In a recent letter by a prominent church leader the following was written, in regards to the recent Feast of Tabernacles: “The focus on qualifying by overcoming and doing a work in the world was maintained everywhere.”
But what does the Bible say? Does it say we are “qualifying” for the Kingdom? We could not find a Bible version that used the term “qualifying for the kingdom” or “for salvation” or anything like this.
Runners, golfers and other sports figures qualify for certain contests by demonstrating a certain level of performance before the contest. Students qualify to go to a college by achieving a certain score on a test. While these qualifications are not exactly the same as the “real thing”, they involve demonstrating the ability to do at least part of the “real thing”.
When someone preaches that we must qualify for the kingdom or salvation, those who have a knowledge of the Bible are likely to say, “eternal life is a free gift!” Romans 6:23 ways, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Bible does not talk about a qualifying concept. If so, it would say something like, “those who are righteous enough on their own will qualify to receive Christ’s righteousness.”
How can we qualify for a gift? How can we be possibly qualified in any way whatsoever to be fit for the Kingdom of God? We are nothing but carnal flesh that sins. God works with us, to perfect the spirit, and to prepare us for the Kingdom. No major Bible translations says anything about “qualifying” for this. Adding terms like “qualifying” to the Bible teaching leads most sincere Bible students to conclude that it is a non-biblical doctrine.
The scripture does say: “But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). It also says: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God (Rev 3:12). If we have the spirit of Christ in us, we will be doing His work. If we do not see these fruits in our lives, we pray for them. A prayer doesn’t “qualify us” for an answer, nor does it “earn” an answer. But if we do not pray, we do not get an answer: “Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Jms 4:2-3).
We have to both ask, and use our knowledge of the Eternal’s will to ask within it (1Jn 5:14). We do not sit back and do nothing, nor do we “sin so that grace may abound” (Rom 6:1), but our best efforts do not “qualify” us for the Kingdom (Rom 3:10). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23-24).
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phlp 2:13). We do need to let our Father work in us—so He can receive the credit for the works.
The idea of “qualification” is especially dangerous if applied to baptism. The Bible teaches that people should confess their sins (however great), repent and be baptized (Matt 3:6; Acts 2:38; 22:16). The only people who were refused baptism were the Pharisees and Sadduccess who did not come confessing their sins, but who claimed to be righteous (Matt 3:7-9; 26:23-24). People who are struggling with sin do not need to be told to “qualify” for baptism by overcoming on their own, but to be forgiven of that sin and to be given the power of Christ. (If a new believer has a problem, be it sex, violence, smoking, theft or something else that makes him or her a threat to other believers, the new believer should not fellowship with others until they are safe to be around—but this does not stop them from being baptized.)
The Bible does not teach a standard of qualification for “baptism”, the Kingdom of God or eternal life. God provides those things. It does teach us to maintain contact with God so He can work in our lives: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1Thes 5:16).
— David King and Norman Edwards