“A gift is only a gift if it’s received”

The above statement is used to support the claim that people are only saved if they believe in Jesus, or that only believers in Jesus are saved. The Christians who make that claim readily accept that salvation is a free gift BUT, they say, we must RECEIVE the gift to be saved. The gift of salvation only becomes a gift if it’s received.

Here’s how the argument goes: “God stretches out his hand to everyone, offering them his free gift of salvation, but WE have to stretch out our hand and accept it.” Salvation only becomes a gift to us personally, therefore, if we actually take it. At Christmas time, for instance, what would be the point of giving gifts if the people they were meant for didn’t accept them, or didn’t receive them, or didn’t stretch out their hand and take them? A gift only takes on value when the person takes it. It becomes useless if it just sits there on the table being ignored.

But that’s Christmas, where gifts are handed out on the day from one person to another. Hands go out with gifts and hands go out to take them. With salvation, however, the gift was handed out to all human beings long ago, before we were even born. It was given to us purely out of the grace of God’s heart before we even realized such a gift existed. It was planted on us before we even had hands to stretch out and take it with, or minds that could reach out and accept it. Every human was given the gift of salvation at the moment Jesus died.

So here we all are carrying around this gift that was given to us two thousand years ago. It’s like the Dad who slips his son’s Christmas gift into the back pocket of his son’s jeans on Christmas Eve, and next day the boy gets the surprise of his life when he discovers he’s been carrying his Dad’s gift around all morning without realizing it. But that’s the wonderful surprise of the gospel, that God slipped his gift of salvation into every human’s pocket the night Jesus died. So why on earth would God require us to accept his gift when we’ve already got it? Some Christians insist, though, that salvation isn’t a gift until we’ve received it, but how can you receive what you’ve already got? And what would be the point of stretching out your hand to accept a gift if the gift is already in your hand?

So it’s not our receiving his gift that God is waiting for but our belief that we’ve already got it.

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