In our earthly vocations, is resolving to sin less, be more intentional about avoiding eternal death, and fighting against Satan good or bad? Neither. Such resolutions are only part of a broader, more nuanced conversation.

They are a part of a broader conversation about the dichotomy between salvation and vocation. Vocation is how we get to an answer about the fruits of salvation, but it’s never the way to salvation. When something as vital as salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is questioned, vocation becomes our means of personal salvation.

When we don’t distinguish between God’s salvation and our vocation to our neighbor, the gospel and Christ’s gifts are pushed aside for self-chosen ways into the kingdom of heaven. For example, we hijack the apostle Paul’s inspired words about the fruit of the Spirit and invert them. Now, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control become our way to salvation instead of how the Spirit uses us as His instrument of grace to love and serve our neighbor.

We prefer to choose our own way into heaven.

We hijack the things against which “there is no law” and compel them to stand as a new Ten Commandments: thou shalt be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, self-controlled, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Obey these commands, and you will see the kingdom of heaven.

We prefer to choose our own way into heaven. What we do is concrete and real. Our actions confirm things for us that Christ’s gifts don’t, even though they’re concrete and real too. We don’t want to be bothered with how God uses words, water, bread, and wine to affect our salvation. We’ve got better ways worked out that are backed up by data, research, and extensive field testing.

We confuse salvation and vocation in our quest to determine who is in control of our salvation.

Our results confirm vital answers to our most important question: “What must I do to be saved?” We get our answer by resolving the question for ourselves. We accept our answer to the question of salvation when we convince ourselves we did the work. Our results are tangible, and we can get ahold of that. We like to confirm that it’s us who are in control of our salvation.

We confuse salvation and vocation in our quest to determine who is in control of our salvation. We prefer to brush aside that what we do in our vocations confirms that Jesus is in control of our salvation, and he is always solely responsible for our salvation. This just isn’t the answer we want.

It is his Spirit who is at work in and through us, producing his fruits of salvation and vocation. How we are saved and how we serve our neighbor are determined for us by God. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and he has prepared our good works for us beforehand, too (Eph 1:4; Gal 2:10).

So, either we receive God’s word that Jesus alone saves us from sin, death, and Satan, or we wreck ourselves, proving through our vocational works that we deserve a heavenly reward. We attempt to earn our salvation by proving that we can choose not to sin, that we can avoid death, and that we’re strong enough to win a fight against the “ruler of this world.”

But we don’t have to use our vocations as a means of salvation. God has relieved us of that crushing burden. God’s word has relieved us of the burden of finding the answer to our questions about salvation and vocation. Now we are pointed to Christ Jesus as our all in all: the answer to all of our questions about salvation and vocation.