“Grace is a free gift!””You can’t earn salvation””Faith alone saves you!”

Throughout my life I have often heard these phrases used. Usually the words are said in quick defense against a person claiming that salvation can be met through man’s part…even be it by his obedience to God. I have witnessed these heated conversations so many times that I can vividly picture the two sides sparring at one another. Here are two or more individuals shooting back and forth with favorite catch-phrases that are meant to disarm the other person, while both are getting virtually nowhere. Each individual is convinced that they are right, and neither will back down.

– Our Conundrum

It’s a very common argument: one says that people have a responsibility towards their own salvation; while another says that salvation is free. So which one is correct? Hold your fire, but I daresay both of them!

“How can this be? The two views are in direct opposition to one another!”

At first glance, it would appear so. Yet I would like to present an idea to you that perhaps you’ve never thought of…

-His Condition

Let’s take a moment to think of salvation as a product.

We all know that many stores offer “buy one get one free” specials from time to time. Need I define it? You can’t get a much more straightforward name for this special: you literally buy one item, and thus earn the privilege to a second item free. A favored special of frugal mothers everywhere!

Now to tie this in with salvation, consider this: many say that if you in any way “work” for your salvation (ie. by confessing, repenting, and being baptized), that the salvation would no longer be free, which would contradict God’s word. While I understand and respect the concern of these well-meaning individuals, I firmly believe that they are looking at it the wrong way. If I buy a first product and receive a second product free on special, what have I done? I have earned a free product. It’s really not an oxymoron; my purchase of the first product does not negate the fact that the second product is free – however it does indicate that the store placed a condition upon how I would go about receiving my free gift.

Much the same concept is true of God’s grace. Salvation is free, there is no doubt. Yet we must realize that it is free “on special”.

So what must we purchase in order to earn this gift of salvation? I believe Proverbs 23:23 presents our answer. We will call this God’s “buy four, get one free” special:

“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” (*emphasis added)

Product #1. Truth

To receive God’s free gift of salvation we must buy truth.

In John 14:6, Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father except through me”

So we must believe in Jesus and the authenticity of His gospel. We must forsake all other paths and follow Him exclusively and entirely. As our Lord clearly stated, there is no other way to heaven but through Him.

Product #2: Wisdom

To receive God’s free gift of salvation we must buy wisdom.

Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness…
Ecclesiastes 2:13-14a

We must repent of our old sinful lifestyle. This means daily crucifying our flesh as we walk in newness of life. Any man or woman who wants to be a child of God is obligated to turn from their sin and walk according to the spirit.

Product #3: Instruction

To receive God’s free gift of salvation we must buy instruction.

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
1 John 2:4-5

As much as the denominational world fights against it, we must submit to the Lord’s instruction for all men to be baptized. This act signifies abandonment of our old carnal nature and is the point in which God gives us a newfound spiritual nature.

Product #4: Understanding

To receive God’s free gift of salvation we must buy understanding.

Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding. Proverbs 9:6

It’s not enough to merely believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, but we must take it a step further by making confession. Contrary to popular belief, confession is not merely acknowledging words we say before being immersed; but rather a continual process. To confess is to live our lives in such a way that we continually proclaim Who it is that we serve.

– The Conclusion

Lastly, Proverbs 23:23 gives us this command regarding the four products: “sell them not”. We can’t take any of the products back without also returning the free product. That would be stealing and cheating the system. Stores do not allow this behavior and neither does the Lord. Salvation is free, but it is also a commitment and we have a responsibility on our part to keep our end of the bargain.

There is no better gift that could ever be offered to us, and just for the small price of four life-changing products. Who are we to scoff at such a deal? Our God has been more than generous to mankind – AND – unlike an earthly salesman, He does not drop off the scene once His products have been purchased. He’s not out to get a buck, but He truly cares for us.

Consider our salvation in this way: God plans to take us on a free cruise, but He expects us to come equipped with our own bathing suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a beach towel. The responsibility is on us to come forward garnished with the right gear so that we can truly enjoy the unveiling of His great gift to us.

I plead with you to come to The Lord on His terms. I don’t want you to miss out on the joy of heaven, and neither does He. Come get your free gift of salvation. I assure you, the price is right.

God bless, and take a chill pill!
Mrs. Dustin Bolks

Mrs. Dustin Bolks is a church of Christ preacher’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.

“…we are the same that our fathers have been;
we see the same sights that our fathers have seen,
we drink the same stream, and we feel the same sun,
and we run the same course that our fathers have run.
The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
from the death we are shrinking, they too would shrink;
to the life we are clinging to, they too would cling;
but it speeds from the earth like a bird on the wing.”– Excerpt from “Mortality” by William KnoxHave you ever seen one of those old-fashioned zombie flicks? You know the kind – rotting flesh, oozing eyeballs, undead monsters with outstretched arms and dilapidated jaws gargling “me huuuuungry” while chasing people down the street….well, you get the picture.

I think we can all agree that the zombies in these throwback films are quite literally all the same. You know…no zombie individuality, no zombies thinking outside the box, no heart-warming zombie sensitivity to be found. Let’s be real; when it comes to the minds of these walking dead, their singular thought process is as simple as: chase, kill, eat, repeat. Basically sums it all up.

What I want to consider today is that sometimes we as christians can have this same zombie-zeal. Now at face value, that doesn’t sound half bad, right? After all, they are pretty zealous to meet their desired goal of chomping down on every brain within reach! Even so, their mode leaves much to be desired, in the fact that they are overtly goal-oriented…looking to their destination without giving thought to any intricate and willful planning in order to arrive at that destination. In the end, humans conquer these guys every time, because zombies simply have no insight in their one-track minds!

In the same way, we christians can become so lost in our goal that we never evaluate our intent, our plan of action. In some ways it can be to our detriment to “run the same course that our fathers have run” (as in the poem above). Yet perhaps they were genuine and righteous in their zeal, so how could our imitation be a negative thing?

Friends, it is because we are running off of borrowed zeal, which will set us up for inevitable failure.

Consider that each christian has their own unique part in God’s plan. All it takes is a short study of 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4 to know this to be true. We must identify the gifts that we have, and seek to have a zeal all our own. This is the only way we will reach our full potential as an active servant of the King! Sometimes what was good for “our fathers” is completely beneficial for our ministry, sometimes partly beneficial, and sometimes it’s best to simply let their methods stay in the past. A good rule of thumb is to never be zealous over anything merely based on the fact that someone we respect is zealous about it. For our faith to be genuine it must be our own.

In Galatians 1:14-16, Paul recalls that before his conversion, at the time he was persecuting Christians, he had been “exceedingly zealous of the tradition of his fathers”. Yet he goes on to say that after God’s will was made known to him, he “immediately conferred not with flesh and blood”. In other words, the zeal that he once had (while genuine), was misplaced. In fact, his zeal was causing him to commit sin! We do not want to fall into the same error. God’s will ought to trump traditions, old habits, and blood ties every time.

Here are three things we need to know about our zeal to surpass “zombie” level christian (otherwise known as “novice”):

First of all, what is the source of our zeal – is it our feelings, or the Truth? Are we zealous because it makes us feel good about ourselves, or are we seeking to fulfill God’s will through the individual gifts he has given each one of us?

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. – Romans 10:2

Secondly, how can we methodically utilize our zeal to lift up the church and minister to the lost? Do our ideas sound good only in theory, or are we personally going to take a step in the right direction and begin working for the common good?

“…Forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. – 1 Corinthians 14:12

Lastly, are we insightful enough to change gears should our methods prove unsuccessful? Are we strong enough to keep trudging on in the face of adversity, knowing that God is glorified by our diligence?

And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. – Numbers 25:13


Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light! (Eph. 5:14)

Ladies, let us no longer be spiritual zombies…dead inside though physically alive. Our God wants us to be a shrewd and thriving people – a people who can victoriously proclaim: “our zeal is the real deal“. One that has the right source, the right utilization, and the right endurance.

God bless, and take a chill pill!
Mrs. Dustin Bolks

Mrs. Dustin Bolks is a church of Christ preacher’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.