The Apostle Paul, who received his gospel directly from Jesus Christ through revelation (Gal. 1:12), stated that all who claim to be God’s people (the Institutional Church and God’s church) run THE salvation “race,” meaning that they all do what they believe they must do in order to inherit eternal life. He went on to say that ONLY those who run the race according to God’s rules–obey/work His Word– will receive the prize–salvation (1 Cor. 9:24). Note that Paul is writing to God’s true church. The primary lesson being taught here is that even being in God’s church does not automatically qualify one for salvation. This being the Biblically stated case, being in the Catholic/Protestant church system most certainly does not guarantee entrance into the Kingdom of God. Regardless of which church man claims membership in, HE MUST OBEY GOD’S RULES IN ORDER TO BE ACCEPTED BY HIM.
The questions concerning God’s rules are 1) what are they and 2) where do we find them? All runners have the same answer to both questions–His Holy Scriptures. All runners have access to the Lord’s race rules and all proclaim that they must run by those rules. So why did Jesus say that all of those who profess their faith in and love for Him, of all those who claim to be running by His rules, ONLY A FEW WILL WIN THE PRIZE? (Matthew 7:13,14)? Because only a few will believe those rules (enter the strait gate), obey them (walk/work the narrow way), and thereby earn the promised prize–Mat. 16:27. Even the mighty Paul declared that if he did not obey God’s race rules he would become a castaway (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Just running the race would not qualify him for salvation. Neither would believing the race rules. PAUL HAD TO OBEY GOD. The Holy Scriptures tell of numerous believers whose faith, though great, would not have saved them had they not obeyed the Lord. Belief=faith. Faith is defined as taking God at His Word (Rom. 10:19). Many spiritual giants–bastions of faith whose names we know–would not have qualified for salvation at the return of Jesus Christ had they relied solely on their faith. Abel, Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego, Daniel, the Old Testament Prophets, the heroes of Hebrews 11, John the Baptist, the apostles, Stephen, Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Hanna, …. Each one knew that their faith and God’s grace were not enough to save their soul (Jam. 2:14,17,18,29,24, 26). Each one had to prove his faith in the Lord by obeying His Word. In this life people have been disqualified for minor infractions of race rules. God is much more specific than human sports officials. Jesus of Nazareth had to obey the Father’s rules TO THE LETTER in order to qualify to be His Messiah. One slip and He would have been disqualified. Contrary to universal church opinion, we are not better than the Savior of mankind. What I say and write to others I say to myself daily. None of us, not even Jesus of Nazareth, is above the Law. He had to enter the Father’s strait gate and walk His narrow way, therefore so must we. L.J.