What Must I do to be Saved? Nothing!
For most people, the title of this article is disturbing. The reason is that most people are raised in a moralistic legal environment that demands performance for benefit. Religion, in all of its expressions, promises to guide the soul to salvation. This is typically accomplished by a set of rules and rituals.
An unconditional salvation is so foreign that it is quickly rejected when presented. Our question from Scripture is telling because it is man-centered. It echoes, “What must we do to do the works of God?” Jesus informs us that the work of God — not your work — is for you to believe on Him whom He has sent (Jn 6:29).
It is clear that man is desperately uncomfortable with the free gift of grace unto salvation. The flesh balks, “Ok, while I am doing nothing, what should I do?” Conditional salvation is our default mode. After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch, right? The issue is control. If we agree there is nothing for us to do, it would require faith in someone else to do what was required. In addition, that person would have to do it on our behalf.
The doctrine we speak of is justification by faith. Here is the crux of the Protestant Reformation. Roman Catholicism has long been a purveyor of conditional salvation, “If you do meritorious good works, then heaven is yours.” The problem with any scheme of justification by works of the law is that the adherent never knows whether he has done the right works or done enough of them.
Every man, save for Jesus Christ, is guilty of sin before God (Rom 3:23; 5:12). To be right before God, and declared, “not guilty,” one must be justified. The Bible teaches that justification is by the blood of Christ, shed on the cross, on the day of His death (Rom 5:9). Justification is applied to God’s elect people, by His grace alone (Rom 3:24; Titus 3:7). In other words, righteousness is imputed. Christians are saved by grace (Eph 2:8–9). Grace is the work of God, an unmerited favor, for the benefit of His beloved people.
Unconditional love is unconditional. There is nothing the recipient of this love can do to merit God’s love. God has placed zero conditions upon His redeemed.
Faith is imputed by its sole Author (Phil 1:29; Heb 12:2). It is not a work of man (Rom 4:5). It is evidence of grace, given by God in the measure of His own choosing (Rom 12:3; Gal 3:22; 5:22). Faith is a state of being. Faith “in Christ” is not a condition for salvation. It is proof of the fact of salvation. Faith manifests where grace has previously visited and commenced its work.
The believer has died with Christ (Gal 2:20). He who has died has zero expectations of performance placed upon him. Dead men do not perform. The good news is that justification kills the old self, but it also brings to life a new man. Christ died to the law, and believers are with Him, in this death (Rom 6:1–14). His resurrection life is the believer’s resurrection life (regeneration by the Holy Spirit). We are alive in Christ (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13)…by grace and proven by faith.
Salvation is not for those who work (Rom 4:5); rather, we are clay objects in the hands of the Potter (Jer 18; Rom 9:17–21). Faith is planted in God’s elect by hearing the declaration of God’s Gospel (Rom 10:14–17). Who opens the ears of the spiritually deaf? It is not the deaf man, but it is Christ. A man either has the Son of God, or he does not have Him (Jn 3:36; 1 Jn 5:11–13). There is absolutely nothing a man can do to apprehend Him. Simply put, His word finds good soil and new life begins (Mt 13:23; Mk 4:8, 15; Lk 8:8, 15).
The flesh objects, “That’s cheap grace!” No, it is free grace. A free gift of God’s grace unto salvation is our death and our life. Death is a fearful thing, so men work diligently to avoid it. They earnestly labor to try to please God with their obedience to His Law and with their good works. God is not impressed (Gen 6:5; Is 64:6; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:10–12, 23; 8:7; Eph 2:1–3).
Meanwhile, there are some who truly live because He lives (Jn 6:63). The life they now live, they live by faith (Gal 2:20). Death has already come to the born again believer, and so has new life in the new man, the new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). This spiritual life is abundant and eternal (Jn 10:10; 1 Jn 5:11–13).
What did this man do to be saved? Nothing. What did he do to position himself in Christ? Nothing. What did he do to attain the faith required for justification? Nothing.
Immorality fails the antinomian, and super-morality fails the sincere religious man, but where the flesh and the law have failed, Jesus Christ has prevailed — and there is nothing you can do about that. He is victorious, having overcome the world (Jn 16:33)…and so are those who are in Him, having been given faith in Him by His Spirit (1 Jn 5:4).
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 24, 2022