At the heart of the salvation issue is the Holiness of God and His Glory. Because God is so magnificent, and all things have come from Him—all glory, honor, and praise belong to Him alone.
Isaiah 48:11 … I will not give My glory to another.
Psalms 24:1 The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.
If we consider that the entire universe was created by God, everything that we can see, and even the invisible world of the atom, all things are made by God. It is reasonable that He would not allow any of His creation to receive praise for His magnificent works. If we give a gift to God, those things that we present to Him were already His to begin with. He is certainly pleased with our gifts when we acknowledge that He is the originator of all our gifts. If we make something and dedicate it to the Lord, the elements that we used to construct the article of our worship were already created by God.
If God were to permit us the ability to “earn” our salvation, then we would have something to boast about. “Yes, Jesus saved me, but I helped God out a little….” Sounds pretty foolish if we really think about it.
So that God alone receives all the Glory for our salvation, not a single part of redemption, from start to finish, has anything to do with us. All we can do is believe it, accept it, and give thanks to God for it. We cannot boast about anything that we have done to earn our salvation, because we didn’t do a thing.
If this important principle was understood by the world, then the problem of working to earn salvation, that is claimed by many churches and religious organizations, would cease to exist. It is apparently very appealing to the pride of fallen human beings to believe that people can work to earn God’s favor. For some, they are offended that they cannot participate in their salvation. Some people believe that they have an inherent goodness and that God should recognize this and give them some credit for taking the time to recognize and respond to God. This belief is due to an unawareness of the Holiness of God. If we feel the desire to approach God, this need was placed in us by Him. If we respond to the Holy Spirit upon the awareness of our sins, it is He who placed this desire in our heart. How then can God condemn us when we fail to respond, if it is always He who makes it possible for us to even have the desire to come to Him? This is a paradoxical question that has knocked on the intellectual doors of man’s heart for thousands of years.
God knows all things. There is nothing that He must learn. He knew before the universe was created, who would respond to Him and receive Jesus as their Savior. He knows who will never respond and will be lost forever. This did not prevent God from offering salvation to everyone, nor preclude Jesus from dying for the sins of all people, for all time. Since Jesus’ suffering was directly linked to the number of sins He died for, it seems to me that He should not have died for the sins of all those whom He knew in advance would not receive Him. Rightly so, God did not consult with me on this matter. The Bible is clear that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. God felt it important that everyone should know that His offer of salvation was for every descendant of Adam, and that we could each, personally, have the opportunity to respond to Him.
This important truth is one principle of Christianity that is singular amongst the world’s religions. In every system of religion that I can think of, there is not a solitary instance where salvation is completely free to the willing participant. There is always something that a person must do, in order to be found acceptable to any particular method of obtaining eternal life.
The act of Jesus dying on the cross, paying the full price required by God for salvation, stands alone in stark contrast to the work-based religions of the world. In a few religious systems, sin is completely ignored and is not an issue at all. Doing good works as proof of one’s sincerity is pronounced and highlighted, without any teaching that all human beings are inherently sinful and in need of salvation.
Jesus said that God sent Him into the world, not to condemn the world; but that through Him, the world might be saved.
John 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Jesus did not come to condemn us because we were all already condemned. Our sins had relegated us to eternal death and separation from God. There is virtually nothing that any person could do to change this. We existed as helpless and hopeless.
John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Because God is good, merciful, and very kind, He could not sit idly by and allow our hopeless condition to continue. The Lord was compelled to give Himself in exchange for all of us.
What is truly amazing is that God knew in advance that we would all sin and be lost. The reasonable questions would be: “Why did He bother?” The answer to this question cannot be fully known until we are finally with the Lord in heaven, where we will understand why He chose to die for those who would never receive Him. I can only speculate that this had something to do with His desire to make known His character and nature in practical terms. He would create a race of beings who were like Him, in their ability to determine their own destiny. With the ability and power to choose, these rights could be used to either love and serve God, or deny and defy His claim upon our lives. Of course, a majority of us understand that the most meaningful relationships that we can experience with another human being, come when those persons choose, of their own free will, to love us. If the only way that we could obtain their love and companionship was to compel them to love us, their affections would not be nearly as meaningful as when they do so by their own choosing.
We should not confuse the issue of fellowship with God by determining that He created us because He had a need. God has existed forever and is complete, apart from His creation. He does not need us, nor can we offer to God any enhancement to His existence by loving Him or by submitting to His will. His demands for obedience are for our benefit, not His. We are the beneficiaries of doing what He commands. All of God’s law is good and will enable us to enjoy a rich and satisfying life while here on earth and into the world to come.
Those who chose to disobey God and live their lives for themselves, in the end, are found to have empty, meaningless, and hopeless lives. There is nothing more heartbreaking than a person who has denied God his entire life, who arrives at his last day without any hope beyond the final beat of his heart. Conversely, the person who has lived a large part of his life in obedience to God, because of his love for the Lord and with an understanding that His ways are the best ways, comes to the end of a wonderful life of blessing and purpose, eager to enter his new and eternal life the moment that his body ceases to function.