I have seen people, Jewish and gentile, those who claim Christ and those who do not who have this enthusiasm and passion for God which is really inspiring. Yet, that zeal for God doesn’t extend to faith in Him as God. They do not believe God the Son, Jesus Christ is the Savior. They do not trust God, the Holy Spirit to be their righteousness. They do not believe that God, the Father chose to save them through faith. I have seen even people who proclaim Christ afraid to really trust Him for salvation and so they cling to making themselves good enough, following rules and rituals in order to become righteous on their own merits.
The law cannot make anyone good enough. We cannot save ourselves. We have no righteousness of our own, full stop (Philippians 3:9). Salvation is not something we earn. It is a gift. There are no strings attached. It is a gift we accept or reject. It is not about being good. It is not about making ourselves worthy. Verses 1-4 read,
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
We’ve learned we must earn the good things we want in life. If we want a nice place to live, food on the table, or regard, we have to work for those things. We arrogantly look down on people who receive these things as handouts or were born into them. Working, earning, and striving are respected in many of our cultures.
But salvation is free! We cannot earn it. God simply gives it to us for the asking. He didn’t ask Joseph if he apologized to his brothers before he saved him. And He didn’t ask is if we made amends to all the people we hurt when we asked for forgiveness. When we were kids and wanted something from our parents, let’s say to go see a movie, we asked and they answered, “Is your room clean.” We had to earn the reward of the movie ticket from them. But salvation cannot be earned. God gives it freely. It is simple, too simple for most people to accept. Our adult minds have learned things like ‘if it’s too good to be true then it is’ and ‘nothing comes for free.’ But ask any child who has not yet learned that cynicism and she will tell you gifts are free. She wakes up on her birthday ready to open presents because she is receiving presents to celebrate her life, gifts are part of the promise of that celebration. Her parents are not going to withhold the cake until her room is clean. They are not going to withhold the gift until she can prove she is worthy to be seven years old.
But we’ve complicated salvation with strings. We’ve sullied the Gospel with burdens in order to help it make sense to us. It is our pride which cannot let go of the effort to save ourselves and trust the LORD God, the Lord of Hosts, and Holy One, our husband and our maker to be God our Redeemer. Instead of establishing our relationship on The God of Heaven and Earth, we center our religion on being good people, following laws, systems, and imperatives. Verses 5-7 read,
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
To choose the laws and earn our own righteousness is to make the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ defunct. It insults Christ and it affronts the Gospel. It puts the person saying and doing these things in Jesus’ place as savior. Salvation cannot be earned, it is a gift of Jesus Christ, full stop. Ephesians 2:4-9 says,
Bu] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Salvation is from God and through Him. Only Jesus can save. Only the untarnished Word of God can bring the truth. Only faith and humility can allow a person to receive it. Verses 8-13 read,
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It doesn’t say for some who believe, confess, make amends, follow the law and prove their worth will be saved. It says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There are no addendums, small print, or strings.
So what about all those people out there trying to be good enough to get into Heaven? There are countless people hoping that when they meet God face to face He says, “Come on in your scored in the upper half, you earned yourself a place in Heaven and saved yourself from Hell.” There are innumerable people who don’t think there is a heaven, hell, or afterlife much less a god. They are lost in ignorance but we know the truth. We have a responsibility to that truth. God doesn’t want them to die and spend eternity in Hell. Verses 14-17 read,
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
The world is waiting to hear the truth. Are you asking haven’t they already hear it? Sure, many of them have heard it and they haven’t been able to believe. Some have heard it wrong. Some have not let it penetrate the heart’s hard covering of pride and fear. Some have let the world’s concerns take it away. There are many reasons people hear the truth but don’t accept it (Matthew 13:1-23). That doesn’t mean we don’t care. God still cares. God still wants them to know Him and be saved. The truth is out there. God didn’t keep it secret even from the beginning. Verses 18-19 read,
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
The simplicity of the Gospel is too much for some people to accept. It takes the faith of a child to grasp the profundity of the Truth. Many reject it, but the invitation is open for anyone. God waits, He waits for people to accept Him with that faith and receive the awesome boundless mercy and grace He is ready to pour out on us. He will not compel us against our will. He waits with arms open in a loving invitation to a life lived in a relationship with Him. Verses 20-21 read,
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Ask yourself some questions today. Are you trying to earn salvation by being good enough? Have you made yourself the savior in Jesus’ stead? Have you called on the Lord to save you or hoped your works will save you? Have you loved people enough to tell have the beautiful feet of the one who brings the truth to the lost?