“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 no where. 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…
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…
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 baptised. 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!
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.