The world was horrified last week to learn of another school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the midst of the tragedy, there were also acts of heroism as teachers shepherded students to safety. In particular, assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis used his own body as a shield to protect students. Taking a bullet and giving his life to save a student was a noble, heroic, sacrificial action.
Aaron’s action prompted one editorial cartoonist to suggest it was an automatic ticket into heaven.
It God grades on a curve, a sacrificial death would certainly rank higher than helping an elderly person cross the street. It would undoubtedly gain more points than donating blood, telling the truth, digging a well in Saharan Africa, curing malaria, or giving up your seat on a bus to someone with a broken leg.
But does God grade on a curve? Can one earn their way into heaven by performing good deeds? Do some actions guarantee one’s entrance into heaven?
In order to answer that question, we need to examine what Scripture says. Jesus told his own disciples that the path to God runs through himself.
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
In an interview with a Jewish leader, Jesus said that eternal life is directly related to one’s faith in Christ.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The apostle John reiterated the same point years later when he wrote his first letter.
1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
The apostle Paul explained that one needs to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Only then can we be saved and enter heaven.
Romans 10:9–10 – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
If there was any question about how to enter heaven, the apostle Paul explained that salvation is determined by what God does for us, not by what we do for ourselves.
Ephesians 2:8–9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Good works, selfless deeds, and sacrificial acts are certainly valuable. While they might result in greater rewards in heaven, they won’t guarantee one’s entrance into heaven. Only putting one’s faith in Jesus for salvation will lead to eternal life.