Doctrine Illuminated: The Freeness of Salvation (11min read)
In these Doctrine Illuminated articles, the core beliefs of Addison Street Community Church are fleshed out in more detail. Begin by examining the section of the Doctrinal Confession, found at the top, and then discover an explanation of each of its lines below.
Section 9. The Freeness of Salvation.
"We believe that salvation is offered freely to all people through the gospel. It is the duty of all people to accept salvation through repentance of their sins and faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinners on earth except their own depravity and voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ."
In our culture today, we often may feel duped by the word “free.” I remember my mom ruining my childhood dreams when at a young age she told me, “nothing’s ever truly free.” Countless times in my life I’ve been browsing the internet only to find out that a “free trial” somehow needed me to put in a credit card number. How could this be if this is supposedly “free”? Yet when we talk about the freeness of salvation, we don’t mean a freedom with quotation marks, but that which is truly free. Free with no strings attached. Free with no trial period or secret initiation. No, what God offers to us in the person of Jesus Christ is free, because he paid the full, invaluable price for us and our salvation.
“We believe that salvation is offered freely.”
To say that salvation is free is to say that it is available to all people without reservation. Anyone can be saved regardless of their ethnicity, background, previous religious beliefs, etc. Furthermore, to say that salvation is free is to say that it is obtained without cost to the receiver, that is salvation is a gift from God to humanity. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” God gives salvation as a gift and not by merit. No amount of your own striving can lead to salvation but clinging to the righteous person of Jesus Christ is how you are saved.
“[Salvation is offered] to all people through the gospel.”
This offer of salvation is open to all who believe in the gospel. The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ: that he who is God’s Son came to earth, died, was buried, and was resurrected to new life. Now he is at the right hand of God interceding for us. By his death, resurrection, and ascension, he has made a way for humans—who were estranged from God by sin—to be saved. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” In a way that other news has the power to influence our lives, so the gospel has power to change our lives, just in a much more significant way. Proclaim the gospel of Christ in the sphere of influence that God has you in today, beginning by preaching it to your own soul.
“It is the duty of all people to accept salvation.”
By nature of salvation being a gift, the only responsibility for the one receiving the gift is to accept it. If somehow we were asked to do some good works in order to receive the gift, then it would cease to be freely given and this would not be good news. Yet, God offers his Son as a free gift for eternal life with God in heaven to those who believe in him and receive his Son. John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Christ is received by us when we believe in his name, thus causing us not only to have salvation but to truly know God. Today know that your salvation is not just your escape from sin and hell but a promise of a life together with God!
“[People accept salvation] through repentance of their sins and faith in Jesus Christ.”
Repentance is a word that has very little use outside of the church, and even within the church there are vast differences in interpretation. Repentance means to “turn away from something”, yet where you then turn is vitally important as well. That’s where faith comes in. The call to repentance is then also a call to believe in the gospel. Jesus says this himself in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” We are to turn from sin and turn towards the truth and believe in Jesus Christ. But it would be terrible news if we were left to our own devices to go and try to accomplish this. But Christ has gone before us and he continually goes with us, such that faith is truly and only made possible in him.
“Nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinners on earth.”
One of the most shocking confessions of the Christian faith is this. In our culture that has been saturated with moralism, we are constantly comparing ourselves to one another and seeing where we are better. Thus, from a cultural perspective, to be a good person is to be better than most people. However, Scripture teaches that compared to God’s holy standard, no one is good. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore, in the eyes of God, everyone is as far as they can be from eternal life. So, to look at your neighbors and compare yourself is a fruitless endeavor. Instead, behold the face of Jesus. His holiness will not only reveal where you fall short but his promise is to be with you in the work of sanctification.
“[But salvation is prevented by people’s] own depravity.”
Depravity is another one of those words that might be lost on us if we haven’t grown up in church, but it simply means corruption. What we confess about the sinfulness of humanity is that they are “totally depraved”, that is, every part of the human race has been corrupted by sin. Because of this, we are, by nature, sinful people. This sin keeps us from the presence of God and is why we need salvation. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sin entered the world through Adam, the first man, and the committer of the first sin, and therefore humankind is under the curse of sin. Human beings do not enter the world neutral, but sinful.
“And [salvation is prevented by people’s] voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yet, God has made a way through Christ for all to be saved. Those whom he has saved, while they still wrestle with their flesh and with sin, are considered holy ones, or saints. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rest in the comfort of knowing that God does not judge you according to your unrighteous deeds, but according to Christ’s righteous ones—if you have submitted to him in faith. Christ did not save you so that now you have to become holy, he saved you so that you are declared holy, here and now.
I pray that whoever you are, whether a sinner who still needs to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ or a saint that is trying to live that out, that this article comes as really good news to you! Salvation is freely given in the person of Jesus Christ. This is not to say that Jesus is the means to an end, but that he is the end himself! Salvation is in Christ and those that are saved are only saved in Christ. No amount of striving can make one holy enough to be saved, AND no amount of striving can make one holy enough after being saved. Sinner, I pray that you stop striving on your own efforts today and accept this free gift of salvation offered in the person of Jesus Christ. Saint, I pray that you too choose to repent and believe today and every day and stop striving to make yourself holy on your own efforts. Christ did not save you so that you would then sanctify yourself. Rejoice today in the precious salvation that costs you nothing, but cost God everything!