First, let’s be clear that there’s a difference between being a believer and being a Christian. The Bible tells us that even “the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19; KJV). Obviously, the devils mentioned here are not Christians and will not inherit the Kingdom of God. So, what constitutes a Christian? Not just being a believer, but accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God and risen Savior. That takes faith, and faith has to be based on a solid foundation. For Christians, the foundation of our faith is the belief that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. We are bound by the Word, and we can not merely pick and choose which pages or which teachings we wish to believe. The scriptures are clear that without accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6; KJV).
We are all born into this world as sinners. Due to the inherent imperfections of all men, we have an intrinsic inclination toward sin. No matter how hard we may try, we can never overcome this impure nature. Because sin can not be overcome, we require a covering for our sin -- a ransom, if you will. Jesus Christ paid that ransom by sacrificing His life that we “should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Therefore, being a Christian is predicated on accepting Christ’s free gift of salvation. It is by His grace, nothing more or nothing less, that we are saved from an eternal hell. His sacrifice is the only sufficient covering for our sins. Our acceptance of His free gift is our only means of salvation.
Why is this so? Why is simply living a kind and fruitful life inadequate for our salvation in the eyes of God?
“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.” (Ephesians 2:8-9; KJV).
“I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.” (Isaiah 57:12; KJV).
If works alone could guarantee eternal life, God would be irrelevant and His Son’s sacrifice would have been made in vain. Salvation through our works would only glorify ourselves in the eyes of others. Such salvation would be self-serving and would not contribute to the glory of God or His Kingdom.
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” (Romans 4:5-7; KJV).
Furthermore, we realize that our imperfect human nature is incapable of achieving righteousness without the benevolence of God. Even the Apostle Paul found that “when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Romans 7:21; KJV). If we merely rely on our own virtues in an attempt to balance out our immorality we will always fall short.
However, it is important to also recognize that our works are not insignificant. Scripture reveals our works to be an outward manifestation of our faith.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (James 2:21-22; KJV).
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20; KJV).
If we are true Christians, saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, our works will demonstrate that. There should be a desire in every Christian’s heart to live each day in an honest and honorable manner; so that others may see God manifested in our life. That is the scriptural standard for all Christians.
Finally, the question of “fairness” in regards to “good people” going to hell. God’s Word clearly teaches that everyone will have the opportunity for salvation. For this reason, Jesus commanded his disciples to preach the gospel throughout the entire world.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16; KJV).
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14; KJV).
Being the merciful and just God our Lord is, He has ensured that everyone will have the opportunity to receive the free gift of salvation. Those who would choose not to accept that gift are intentionally rejecting our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is not a loving God who is damning them, it is they who are making a conscious decision regarding their future.
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:20-21; KJV).
What could be more “fair” than this free gift of reconciliation with God? What more could our Lord do than offer salvation? If you refuse that offer, the consequences are of your own making.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation.” (Hebrews 2:3; KJV).