There are two lies we often hear today. 1. I don’t need salvation. 2. I’m a good person, I’m sure I’ll be saved. These are common beliefs and they sound good but the Bible says something different. It might not sound like good news at first but it is very good news.
The problem of sin
Creation is an amazing accomplishment of God. God in His nature is incredible and powerful. He created the earth and the universe. God created an incredible place for man to live. And then He created man, and a companion for man. He created man so that He could have a relationship with God. This was a wonderful place to be. But then man sinned. He decided that his relationship with God was not important. Man decided he wanted to be like God, that He was better than God, and knew better. And so man sinned, and continues to sin. All people have sinned. The perfect place and plan that God had was destroyed, and our relationship with God was broken.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodRom 3:23
God has made us aware of our sin, by showing us the standard by which we need to live. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, shows us the laws we need to live by in order to live a good and righteous life. Yet no one has been able to maintain this standard. There is no one that has been able to get it right. The law was not sent to make us holy, as we are unable to live up to the standard it upholds. The law was given to show us that we in our own abilities are completely unable to live a sinless life.
Despite this, most people try and get closer to God by good works. Every major religion in the world, apart from Christianity, gives a way towards God that is through our own efforts. But no number of good works can ever make right for the wrong that we do. The law was not sent to enable us to become righteous, but was given so that we would become aware of our sin.
No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.Rom 3:20
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.Isaiah 64:6
God has also sent us the Holy Spirit in order to convict people of their sin. The Holy Spirit is active in the world today, and he works in the lives of unbelievers to show them the difference between right and wrong.
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement.John 16:7-8
Sometimes our response to sin is to minimise its effect, or shift blame to others rather than take responsibility for our own actions. We say it’s not our fault and blame the devil, our upbringing, society etc. We blame circumstances or God. We say that God made us the way we are and therefore we cannot be blamed for our actions. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the devil. And we’ve been shifting the responsibility ever since. We say it’s our parents’ fault, or our school’s fault, and we can even blame our spouse and children. We compare ourselves to others in order to prove that we are actually not so bad.
When we do not have a biblical view of sin we tend to redefine sin as ‘sickness’. We view the sinner as a victim of their circumstances, and hold everything and everyone except the culprit responsible for their actions. The ills of society, not the individual sinner, are blamed for his sins.
But God claims that people are responsible for their actions. We are able to make decisions and God holds us fully responsible for them.
‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’Rom 3:23
We are sinful therefore God has to judge that sin.
God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures as the holy God who hates sin.
God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all1 John 1:5
And one aspect of God’s holiness is justice. His justice requires that sin is appropriately punished.
the wages of sin is deathRom 6:23
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.2 Thes 1:8-9
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you.Isaiah 59:2
Holiness and sinfulness cannot live together in harmony. There is an automatic reaction when holiness meets sin, that sin must be judged according to God’s perfect standard. The punishment is death. Sin brings spiritual death as we are separated from God.
We’re in serious trouble. We are responsible for our sin, and the consequence is eternal separation from God.
At the centre of every world religion sits pride and self-righteousness. All religions except for Christianity say that we can work our way towards God and salvation. Through our own efforts we can do enough good deeds to earn God’s favour and salvation. But how does God view our good deeds, when we use them as a means to draw closer to God and overcome our sin?
all our righteous deeds are like filthy ragsIsaiah 64:6
The filthy rag referred to here is the dirty cloth after menstruation. That is what our ‘wonderful’, and ‘great’ deeds are like to God when the motivation is to earn God’s love. We cannot earn His love and we cannot earn our salvation through our own actions.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.Eph 2:8-10
If it is not our good works that God requires from us, how do we get into a right relationship with Him? God has made a way through Jesus Christ. He has provided the way by grace, and we need to respond with repentance and faith.
God has provided a way for us to get into a right relationship with Him. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the punishment for our sins. Jesus died in our place, satisfying God’s justice and taking upon Himself the penalty for our sins. He took our death so that we could have life.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Cor 5:21
Jesus died on the cross because sin requires punishment. Jesus took our sins and in return gave us His righteousness. We take His life, He takes our punishment. We cannot earn this favour, we can only humbly accept what Jesus has done for us on the cross.
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
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.Isaiah 53:5-6
He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.2 Cor 5:21
REPENTANCE and Salvation
Salvation is a free gift, but we need to receive that gift, and we do that through repentance and faith.
Acts 17:29 Now he commands all men everywhere to repent
There are 3 parts to repentance:
- Conviction. You suddenly realise what you are doing is wrong. Conviction of sin produces godly sorrow and remorse.
- Confession. We need to admit that we have sinned , that our actions are wrong and that we are sorry.
- Conversion. The final step is turning from a life of sin and committing ourselves to live for God rather than ourselves. This does not mean that we will never sin, but it means we sincerely want to serve God and turn from sin.
2 Tim 2:19 Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness
Faith and Salvation
By Jesus’s grace we can be in right standing with Him. Once we have repented, we need to have faith in Him.
Mark 1:15 commands us to believe in the gospel
This requires us believing in Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross – that is He died as punishment for our sin, and start trusting in Him and the finished work of the cross. We stop trusting in ourselves and in our own actions to save us. We place our hope of eternal life not in our own efforts, but in Jesus’s atoning work on the cross. That’s what it means to be saved by faith.
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. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Eph 2:8
In other words, we trust in His righteousness rather than ours. We could do nothing about our punishment, so He pulled us out of it. We have in this sense died with Christ – He took the death we deserved and now we have risen with Him to eternal life.
Assurance of salvation
Is it arrogant to claim that we have eternal life and that we are certain of our salvation? Not at all. We can be certain of our salvation because it does not depend on our efforts, but on Christ’s completed work on the cross. We do not need to live in fear, or continue to strive for our salvation. We can rest secure in God’s love, grace, knowing that we are accepted and in a right relationship with Him.
Why are people sometimes unsure of their salvation?
- People often lack assurance because they cannot remember or point to a specific time when they received Christ.
- People often lack assurance because they question the procedure they went through when they accepted Christ.
- People often lack assurance because of struggles with sin. They wonder if a true believer would have these kinds of problems. The real problem is ignorance of man’s sinful nature, the spiritual warfare we are in, God’s means of deliverance, and the need to grow and mature in Christ.
- The primary reason behind a lack of assurance is misunderstanding and the consequent lack of faith in the finished work of Christ. This means a failure to understand the Word and its teaching regarding man, his sin and inability to work for or maintain his salvation, God’s perfect holiness, and the finished nature and sufficiency of the work of Christ.
- Finally, people have been taught to look to themselves and their efforts (works) as the primary proof of their salvation. This is a major issue today.
To look to ourselves produces doubt. We need to focus on Christ’s work not ours. The Holy Spirit gives us an inner assurance that we are born again, that we are children of God, and that we have eternal life.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Rom 8:1
God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 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.1 John 5:12,13
Further Scriptures on salvation
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.1 John 5:11-13
I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.John 5:24
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,Romans 5:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Romans 8:1
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)—if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.Romans 8:14-17
More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.Philippians 3:8-9
My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they will never perish forever, and no one will seize them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can seize them from the Father’s hand.John 10:27-29
He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”Titus 3:5-7