“But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, He saved us from all that. It was all His doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it as new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.”1
I’m not much of a swimmer. I’ve always envied those brave souls who jump in the ocean and blithely slice through the water for hours without a thought to the dangers above or below the surface.
Now suppose a wealthy adventurer offered $5 million to anyone who could swim from Santa Barbara to Hawaii. So, one blustery day, the contestants go down to Stearns Wharf, line up and jump in at the appointed time. The stronger swimmers quickly leave the harbor, cross the shipping lanes and reach open water. The rest of us flail around within sight of the wharf.
What do you think? Will any of us — strong or weak — ever reach Hawaii on our own? Hardly. That’s because it’s beyond human capacity.
But, suppose our wealthy benefactor placed rescue vessels along the route to pick up swimmers willing to swallow their pride and hitch a ride to Hawaii. And, unbeknownst to them, those who did so ended up receiving $5 million each anyway. Pretty good deal.
Trouble is, it would mean giving up and “submitting” to rescue and losing a shot at the prize money (or so they thought). So sadly, most drown in the attempt.
This serves to illustrate the two principle ways mankind can approach a relationship with God and go to heaven. Now, let’s substitute heaven for Hawaii for a moment.
We Make Things So Complicated
If you were to survey people in the street and ask them, “why should God let you into His heaven?” you would likely hear something like “I’m a good person,” “I believe in God,” “I belong to a church,” “I was baptized as a child,” “I was born into a Christian family,” “I went forward at an evangelistic rally,” “I read the Bible,” “I pray,” “I give money to the church,” “I visit the sick,” “I attend Bible studies,” “I’ve done the 12 steps in AA,” etc.
Now, to begin with, these are all good things, they’re religious, they feel right. But will doing such things save me?
The short answer is, no. Because, at the heart of every one of them is the word, “I.” “I did these things.”
And just like jumping off the wharf and attempting to swim to Hawaii, the distance is too great, and you are too weak. You need serious horsepower. That brings us to what the Bible calls, the gospel of your salvation …
“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”2
Note, our only part is to hear and believe the gospel. Then God seals us by the Holy Spirit, making us His eternal possession. So, what is this “gospel of your salvation?” The Apostle Paul set it forth clearly:
“Friends let me go over the Message … on which you took your stand and by which your life has been saved … the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that He was buried; that He was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says.”3
The only mention of US in the above passage is that the Messiah died for OUR sins — that’s it — nothing about our DOING anything. It’s all about Him and what He did FOR us. The true gospel strips all those “I’s” out of the salvation equation and replaces them with “Him.”
Bible commentator William Newell boiled it down to this:
“But the works (my efforts) method and the grace (His gift) method are mutually exclusive. Each shuts out the other. Men must cease even seeking; they must cease all works — weeping, confessing, repenting, even earnest praying, and simply believe God laid their sins, their very own sins, all of them (past, present, and future) on Christ at the cross. There comes a moment when a man ceases from his own works, hearing that Christ finished the work, paid the ransom at the cross. Then he rests! Such a soul believes, knowing himself to be a sinner and ungodly, but he believes on God, just as he is, and knows he is welcome!”4
How About You?
Still out there flailing to reach God on your own? Our introductory verse says, “He saved us from all that. It was all His doing.” Call out to God and let Him do the rescuing. The rewards are beyond description …
“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them — living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.”5
Next week, we’ll unpack that term, “believe,” and see specifically what the gospel asks us to believe to be saved.
— D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.
1. Titus 3:3-8 The Message (MSG)
2. Ephesians 1:13-14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 MSG
4. Newell, William R. Romans: Verse by Verse. Chicago: Grace Publications, 1938. Print.
5. Romans 8:5-8 MSG