Ever since I became a Christian in 2001, it has always puzzled me why pastors sometimes skip over certain parts of the Bible. To this day, I have never heard a single sermon on Matthew 19:17, James 2:10-26, 1. John 2:6, 3:4, 3:7, 5:3. Or what about Matthew 23:2, Rev 12:11, 14:12?
I can't speak for every pastor in the world, but after having spent four years of my life in seminary studying for a bachelors degree in practical theology, one thing is very obvious to me. The denomination you belong to, and its traditions are more relevant to most pastors than the Bible itself. Then the question gives itself if traditions and man's opinions are more important than the Bible, can we then still claim to be Christians? Can a pastor claim to be Christian if he or she allows their denomination to dictate what they should preach from the Bible and how they should interpret it?
The book of Acts says it was in Antioch the first gentile believers were called Christians. Have you ever wondered why they were called Christians? The Bible says in 1.John 2:6 if we claim to be in Christ, we have to live our lives the way He did. In 1. Cor 11:1 Paul said he imitated Christ and encouraged all his readers to do the same. Tradition says they were called Christians in Antioch because they understood 1. John 2:6 and imitated the way Jesus Christ lived His life.
How did Jesus live His life?
The default answer of most Christians seems to be "He walked around did miracles, was crucified and rose again on the third day." This is true, He did miracles, He was crucified, and He did rise again on the third day. But is there not more to His life? Is this all He did?
In Matthew 19:16, the rich young ruler comes running up to Jesus and asks Him the question "what must I do so that I would have eternal life?". How would you have answered the rich young ruler? Most mainstream Christians would say something along the lines of "believe in Jesus, the Son of God dying for you on the cross." How did Jesus answer? He says in Matt 19:17, "if you desire to enter eternal life, you must keep the commandments."
What would you say if someone asked you how to be sure of their salvation? Most Christians would say something along the lines of "if you believe Jesus died for you, you are going to heaven regardless of your feelings. So do not listen to your emotions, listen to what God says in His word". But what exactly does God say in the Bible to answer this question? In James 2:10-26 He says that only those who show their faith in the cross in obedience to the written law of Moses (the Torah) have saving faith. The only way for you to know if you are saved or not is by looking at your level of obedience to the Torah.
To this day, I have never heard a single sermon on Matthew 19:17, James 2:10-26, 1. John 2:6, 3:4, 3:7, 5:3. Or what about Matthew 23:2, Rev 12:11, 14:12? All of these verses have one thing in common; they tell us that we have to do something if we want to be saved and have eternal life.
Why do pastors usually skip over these verses? Because the denomination they belong to, and their tradition is more important to them than the Bible. This is one of the reasons why we today have 40 000 + different denominations, all claiming to be the one correct Christian denomination, and why we are far from seeing Jesus prayers for unity in the Gospel of John fulfilled.
If our denomination and its traditions are more relevant to us than the Bible, how can we still claim to be Christians?
How can we even claim to be saved if our denomination and tradition are more relevant to us than the Bible?
If we want to live as Christians, if we're going to claim to be saved, we have to ignore every denominational tradition and interpretation of the Bible and allow it to speak for itself. If we allow it to speak for itself, it becomes apparent the cross of Christ is an unmerited gift. We can not do anything to deserve the gift of the cross.
If I gave you a car as a gift, it would not become your car until you accepted the gift and started living as if you were the owner of a new car. So your acceptance of my gift requires you to do something.
What God gives us in the cross does not become ours until we accept it. The Bible says in the Gospel of John He desires everyone everywhere to be saved, so He gave His Son for the entire world. Even though the gift is given to everyone, we know not everyone will be saved because not everyone will accept it. Our acceptance of the cross requires us to do something.
When we do something to get something, it becomes ours because of what we did. At that moment, it changes from unmerited to merit. So it is true that we are saved by grace through faith, but because faith requires action on our behalf, we are saved by merited grace. Our decision to believe in the cross, and act on our faith by accepting the cross, repenting from sin to righteousness, merit our salvation.
How does the Bible define righteousness? The Bible says in the book of 1. John righteousness is something we do when we obey the written Torah. Sin defines as disobedience to the Torah. If Jesus died for our sins, it stands to reason we who accept Him will not continue in sin. We will, as an act of faith, choose to repent from sin (lawlessness) to righteousness (obeying the written Torah). If we do this, the Bible says in the book of Revelation, we will overcome the devil himself because of our faith in the cross shown in obedience to the law of Moses.
Now we see that the Bible teaches us salvation is merited grace because it depends on us acting on our faith in the cross by choosing to repent. Now we understand living the life of a Christian is merited grace because it depends on us always living in obedience to the written Torah. And now we see why the first Christians were called Christians in the book of Acts because they acted on their faith and lived in obedience to the Torah.
All of this is found in the Bible, but this is usually not what you would hear preached on a Sunday morning in church. You would often have sermon telling you the law (the Torah) is a burden, done away with at the cross. The pastor would explain to you now you are under grace and not law, then he or she would warn you against legalism and Judaizers. This is the same kind of pastor that would never preach a sermon on Matthew 19:17, James 2:10-26, 1. John 2:6, 3:4, 3:7, 5:3. Or what about Matthew 23:2, Rev 12:11, 14:12?.
When you know that the Bible expects you to merit Gods grace for salvation, and your Christian life, it should concern you when you hear someone telling you the Torah is a burden.
When you hear your pastor telling you, the Torah was done away with at the cross; you should remember Matthew 19:17.
In the end, it is not your pastor who decides if you are righteous and worthy of heaven. The one who decides if you get to have eternal life is Jesus, the one who says in Matthew 19:17, "if you desire to enter eternal life, you must keep the commandments." He is the same one who told John in the book of Revelation that those who believe in the cross AND obey the Torah will overcome the devil. And He is the same one who says to a group of Christians in Matthew 7:21-23 "depart from Me for I never knew you, you who are without Torah obedience".
Who will you listen to?