The Binary Gospel

The term binary is not a new one, but has made its way into our everyday vocabulary thanks to computer technology. Here is how the word is defined by the Oxford dictionary: “Relating to, composed of, or involving two things.” Much of life is binary: two things paired together in a way that brings contrast, focus and clarity. Up or down, East or West, black or white, in or out, active or passive, true or false— they are all binary.

The beauty of binary is there is no wiggle room. Nothing is fuzzy or unclear. In binary computer code, ones are not zeros, and zeros are not ones. This binary nature shows the clarity of the true Gospel in contrast to religion, which clouds the issue regarding eternal life. While religion blurs the edges, the binary Gospel brings eternity into sharp focus. Here are a few binary statements made in scripture about the Gospel.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

Here you have two binary opposites. You have either passed from death unto life or you haven’t.

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1John 5:12-13).

Binary again. You either have life in the Son or you don’t. You either know you have eternal life or you don’t.

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col.1:13-14).

You have been rescued or you haven’t. You are in the Kingdom or you are not.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

You are either born again or you are not.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1).

You either have peace with God or you don’t.

“All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:43).

You have either been forgiven or you haven’t.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1). You are either condemned or you are not. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9).

You are saved by faith or you are not. It is a gift or it is by works. It cannot be both. I could keep going, but I think you see my point. The default mode of the human heart is to blur the lines, and the lines will always be blurred when human effort or good works are involved. Note how fuzzy things get if we were to take any of the above verses and add the haze of religious self-effort to it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved—as long as you go to church and occasionally drop a twenty in the offering plate.”

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he tries real hard to keep the Golden Rule.”

Is it grace or good works that saves me? And how hard do I have to try to keep the Golden Rule?

I often wonder at the heart of man, that he feels such a need to help God out by adding to the clarity of His Word and work. When Jesus said “It is finished” at the cross, why do we think we need to add a few finishing touches? Would we try to improve a Rembrandt? And if we did, do we really believe it would enhance the masterpiece? The question is rhetorical, but the answer is not: Christ has already done it all on my behalf. What could I possibly add to it?

So if you find yourself struggling with eternity based on your religious performance, just remember this: God did not send His Son to leave us confused about our eternal destiny. You are either condemned or you are not. You’re either in the kingdom, or you’re out of it. You are saved by grace through faith or you are not. You either have the life in the Son, or you don’t. While religion will always cloud the beautiful clarity of the binary Gospel, the Scriptures are clear; it’s all of Jesus, or none of Him. It’s a zero, or it’s a one. We can always know where we stand, not because of us, but because of Him.


Religion is pride before the law, while Christianity is humility before the cross.

Mike Minter

Teaching Pastor Emeritus, Reston Bible Church

Mike was born into a Navy family in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1944. His father was an Admiral and the family lived in Hawaii and had three different tours of duty at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Mike attended the Naval Academy and has a degree from Old Dominion University in Political Science. While traveling with a friend through Europe in 1970, Mike trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior through this friend’s consistent witness.

With a growing desire to study and teach the Scriptures, Mike entered Florida Bible College in 1972 and graduated in 1974 with a degree in Bible. It was at FBC that he met and married his wife, Kay, and was called to the ministry to start an evangelical work in Reston. The first Bible study was held in the home of Charles Swift in June of 1974, and the first RBC church service was in the Reston Sheraton in March of 1975. Mike and Kay live in Ashburn and have four adult children — Kelly, Megan, Katie, and David — and a growing number of grandchildren.

As pastor of teaching, Mike’s responsibilities include the weekly preaching of the Word at three weekend services, teaching at FUEL, meeting regularly with the leadership of RBC, and giving overall direction for the church. Mike authored the book A Western Jesus: The Wayward Americanization of Christ and the Church, along with several smaller publications that are available free on Apple iBooks.