Sunday, November 29, 2015
How we are saved?
In my capacity as an estate planning attorney, I have the honor of providing some guidance as to how remaining assets are distributed to and among family members, friends or charities following death. Recently, I worked with a client who expressed a desire to provide a certain amount of assets to the church for the purpose of saying "masses" on behalf of herself and deceased family members. This client wants to name numerous churches as the recipients of certain sums, with the hope that each of them would say a sufficient number of masses that would "save" her from enduring purgatory. Her questions prompted me to give some thought to how we are saved, and what assurance we can have for Heaven, following death. Below is an excerpt from a recent response to this client: ...Our recent conversations regarding purgatory and your hope of heaven prompted me to review the Holy Bible, and its teachings regarding how we are “saved” from purgatory and to an eternal existence with God. Since both of us share a belief in the Holy Bible as the infallible and authoritative Word of God, I pray that it may be helpful to pass along some encouragement to you from the Bible about the hope we can have for eternal life. In particular, I wanted to pass along the words from Hebrews 7:26-28. There, the author says, “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a son who has been made perfect forever.” In this passage, the author of Hebrews is contrasting the sufficiency of Jesus Christ as our high priest with the “imperfect” nature of anyone but Jesus. In the Old Testament times, priests were appointed within the nation of Israel to serve as mediators between Israel and God. However, because each and every one of these priests was imperfect, so also this entire system suffered by reason of the fact that the mediators were imperfect. In some sense, the ability to be “heard” by God was dependent upon the ability (or more likely, fallibility) of the priest himself. In contrast to these Old Testament priests, as well as the imperfect ability of any of our fellow saints of the faith, now in heaven, consider the absolute perfection of our new mediator, Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews notes that, because of how perfect Christ is as our new mediator, we need no one else, even if the mediator in question has been canonized as a saint, to have the assurance of being “heard” by God. If you believe in Jesus Christ as God, if you believe that he took the penalty of death on your behalf, then His sacrifice on your behalf is already perfected. There is no need to have the church offer additional masses on your behalf. Your desire to make gifts to the church following your death is itself a laudable desire. However, neither these gifts nor your lifetime of good deeds will be sufficient to avoid purgatory. The Bible clearly teaches that no amount of good deeds cause us to gain God’s approval. (See also Ephesians 2:8-9). If these actions and deeds were sufficient, there would have been no need for Jesus Christ to be condemned as a sinner and die a terrible and agonizing death on the cross. It is Jesus Christ who will save you from punishment following death, not your good deeds or the prayers of any saints. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior, you have a Great High Priest. If you have such a Great High Priest, then both now and in the very waning moments of your earthly existence, you can be free of any anxiety of whether you are accepted. Because Jesus now stands as your Great High Priest and ready to receive you as His child, you can have complete assurance of where you stand before Him.