Gift (n): “something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present” (definition courtesy of Dictionary.com).
Gifts are an interesting thing. We love them, but we hate them at the same time. We love them because they’re free, because (most of the time) they are things we’ve been wanting to have. We hate them when they’re unexpected, because ironically, we feel indebted to the giver—despite the fact that by definition they are given without expectation of something in return. Plus—we didn’t ask for it. It turns into a combination of feeling indebted and slightly irritated. We will most likely find a way to “pay them back,” whether it be with money, an act of service, or some delicious food. We can get away with trying to pay our giver back in most situations, but there’s one gift that we can’t pay back, no matter how mightily we tried. In fact, to try and pay it back would ruin the beauty of the gift in the first place.
This is the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and it is only meant to be received.
Salvation: Why, What, How
As we discussed in the last post of this series on the nature of man, we are currently separated from God because of our sin. Not only does our sin separate us from Him now, but it will separate us from Him forever. Our sinful nature and continuous acts of sin make us enemies of God, who rightfully deserve His holy wrath and condemnation, which is death—in this life and for eternity (Romans 6:23). This reality gives way to our greatest need of all: salvation.
We need someone to pay the price for our sin. We need someone to die in our place. We need someone to make atonement for us, that we might be reconciled to God, that we might be spared from death and given eternal life, and that the Lord of heaven and earth might be glorified throughout all the earth. We are in such great need.
We never would have been able to do this ourselves. We’ve gone over this: every single human being that exists, ever has existed, and ever will exist besides Jesus Christ is sinful by nature. None of us are unstained. If any of us were to die, it would be what we deserve. There is nothing we would ever be able to do to fix our very permanent predicament. Praise the Lord that He didn’t leave us stranded in it.
Salvation: God the Initiator
Out of love for the world and the goodness of Himself, the very Creator of the universe did what needed to be done for our good and His glory. We deserved no good. Death would have been perfect justice. Yet in His great love and kindness, He did all of the work to provide our salvation.
Jesus, the Son of God and God Himself, humbly came into the world as a helpless baby boy, lived the perfect and blameless life that is impossible for us to live, died a humiliating death on the Cross that should have been ours, rose from the grave and appeared to thousands, and ascended into heaven to His rightful place on the throne.
Yes, God did this. He is the initiator of our salvation (John 3:16l 1 John 4:10). We were dead in our trespasses—eventually to be lost forever, yet God initiated the means of our salvation. He didn’t do this because of anything good we’d done, nor did He do it because we deserved it. Justice would have been our eternal destruction. But the Lord is merciful, perfect in all of His ways, and to remain perfectly just, He had to be the one to make atonement for us, because noone is perfect besides Him. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because of His spotless, rightous, divine nature. Through His life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, He has appeased the wrath of God towards us, making it possible for us to be reconciled to God and enjoy Him forever (1 Colossians 1:20-22). God Himself did all of the work, and there’s only one thing that we must do:
Believe (Acts 16:30-31; John 3:16, John 11:25-27).
God has made the way for salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, and all we need to do to take hold of this salvation is to believe; to believe that we are sinful and in desperate need of a Savior; to believe that Jesus truly is the Son of God, meaning that He is God in the flesh (1 Colossians 1:15-19, Philippians 2:9-11, Romans 10:8-13); to believe that He truly was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:14-19); to believe that He truly is the propitiation for our sins and that through faith in Him, you are made right with God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17, 1 John 2:2).
” For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (emphasis mine)
Yes, friends: salvation by nature is a gift, and nothing compared to it. We cannot pay God back, nor should we try. The whole point is that He paid it all and that the payment is complete. This does not mean that we have license to continue on unrepentant sin because we know that the penalty for sin has been paid (Romans 6:1-2). In fact, God in His Word commands us to do good works of every kind, even going so far as to say that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26; Micah 6:8). But our motivation for doing good works is not to earn God’s love or our own salvation. No, our good works are an outpouring of thanksgiving to God. They are a response of love for Him, worship of Him, and gratitude for His unfathomable, unchanging, eternal gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
The very nature of salvation is that it is a gift, and when we try to change this aspect of salvation, we destroy the Gospel. There is nothing we’ve done to earn it, nothing we can do to lose it, nothing we can do to pay it back. Won’t you embrace the true Gospel and receive the most precious gift of all?