One of the most difficult things for Christians to get their heads around is that their faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour is all a work of grace. The saying “there are no free lunches” is generally true for life as we know it, however, when it comes to our forgiveness and the gift of eternal life, it is all free for us to receive with thankfulness, for the ultimate cost was borne by our Saviour Jesus Christ. We need to understand this fundamental teaching of Scripture for it is vital for our thankfulness and assurance. Without it, everything else we believe the Bible teaches will be skewed.
Now it may surprise you, that many Christians cannot come to terms with this teaching and continue to put the ‘cart before the horse.’ Some continue to say that they chose to become a Christian at a given point in time. Even this past week I read a message where the author states that it is only when we repent and show real sorrow for our sin and come to grips with it that Jesus will have compassion for you and will forgive you.
With respect to the author, Scripture teaches the opposite. Dead people cannot show sorrow for their sin (Eph 2:1ff). God did not send His Son into this world because we were so sorry for our sin but because He loved this world including us, despite our sin (Jn 3:16, cf Gen 3:15). Paul tells the Roman Christians that Christ died for us while we were still sinners, more than that, while we were still his enemies (Rom 5:8ff). Of course, this does not mean God loves our sin or that we are sinners, on the contrary, He hates sin and that is why He sent His Son to deal with the sin that separates us from Him, for He is Holy and cannot live with sin.
So, how do we come to have faith alone in Christ alone? By the power of the Holy Spirit, sent from the Father and the Son, who quickens us to life or if you will, to regenerate us from dead people to being alive in Christ (Eph 2:4ff). The gracious Holy Spirit does that work by making us aware of our sin and need for a Saviour. The Holy Spirit’s work is not based on anything we have done or any commendable virtue in us nor anything foreseen in us. The Holy Spirit’s is obeying the Father’s will to bring us from ‘dead people walking’ to being alive in Christ because, God in His love and mercy, chose us to be saved by Christ before time even began (Eph 1:4ff). It’s only then we begin to repent and show godly sorrow for our sin, and not before! “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. … We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:10, 19).
This understanding of our undeserved salvation is also the reason why we respond in thankfulness and now begin to do the works God has placed before us to do, for His glory. And it is also the reason we can have the assurance of salvation, for as Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never (never) drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (Jn 6:37-38). Surely there is only one thing left to say, “Praise God for His wonderful, electing love to us. To Him be all the glory!” JZ