This is the essential message of the Bible which up to this point I would hope most of us Christians agree on. However, there is more to it. For this payment which Christ accomplished is not automatically credited to everyone's account. Having payed the penalty for sin, God could have automatically forgiven everyone. He doesn't do that. So what must you do to have this payment of sin, which accomplished on the cross, credited to your account?
Very seldom when I've heard the gospel preached is this point clarified. Yet this is the most important question of your life. I have found many Christians even many baptized, church-going Christians who do not know the correct answer to this question. Why? So I hope to clarify some misconceptions about this question as to what you must do to have eternal life. And the Bible is very clear about what a person must do to have eternal life. John 3:14-16.
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."The only requirement to receive eternal life is to believe in Jesus. What does it mean to believe? In this passage itself, Jesus gives an illustration to clarify what it means to believe.
He uses an illustration from the Old Testament, from Numbers chapter 21. This is a summary: The people of Israel were complaining against God and God sent poisonous snakes among them to kill them. But then they confessed their sins and prayed to be saved from the snakes. So God had Moses erect a snake made of bronze and put it on a pole. (This is the symbol that you see on the back of ambulances). And His promise was that whoever had been bitten by the snakes but then looked on the bronze snake, they would live.
Jesus was saying I am that bronze snake on the cross. He was saying that if people recognize that they are bitten by sin and subject to eternal death but they look to Christ on the cross believing that he atoned for their sins, they will not die, but have eternal life. John 5:24. And there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1) And it is a permanent thing, as I've spoken on before. It cannot be taken away. Furthermore, for you who believe this, you have become children of God. You were children of the devil. Having believed, you are now children of God. And you have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (Rom 8:9)
Why does God do it this way? Because it requires those who want to have a right relationship with God to accept His character. You cannot be reconciled to God unless you agree with him about your sin. If you don't think that you are a sinful person who must be saved from your sinfulness, God doesn't want to have anything to do with you. If you don't think that your sin should be punished, that you are not worthy of going to hell for your sin, then God may very well put you there. Or if you don't accept God's gracious love in that he offers eternal life freely by faith, but that you make up your own requirements for salvation, then you insult God by rejecting his grace.
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"What was Paul so upset about? He was upset that they added on to God's requirements for salvation. They added on the person's performance. Gal 3:2
"I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?"What is the Law? Jesus said that the law can be summarized as to love God and love your neighbor. But that's basically Jesus commandments. There are those who think that the requirements to receive the forgiveness of sins were simply changed from circumcision to Baptism and from obeying the law of Moses to obeying Christ's commands.
But the righteousness of faith is a much different thing.
Gal 3:21,22 "Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given (like Christ's commandments) that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe."If your faith is that you must be baptized to be saved, or you must obey Christ's commandments to be saved, or you must change your behavior to be saved. You are still an unbeliever. As it says in
Eph 2:8,9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast."
Rom 4:4,5 "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."
Gal 5:4 "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."By grace, God freely gives eternal life to those who freely accept it.
Such people have not yet believed the gospel either. Those who put their faith in their own faith are not putting their faith in Christ. Their confidence is in themselves rather than their confidence being in Christ. These people must make Christ's atoning work on the cross the object of their faith. Or else they too will perish.
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources