The salvation message begins with the nature of God. Life is not about us, but it is about God. Thus, any view of salvation that is man-centered and focused on strengthening self (i.e. the flesh) and not on conforming to the standards and plan of God must be discarded.
We must know three things about God.
First, God is holy. This means that He is utterly perfect in every way and totally free from any sin and corruption. He is so holy and so perfect that nothing short of perfection can live in His presence in heaven. His holiness is intimidating and frightening, which is part of its purpose. As Jesus says in Luke 12:5, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” We are meant to see how perfect God is so that we can see how far short of that standard we are. His holiness is to give us hopelessness about our being holy like Him. Unfortunately for mankind, being holy is exactly what He expects. He says, “Be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Man is in a real predicament.
Second, God is love. He desires to have a relationship with man. He created man not because He needed Him but so that He could let man share in His love, wonder, glory, and majesty. Like a parent who wants to lavish his or her love upon a child, God wanted to have a creation to love. He deeply cares for man. But as we said, He is holy. He cannot love man into His presence because of His holiness. This brings us to the third characteristic of God.
Third, God is just. This means that according to His perfect holiness and perfect love, He must punish sin. To love sin and evil would compromise His holiness. If God didn’t judge sin, then He would be evil. Yet He wouldn’t be in the wrong to judge man for being evil because He made us good, and we choose to rebel and do evil.
This brings us to some truths about man.
First, man is not holy. He need only to listen to his conscience, for God has seared morality upon it. Romans 1:32 says, “and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” Man knows that he is not holy. He tends to rationalize his error and justify his own goodness, but deep down he knows that he is not perfect like God. The law of God shows us our sin. Likely we have lied, stolen, and made other things more important than God, just to name a few violations. If we still think we succeed at being perfect, we need only to ask ourselves if we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The bottom line is that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Man has a holiness problem because he has a sin problem. Ever since Adam sinned, man has inherited this propensity to sin. Man has a nature that makes sin natural, and he has a heart that is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). There is no way that man can be holy. As such, God cannot let us into His heaven.
Second, man cannot justify himself or make himself holy. Man is really in the negative when it comes to morality. Yet there is no amount of positives that can be done to outweigh the negatives. Perfection is the standard, so if a sin has been committed, the game has already been lost. This puts man in a bad place because Romans 6:23 says that “The wages of sin is death.” The consequences of our sin is death and eternity apart from God in hell. This is the bad news.
Fortunately, God is indeed a God of love. He cannot violate His holy standard which requires that justice be meted out. Thus, somebody must die. Somebody must bear the death penalty that we all deserve. Yet in order for the penalty to be paid, the one who bears the judgment of God must Himself be perfect. Unless God does something, man is doomed. Praise God that He did something in sending His Son. The second half of Romans 6:23 says, “But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What man could not do, God did, by sending His own Son. Jesus, though still fully God, became man and dwelt among us. He lived the perfect live, and having been conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was not born in sin like the rest of us. Thus, He was qualified to be the perfect sacrifice. He died to bear the penalty of our sin, but the fact that He was God enabled Him to conquer death and come back to life. Thus, He has made a way for us to be freed from the penalty of sin and to enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven forever.
It works like this. God has extended His hand to us in Christ with an invitation to be restored to relationship with Him. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve it. It is free. God did it of His own initiative despite the fact that mankind had rejected Him by sinning. As Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It is up to us to respond to His invitation.
- Trust in Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection as the sufficient means to make us holy and righteous before God.
Romans 10:9-10 says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
- Repent (turn from) our sins and turn toward Christ (declaring Him as our Savior and Lord).
Acts 17:30-31 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
- Ask God to forgive us of our sin which we readily acknowledge.
Ephesians 1:7-8 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.”
There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Ephesians 2:8-9 summarizes the work of salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace doesn’t allow us to take credit or to boast, as if salvation is something we did, accomplished, or deserved because of some merit in and of ourselves. We could not gain God’s approval, but God reached out toward us in love with a free gift through Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift by grace through faith and due to the merits of Christ alone. We share in Christ’s righteousness only in that we receive by faith the righteousness that He accomplished on our behalf. Works are a result of salvation, not a means of it. Thanks be to God for His great and perfect mercy.