Not too long ago on social media, I came across a well-respected minister of the gospel telling his pastors gathered in a convention to inform their congregants that they would go to hell if they did not tithe. In addition, their pastors who did not teach them about tithing would suffer a similar fate. I want to set the records straight. As much as I strongly believe in tithing, do not be consumed with fear that not practicing certain Christian doctrines and dogmas will cost you heaven.
The Galatians faced a similar problem that the apostle Paul sought to correct. The people of Colosse likewise had that problem – see Col. 2: 16-17. The Galatians had received the gospel of Christ and were doing well until some people came in to distort that same gospel. What they did then, they still do today to the uninformed. The people had insisted that while Christ offered salvation, it was still necessary for the Galatians to observe the laws of Moses (like circumcision, observation of the Sabbath and feast days) for their salvation to be complete. In other words, their salvation is not hinged on Christ and His sacrifice alone but on Christ and the legal requirements. To Paul, this was another gospel and not the righteousness by faith that Christ brought for us and he sought to put things in order and restore the integrity of the gospel.
The Implication for Us Today
There are those who also add to the requirements to be saved. They may not be like the Judaizers but the principle remains the same. To them, salvation by faith alone is too simplistic and therefore, they have to add additional requirements to make sure that it is complete. They insist that Baptism is required for you to be completely saved. If you do not tithe or give offerings as much as God has blessed you, you will miss heaven. If, as a woman, you wear pants or make up, or braid your hair, you will also miss heaven.
Others believe to be acceptable to God, you must come to Him in an undetermined number of days of fasting and prayer. If you sin against God, you must go through a routine of fasting and prayers to make your confession acceptable to God. If you do good works long enough like feeding the poor or giving alms to strangers and the needy, God will notice and give you a direct entrance into heaven. In other words, they go and handpick certain aspects of the Old Testament that they are comfortable with and join them with the cross of Christ. The more these requirements are repeated, the more difficult it becomes to make room for the real gospel to take root. You invariably become bewitched like Paul said in Galatians 3:1.
The Right Gospel
Paul went ahead to explain to them what the right gospel was. It is faith in Christ alone without any infusion of man-made legalism. It is the fact that Christ died in our place for our sins. He died for us so that we do not have to die – I Cor. 15:1-4. We do not have to keep the law to be saved because we really cannot keep it. Christ kept it for us so that we can be free from the requirements of having to keep it. See Paul’s argument in Col. 2: 18-23.
Note that Jesus came to fulfill the Law – Matt. 5:17. Everything that was codified in the Law and the Prophets pointed to Christ, and by His death and resurrection, He satisfied them all. Hebrews 8:13 described the Law as obsolete. Romans 10:4 declared that Christ is the end (culmination) of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes. Also see Eph. 2:15, Gal. 3:23-25.
Jesus fulfilled the Law as in perfected the terms of the contract. When a contract is perfected, the parties to the contract have accomplished full performance. None of the parties will be expected to perform again. Imagine buying a house and paying fully for it and suddenly you are asked to come and pay for it again… Jesus has paid the full price for our salvation. Do not add to it or request further performance.
In Abraham was a pattern for our salvation. He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. God declared him righteous before Him on account of his belief not on account of any righteous thing he had done. Paul went on to say that this reckoning happened before the Law of Moses was given – 430 years later.
Does this mean that we have no obligation to live right because we have been saved by faith? By no means! Look at Paul’s response in Rom. 6: 1-2. If you are truly born again, the Spirit of God lives in you. You will be able to live out the Christian life (see Rom. 8:1-4) and thereby indirectly fulfilling the righteous requirements of the Law through Christ.
In Summary: Neglecting certain Christian doctrines because they are not essential to salvation will stifle your growth as a Christian and minimize your usability before God. After becoming a Christian, what you do with your life, your talents, or your resources will matter in the day of rewards which will definitely come according to I Cor. 3: 12-15. Nevertheless, even if you do not submit your life, talents, or resources for His kingdom, God will never lack. He will find someone to take your place and His work will go on. Remember where our name comes from – II Tim. 2:21.
Father Lord, may we submit ourselves (our talents, time and resources) to be used as vessels unto honor in Your vineyard, so that we will be eternally rewarded (Rev. 22:12), in Jesus Name!