The Gift Of Salvation Is Conditional
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord " (Romans 6:23).
In writing to the Romans, Paul refers to eternal life as "the gift of God." Many conclude from this verse that salvation is unconditional. The thought is, "why would it be called a 'gift' if there are conditions connected to it?" Paul does indeed use the word "gift," but notice he does not say that eternal life is an unconditional gift. Consider a couple of examples in scripture about the gift of salvation.
The Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus spoke of those who would enter the kingdom of heaven. He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). It is clear that Jesus says to enter the kingdom of heaven something must be done; the Father's will. This means the gift has some conditions that must be met to enter the kingdom of heaven or receive eternal life.
Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 2:8, Paul mentions again the gift of salvation that we receive by the grace of God. The gift is not due to works of merit or something owed to us. Still, it is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:9). In verse 10, Paul continues, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Paul is saying the gift of salvation is coupled with "good works" that God has appointed for us to do.
What We Must Conclude. From the previous passages, it is clear that there are conditions that God has ordained for men. What are these conditions that God has given for man to do?
1. Believe. In John 6:40, Jesus said, "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son of man and believes in Him may have everlasting life." Jesus also said, "if you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). John said, concerning the things that are written in the gospel record, "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples...but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." It is evident that to receive the gift of God, one has to believe.
2. Belief Will Lead One to Action. Believing something and not acting on it will not help you. James said, "The devils believe and tremble" (James 2:19), but surely we know they did not receive the gift of salvation. Faith will bring one to change and respond to the offer of salvation. The devils did not do that. An example of this faith and action is observed in Acts 2. The Jews gathered at Jerusalem and heard Peter preach the gospel to them. Peter proclaimed, "...let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made this Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ." At this point, the Jews that heard believed the preaching of Peter and cried out, asking what they should do. Peter responded, saying, "Repent,and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Peter told them to receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of salvation, conditions must be met. Based on their belief and confession of faith, the conditions were to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. On that day, three thousand responded in obedience and were baptized for the remission of their sins.
Salvation is an exceedingly great gift that God has given to man. When one hears, believes, repents, confesses, and is baptized, he has complied with the conditions that God desires man to do. Let each of us respond to receive the gift of salvation and then live each day faithfully serving Him.
David A. Cox