(The following is taken from the e-book, “How To Find Peace With God (Answers From The Book About Salvation).” If you missed the first part of this series, please Click Here. If you would like to receive the entire e-book (in PDF format), please write me at email@example.com)
What We Must Do
“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:28-29)
Those of us who teach that man is saved by the grace of God, through faith alone, are often quick to insist that no works are required in order to receive Salvation. While it is definitely true that no “works of righteousness” are necessary for a person to be saved, good deeds and adherence to God’s Commandments not being prerequisites for Salvation, to adamantly state that NO “works” on the part of man figure into the equation may not be entirely accurate.
Jesus did say that we should “work the works of God.” What are those works? To believe on Him Whom God has sent. There has been so much debate throughout the history of the Church as to whether Salvation comes through faith, by works, or some combination of the two. But according to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, the works we are to do is to believe. Faith is the works required. Jesus never told us that we must perfectly obey His Commandments, He never told us that we must give to the poor, feed the homeless, or donate to orphanages in order to be saved. All of these things might be good things to do, but none of this is what brings us peace with God. Even if we do these things, if we are not trusting in the Lord Jesus and believing on Him, our sin remains.
God has done for us all that is necessary so that we can have eternal life and peace with Him. All that is required of us is to trust and believe Him. But we must do this. The role of faith in the process of Salvation has been compared to the hand of a beggar being lifted to receive alms from the giver. Faith is the instrument by which we acquire Salvation, it is our own hand outstretched to the hand of God, taking the gift of eternal life that He is offering. Imagine a beggar standing on a street corner, refusing to lift his hand to receive the money a passerby is extending to him!
Yet just as the beggar has no role in earning the money he is freely given, we have no role in earning what God is giving to us. All that we can do, all that we must do, is accept what we are being given. No more and no less.
“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” (Romans 4:4)
If Salvation came through our own efforts, the works of our own hands securing it, then the grace of God would no longer be grace. Imagine if your employer told you on payday: “I have a gift for you. I have written you a check in the amount of…” And then you are handed a check in the exact amount of your salary. Would that really be a gift? Of course not. You earned that paycheck, it is wages due. The same would hold true if Salvation came by our works; it would no longer be the gift of God but wages earned.
Salvation is a free gift given to us by the grace of God. It is not something we strive for or work toward. It comes to us the moment we believe, placing our trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We find peace with God the moment we put our faith in what He has done, having no confidence in what we have done or can ever do. Believe on Him Whom God has sent, that is the work of God.
What Must We Believe?
So what exactly are we to believe in order to be saved? Are there certain fundamental essentials that all Christians should believe? Does it matter what we believe about Christ as long as we are trusting Him?
When I first came to faith in Jesus Christ, I was a 9 year old boy. At that time, I had never heard the word “Trinity” (except maybe as part of the name of a church), I couldn’t have told you who Habakkuk was, I was unable to even spell Deuteronomy, and I didn’t even realize there was a difference between Methodists and Presbyterians (except that they attended different churches, of course). Names like John Wesley, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and John Calvin were completely foreign to me. But I did know one thing: I knew that Jesus Christ loved me and cared about me. I knew that He had given Himself for me, although I did not understand exactly what that meant.
My faith in the Lord Jesus was very simple and literally “child-like” at that time, but it was a real faith. I trusted in Him and knew that I wanted to follow Him, having no real notion of where He would lead me. After a time or two of finding myself wayward and wandering, this prodigal son did eventually come home, and I ended up learning a few more things about my precious Savior and His Word than I knew at the beginning. I didn’t become more saved by learning these things, nor did my faith somehow become more efficacious having found them out. But after I did become a part of God’s family, there were some important components of the Gospel Message that I came to understand more fully, components that are fundamental to what actually defines the Gospel.
But the question remains: Are there essential elements of the Gospel that should eventually be believed and accepted as a Christian gains maturity in their relationship with the Lord? I believe that there are. There are certain absolute, non-negotiable tenets that constitute what it means to truly be a Christian, doctrines which cannot be rejected by one who would claim to trust in and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, once they do learn about them. Traditionally, the Church has written down “creeds” which delineate agreed upon doctrines that should be universally accepted, whose recital and confirmation often establish whether or not an individual may join their congregation as a full member. But long before a single creed was written, the Apostle Paul included 10 such fundamental doctrines for all believers in the Book of Romans:
“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:23-25)
Salvation Is Available To All
“But for us also…”
The first essential contained in this passage is the universal availability of Salvation. The “him” referred to (not for his sake alone… it was imputed to him…) is Abraham. That the righteousness of God was imputed to Abraham on account of his faith was not recorded in the Word of God for his sake alone, but for us also (Gen. 15:6). Who is the us? “If we believe…” The us is anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ. In Romans 1:16, Paul wrote that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God to everyone that believes. Everyone.
This is very crucial for us to believe because if we doubt that God’s grace is available to us, we are not going to put our faith in Him. If we believe that God’s grace is not available to someone else, we are not going to share the Gospel with them. Therefore, it is very important that we understand and believe that every living person has the opportunity to receive Salvation.
Righteousness Is Imputed, Not Earned
“to whom it shall be imputed…”
We have already been looking at this very important truth throughout this chapter, but here we have it again. Righteousness was imputed to Abraham and it is imputed to us. This point really cannot be overemphasized; it is that important. We have two choices: we can trust in Jesus Christ for our Salvation, or we can trust in ourselves. It is all one or all the other.
Salvation Is Voluntary And Contingent On If We Believe
“If we believe…”
Salvation is not an automatic provision for anybody. We receive eternal life only if we believe. There are some who teach that you need to do absolutely nothing in order to be saved. There are others who teach that everyone (or almost everyone) will be saved. Neither of these teachings are supported by the Bible. Those who do not trust in Christ will not be saved, neither in this life nor the next (John 3:18). There will never be a second chance given once this life is over and those who leave this world apart from Jesus Christ will remain so throughout eternity.
We Must Believe On God
“Believe on Him…”
There are many people who feel that it doesn’t really matter who or what you believe, as long as your belief is sincere. Faith itself is a virtue that has been elevated to the point where belief in anything “positive” is viewed as beneficial. Self-confidence and unwavering belief in one’s self has been promoted so much that it is practically a religion unto itself. But whom we put our faith in is extremely crucial. It is not enough to just have faith, our faith must be in God. We must know in Whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12).
Jesus Was Raised From The Dead
“That raised up Jesus…”
The literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a crucial doctrine of genuine Christianity. We must believe that Christ is risen from the dead, for our very Salvation rests on this fact. If Christ is not risen, then He remains dead. And so do we. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that if Christ was not risen then our faith is in vain and our sin remains unforgiven.
Jesus Is Our Lord
“Jesus our Lord…”
I would like to look at the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the life of the believer in greater detail in a later chapter, but for now let me say that turning to Christ and making Him your Lord and Master goes hand-in-hand with Salvation. I am unable to find any passage in the New Testament where the Gospel is presented apart from the accompanying call to follow Christ or the title Lord being attached to His name. This passage in the fourth chapter of Romans is no exception.
“From the dead…”
Along with a literal, physical resurrection, we must believe that Jesus suffered a literal, physical death. Skeptics and liberal theologians have suggested countless alternate scenarios where Jesus did not actually die, it only seemed that way. But in order for an actual resurrection to occur, an actual death must also occur. Jesus Himself said that He was dead and is alive again (Revelation 1:18). How can we say we believe on Him if we do not believe what He has said?
Jesus Was Delivered
“Who was delivered…”
We must understand that Jesus was not a helpless victim, no, He was in control of His destiny and voluntarily went to the Cross (Matthew 26:53, John 19:11). Jesus was the Perfect Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus willingly paid the price for the sins of mankind.
For Our Sins
“Delivered for our offences…”
It is one thing to believe that Jesus did something very nice and very wonderful, but quite another to believe that He died for your sins, trusting Him for your own Salvation. All sorts of explanations have been offered as to why Jesus was crucified, but until we believe that He died for us personally, trusting Him on that basis, His death and resurrection will hold no merit for us.
Raised For Our Justification
“And was raised again for our justification…”
This was the entire purpose for Christ suffering and going through what He did. There was no other reason than His great love for mankind. Our Salvation was not an incidental benefit that came from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it was the entire purpose of it.
There are many other doctrines that a Christian should believe, but I believe that these ten comprise some of the most fundamental. As I mentioned, these are in no way prerequisites for coming to faith in Christ, few of us knew much about all of these things when we were born again. But these doctrines definitely should be accepted as a new believer grows in the knowledge of Him. In fact, we should accept the entire Bible as God’s Word and believe it from cover to cover. If we are really trusting in Him, then we will believe what He has said.