God's Gift of Salvation
The free prize in a cereal box might be priceless in the eyes of a child, but as he grows up, he quickly realizes the worthlessness of the shiny, plastic ring or the baseball card printed with cheap ink on cheap paper. The free gift that God offers is truly priceless, and it never loses its value. What is this free gift? “[T]he free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Anyone who knows anything about the Bible must admit that although the gift of salvation is free, it is not forced on anyone. Indeed, God puts conditions upon His salvation to those who wish to obtain it. If you’re not convinced, just read John 3:16 with fresh eyes: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Yes, God puts at least one condition upon salvation- the condition of belief! But what does it mean to believe? We cannot treat Jesus Christ as a fairy tale! What I mean is that if we claim that belief only includes believing Jesus is real, then we have lowered Jesus down to the level of leprechauns and pixies. The Bible is clear: belief equals obedience (Heb. 5:8-9).
Ultimately, the gift of salvation is free, and it must not go without saying that there is nothing a person can do to earn his or her own salvation (Eph. 2:8). God has done His part in what it takes for our sins to be forgiven (1 Jn. 4:8-10). It was before we even knew we needed salvation, while we were enemies with God, Christ died for our sins (Rom. 5:10). However, like all gifts, we must accept the gift of salvation. “[H]ow will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3)?
From what are we seeking salvation? We are seeking salvation from our sins and the eternal consequences of those sins. The consequences of sin are eternal destruction and being away from the presence of the Lord forever (2 Thess. 1:8-9). Since God is perfect, our imperfections separate us from God, and our sins make it impossible for God to look at us (Isa. 59:1-2). Jesus Christ is coming back one day to separate all mankind into two groups: the goats and the sheep (Mt. 25:32-33). To the sheep, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:34). To the goats, He will say, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). There is no one who desires to hear the latter of the two. The question is if the Lord were to come right now, which of the two would you hear?
We can know we have eternal life! How? By comparing our lives to what has been written (1 Jn. 5:13). When the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, he knew that he had eternal life. He said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Do you want to know you have eternal life? If you died today, or if the Lord were to come back right now, would you go home with Jesus to heaven forever?
By what standard are we going to be judged? Jesus says, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (Jn. 12:48). On the Judgment Day, Christ will judge no one, including you, by what he or she feels in the heart, or what his or her grandmother, father, or preacher has taught. Christ will judge all by the word of God! Have you done what the Bible requires?
As we travel through the Scriptures, we will quickly learn who the Main Character is. That character is Jesus the Christ. Our primary goal is to be with our Father in heaven. Jesus claims, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14:6). He also says, “unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). We must believe that Jesus is who the Bible says He is, since “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). So, who is Jesus? He is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). He is the Son of God (Mk. 1:1). He is God with us (Mt. 1:23; Jn. 1:1-3, 14; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:8).
Jesus is also the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). A mediator is a go-between for two parties (like a bridge between two lands- you cannot get from one side to the other, except across the bridge). Why do we need a mediator? We are separated from God because of our sins (Isa. 59:1-2). Jesus is the only human to have ever existed without sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). Since we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23), and since our sins separate us from God, only Jesus can be the bridge between God and mankind. Jesus is the only one who can reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10). Jesus says, “unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). Do you believe that Jesus Christ came to earth as God in the flesh to become a mediator between you and God and to become a sacrifice for you (Rom. 5:10; Phil. 2:8)? If so, you must be willing to confess it to others. Jesus promises, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32-33). What will you do with your belief in Jesus?
Although belief is required, and is extremely important, it is simply the beginning step toward Christ Jesus. We cannot be cleansed of our sins if we insist in remaining in them. Therefore, we must repent of our sins. Our Savior promises, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3, 5). To have forgiveness of our sins, Peter instructs, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Walking toward sin is simultaneously walking away from God. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action (example: 2 Cor. 7:10). There must be a deep, godly sorrow in our innermost being, understanding that we are separated from God because of our wrongdoings, and that we need forgiveness. Before we can begin walking toward God, we must first turn away from sin. Then, we can begin traveling in the opposite direction: toward God. We must do our very best to give up sin in order to serve the One True God.
Scripture teaches that repentance is “dying to sin” (Rom. 6:2). So, when one repents of his or her sin, that old life of sin is dead! What must be done with a dead body? It must be buried! Scripture teaches that baptism in water serves as a burial of the old life of sin (Col. 2:12). To be given that “newness of life,” that Christ offers, we must first choose to be immersed (baptized) in water. Then, we will be raised to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). There are many blessings found in Christ (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:1; and others). Among those blessings are salvation (2 Tim. 2:10), the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14), and eternal life (Rom. 6:23). We must be in Christ to receive these blessings. How do we get into Christ? We are “baptized into Christ” (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27). Jesus promises, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). When we obey Jesus’ commandment, God washes our sins away (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), adds us to His body of believers (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13), and clothes us with Christ (Gal. 3:27).
There is only one way to God. That way is through Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6). There is only one baptism (Eph. 4:4-5) that God accepts today. Have you obeyed God in that one baptism (Jn. 14:15)? If you died today, or if the Lord were to come back right now, would you go home with Jesus to heaven forever?
As you have traveled the Scriptures to answer the most important question (“[W]hat must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]), you must answer one question from God: “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16)! If there is anything I can do to assist you in your walk with and/or obedience to Christ, please let me know.