There are two ways of looking at the Gospel. The first is that we are saved by grace based entirely on our faith in the promise that, ”Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
The second is that, while we are saved by grace through faith, we maintain our salvation through good works, or we risk losing our salvation through bad works.
I often repeat the following because it is both pithy and its logic is unassailable: “Things that are different are NOT the same.”
One can find Scriptures that seem to support both views, but, since they are different, they cannot be the same. If they are not the same, can they both be true? How many ‘truths’ are there concerning salvation?
Jesus linked the overspreading of the Gospel message to His Second Coming, saying:
“And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and THEN shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14)
That teaches us two things up front. The first is that all Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel to all creation. The second is that by preaching the Gospel, we actually play a role in bringing about the return of the Lord.
But what, exactly, IS the “Gospel”? The short answer is pretty simple. The word “Gospel” means “good news.” In its shortest version, the “Gospel” is the good news that Jesus Christ has reconciled all men to the Father by paying the penalty due for the sins of mankind with His own death and Resurrection.
Paul writes of the Gospel to the Ephesians,
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the power and penalty of sin according to the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Why is this such wonderful news?
You and everyone else have been born with a fatal condition. This condition is called sin. Why is this condition so serious? Because God is sinless and hates sin, for sin is rebellion against His perfect and righteous standard. And your sinful actions makes you an enemy of God (Romans 3:23; James 4:4)
But the Bible says there is also “another Gospel”:
“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. . . . And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (2nd Corinthians 11:4,14)
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” (Galatians 1:6)
There are some religious groups that teach that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough to pay for all of our sins. They say that one has to perform certain good works, certain rituals like water baptism, belong to a particular church, observe certain religious days, or make other human additions in order to be saved.
Or they teach that salvation is dependent upon you, rather than the Lord, citing Hebrews 10:26-27 as their proof text:
“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
This misunderstanding has caused many a Christian to throw up his hands in despair. But read the verse again.
If that is the correct understanding, if you are saved but then sin, you are lost forever. No point in coming back to Jesus to confess, since “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”
But what this verse actually teaches that, having accepted the Gospel, one comes under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and can no longer sin with impunity. Instead, the Christian knows the certainty of judgment — which Paul says will devour THE ADVERSARIES — not the saved Christian.
There is another teaching to the effect that Jesus’ sacrifice covers only previous sins, but good works must be performed to cover present and future sins so that salvation may be received.
This, however, is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Jesus, before He died said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
The Greek text uses the word tetelestai, which means paid in full. This means that our sins were paid for completely, rather than just a down payment being made, making it necessary for us to make regular payments to prevent the gift of salvation from being “repossessed” by God.
Romans 4:25 says that Jesus “was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” AndHebrews 9:26 says that “now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
When you truly believe this and place full trust in Him your entire life becomes transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will begin to bear good fruit, and you will have the promise of God that He who began this good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
He will never abandon or cast you away from Him (John 6:37;Hebrews 13:5). According to His sovereign grace He will see to it that you make it home to heaven (1 Corinthians 1:8; Jude 24).
Paul makes it clear in his Epistle to the Ephesians that salvation is a gift of grace through faith and not of works — lest any man should boast.
What does that mean? Well, salvation is a gift. What does one do to ‘earn’ a gift? I work for Hal Lindsey — I do certain jobs, Hal pays me at a previously agreed upon rate.
That agreed-upon rate constitutes my wages. It is a conditional agreement — if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t get paid. It isn’t a gift — it is a mutual dependency.
Hal gave me a Christmas bonus again this year. I didn’t have to do anything to receive it — if I had, it would have been wages.
Instead, it was a gift, to do with as I pleased. There is an obvious difference.
I can boast all I want to about how important I am to Hal Lindsey and justify it by pointing to my paycheck. Suddenly, it is all about me.
But the free gift speaks to Hal’s generosity, not my inherent value. It isn’t about my goodness anymore.
The Bible says,
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans6:23)
God will pay me the wages I’ve earned. (All men die.) But He also offers me the free gift of forgiveness and restoration by His grace, and asks only that I recognize it as a gift and receive it as offered.
The ‘other gospel’ takes the gift of God and makes it a conditional agreement — we are saved by grace, but our continued salvation is maintained by works.
That makes as much sense as Hal giving me a Christmas bonus in December, but if I don’t work twice as hard in January, he’ll take it back. It is no longer a Christmas gift, but an advance — or a loan — that must be repaid one way or another.
It is a source of endless fascination to me to hear otherwise well-meaning Christians argue against the doctrine of eternal security. The wages of sin is death, however, the gift of God is conditional upon works, they argue. What does the Bible say about ALL our works?
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and ALL our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
ALL our righteousness are as filthy rags, but God’s grace is perfect and all sufficient. If God’s grace didn’t extend to our post-salvation sins, then the only ones who would be in heaven would be those who died at the point of salvation.
Legalism dictates that God demands perfection, settles for minor imperfection, and revokes salvation from those whose imperfection crosses some invisible line.
Smoking isn’t among God’s Seven Deadly Sins — but on that list, the glutton sits right there beside the drunkard.
Are fat people habitual, unrepentant sinners who have condemned themselves while smokers get a pass? Or does God extend His grace to us according to our individual (and God-given) weaknesses or strengths?
I have the wisdom of Scripture that tells me that a holy God cannot countenance sin. That wisdom also tells me that, in God’s eyes, all sin is sin, and there are seven that God hates with a particular passion, habitual sins that, barring God’s grace, condemn as unrepentent; fat people, lazy people, gossips and drunks.
I also have knowledge of human nature from personal observation. I have intimate knowledge of myself and my own shortcomings.
Applied with a knowledge — but without an understanding — of grace, it tells me that my own salvation must depend on my first accepting Christ and then, never sinning again.
I came to Christ in 1976. I know that I have sinned since then. Wisdom plus knowledge — but devoid of understanding — therefore dictates that I am already lost and without hope — so why bother even trying?
“Grace” is not a license to sin, it is Divine permission to get back up and try again. Sin is burdensome because it tends to pile up so fast. Soon, it becomes so heavy you CAN’T get back up on your own.
The burden is lifted by the grace of God so that we can get back up, heal our wounds and return to battle. Grace is not license to sin. It is medicine to heal and bandages to cover our sin so we can fight on.
Understanding grace is to understand what Paul meant when he told the Galatians,
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians2:21)
Another gospel is a different gospel. And things that are different are not the same.
This brief was originally published December 31, 2008