Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg is an activist for a number of causes. As a result, he believes that he is a shoe-in for heaven. The New York Times reports:
But if he senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
These remarks reflect a common misperception of how things are going to shake-out at the judgment. Many people believe that if their good works outweigh their bad works, then they will have eternal life. Likewise, if their bad works outweigh their good works, they will not. The problem with this formulation is that it has absolutely no support in scripture. It misunderstands the Bible’s teaching on sin and grace.
The Bible teaches that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. Our problem is not merely that we have bad deeds. We have bad hearts (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18). That means that even our so-called “good works” are marred by sin and are unacceptable to God as a basis upon which to award eternal life (Isaiah 64:6). Because of sin, we all stand in need of a renewal of our nature, not just a change of our deeds.
That is why the gospel is such good news. Where we failed, Jesus succeeded. While we have evil hearts and evil deeds, Jesus has a pure heart and only righteous deeds. Jesus lived the life that we should have lived, and he died the death that we deserved to die. After three days in the grave, He came back to life, and he is alive right now in the flesh seated at the right hand of the Father. In other words, Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins (Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:18). And he was raised as the firstborn from the dead—the living proof that God will raise us up from the dead too (Col. 1:18). But we do not obtain this salvation by amassing good works. We can only receive it by repenting of our sin and by placing our trust in Jesus. Salvation comes down not to what we’ve done for ourselves but to what God has done for us through Christ.
The good news is that the Lord’s arm is not too short to save (Isaiah 59:1). It’s not too short for Michael Bloomberg, and it’s not to short for you. God is able to reach you and to save you from the sin that you never would have been able to rescue yourself from through good works. All that is required is simple repentance and faith.
Romans 3:20 By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Titus 3:5-7 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
So he’s an agnotstic and yet taking a page out of the CCC 2010 and 2027?
Talk about picking and choosing.
I pray that Mr. Bloomberg woudl be shown the serious error in this thinking.
Too often this gets phrased as “Either Or” when in fact its “Both”. God both requires repentance and faith, but also requires that we do good works. There was a servant that sat on his talents, and he didn’t fare so well.
I just want to clarify that the “works” come out of having a heart change. The works aren’t a sepetrate element on their own. We will see the fruits, right? Ephesians 2:8-10
Its more than a change of heart, its a change in actions as well. James 2:14-17. That’s why I say its both faith and works.
True, I’m just saying that the works will not happen, unless the heart change has started.
Just don’t want to get muddy regarding salvation by merit, as it is by grace and grace alone.
* by grace thru faith alone. My apologies.
Chris, You believe that you have it just right. Sadly, there are so many messed up Bible teachers. I heard Andy Stanley preach on the parable of the talents, and he said that that worthless servant didn’t go to hell. He went to heaven he was just weeping and gnashing his teeth at missed opportunities. Then people listening to this and believeing Andy said that they would be punished for their sin in heaven. What a mess. What a hyper-grace gospel.
Sorry, typo. I meant to say that I believe Chris has it just right. Also listened to a message by Paul Washer today that explained this very well. 10 Indictments of the Modern Church on youtube. We need to be praying for all of America that talks about God a lot and are biblically illiterate. We need a revival like Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield saw when the Holy Spirit moved.
He’s a Reformed Jew. Like Ian, I pray for Mr. Bloomberg’s conversion and pray God has mercy on his soul.
“Many people believe that if their good works outweigh their bad works, then they will have eternal life. Likewise, if their bad works outweigh their good works, they will not.”
Good post, Denny. Maybe it could be expanded to one more point. Absolutely that salvation only comes from Christ, and we must accept Him as our Savior, repent of our sins, and amend our lives.
Once we receive that gift, we cannot be idle. We must evangelize and be a witness of His love. One specific way to do that is through putting our faith in action. Those deeds/works do not gain us salvation, but they hopefully influence others to attain salvation.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters,[e] if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
Certainly, Bloomberg is wrong. But if we believe that we are saved by grace through faith alone, we can no pride at all in being right. Instead, we should, as an equal to Bloomberg, thank God for His mercy and Grace. In addition, we might want to see if we can do better for God by learning from Bloomberg’s examples of good works.
True or false: your good works won’t get you into Heaven, but your “bad works” (sins) CAN keep you out (regardless of what you believe).
If this is true, then you also believe in a works-based salvation.
“Your good works won’t get you into Heaven” is a true statement. By the works of the Law no man will be justified.
“Your ‘bad works’ (sins) CAN keep you out” is true but incomplete. It is not merely a possibility but a certainty. Your sins WILL keep you out of heaven.
“(regardless of what you believe).” Well, here’s the catch. If I have saving faith in Jesus Christ my sins are forgiven, no longer counted against me. In Christ I possess the perfect righteousness of Christ. God the Father looks at me and sees Jesus. My “bad works” do NOT keep me out of heaven. But if I place my faith in a false savior, my sins remain no matter how much I may believe. So “regardless of what you believe” is false. The object of your faith is all-important.
From a certain point of view, however, my salvation by and in Jesus Christ is indeed works-based. But the works are his, not mine.
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18
See also Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Romans 10:13-15
Wow… I suspected that Bloomberg’s anti smoking and obesity campaigns were based in a very self righteous mindset and now we hear him boldly state that he won’t even accept the idea that there should be an “interview” to examine his fitness for heaven? This has to be one of the most arrogant people I’ve heard, even by postmodern standards.
But hey! Piers Morgan thinks this man should be president of the United States!
Bloomberg is one of the examples of a nanny state politician. He KNOWS what is best for you and will try to force you to do it. No thanks, I will take the risks of freedom anytime.
He also is appealing to “folk religion” in the above quote, so it is no surprise that he has no idea what he is discussing in terms of Scripture.
The problem with this formulation is that it has absolutely no support in scripture.
Sure it does. Someone already mentioned James but Revelation 20:11-14 is even stronger.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
Nothing about faith of trusting in Jesus. It’s about what people have done during their life. You might not like that particular interpretation, but there certainly is support for that view.
How does one get his name written in the book of life, Aaron? Remember one of the principles of sound hermeneutics: a text without a context is a pretext.
Apparently by what he has done, at least according to this passage. Denny’s assertion that the idea that works contribute to salvation has absolutely no support in scripture is absolutely false. I realize that doesn’t match Neo-Reformed doctrine but so what? All it proves is that the Bible can be used to justify whatever position one wants to take.
You left out verse 15.
“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
I left it out because it’s irrelevant. From the verses above, it is clear that one’s name is written in the BoL based on what one has done in life. Don’t you think the author of Revelation would have made it clear that one’s name is written in the BoL by faith if that is what he intended to convey?
Regardless, as an ex-Christian, I don’t believe any of this is true. My point was that Denny’s assertion is wrong. There are numerous passages in the NT that indicate that works are necessary for salvation. You can’t just brush aside two thousand years of internal debate about soteriology because it doesn’t fit with your favorite Paulian passage. The Bible is as clear as mud when it comes to the topic of salvation.
Aaron. I think you would really enjoy the God Is Not Dead movie.
Thanks Terry, but I highly doubt it. From what I have heard, the film caricatures both atheists and Christians and gives a distorted view of what happens in a university classroom. Many atheists (including myself) have arrived at their philosophical positions through careful thought and consideration of the theistic worldview and not because they are angry at God. To me, the concept of God makes no sense and the world looks just as we would expect a world to look without a benevolent creator God. I was an evangelical for over 30 years mainly because I never considered Christianity from a thoughtful introspective position. Only when I sought answers to questions that were always “off-limits” did I realize that Christianity could not possibly be true.
Anyway, thanks for the time.
I think you would enjoy seeing the atheist position too. But you sound like your mind is already made up that you couldn’t enjoy a movie that considers both sides. It sure made me think!
Hi Terry. I could certainly enjoy a movie that takes a balanced view of both sides, but that doesn’t describe God’s Not Dead. The atheist in the film has rejected theism because of the death of his mother not because of a reasoned position against the idea of a God. He also is a poor philosopher having no good arguments for basic stuff such as the Problem of Evil. Most of his arguments against theism come not from rational thinking but from appeals to authority (stating that because Hawking says there is no God that it must be true, for example). The film is clearly slanted toward the Christian side of the argument. I mean the Newsboys are in it for goodness sake!
I prefer to read philosophers such as Hume or DeCartes who can argue for or against God from foundational principles instead of watching a film that is basically propaganda for one side or the other. Just my preference.
Correction, Aaron. The Bible can be abused to justify whatever position one wants to take. The interpreter of Scripture has a responsibility to interpret responsible and with care, exercising all due consideration to allow it to speak as intended and not according to one’s likes and dislikes. One must especially listen to the whole counsel of Scripture on any matter it addresses.
I am truly sorry that you describe yourself as an “ex-Christian.” When I consider all the riches that come with being in Christ, all else is dust and ashes.
Ken, why did God make the Bible so difficult to understand? Doesn’t it bother you at all that the God who created the universe couldn’t produce a document that isn’t completely confusing and so easily subject to supposed misinterpretation? And if that’s the case, why do you think you have the correct interpretation?
Don’t be sorry. I’m completely happy to have left Christianity behind. I am now free to see the world as is it and not try to make it fit an ancient manuscript written by primitive people who had no knowledge of reality. I’m also genuinely glad for you that Christianity brings you peace and joy. I think people should be free to live their lives in whatever way brings them the most contentment provided they allow others to do the same.
He didn’t. Scripture itself testifies to its ability to communicate effectively and provide understanding: “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7), and “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). In his dealings with the religious teachers of Israel, Jesus frequently appealed to the Scriptures and rebuked his hearers for seeming not to know the right answers because they had apparently not read God’s word.
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture says (following Kevin DeYoung in his recent book “Taking God at His Word”) that the main things we need to know, believe, and do can be clearly seen in Scripture; the most essential doctrines are all made clear somewhere in Scripture (hence the need to consider the whole counsel, not cherry-pick verses); that which is necessary for our salvation can be understood even by the uneducated, provided they make use of the ordinary means of study and learning; and that which must be known can be understood sufficiently. The experience of countless Christians, myself included, is that the Scriptures have a marvelous coherence and remarkable intelligibility for such a complex (not to say complicated) collection of books, which testifies to the common divine superintendence of the whole. As Jesus declared in his prayer to the Father recorded in John 17, “Your word is truth.”
I must say I would not expect anyone who professes a 30-year experience as an “evangelical” to make such statements as ” I am now free to see the world as is it and not try to make it fit an ancient manuscript written by primitive people who had no knowledge of reality.” Anyone who can so mischaracterize the Bible calls into question the credibility of his profession. Are you sure you ever really understood? My impression is that “you are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29), and that “the natural [unspiritual] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). I expect you will reject this assessment, but I am certainly curious what it was that you thought you were doing all those years.
Well, I disagree with you that verse 15 is irrelevant. It is very relevant, and leaving it out skews the author’s intension. Obviously John wrote it there to make sure the readers understand that the judgement of works in the above verses in chapter 20 are for rewards after one’s destiny is either going to heaven /eternal life or hell/eternal death, etc. – There are levels of rewards in heaven based on works, and there are levels of punishment in hell, based on degrees of sin. The apostle John, also assumes they have read the other 18 chapters; and the same author teaches that faith is the means by which one has eternal life – 1 John 5:11-13; 5:4-5
Chapter 1:5-6; 5:5-10 and 7:9-10 show that there are some from every nation and ethnic people group and language who are redeemed by the blood of the lamb – John assumes that the readers would understand faith in Him and His atonement is the way to have one’s name written in the lamb’s book of life.
“To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4-5
” And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. ” 1 John 5:11-13
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” Revelation 5:9
see also Romans 3:19-26 – “by grace . . . through faith in the redemption by . . . the propitiation in His blood” (verse 24-26)
“being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith .”
Since ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We (those who have faith in the work of our Lord and Savior) realize that works are not a path to salvation, but rather indicative of a propulsion created from salvation. We are free from a burden of the death we deserved. The Love that Jesus Christ had for ALL those who believed (John 3:16) moves us to such a degree that we produce fruit as we abide in The True Vine (John 15). Nice article Denny. I loved the sentence, “He lived the life we should have, and died the death we deserved to die.”