Many religions have a soteriology, which is a method of salvation. Most beliefs teach that we must work for it. Some religions have no salvation or hope of release from suffering, they just take life as it is. There are many methods of salvation using natural works to generate good karma or good character points with God. It’s like climbing a mountain to reach God or deliverance from the struggles of life, but while climbing the climber faces an eruption, an avalanche, a thunderstorm, and mountain lions, so it’s humanly impossible. In contrast, in Christianity Jesus (the Messiah) ascends the metaphorical mountain himself for us. He walks through fire and magma unburned (Dan 3:1-30), parts the wall of snow and ice (Ex 14:15-31, Josh 3:9-17) even walks on rushing water (Mark 6:45-56), quiets the storm (Mark 4:35-41) and shuts the lion’s mouths (Dan 6:1-28). He reaches the top for us and moved the mountain (Mark 11:22-24) by mediating a new covenant where our sin is covered by his sacrifice, so we are saved from its effects including death. In other words, we can’t save ourselves so we must trust God for it.
Paul says this in Philippians 3:2-4 and 8-9. Philippians 3:2 (NLT) “Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have a reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!”
In verse 7 he continues, “7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.”
For Jews, who are descendants of Abraham through Isaac (the promised seed), it’s about following the law until the messiah comes. No heaven, just Sheol (afterlife) until the messiah comes to raise the righteous dead and start a new Kingdom. For Islam, one follows the Quran’s teachings however, salvation itself is unknown because God is unknowable and there is no guaranteed way to be saved, one must hope that God wills for them to be saved. In Islam, the only ones guaranteed heaven are those that die in jihad, for everyone else they have no idea and won’t know until they die.
Vedic religions like Hindu, Buddhist, and Jainist are all about achieving salvation by either building good karma to achieve liberation from samsara (cycle of reincarnation), this liberation is called moksha for Hindus and Jainists and Nirvana for Buddhists. The Buddha says following his eightfold path is the way to Nirvana. New age paganism is all about being a good person and it usually borrows from Vedic religions but sometimes applies Abrahamic ideas of the afterlife when convenient. Some new-age religions are like Buddhism and Jainism in that they don’t believe in an afterlife or even god(s), but believe we become energy in the universe. Meanwhile, there are still many beliefs in the world that involve the worship of idols or their ancestors, that have no soteriology, they simply deal with life as it comes. In some of these systems, there is no good or evil, but all things are necessary for balance, these ideas can be found in some indigenous religions of Africa, East Asia, and the Americas. In other words, there is no hope of salvation just life and death.
Jesus Christ is the only person that claims to offer the method of salvation that fulfills God’s promises to save people from the corruption caused by sin in their hearts and resurrect them after death to eternal life. As well as offering mercy in face of judgment against all evil, because we can’t save ourselves. In John 6:63 Jesus says the spirit alone gives eternal life and human effort accomplishes nothing, and his words are spirit and life. God’s view on the worthlessness of good deeds compared to the humility of repentance is on display in Ezekiel 18:23-24. Ezekiel 18:23 “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. 24 However, if righteous people turn from their righteous behavior and start doing sinful things and acting like other sinners, should they be allowed to live? No, of course not! All their righteous acts will be forgotten, and they will die for their sins.”
In Matt 22:14, Jesus says “many are called but few are chosen”. When reading the 13 verses before it we can see the full context. Jesus describes the offer of salvation through the new covenant as a wedding invitation, which is first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). The Jews are the first invited guest, but many of them rejected the offer. However, God extends the offer they rejected to the Gentiles. Many Gentiles come but one came in the wrong attire (Matt 22:11). The proper attire is in reference to the holy spirit, which in the new testament is analogous to putting on clothes, or armor (Rom13:14, Ep 4:24, Gal 3:27, 1 Pt 5:5-6, Col 3:12-14). This describes people who believe in Jesus, but live according to their sinful nature rather than following the holy spirit. Following the spirit instead of the flesh is a sign of a true believer (Gal 5:16, Gal 6:8). Wearing the right clothes means having a truly repentant heart and a renewed mind that lives to serve God and represent him with holiness.
It’s the holy spirit that was promised to circumcise our hearts (Deut 30:6, Jer 4:4, Ez 36:25-27, Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:16-21, Rom 2:29, and Col 2:11) and give us the power to overcome sin nature so that we could accomplish the task of keeping God’s commands. In Deut 30:6 Moses says that the Israelites will never keep God’s commands until their hearts are circumcised, in other words, the hardness of their hearts must be cut away. Jeremiah 4:3-4 God says that the hearts of the people of Judah need to be circumcised so that they can repent of their sins. Ezekiel 36:25-27 says that God will transform the human heart by pouring out his spirit on humanity. This is prophesied in Joel 2:28-32 and fulfilled in Acts chapter 2. Paul confirms this heart circumcision is by the Holy Spirit in Romans 2:29 and Colossians 2:11. God’s spirit is what transforms people. His spirit dwells in the bodies of believers, just like he dwelled in the temple and tabernacle built by the Jews in the old testament. Only this time the “temple” is the body of the people who are in covenant with Jesus, rather than a building in Israel. And the Holy Spirit is only available to those who received Jesus as Lord (John 14:15-17, Rom 8:5-11). Believers have God’s spirit inside of them because they were made pure by the sacrifice of Jesus. They don’t need to be in a ritually clean state to enter God’s presence in a building in Israel anymore, because we are the building (temple). Paul says our bodies are the new temple in 1 Cor 3:16-17, 1 Cor 6:19-20, & 2 Cor 6:15-18.
We must repent to God and receive the gift of the holy spirit which is what helps us overcome sin. The people that receive that will inherit eternal life because they have walked away from darkness and entered the light. He describes how to be the fork in the road for us all in John 3:16-21.
John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
Other religions teach that you must work for your own salvation from your failures and corruption by yourself. Christianity teaches that God made it so that you can receive salvation and walk with him to escape from sin. Essentially we don’t need to reach God by struggling alone to prove our righteousness, we simply come to God and he walks with us and teaches us.
Gal 5:16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!