By Eric Johnson
The following article is found in Holman’s The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, an excellent Bible resource for those who want to learn more about the Bible and their faith. Available at Amazon in paper, hardcover, tan imitation leather and blue imitation leather.
Except for Christianity, all religions teach that there are certain requirements for reaching a heavenly state. For example, Muslims are obligated to follow the Five Pillars of Faith to earn Paradise while Mormons must get married in one of their church’s temples in their quest for the Celestial Kingdom. In effect, followers of these and other religions ask, “What must I do for my salvation?”
However, the Christian asks a much different question: “What did God first do for me?” The idea that salvation is a gift coming by grace through faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9) is a radical concept that is difficult for many to accept. We can summarize this teaching in just ten words:
God loves. A favorite verse for many Christians is John 3:16, which begins, “For God loved the world…” God’s love for people is the motivating factor in how He deals with humanity.
Humans sinned. The Bible says that Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world. The consequence is that “death spread to all men, because all sinned” as there was “condemnation for everyone” (Rom 5:13-18).
Jesus died. Jesus Christ came to this world with one purpose: to die on the cross and be raised back to life again. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!”
We believe. Romans 10:8b-10 says that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.”
God forgives. When we come into a relationship with God, our sins are washed away. Isaiah 1:18 teaches that “though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow.” This cleansing comes through the blood of Jesus, which brings “forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph 1:7).
We cannot be justified before God by our works, as salvation is not like earning a paycheck. As Romans 4:6 puts it, “God credits righteousness apart from works.” Salvation can be illustrated by a grandfather who told his grandson that he was depositing “10” into the bank under his grandson’s name. The young man didn’t think anything of it until he decided to withdraw this money. Imagine his shock when the teller gave him the requested $10 and then wrote the number $9,999,990 into his account book! While he thought he had just a few measly dollars, the grandfather had actually sacrificed everything to give him $10 million, an amount most people will never earn in their lifetimes. This present was not given as a payment but as a gift.