We are sinful humans that are not, in any way, good. We cannot seek after God on our own, nor do we want to seek after Him. God is infinite, righteous, and Holy. We are, by our very nature and by His nature, forever separated from Him no matter how many good things we do. We can only be saved through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. It is only through Him that we can be saved – and through no one else.
Many things come to mind when one things of the “Gospel” and "Salvation". We’ve all heard these common phrases:
- Say this prayer after me and you’ll be saved
- Just ask Jesus into your heart and you’ll be saved
- Decide to give yourself to Jesus and you’ll be saved
- Accept Jesus’ gift and you’ll be saved
About the only thing these phrases have correct is that Jesus is involved. Everything else is wrong. These are false presentations of the Gospel. We are incapable of initiating salvation. We are not as powerful as God, somehow having authority over Him such that when we ask, He must respond. So then, what is the gospel?
What is the gospel?
We are sinful humans that are not, in any way, good. We cannot seek after God on our own nor do we want to seek after Him. God is infinite, righteous, and Holy. We are, by our very nature, infinitely separated from Him no matter how many good things we do. We can only be saved through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. It is only through Him that we can be saved – and not through anyone or anything else - not a priest; not another god; not another prophet; not by charitable works or donations; and certainly not by ourselves.
The only way we can be saved is by the faith given to us through the grace of God in Christ alone. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of us of our sins using the Holy Words of the Bible. You see, there is nothing that we can do apart from God – apart from Him choosing to reveal to us the truth.
The Truth about Mankind
To fully understand this, we must first understand who we are. This is going to be contrary to what most of us hear from popular preaching today. We are not basically good. We are not all powerful. We are not able to speak our own reality into existence. We are not able to name and claim our desires simply because we want them. We are not destined for success or wealth or happiness or whatever we desire simply because we desire it. On our own, we are not good people.
You might argue. Go ahead. You might say you’ve never done anything terribly bad. But what definition do you use to define “terribly bad.” Do you mean you’ve never killed anyone? Do you mean you’ve never committed adultery? What about telling a lie – even a little “white” lie? Have you ever taken anything – even something as small as pen or piece of paper that did not belong to you? Have you ever left work early or arrived late thinking “It’s ok if I get paid for time I didn’t work. They owe me.”? Have you ever had a bad thought about anyone?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these – you have committed a sin. That means you are not really as good as you thought. You might be relatively “less bad” than others. But the bottom line is you are not good when compared to God's standard of good. (Read Romans 3:9-18)
The Truth about God
Now, let’s consider God. He is infinite in His being and perfection. This means He is infinitely and perfectly Holy; infinite and perfectly Righteous, infinite and perfectly Just, infinite and perfectly Merciful, infinite and perfectly Loving….are you beginning to get the point?
Just three more: He is infinitely and perfectly Omniscient, infinitely and perfectly Omnipotent, and infinitely and perfectly Omnipresent. In short, we humans, being finite, can never, ever, ever, meet His standard of Holiness and Righteousness on our own. I don’t care who told you something different – they are wrong. Here are just a few verses describing the true God (Revelation 1:8; Psalm 147:15; Isaiah 40:28; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 32:17)
God does not approve of who we are without Him. How could He? You see, no matter how hard you work, you still cannot approach the infinite holiness of God. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misleading you and doing you a great disservice by misrepresenting the gospel. They may think they are preaching the gospel to you but they are not. You are being misled and not being presented the truth about God the Father and His Jesus Christ.
The Truth about Salvation – It is Not My Decision (or Your's)
So, here is the point: if we can never approach God on our own, that also means we can never do enough good stuff (works) to be acceptable.
This means we can never initiate, nor qualify for, nor request salvation.
This means there is no truth to the claim that everyone is already saved and that everyone is going to heaven.
This also means that we cannot make a decision on our own simply because we recite a canned prayer, or ask Jesus into our heart, or surrender ourselves in response to an emotional plea, or decide to accept Jesus' gift.
The only way we can be saved is if the Spirit of God first enables us to do so by regenerating us and transforming into a new creation. (Eph 2:1-10) You see, God alone is the author and the finisher of our faith. (Heb 12:2)
The Truth about Salvation – It is In Christ Alone
There is only one way to heaven. There is only one person that can justify us and redeem us from our sins.
There are not many options with different names.
There is not only one option but with different names.
There is only one option with only one name and that name is Jesus. (Acts 4:12)
The Bible tells us that Christ died for our sins, that he died and was buried and rose again on the 3rd day. Christ, being both fully God and fully man, lived a perfect, sinless life. His death on the cross, was the perfect sacrifice provided on our behalf. This is what is called “propitiation.” It means he paid the debt for our sins – he paid the debt for sins he did not commit because we could never pay that debt on our own. He paid our price so that we might be restored in relationship to God. For His Glory - not ours.
The Truth about Salvation – It is By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone
God chose those whom He would save from eternal destruction before the foundation of the word. (Ephesian 1:4) By saying He chose us, He is saying that we did not choose Him. We did not come to Him on our power or own “goodness” and say “Hey, you must save me because I want you to.” The Bible further tells us that the choosing and the saving was a gift that He gave to us based on His grace. “Grace” means it was because of His decision and good pleasure that He saves us. It is not because of us – but only because of Him. The Bible describes it like this:
“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.” Ephesians 2:8,9
The Truth about Salvation – It is All for the Glory of God
The most logical questions that should follow are: Why would He do this? And What next?
Why did God choose to save you? Why did He choose to save me? I don’t pretend to know the mind of God but I do know it wasn’t because of anything you or I did. The Bible tells us that He redeems us, calls us, saves us, considers us precious to Him, and gathers us not because of our works but for His glory. You see, everything is for the glory of God. Anything else – any other reason is an attempt to elevate man above God because it presents man as cooperating in and initiating his own salvation It is attempting to rob God of His glory. This is a false gospel. They are presenting a lie and the truth is not in them.
The fact is, you and I should be eternally grateful that He has made way to translate – that is, to move us – from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Because of His good pleasure, we might be saved!
The Truth about What Must Be Done to be Saved?
You must confess with your mouth Jesus Christ as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
This can only be done if the Holy Spirit is working within you for the Bible says no one can come to Christ unless the Father calls him (John 6:44). It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of sin and allows us to see the truth of God. In our natural, unsaved state, we are told that we cannot understand the things of God and have no desire for Him. (1 Corinthians 2:14,15)
You see, we NEED the Spirit of God working in us to draw us – to call us. We need to hear the Word of God preached to us about Christ. (Romans 11:14-17) When we hear the truth as written in the Word of God, and the Spirit regenerates us and reveals the truth to us, we are then given the faith (remember, it was a gift from God and not from ourselves) to call on the name of the Lord and be saved. (Romans 10:13)
So then, if you feel a desire to know God more fully and feel a longing to be saved, what are you waiting for?
Call on the name of the Lord. Respond to Him now!
Confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Be careful – this is not simply making sounds with your mouth that mimic words or repeating a standard prayer. If you don’t truly mean He is Lord and don’t truly believe and don’t truly have faith, no matter how many times you say it, it doesn’t mean anything. Take some time and speak out loud to God, asking his Holy Spirit to make sure your calling.
By confessing Jesus as Lord, you are simply recognizing the truth of the matter. If you do have faith, he will be Lord. Your life will be changed. You will be adopted as a child of God. Your citizenship will be in heaven. You will no longer belong to the world. You will no longer be a slave to sin. You will findyour name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life – to enjoy and worship God forever.
In Review: What is the Gospel?
So, what is the gospel again? This is the gospel:
We are sinful humans that are not, in any way, good. We cannot seek after God on our own nor do we want to seek after Him. God is infinite, righteous, and Holy. We are, therefore, infinitely separated from Him no matter how many good things we try do. We can only be saved through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. It is only through Him that we can be saved – and through no one else. Not a priest. Not another god. Not another prophet. Not by charitable work. Not by charitable donations. Only through Jesus Christ. The only way we can be saved is by faith given to us by the grace of God. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of us our sin using the Holy Words of the Bible and not us nor some impassioned plea or emotional experience. You see, there is nothing that we can apart from God – apart from Him choosing to reveal to us the truth.
Once we are able to see the truth, we must confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and believe in our heart that He was raised on the 3rd day. We must repent of our sins – and we can only do this because we can now understand that our life was, indeed, spent in sin and through the Holy Spirit we can understand how offensive our life was towards God.
In the end, God will raise everyone from the dead and all will be judged. Either we will be found righteous in Christ. Or we will be found guilty in ourselves. Everyone will live for eternity. Some of us will live in eternal torment. Others will live in the light of the glorious God.
Where will you be?