By Grant Hawley
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. John 6:47
Eternal life is a free gift, and the only condition for receiving it is believing in Jesus. Yes, that means that those who sin will get off scot free if they believe in Jesus (and thank God we do!).
Christ wants our love and obedience. He wants us to be baptized. He wants us live holy lives, to share our faith, and to persevere through trials. All of those things are good for us and for others, and all of them bring glory to God.1 But the Word of God never makes any of those things a condition for spending eternity with God. And that glorifies God most of all.
To understand this, there are a few principles that we need to keep in mind
God wants everyone to be saved.
First Timothy 2:3-4 says:
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
And perhaps the most beloved verse of all, John 3:16 tells us God loves the world:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Salvation is offered to us, not because we are good, but because God loves us.
Nobody deserves it.
Romans 3:23 tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And the rest of the chapter paints a pretty ugly picture of humanity apart from Christ. And it's true. All of us have done or said things we ourselves aren't proud of. God's standard is far above ours, so none of us can tell the Judge we deserve His grace.
It's easy to point fingers at Hitler or some other monstrous person and say that salvation couldn't be made available to someone like that. But that just forgets the fact that we don't deserve God's grace either. If it was based upon God dealing with us according to what we deserve, we would all (Hitler, and me, and you) be mercilessly squished by God's divine wrath.
Christ's death is enough.
As the Lord our God—nailed to a wooden cross—took His final few breaths on that side of His resurrection, He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). He had borne all of the sins of mankind and His work was done. God was satisfied and no more could sins separate anyone from Him. John the Baptist said of Him, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Sin was taken away by the power of His precious shed blood. The value of His blood in God's eyes is more than sufficient, it's infinite. And the Apostle John also said, "He Himself is the propitiation [that means full and satisfactory payment] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
Saying that someone couldn't be saved because of what they did is saying that Christ's blood wasn't really enough.
The fact that God saves us despite our being undeserving glorifies God.
Ephesians 1:16-2:10 shows us why God is glorified in offering grace freely to the undeserving. Beginning in Eph 1:16, Paul prays for these believers to gain knowledge of several things—one of those things is shocking. Namely, that they would know "what are the riches of the glory of His [Christ's] inheritance in the saints." What's so great about us that we could be described as such riches and glory to Him that we need divine assistance to fathom? But Paul said what he meant. We are a glorious inheritance in Him because He has taken something so inglorious (see 2:1-3) and fashioned His majestic Body, a vessel into which He could pour all of "the exceeding riches of His grace" (2:7) in the ages to come.
Ephesians 2:8-9 is a powerful passage. It reads, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
These verses show us that the means of our salvation, "by grace," the channel, "through faith," the exclusion of our efforts from both, "not of works" and the reason it is so, "so that no one may boast" all point the glory to God. The passive, "you have been saved," illustrates this beautifully. Salvation is God's work, not ours. We simply believe in Christ, and God goes to work. While God created us in Christ so that we should do good works (2:10), works are wholly excluded from the means and channel of salvation so that God gets all the glory. The word translated workmanship in Eph 2:10 is the Greek word poi?ma, the essential meaning of which is masterpiece. By the power of Christ's resurrection (Eph 1:20-23), God has taken this motley bunch who was formerly enslaved to Satan's will (2:1-3), and created a glorious inheritance for His Son (1:18). Only the master craftsmanship of God can accomplish such a thing.
Remove grace, or twist grace to being anything less than free, and the glory of God's masterpiece is dimmed.
So, yes, a sinner who comes to believe in Jesus gets off scot free. But this isn't an affront to God—it's His desire. It isn't unfair to any of us—none of us deserve it. It isn't unjust—Christ has already paid the full penalty. And it doesn't defame God—it glorifies Him.1To glorify God is to display His goodness and greatness openly. When we see Him as He is, He is glorified.