Christians’ Favourite Delusions 17: You get saved by being washed in the blood of the lamb (Romans 5.9 etc)

Sermon

Not according to Jesus you don’t. And you’d think he being the Son of God – not to mention ‘the lamb’ in question – he’d be in a position to know. So how does Jesus say you find salvation? No magic formula for him; no quick-fix like the one Paul invents after Jesus’ death.

So how does Jesus reckon you get right with God? For once, he couldn’t be clearer:

If you want to receive God’s forgiveness, first you have to give it:

For if you forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6.14)

If you want to avoid God’s judgement… then don’t judge others:

Judge not that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matthew 7.1-2)

If you want God to show you mercy, first show mercy yourself:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5.7)

If you want to experience God’s riches and blessings, first you have to be generous yourself:

Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6.38)

If you want God to show you compassion, first be compassionate yourself:

The King will say to those at his right hand… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord when did we see the hungry and feed thee or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee?… And the King will answer them, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’.

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me… Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it not to me’. (Matthew 25.34-46)

That’s right, Jesus sees being saved as a ‘measure for measure’ arrangement and uses that exact term repeatedly in order to get the message across. According to the ‘Son of God’, you get what you give. And, what’s more, his death has nothing to do with it. He starts preaching his ‘gospel’ message long before he’s crucified (Mark 1.14) and it most definitely doesn’t include any mystical piggy-backing on a death that hasn’t happened yet in order to gain God’s favour. Even Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t add it to their stories of Jesus, even though they wrote them after he died and after Paul’s invention of his magic salvation formula.

Jesus’ ‘measure-for measure’ gospel is very different from Paul’s – the two are incompatible in fact, though Christians refuse to see this. Jesus’ gospel is practical and moral: the way to God’s heart, he says, is through treating others, even those who might despise us, with kindness and compassion.

This, though, is too hard for Christians. They find Paul’s spiritualised, self-centred version of salvation much more to their taste.