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Four Things That Won’t Save You  — and One That Will

By Shawn Thomas

Angleton, Texasshawn thomas four things that won't save you


In olden times, they believed in “bleeding” a person to get the illness out of them. Of course, that often had the opposite effect and made the person much worse.  Sometimes when I’m reading I’ll encounter a scenario where a doctor is going to “bleed” someone, and I want to say: “Don’t do that! That won’t save them!”

The same thing is true in the spiritual world. You see people do certain things they think will make them right with God and get them to heaven, but you want to say, “Don’t do that! That won’t save you!” That is basically what Paul does in Philippians 3. He lists some “good works” and attainments in his life — things that many people in his generation thought would save them — but that he knew would NOT get them to heaven. Basically, he lists there “Four things that won’t save you” — and one that will!

Your Religious Rituals won’t save you.

Paul said in 5 he was “circumcised the 8th day”.  Circumcision was the great Jewish ritual. But Paul included circumcision in this list of things that would NOT save. But circumcision is just one example; the PRINCIPLE is that no religious ritual will save us:

— Islam has “5 pillars” of the faith: rituals they believe will help them attain Paradise.

— Many Christians put their trust in “rituals”: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, confirmation; even the “informal Baptist ritual” of “going down to the front” of the church at the invitation! Some of these are legitimate and Biblical, but if we put our trust that these rituals will save us, we will be disappointed. NO outward ritual that we can perform on our physical body can save us. Salvation is of the HEART. Outward, physical religious rituals cannot save.

Your Background & Heritage Won’t Save You

Paul said he was “of the nation of Israel” — but he said that didn’t save him. And our background and heritage will not save us, either — whatever it is!

A documentary showed how they were trying to discover the location of the Lost Ark of the Covenant. In the process, the narrator visited many villages and churches in Ethiopia. At one church he was asked: “Are you a Christian?” (only Christians could enter). The narrator said, “Of course I’m a Christian; I’m British!”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Being British doesn’t make you a Christian!”

And neither does being an American! Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Each person must individually repent of their personal sins, and put their trust in Jesus as their Lord & Savior, to be saved. It doesn’t matter what your nationality or your family background is. It must be personal.

Even as a pastor, my faith won’t save my children or grandchildren. Each person must put their own faith in Jesus to be saved.

I hope you realize that your heritage will not save YOU either. You may be a red-blooded, flag-waving, gun-toting, Trump-voting, Lone Star Texan American whose ancestors were all pastors and deacons — but all that does not make YOU a Christian in your heart!  You must put YOUR OWN faith in Jesus as YOUR Lord & Savior. Your background and religious heritage won’t save you!

Your Religious Works Won’t Save You

Paul says, “As to the Law, (he was) A Pharisee …”.  The Pharisees were a religious group that believed their works would save them. But Romans 3:20 says: “by the works of the Law, NO flesh will be justified in His sight.” Good works and religious deeds cannot save you.

This may be the most misunderstood thing about salvation. Most people think, and most religions teach, that good works will make one right with God.

Edwin Orr was a military chaplain, and he spoke with a man who said he thought that if we just always did our best, that was good enough to save us. Orr said to him: “Very well, if doing your best is all that is required for your salvation, do you always do your best?” The man admitted he did NOT. “Then,” (Orr said) “you are disqualified, according to you!’” (J. Edwin Orr, The Faith That Persuades, p. 98)

See, that’s the problem; that’s why so many people are worried about dying. That’s why so many people are always anxious about their salvation. Because we all know deep down in our hearts that we can never do enough to cover our sins and earn a place in heaven. The Bible confirms that: your religious works can’t save you.

Your Sincere Intentions Won’t Save You

Paul said, “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” “Zeal” here means “eagerness, enthusiasm.” You can be very zealous about your religion — but that won’t save you either.

Paul said in Romans 10:2: “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” These folks were zealous — but their zeal was misplaced. They were “sincere,” but they were sincerely wrong!

Many today say something like, “I think as long as you’re sincere in your religion, you’ll be ok.” But the Bible says that’s not true. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” The Bible clearly teaches that there is ONE way of salvation, and that way is through Jesus. Any other way is false. The wrong medicine that you take with all sincerity is still the wrong medicine, and it will NOT save you. And the wrong religion you practice with all sincerity will not save you either. Your sincere intentions will not save you.

Jesus is All You Need to be Saved

Paul said, But ONE thing will: “Christ.”  God made us all to know Him and to live with Him in heaven forever, but we sinned against Him. And all our rituals, heritage, work, and zeal can’t atone for our sins. Only ONE thing can: the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for us. The Bible says we are saved by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in Jesus, and what He did, alone. Jesus alone is enough.

A book, “Final Chapters” describes how many famous authors died. One was Oscar Wilde, who was involved in immorality, homosexuality, prostitution, drugs, and he died young. But a priest claims he was called to Wilde’s bedside as he lay dying, and that Wilde had a “bedside conversion” at the end. I don’t know if Wilde did that or not, but IF he did — then Oscar Wilde was saved, and this day, like the thief on the cross, despite his profligate and profane life, he is in Paradise!

Someone may say, “Really? This man who lived such a life, but on his death bed repents, with no works; rituals; nothing — he just gets Christ and is saved?!  Could that possibly be right?”

See, this is the whole thing. And let me re-emphasize: I DO NOT KNOW if Oscar Wilde truly did this in his heart or not. But if he did truly repent of his sins and trusted Jesus as his Savior, he didn’t need baptism; he didn’t need rituals; he didn’t need a whole life of good works —  all he needed was faith in Jesus to be saved!

And if you can’t understand how Oscar Wilde could be saved without any of those things, then I wonder if you really understand how YOU are saved either. Because if you are saved, it is not because you have any of those things; it is through faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus ALONE!  JESUS IS ALL YOU NEED TO BE SAVED!


Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.

You can read more good Christian news HERE at Blue Ridge Christian News.