by Dr. Curtis Hutson
The other day someone told me about a friend who very seldom, if ever, attended Wednesday night prayer meeting. He said we were after him all the time about it. One day he told us about this man who died and went to Heaven. According to the story, God was in an office, and people were standing outside, waiting to go in. One at a time God took each of them into the office, kept him awhile and then dismissed him and called for the next one. He said this one man came out smiling. When his friends asked what he was smiling about, he laughed and said, “He’s not counting Wednesday nights!”
After I had finished laughing, I said, “You know something? He’s right. God does not count Wednesday nights. As a matter of fact, He doesn’t even count Sunday mornings or Sunday nights. He doesn’t count tithing. He doesn’t even count baptism. When it comes to going to Heaven, God only counts one thing, and that is Jesus and what He did on the cross two thousand years ago.
God Does Not Count Good Works
God does not count good works in any form or fashion. The Bible says in Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us….” And the Scripture declares in Ephesians 2:8,9,
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
There is not one verse in all the Bible that says anything about working to go to Heaven. The truth of the matter is, a man could go to church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night every week of his life and still die and go to Hell. One does not become a Christian by getting into the church any more than one becomes an automobile by getting into the garage. Joining the church has nothing to do with going to Heaven. Once a man is saved, he ought to join a good church, a place where he can at tend, enjoy the fellowship of other believers and learn from the Bible what God expects of him, a place where he can be involved in helping to get out the Gospel. But church membership comes after salvation, and no one should ever join a church until he is first sure that he is saved.
If salvation were by works of any kind, then somewhere the Scripture would have to tell us exactly how much one must work in order to be saved. Would Sunday morning and Sunday night church services be enough, or must one go to every service, in cluding Wednesday nights? And must one also tithe his income and give to the poor? Exactly how much work is required before a man can go to Heaven?
There is no passage anywhere in the Bible that answers the question. If a man worked in order to be saved, then the motive for the work would render it ineffective. According to I Corinthians 13, any work not motivated by love for Christ is not acceptable. Paul said in I Corinthians 13:3, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing.” If a man worked in order to be saved, the motive for his service would not be love but fear. He would be working because he was afraid he was go ing to Hell, not because he loved God. Thus the motive would render the work unacceptable.
Matthew 7:22,23 makes it very clear that no one goes to Heaven on his good works. Here the Scripture says,
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not proph esied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Here is a judgment scene where people tell the Lord all about their good works, thinking He will let them into Heaven. But in verse 23 the Lord says, “I never knew you: depart from me.” And then He calls their good works ‘works of iniquity.’
Once we receive Christ as Saviour, we should set out to serve Him and do all the good works we can. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works ….” But we work because we love Him, not in order to be saved. When it comes to salvation, good works, no matter how good or how many, are absolutely futile.
Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” No, God doesn’t count our good works. The truth in the man’s story was absolutely right: God does not count Wednesday nights. Neither does He count Sunday mornings, Sunday nights or any other nights. Salvation is not a result of what we do for Christ but rather a result of what He does for us.
A man who died in a cheap hotel room in one of our great western states left a poem behind, part of which said,
I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways,
My fears to quell, my hopes to raise;
And all I need, the Bible says,
He went on to say,
Though some will mock, and some will blame;
In spite of fear, in spite of shame,
I’ll go to Him because His name
The man who wrote the above lines had squandered a fortune in search of peace and happiness, but he never found either until he realized that Jesus Christ was all he needed and accepted Him as Saviour.
God Does Not Count Our Righteousness
If a man went to Heaven on his own righteousness, he would have to be as holy and as righteous as God Himself. And no man except Jesus Christ has ever been that righteous. God is so righteous that no man can look upon God and live. In Exodus 33:18 Moses said to God, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” And God replied in verses 20-23,
“Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and
live…. Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon
a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that
I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my
hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou
shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”
The average Christian lives and dies and never has the foggiest idea of how holy and righteous God really is. In Isaiah 6:1-3 the prophet said,
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraph ims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”
According to these verses, the seraphims in Heaven are flying around the throne of God singing, “Holy, holy, holy!” They could be singing, “Justice, justice, justice!” for God is just. They could be singing, “Love, love, love!” for God is love. They could be sing ing, “Mercy, mercy, mercy!” for God is merciful. They could be singing, “Longsuffering, longsuffering, longsuffering!” for God is longsuffering. But, no, they are singing, “Holy, holy, holy!” And the seraphims that sang, “Holy, holy, holy!” have their faces covered with two of their wings. They are not even looking upon the God they are singing about.
John 3:3 says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Verse 5 says that he cannot enter the kingdom of God, but this verse says that he cannot seethe kingdom of God. If I go to Heaven, then I must be as holy and righteous as God Himself. And I cannot be that righteous.
Isaiah 64:6 reminds us, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. . . .” In Romans 10:1-4 Paul says,
“Brethren, my heart’s drsire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteous ness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
Here Paul speaks of religious folks, zealous folks, but folks who do not know the way of salvation. They were trying to establish their own righteousness, not knowing that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in God’s sight. How sad that multiplied millions of people throughout the world are trying to qualify for Heaven by living right, not knowing that their righteousnesses are as filthy rags in God’s sight! They, like the people Paul wrote about, are going about to establish their own righteousness, not realiz ing that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).
Heaven is not a reward for those who behave; it is a gift for those who believe.
My son Tony and his friend Melvin, who recently trusted Christ as Saviour, have been trying to win an older man to Christ. The man keeps insisting that he has to get better first. Melvin, a brand new Christian, demonstrated great wisdom when he said, “Dr. Hutson, the man wants to get well before he goes to the hospital.”
I said, “You’re right, Melvin. A man doesn’t get better to get saved; he gets saved to get better.”
No, God doesn’t count our righteousness.
God Does Not Count Baptism
Contrary to the teaching of many when it comes to salvation, God does not count baptism. Baptismal regeneration was first taught by the Catholic church and later picked up by several other denominations. Those who think that God requires water baptism as an entrance into Heaven teach that the water washes away sins. The only thing that remits sins is the blood of Christ. He brews 9:22 says, “. . . without shedding of blood is no remission.”
If one had to be baptized to have his sins remitted, then what would he do with the sins he committed after he was saved? Suppose a man was baptized twenty years ago. Since then he has committed many sins. Remember, no one lives absolutely perfect and above sin. First John 1:10 says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Now if baptism were necessary to remit sins, then this man would need to be baptized again in order to have remitted the sins he had committed since he had been saved. But if he is baptized the second time, then what will he do with the sins he commits after the second baptism?
Of course, if water were necessary to wash away sins, then he must be baptized again and again and again. Every time he commits a sin, he would have to be baptized again to have his sins washed away. If baptism is really necessary to remit sin, then a person not only should be baptized; he should get into the baptistry and refuse to ever get out lest he commit some sin after he gets out of the baptistry and die before he can get back into the water.
If baptism does remit sins, then Jesus Himself never remitted or forgave any man of his sins because the Bible plainly says in John 4:2, “Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.” Those who teach that one must be baptized in order to be saved further teach that one can lose his salvation. Suppose a man believes in Christ, confesses Him, repents, is baptized and joins the church of the preacher who teaches baptismal regeneration. Then, accord ing to this preacher, he is saved. After a few years he goes back into sin and loses his salvation. Being disturbed about his condition, he goes back to the church and wants to be saved again. Does that same church insist that he be baptized again? No, they do not. If water baptism were necessary for salvation the first time, then how could he possibly be saved the second time without being baptized?
That is just one of the contradictions and inconsistencies of those who teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation.
If water baptism were necessary for salvation, then none of the Old Testament saints were saved because baptism was not mentioned one single time in the Old Testament, and there is no record of a single individual ever being baptized before John the Baptist began baptizing converts in the New Testament. Those who argue that baptism is essential to salvation teach one plan of salvation for those in the Old Testament and a different plan of salvation for those in the New Testament. But the Scripture teaches that all men are saved the same way in every dispensation or age.
Acts 10:43 says, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Now notice very carefully: this was the message of all the prophets. The Old Testament prophets preached remission of sins by faith in Christ. The New Testament prophets preached remission of sins by faith in Christ. And those who preach the truth today are still preaching remission of sins by faith in Christ. When it comes to salvation, God did not count baptism in the Old Testament. He did not count baptism in the New Testament, and He does not count baptism today. The message today is the same message all the prophets witnessed: “. . . that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
What Does God Really Count?
It would be almost impossible to discuss in this article the multitude of things which people believe are necessary for salvation. The Roman Catholics believe you must receive all seven sacraments. The Seventh-day Adventists believe you must keep the old Jewish Sabbath, along with the other nine commandments. The Moslems think that, if one dies defending his religion, he goes straight to Heaven.
The Scripture warns in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” And the Bible says in Isaiah 55:8,”… neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” God’s way of salvation is made clear in the Bible. Ephesians 2:8,9 settles the matter once and for all:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of your selves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Here the Bible says it is ‘not of ourselves,’ “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” It is by grace through faith. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Someone gave this acrostic for GRACE: “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace and works cannot be mixed. To add any works to grace destroys grace completely. It is all of grace, or it is not grace at all. Jesus Christ came to the earth and lived a perfect, sinless life. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feel ing of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin. . . . ” While Jesus Christ was being crucified between two thieves, one thief said to the other in Luke 23:40,41, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” The word amiss means “wrong.” Even the thief on the cross recognized that Jesus was the sinless, spotless Son of God.
Before Pilate turned Christ over to the angry mob, he said in John 19:6, “I find no fault in him.” Jesus Christ was the only person who ever lived as righteous as God Himself. And when we trust Christ, we are given His righteousness. That is the clear promise of the Bible in Romans 10:4 where the Scripture says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” God does not count my righteousness, but He does count the righteousness of His Son.
The Bible says in Romans 4:3, “…Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” And then the Scripture further promises in Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
The only way anyone can ever be righteous enough to go to Heaven is by receiving God’s own righteousness by faith. Not only did Jesus Christ live a perfectly righteous life; He died a substitutionary death. Two thousand years ago God took every sin we ever have committed and all we ever will commit, and He placed those sins on Christ. Isaiah 53:6 says, “. . . the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And Titus 2:14 says, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity. . .
What blessed truth! God took the iniquities of all men and laid those iniquities on Christ. But He not only took the iniquities of all men and laid them on Christ; He took all the iniquities of men and laid them on Christ. And the Bible says in I Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree. . . . ” While Christ was bearing our sins in His own body, God punished Him in our place to pay the debt we owe so that, when we die, we won’t have to pay it. That’s what the Bible means when it says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The other day I received a letter from a dear Jewish friend here in Murfreesboro, who reminded me that it wasn’t the Jews who killed Christ. Rather, he said, “It was the Roman soldiers.” Of course, this dear Jewish man was both right and wrong. He was right when he said it wasn’t the Jews, but he was wrong when he said it was the Roman soldiers. It was neither the Jews nor the Roman soldiers. It was God Himself.
The Scripture says in Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. . ..” It was God Himself who made His (Jesus’) soul an offering for sin. Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” The Scriptures further explain in Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was an expression of God’s love for us. He loved us so much that He didn’t want us to go to Hell, so He punished His Son in our place to pay the debt we owe so that we can go to Heaven on a free pass.
My beloved predecessor Dr. Rice used to say, “Every man who goes to Heaven goes on a free pass, but he who goes to Hell pays his own way.” And then he would quote Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Before Adam and Eve ever sinned, God demanded the death penalty. He said in Genesis 2:17, “. . . in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” God’s payment for sin is death, the second death in the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14 says, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
If we are to satisfy the just demands of a holy God, we must go into Hell and stay there forever and ever. But Jesus Himself satisfied God’s demand. The prophet said in Isaiah 53:11, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. . . .” Here the Scripture plainly states that God was satisfied with the payment Jesus made on the cross for our sins. He further showed that satisfaction by raising Jesus Christ from the dead and taking Him back to Heaven. If Christ had not accomplished what He came to do – ;that is, die for our sins – He would have never gone back to Heaven. But praise the Lord, He did the job!
While He was hanging on the cross He uttered seven things. The sixth utterance was “It is finished” (John 19:30). And, dear friend, you can count on it: it was finished. There is nothing else to do but to accept Jesus Christ by faith, to trust Him, to depend on Him.
The man was right: God does not count Wednesday nights. He doesn’t count Sunday mornings or Sunday nights or any other nights. God does not count our own righteousness. He does not count our good works. He does not count baptism or any other ceremony or ritual. He only counts one thing: the death of His Son Jesus Christ. And the Scripture plainly says in Isaiah 53:11 that He was satisfied with the sacrifice His Son made for our sins. If Jesus Christ said it was finished and God Himself said He was satisfied, then why can’t we be satisfied with Christ’s death and not add anything to it?
The only way to show that you are satisfied with Christ’s death for your sins is to trust Him and Him alone for salvation. If you trust anything else, then it is evident that you are not satisfied with Christ and what He did at Calvary. If you trust Jesus Christ, plus your baptism, then you are not satisfied with Christ: you must add to Him baptism. If you trust Jesus Christ plus your good works, then you are not satisfied with Christ: you must add to Him good works. If you trust Jesus Christ plus your church membership, then you are not satisfied with Christ: you must add church membership. If you trust Jesus Christ plus your reformation, then you are not satisfied with Christ: you must add your reformation.
Now, I am a church member. I have been baptized. I was baptized when I was eleven years old. I try to live right. I have been preaching since I was twenty years old. I travel every week of my life going from church to church throughout this country to preach the Gospel. As I dictate this sermon, I am driving to Lowell, Indiana. Next week I will be in Wadsworth, Ohio.
But I do none of these things to be saved. My only hope of Heaven is the fact that Jesus Christ died for me. He paid my sin debt. And I am trusting Him alone for salvation. I am not trusting my good works, my church membership, my baptism or anything else. When we stand before God, the only thing that He will count is what His Son did at Calvary.
When the children of Israel were in Egyptian bondage, God sent plagues upon Pharaoh. Finally God said, ‘The firstborn in every house is going to die.’ But He gave the Israelites instructions to kill an innocent lamb and sprinkle the blood on the doorposts of the house. And God promised in Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” He did not say, ‘When I see your church membership, I will pass over you.’ He did not say, ‘When I see your good life, I will pass over you.’ He did not say, ‘When I see your good works, I will pass over you.’ He did not say, ‘When I see your baptism, I will pass over you.’ No, no, no! He said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” The only thing that counted with God was the death of the lamb.
And when it comes to salvation the only thing that counts with God today is the death of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. If you are counting on anything other than Jesus Christ to take you to Heaven, then you are counting on something that God doesn’t count. Won’t you trust Christ today? If you are not absolutely sure that there was a time in your life when you knew you were a sinner and made a definite decision to trust Jesus Christ completely for salvation, then we urge you to trust Him now.
by Dr. Curtis Hutson