In our world today many religions teach that salvation and eternal life are the free gifts of God and that noone has to ‘do’ anything to receive them. One belief statement I read recently said this: “When man... becomes blameworthy, his only hope is a work of grace by God alone. ...The ground of our salvation is the shed blood of Jesus Christ; the occasion of our salvation is our believing God in this regard. Faith and faith alone being the requirement for the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, we believe that the believer is eternally saved in him.” That sounds great to most of us. It tells us that we can go to heaven without doing anything and that once we believe that God will save us he will and we can’t lose it. It sounds ‘too good to be true’. Well, when something sounds too good to be true it usually is.
In Matthew 19:16 a man comes to Jesus and asks the question, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”. This man must not have known the teaching above, so, Jesus is going to tell him about it, right? Wrong! Jesus, instead of telling the man that there was nothing he could do and that if he would just believe he would get eternal life, told him, “...but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” I guess Jesus did not know about the teaching quoted above either. Who do you suppose knows how to get to heaven better, Jesus, the Son of God? Or the man who thought up the teaching in the last paragraph?
In every area of life we see that in order to receive something we must do something. It is certainly true that we cannot get to heaven without the grace of God and it is equally true that we can’t make it without faith. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that salvation is the gift of God, but even a gift is of no use without action on the part of the recipient. Imagine if you will that I (or more likely someone rich) offered to anyone and everyone a Wal-mart gift card for $100. If that happened it would be a free gift, but it would do you absolutely no good until you made use of it.
Let’s look at all the things you would have to ‘do’ in order to receive this ‘free’ gift. First, you would have to know about the offer, just as we must know about God’s offer of salvation. Second, you would have to believe it was true, just as we must believe God’s offer is valid. Third, you would have to get the gift card, just knowing and believing would not cause the gift card to magically appear in your hand. Whatever the method prescribed for receiving the gift would have to be followed whether it was: send your name and address, call this number, or come here to pick it up. The same holds true with salvation. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Fourth, you would have to keep the card. If you lost it or it was stolen from you it would not be the giver’s fault. Salvation can be lost or given away, fortunately, it can’t be stolen, but someone who was once saved can be lost. If that were not the case why would there be so many warnings in the Bible telling us to be faithful, hold fast, be steadfast, etc.? Finally, you would have to go to Wal-mart and use the card. You couldn’t use it at Fred’s, Piggly Wiggly, or the local gas stations. So, you see that even a ‘free’ gift requires work or obedience on the part of the recipient.
Salvation is a wonderful gift, but in order to take advantage of it you must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”(Philippians 2:12)