Must we repent, accept and believe, etc. – to be saved?

The good news message of the Christian gospel is that God’s already “reconciled us to himself (past tense) through Christ,” 2 Corinthians 5:19, “through Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross,” Colossians 1:19-20.

Our salvation, therefore, was totally taken care of at the moment of Jesus’ death. But isn’t our acceptance of that fact also necessary for salvation to kick in for us personally? Shouldn’t we do a “sinner’s prayer” first, or “make a decision for Christ,” or “repent and believe”?

No, says Paul, “For it is by grace you have been saved not by works, so that no one can boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. Salvation from beginning to end doesn’t depend on anything we do, including our acceptance of it. We couldn’t accept it anyway because our sinful nature wouldn’t let us (Romans 8:7). Any acceptance on our part has to come from God, which is exactly what Paul says when he adds the statement in Ephesians 2:8, “you have been saved through faith – AND THAT NOT FROM YOURSELVES, it is the gift of God.” God GIVES us the faith. We accept and believe because God gives us acceptance and belief.

Jesus also said, “No one can come to me unless THE FATHER HAS ENABLED HIM,” John 6:65. It’s the Father who enables us to accept what Christ has done for us, not us. How did Peter, for instance, understand and accept that Jesus was the Son of God? It was the Father’s doing, Matthew 16:16-17. And where did Paul turn to enable the Ephesians to accept and grasp the enormity of what God had accomplished for them in Christ? To the Father, Ephesians 1:17.

It’s the Father who enables us to believe and accept. And how does he do it? Through the gospel plainly preached, and the Spirit takes it from there. “Before your very eyes Jesus was clearly portrayed as crucified,” Galatians 3:1 – the gospel had been plainly preached, in other words – and from then on the Spirit “worked miracles among them,” verse 5, miracles of hope, faith and love, Colossians 1:5.

No wonder, then, it’s so important to preach the gospel accurately, because that’s the Father’s starting point for enabling belief and acceptance in people. “Faith and love SPRING FROM the hope you heard about in the gospel. All over the world the gospel is producing fruit and growing, just as it has been among you since the day you understood GOD’S GRACE IN ALL ITS TRUTH,” Colossians 1:5-6. First of all, they heard about God’s amazing grace – how through Jesus’ shed blood all humanity had been reconciled to God – and then the Spirit gave them the faith to believe, accept and love it.

Salvation is ALL God’s doing. Nothing required from us.


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