There’s not going to be a jury of your fellow sinners that you can persuade; just one perfectly righteous and all-knowing judge. And there’s not going to be evidence presented; God’s will just check whether your name is listed in the Book of Life, in other words whether you ever truly repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ to save you.
Here are a couple more Bible verses that mention the Book of Life:
- “May [God’s enemies] be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.” (Psalm 69:28)
- “Nothing impure will ever enter [Heaven], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27)
However, God will allow you to speak one thing on the Day of Judgment: He says in Isaiah 45:23, “By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.” So you can either voluntarily confess in this life that Jesus Christ is Lord, or you will be compelled to confess it when you face God’s infinite holiness at the great white throne of judgment.
Gospel Objection #14 – God will give me a chance to work off my sins after death.
According to Jewish tradition (and by the way, the Catholic Church has something similar with their doctrine of Purgatory), our soul must spend time purifying itself after death before it can enter Heaven. The length of time required for this purification process varies according to how good or how bad the person was. But according to the tradition, even the soul of the most evil person would only spend a maximum of 12 months in purification. Twelve months of pain after a lifetime of evil? That sounds like a pretty sweet deal. I mean, some people endure torture for longer than that while they’re here on Earth, so purification sounds like a cake walk.
Well the Bible doesn’t teach any of that. In fact, when Jesus tells the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18, He compares our sin to a debt of ten thousand talents of gold. Now just one talent was about 75 pounds of gold and equal to about twenty years’ worth of a day laborer’s wages. So ten thousand talents was about 750,000 pounds of gold or 200,000 years’ worth of wages. Even at today’s gold prices of over $1,000 per ounce, you’re talking about over $100B! In other words, it’s a debt that you have no hope of being able to pay on your own–you need Jesus to step in and pay that debt for you so that God can forgive you.
Gospel Objection #15 – I’ll just be reincarnated until I live a good enough life to enter Heaven.
Jesus tells us that we must be born again in the Holy Spirit, but that’s a far cry from the cycle of rebirth taught in Hinduism and Buddhism. The Bible destroys that whole idea with a single quote in Hebrews 9:23: “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
Besides, even if we were to get a million do-overs and extra chances to get it right, we would never achieve perfection. That’s what makes the Gospel so amazing–God gives us a something that we don’t deserve and that we could never earn for ourselves.
Gospel Objection #16 – So if all my sins are forgiven, can I go murder someone and still get into Heaven?
Paul teaches in Romans 6 that when we become a Christian, we die to sin and become born-again of the Holy Spirit–a new creation according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. We are no longer slaves to sin, but are now slaves to righteousness.
Here are some Bible verses:
- “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.” (1 John 2:3-4)
- “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (1 John 3:9)
- “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20)
- “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)
Does that mean that Christians never sin? Of course not! Paul addresses this topic in Romans 7. He writes that although Christians still sin, we no longer dive into it, nor do we live a lifestyle of habitual, unrepentant sin. There is a war within us between our flesh and our spirit because we are still tempted, but we begin to see sin the way that God sees it, and we hate it as God does.
So it’s hard to imagine a born-again Christian carrying out premeditated murder or staying in a long-term extramarital relationship. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
We would expect the opposite lifestyle from a born-again Christian. Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Just to be clear, if someone still sins that just means that they are human. We should never take the extreme view, as some churches have done, that you are not a Christian unless you are absolutely sinless. Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament and was no doubt a true Christian, admitted that he still struggled with sin in his own life: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19) However, it would be difficult to imagine that Paul’s sin was an unrepentant lifestyle of fornication. Most likely he, like the rest of us, lost his temper sometimes or coveted things or became prideful. All of these sins still plague Christians, although we hate them rather than revel in them, and they have all been forgiven by the blood of Jesus once we have been born again.
Gospel Objection #17 – Once I’m saved, can I lose my salvation?
The answer is no. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So what about people who used to be Christian and later renounce their faith, are they still saved? The answer is no, because they were never saved to begin with. “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19)
As we just discussed, a person does not become a Christian until they repent and trust in Jesus to save them. When that happens, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection wipes away all of their sins. The person dies to sin and is born again of the Holy Spirit as a new creation. Unfortunately we live in an age when the Gospel message is not preached accurately and repeatedly, so we end up with a lot of false converts who are Christians in name only. Then they come up with these heretical ideas like backsliding and carnal Christianity, none of which is taught anywhere in the Bible.
True born again Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption, (Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:22, and 2 Timothy 1:14) and Jesus will not lose any of them. (John 6:39) He says:
“‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.'” (John 10:28-29)
Gospel Objection #18 – It’s not fair that good people and bad people get the same reward.
If I get saved and then follow God’s commandments my whole life and meanwhile someone else murders and then gets saved after, then the Bible teaches that we both get the same reward of eternity in Heaven. That sounds unfair to me.
It’s actually very fair, and I’ll illustrate with a couple of parables from the Gospels. First, let’s look at the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20. In this story, Jesus tells about a landowner who hires several laborers to work in his vineyard for a full day’s wage.
The laborers who worked a full day were angry with the landowner and said, “These who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”
The landowner replies, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
We have to keep in mind that we are sinners the same as anyone else, and none of us deserves to get into Heaven. We can’t get self-righteous and pretend that we’re better than someone else.
Second, let’s look at the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. In that story, Jesus talks about a father and his two sons. The younger son leaves home and lives a life of sin, while the elder son stays at home and helps his father. Later, the younger son decides to abandon his life of sin and return to his father’s house. The father is ecstatic at the younger son’s return, and throws a party to celebrate. What’s the reaction of the elder son? He gets angry with his father because he always did the right thing and never got to have a party with his friends.
In this parable, the father represents God, and the two sons represent two kinds of Christians. The younger son represents the people who come to Jesus later in life after they’ve lived for themselves in a sinful lifestyle. Notice that the younger son doesn’t return to his father just because he ran out of money, but he says “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He displays Godly sorrow that leads to true repentance.
Meanwhile, the elder son represents the people who are outwardly religious, but who have not truly repented and been born again–they are Christians in name only. Notice how he refuses to forgive his younger brother, and instead becomes judgmental and self-righteous. Notice the disrespectful way in which he addresses his father: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” The way he demands rewards instead of gratefully serving his father makes it clear that the younger son was the only one who was truly saved.
If we call ourselves Christians, we ought to praise God when someone gets saved, even if it’s only on their deathbed. If a person is angry that he didn’t get to live sinfully and satisfy his carnal lusts before becoming a Christian, then chances are that he’s not actually saved after all.
And by the way, there are passages like Matthew 6:20 that refers to storing up treasures in heaven, 2 Corinthians 5:10 that refers to the judgment seat of Christ, and 1 Corinthians 3:14 that refers to heavenly rewards. So it does seem that while God will allow everyone who is saved to enter Heaven, He will also give out additional rewards based upon our good works. But again, we do don’t do good works to get rewarded; we do good works as an expression of gratitude because of how kind God was to save us from our sins.
Gospel Objection #19 – Don’t I need to be baptized to be saved?
See the separate article on Baptism.