When we speak about having been saved from sin we generally mean that we are no longer eternally condemned for our sins, that because God has forgiven our sins we have been reconciled to God, and that we may therefore enjoy companionship with God. This salvation is a gift from God because he is gracious (Psalm 84:11; 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8, 17; John 1:14). This salvation is specifically based upon what God has accomplished through Christ and our response to it (Romans 5:15, 17-18).
God’s Plan of Salvation
Before Adam and Eve sinned they had close associations with God. Inasmuch as Adam was the representative head of all humanity, his sin caused all humanity to die and to be separated from God (Romans 5:12). But God had a plan whereby humanity could be reconciled to him. This plan was prepared before the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20) but not revealed until after Christ’s death on the cross (Ephesians 3:8-11; 1 Peter 1:10).
If anyone could have kept God’s commandments perfectly, then they would have had continual association with God. However, since under the law “all sin and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) no one could have eternal life.
The righteousness of God requires that human sin be punished. That process may be likened to a debt that must be paid before reconciliation can occur. Inasmuch as life is in the blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:14), then life had to be sacrificed to pay for human sins. But the blood of animal sacrifices was insufficient (Hebrews 10:4).
God’s Son and Salvation
God’s plan was that his own Son would live a sinless life in the flesh, (which he did, John 8:7; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22), and then shed his blood on the cross in order to pay for the sins of humanity (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). This is how God made possible the reconciliation of humanity to himself (Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:21). In this manner God’s grace was extended to humanity (Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:5; Titus 3:7).
God’s Salvation is Conditional
However, God’s grace in giving the possibility of salvation to humanity is conditional. God created people with freedom to choose whether or not they want to live according to his desires. Since an individual must choose whether or not to accept the grace of God, one may wonder just how God’s grace may be acquired.
The simple answer is that God’s grace is acquired through living by faith, i.e., by believing and obeying God (Romans 4:16; 5:2; Ephesians 2:7-8). Because some people, like Adam and Eve, choose not to believe and obey, their sins are not forgiven (John 3:18-21; 8:24), they are not reconciled to God, and therefore they have no hope for eternal fellowship with God (Ephesians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Not of Works
Salvation by the grace of God is inconsistent with salvation by works. Paul declared that “to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Romans 4:4).
More specifically, “if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6).
Not of the Law
Salvation by the grace of God is also inconsistent with the keeping of law. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). For one to attempt to be justified by law is to fall from grace (Galatians 5:4).
“If righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21). “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
Not a License to Sin
Salvation by the grace of God does not grant license to sin. Sin cannot continue in order that the grace of God may abound because those who are saved by the grace of God have, with Christ, died to sin.
As Christ died, was buried, and arose from the dead, so also those saved by God’s grace have died to sin, been buried in baptism, and arisen to a new life, the old body of sin having passed away and a new body brought forth to live for God (Romans 6:1-12). This new body is now freed from sin (Romans 6:22).
As a result, believers are invigorated; they are “…made alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:5-10).
Peter admonished recipients of God’s grace to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
Recipients of God’s grace “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
While the grace of God is free to the faithful, it cost God the blood of his Son (1 Peter 1:18-19). All who are saved must be careful to live by faith (Hebrews 3:12).