Some of the confusion regarding the meaning of the Gospel today may arise from failing to clarify the issue involved. The issue is, how can my sins be forgiven? What is it that prevents me from having eternal life? The answer is sin. Therefore, I need some way to resolve the problem. And God declares that the death of His Son provides forgiveness of my sin. “Christ died for our sins” – that’s as plain as it could possibly be (I Corinthians 15:4). Sinners need a Savior. Christ is that Savior and the only valid one. Through faith I receive Him and His forgiveness. Then the sin problem is solved, and I can be fully assured of going to heaven.
I do not need to believe in Christ’s second coming in order to be saved. I do not need to receive Him as my present intercessor. But I do need to believe that He died for my sins and rose triumphant over sin and death. I do not need to settle issues that belong to Christian living in order to be saved. I do not need to pledge a portion of my future income in order to be saved. I do not need to be willing to give up smoking in order to be saved. Matters of carnality, spirituality, fruit-bearing, and backsliding relate to the Christian life, not to the issue of salvation. Only the Lord Jesus, God who became man, could and did resolve that problem for us. He had to be human in order to be able to die, and He had to be God in order for that death to be able to pay for the sins of the world.
Keep the issue in the Gospel clear.
Keep the direction of the Gospel clear.
The good news is that Christ has done something about sin and that He lives today to offer His forgiveness to me. The direction is from Christ to me. It is never from me to Him. I do not offer Him anything. How could I? To offer the years of my life is to offer something very imperfect and something which can do nothing to forgive my sin. To vow my willingness to change is to affirm something I will not consistently keep; and even if I could, it would not remove the guilt of my sin.
Of course, when I receive eternal life from His hand, I bow before an infinitely superior Person. But I bow as one totally unable to do anything about my sin. I bow as a recipient of His grace and never as one who donates anything to Him. In salvation I am always the recipient, the donee, never the donor. If I try to donate anything with respect to becoming a Christian, then I have added a work, and salvation is no longer solely and purely of grace. Keep the direction straight, and keep His grace unmixed with any work.