Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12, NIV)
These days, there are a lot of different views on salvation. Which one is correct? Maybe all of them are correct? Why can’t it be this way or that way? What makes one person or one group wrong, and the other group or person right? Why does any “one” have to be right – who says we all can’t be?
Can’t all religions just find God and eternal life through whatever way they deem necessary? Do you even have to ascribe to a specific religion? Don’t they all lead to the same God? What if you are a good person – why should you even have to believe in God?
Can’t we all just get along?
Well, the thing that sets Christianity apart from all the other religions is our way to get to God – though, many have tried to distort even that. So, here is the purely biblical way to get to God:
Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
It’s that simple! Now of course, that assumes the prerequisite (that you need saving in the first place). But, why does salvation have to come by grace alone?
Salvation by Grace Alone
Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24, NASB)
Well, salvation comes by grace alone because that is what glorifies God, and because we need His grace. We use “grace” in a lot of different ways, and God’s grace is abundant in a variety of ways, but for this way the word is equivalent with a pardon. God’s grace for our salvation is like a pardon. It’s an act of forgiveness. It’s an act of mercy. Grace is receiving something good that we don’t deserve, and mercy is not receiving something bad that we do deserve. He is pardoning anything and everything we’ve done wrong – forgiving all our sins no matter how insurmountable they may be. He is pouring out both His grace and mercy on us through His love for us as a free gift to us. This glorifies God, and humbles us. This also ties in completely with the next step…
Why does salvation have to come by faith alone?
It’s funny (not in a ha-ha way!) how these 3 steps seem to be the most controversial, dicey ones for people. People often want to argue on steps 1 & 2 with almost the same argument. Other people want to twist the wording a little to suit their purpose. For example, some people have been known to say things like, “Well, God’s grace is what saves us through faith in the beginning.” The rest isn’t always immediately clear, but the implication is a lot different from grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. There are many people who will say that they believe in Christ, and that they accept His method of salvation, or they accept Him as their Savior – but they won’t mean it the same way that I mean it here. We’ll get into that more another time, and I’ll link back to it here whenever I do.
In the meantime, why does this saving grace have to come by faith alone?
Salvation Through Faith Alone
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21, ESV)
I think most people are probably familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9, which ends with “lest any man should boast”. Salvation comes through the free gift of the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If God demanded that we earned our salvation, then His grace would be lessened. It would not glorify Him. To top of all that, people could walk around confidently proclaiming “I’m going to heaven because I’m righteous,” and God would, unthinkably, have to then honor that if they were. When I think about that even just to type it, it can’t sound any more ludicrous. And yet, people do believe like that.
Perhaps they wouldn’t be so confident about it. Perhaps they wouldn’t quite say it that way. Nevertheless, people all around the world say things like, “I’m a good person,” thus implying that they don’t do too many bad things or even things they consider very bad. They feel that their lack of bad behavior should qualify them to stand in front of our Almighty, Holy, Perfect God and be credited as at least “good enough”. This is where many people also get into that attitude of, “God’s grace is what allows us to do the works that will get us into heaven,” or some similar variety of that statement.
Going back to Ephesians:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV)
Here’s the simplest way to say this – no amount of our good works could ever be enough to save us. As previously mentioned, we need God’s grace which we receive by faith. Grace, by definition, cannot be earned or it is not grace. We cannot do it on our own and to say otherwise is preposterous.
So, why is it that we can only receive grace through faith in Christ?
Salvation In Christ Alone
Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13, NKJV)
The verse above is from the final of the plagues on Egypt. God’s instruction to Israel was that each household was to take a young male lamb without spot or blemish. The lamb was to be killed before the whole congregation. Each household’s lamb would be then roasted and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, but first they had to paint the doorway with its blood. God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
Now, there is nothing within all our human logic to say that this should make sense. People often don’t seem to view this as a “miracle”, but it is. There is no way to explain why some blood on a doorway would serve any purpose other than look strange to those around you. But this is a picture of Christ and His death. He is the Passover Lamb. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
In the same way that it makes no sense within our own way of thinking that some blood over a doorway would “cover us”, it doesn’t always make sense to people that the blood of another Man would save us from our own wrongs. But, God’s holiness requires death for sin. There’s no way around it. However, as Dr. Benjamin frequently points out, God doesn’t specify whose death that has to be! He is free to provide a substitute as He did for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Every individual of humanity has “spot or blemish”, but not Christ. He is perfect, and sinless, and therefore He is the only one qualified to provide the acceptable sacrifice.
Now think back for a moment. What did the Israelites have to do in order to be saved from the plague? Did God tell them, “Now, be on your best behavior and find a lamb…”? No! In fact, remember, they didn’t get the Law until after they left Egypt. The Israelites had already complained against Moses and therefore, against God, for the Egyptians becoming harder on them after the plagues began. That was a sin, so it wasn’t that God was saving them because they were sinless. And Moses himself had murdered an Egyptian, so that was a sin – yet he was the one who was talking to God!
So at this point, we can see that all they had to do was believe what God was saying and act in faith by obeying God’s commands in that situation.
That’s it! In order to receive God’s grace, they had to believe what God said and act in faith, and then they were covered (saved) by the blood of the lamb.
Since Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, and He was sacrificed for us, we have to believe in Him, and accept His death in our place. He is the only acceptable sacrifice since only God can meet God’s standard – therefore God Himself had to come down to take the punishment that we deserve. We don’t have to believe in Him, but if we choose not to accept His pardon then we are choosing to accept the punishment we rightly deserve.
The method of salvation has not changed – in order to receive God’s grace, we have to believe what God said (that we are sinners in need of a Savior) and act in faith (by acknowledging that we need to be saved and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior and our Sacrificial Lamb), and then we are saved by the blood of the Lamb.
The first Passover was a picture of the Passover to come, and that’s why we as Christians don’t need to celebrate the Passover feast as Israel was instructed to. The Passover is Christ. Everyone throughout history has been saved by grace through faith. They believed God, and they acted in faith, thereby receiving His grace and mercy.
At that time, the blood of the lamb was covering the doorway for the whole household. At this time, the blood of the Lamb covers us. At that time, it was to save their firstborn sons. At this time, it is to save ourselves.
This is why salvation must be by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. As Pastor Mac Sauerlander said:
Nothing I did, said, will do, or will say can earn or improve my salvation.
As Pastor Sauerlander said (paraphrased), “If I give you a great, expensive gift, and then allow you to mow my lawn for a year as thanks, is it really a gift?”
Anything that we contribute would leave us unsure of our salvation and would rob Christ of His glory and the act of immense suffering He endured. God’s already given us the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, so why would He turn around and lessen His own act by requiring us to earn it in part?
Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is what glorifies God and humbles us, as we realize that it can be no other way.