The Gospel In The Gospels: Answering The Question “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” From The Synoptics -- By: Edmund K. Neufeld

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:2 (Jun 2008)
Article: The Gospel In The Gospels: Answering The Question “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” From The Synoptics
Author: Edmund K. Neufeld


The Gospel In The Gospels: Answering The Question “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” From The Synoptics

Edmund K. Neufeld*

* Edmund K. Neufeld is pastor of the Kleefeld Christian Community in Kleefeld, Manitoba, Canada and professor of Biblical Studies at Providence Theological Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba.

The Synoptic Gospels regularly describe how one enters the kingdom of God, or how one inherits eternal life, or how one is saved.1 We evangelicals hold that people are saved by faith, not by works, but the Synoptics rarely mention faith in these contexts. Rather, in the Synoptics people are saved by what they do. These Gospels do not imply that a person earns or merits eternal life and the kingdom; nevertheless, active obedience provides the gateway to life. This paper argues that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, eternal life comes by an active saving obedience, and that this Synoptic gospel merits its place in NT soteriology.

I. Introduction

To clarify “What must I do to be saved?,” let us first consider a broader question: “How can I be saved?” This wider question includes three subordinate questions.

First, “How can I be saved?” includes, “On what basis does a holy and just God grant me salvation, eternal life, and kingdom entrance?” The NT answers this first question with Jesus the Christ, his merits, and the atonement he accomplished on behalf of his people.

Second, “How can I be saved?” also involves, “How does God act to graciously bring people to himself?” The NT answers this with activities such as electing, convicting, calling, and enabling.

Third, “How can I be saved?” must include, “What must I do? How do I receive what God offers?” Or to frame it in more Calvinist terms, “What response does God graciously strengthen the called ones to make by which

they receive his forgiveness, the kingdom, and eternal life?” This paper assumes the stated answers to the first and second questions. It answers only the third question, and only from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Unfortunately, we can consider this third question burdened with a faulty assumption: if eternal life comes on the basis of active obedience, or “works,” the more offensive term, then eternal life necessarily comes as an earned, merited salvation.2 This view unnecessarily confuses the third question with the first question. The first asks, on what basis does a holy God offer salvation, the answer being Christ’s atonement and merits. The third question asks o...

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