Eternal Assurance: Trusting in Christ Alone

Young Man Reading BibleBack in the early 90’s I faced a crisis as I held to a works-based salvation and constantly lived in fear of my eternal destiny. I had no assurance of my salvation because I never knew if I’d performed enough good works to validate my salvation. It was a terrible place to be. The solution came when I began to study the Scriptures carefully, stopped looking at myself, and fixed my “eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:2). I trusted Jesus at His word when He said, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). And the apostle John, who wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). And when I sinned, I trusted that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), turned to the Lord in confession (1 John 1:9), and resumed my Bible study (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2) and walk of faith (2 Cor 5:7; Heb 10:38). As I began to live by faith in God and His Word, my fear disappeared, the burden lifted, and my heart was filled with joy. That’s the blessing of learning God’s Word and trusting the Lord moment by moment. It’s the walk of faith.

Jesus Christ Saves

The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone (Eph 2:8-9), in Christ alone (Acts 4:12), totally apart from any human works whatsoever (Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5). The teaching is that the lost sinner is “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24), for “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5). The Scripture is clear, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). For God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim 1:9). Our salvation was accomplished in full by the Lord Jesus Christ who, while on the cross, bore all our sins and paid our sin debt in full, for “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8), and He “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18). Just before Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Our salvation was finished at the cross. Jesus paid it all. God has “forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14). Our salvation was finished at the cross, and we bring absolutely nothing to God for salvation. No good works are required of those who would be saved; none before, during, or after salvation. Salvation a gift. If we have to pay for it, in any way or to any degree, then it ceases to be a gift and becomes something we’ve purchased.

Now, the Bible teaches that good works should follow salvation (Eph 2:10; Gal 6:10), but they are never the condition of it. Those who learn and live God’s Word (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2), and walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7; Heb 10:38), will honor the Lord as they “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [they] have been called” (Eph 4:1). Their performance in life will match their position in Christ. Furthermore, these obedient-to the-word believers will “live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Tit 2:12), and “through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13), and earn rewards for eternity (1 Cor 3:10-15).

To be born again (1 Pet 1:3, 23), we need to come to Christ, for He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). And Peter said, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We need only Christ to be saved. Believing in Christ means we trust Him to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves; to save us. If would save ourselves, then it would not have been necessary for Christ to die; but He did die, and the benefits of His death, burial, and resurrection are available to those who come with the empty hands of faith, trusting in Christ alone to save. If you’ve not trusted in Christ as your Savior, then I “beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). Your reconciliation with God occurs at the moment of faith in Christ. The matter is simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:

Who is the One Who Saves?

There are four basic views concerning who saves. First is autosoterism (auto = self + soter = savior) which is a belief that entrance into heaven is entirely by good works. Autosoterists don’t feel they need salvation from an outside source. Their good works are enough. Second is syntheosoterism (syn = with + theo = God + soter = savior) which is a belief that people partner with God and contribute to their initial salvation by good works, or a promise to perform them. These frontload the gospel with some human requirement in addition to faith in Jesus (i.e., turn from all their sin, keep the Sabbath, water baptism, etc.). Third is posttheosoterism (post – after + theo = God + soter = savior) which is the belief that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but later, after being saved, the Christians are persuaded they must perform good works to keep themselves saved (like the Christians in Galatia). Last is solatheosoterism (sola = alone + theo = God + soter = savior), which is the belief that salvation is entirely a work of God through Christ and is provided by grace alone, though faith alone, in Christ alone, plus nothing more. In this view, salvation is a gift from God, freely given and freely received with no requirement of good works before, during, or after receiving salvation. These understand that good works should follow salvation (Eph 2:10), but they are never the condition of it. These four views are unpacked in the rest of this article.


The autosoterists believe that, from beginning to end, they save themselves by adhering to a moral code that will secure their entrance into heaven. In this system of thought, the Bible becomes a moral guide to one’s path to heaven (perhaps among other guides). I’ve personally heard people say, “I’ll keep the Ten Commandments and hope God lets me into heaven”, or “I’ll love God and my neighbor and trust that He will let me into His kingdom when I die.” Historically, this would be similar to Pelagianism, a teaching derived from a British monk named Pelagius who lived and preached in Rome circa A.D. 400. According to Ryrie, Pelagius “believed that since God would not command anything that was not possible, and that since He has commanded men to be holy, everyone therefore can live a life that is free from sin.”[1] In this teaching, a person needs only follow God’s laws to be saved from hell and accepted into heaven. From beginning to end, this is a works-salvation.

The problem with autosoterism—among several—is that those who think they can save themselves by works fail to grasp God’s absolute standard of righteousness to gain entrance into heaven. The Bible reveals God is holy (Psa 99:9; Isa 6:3), which means He is perfectly righteous and completely set apart from sin (Psa 99:9; 1 Pet 1:14-16). Because God is holy, He cannot have anything to do with sin except to condemn it. The Scripture states, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor” (Hab 1:13), and “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Autosoterists also fail to understand the biblical teaching about sin and total depravity, in which sin permeates every aspect of our being—intellect, body, will, and sensibilities—and that we are helpless to correct our fallen position. The biblical teaching is that all mankind is sinful and separated from God (Rom 3:10-23). We are sinners in Adam (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21-22), sinners by nature (Rom 7:14-25; 13:12-14), sinners by choice (Isa 59:2; Jam 1:14-15), and completely helpless to solve the sin problem and save ourselves (Rom 5:6-10; Eph 2:1-3). Good works have no saving merit before God (Isa 64:6; Rom 4:4-5; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5). Paul wrote, “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Rom 3:28), and “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Gal 2:16).

Furthermore, autosoterists are trapped in a vague system of rules-for-salvation that can never provide assurance of their salvation. No matter how much good they do, there is always that nagging question, “have I done enough?” The reason they can never have assurance of their salvation is because the Bible does not teach that salvation is by human works, either in total or in part. Those who approach God by their works are in want of any passage of Scripture that can provide them assurance they’ve done enough to secure their place in heaven. For if one performs a hundred good works during a lifetime, how do  they know that God doesn’t require a hundred and one, or a hundred and two? They don’t, because the Bible does not teach salvation by works. Autosoterists are not saved, as they trust entirely in their good works to save them.


The syntheosoterists are those who think good works are required in addition to their initial act of faith in Jesus. These teach faith in Christ, but then muddy the gospel by adding something we do, such as turning from sins, keeping the Sabbath, water baptism, promising to live a moral life, joining a church, receiving sacraments, etc. I don’t believe these persons are saved, as human activity is added to the gospel message from the beginning. We observe an example of this in the early church in which “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1). This teaching caused a huge reaction in Paul and Barnabas, who had “great dissension and debate with them” (Acts 15:2). The simple gospel message was: “we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11). But some Judaizers from Judea were presenting a false gospel which frontloaded the message with a requirement to follow to the Law of Moses; specifically, circumcision. Concerning Acts 15:1, Arnold Fruchtenbaum states:

“Verse 1 describes the issue that led to the debate: Gentile circumcision. After their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas gave a report to the church of Antioch and spent some time with the Believers there. Eventually, certain men came down from Judea. They were members of the “circumcision party,” mentioned earlier, in Acts 11:2, who had challenged Peter about going into the home of an uncircumcised Gentile. Acts 15:24 makes it clear that these men had not been sent by the church of Jerusalem, but that they simply came down to Antioch of their own accord. In Galatians 2:4, Paul made reference to this same Jerusalem Council and describe these men as false brethren. They came to Antioch to teach. The Greek tense of the verb “teach” means they began to teach, and they kept at it with determination. The false teachers picked on the brethren, meaning the Gentile believers, because they were not circumcised. To these Gentile believers, they said: except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. This was the Judaizers dictum: Believing Gentiles are not saved until they are circumcised. Today certain groups teach another heresy, namely, that believers are not saved until they have been baptized. Both statements are equally wrong. Both involve salvation by works and salvation through ritual.”[2]

If any human works or religious rituals are added to the simple gospel message, it is rendered null and void. A gospel message that includes human works is no gospel at all. Such a message saves no one. Warren Wiersbe states:

“God pronounces a solemn anathema on anyone who preaches any other Gospel than the Gospel of the grace of God found in Jesus Christ His Son (Gal 1:1–9). When any religious leader says, “Unless you belong to our group, you cannot be saved!” or, “Unless you participate in our ceremonies and keep our rules, you cannot be saved!” he is adding to the Gospel and denying the finished work of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to make it clear that salvation is wholly by God’s grace, through faith in Christ, plus nothing!”[3]


The posttheosoterists are those who believe they are saved initially by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but then later adopt a works-system to continue to be saved. I think many in this camp were saved when they heard and responded positively to the simple gospel message (perhaps as a child), placing their faith in Christ alone for salvation, but then later were persuaded to accept a system of legalistic teaching that told them they must do good works to continue to be saved. These would be similar to the Christians Paul wrote to in Galatia, who said, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel” (Gal 1:6). These were believers whom Paul called brethren (Gal 1:11; 3:15; 4:12, 28, 31; 5:11, 13; 6:1, 18), declaring they were “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26). The Christians in Galatia had trusted in Christ as their Savior; however, some “false brethren” (Gal 2:4) came among them and taught they must adhere to the Law of Moses to be saved. These were false teachers. According to Fruchtenbaum, “The problem that Paul was dealing with in his epistle to the Galatians concerns a group that has come to be known as ‘the Judaizers.’ These people felt that the Gentiles must obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1 and 5).”[4] Paul, in an effort to correct the false teaching, posed a few simple questions to the Galatian Christians, saying, “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:2-3). The Christians in Galatia had trusted in Christ as their Savior and had received the Holy Spirit. They were saved. Yet, the legalism of the Judaizers had corrupted the concept of faith alone in Christ alone. Fruchtenbaum notes, “Too many believers think they can and need to add to their salvation. By grace through faith alone does not seem to satisfy. People add the keeping of some of the laws of Moses to their salvation. Others believe their baptism plays a role in it. Again others throw what is commonly known as Lordship salvation into the mix.”[5] I think posttheosoterism describes many Christians today, who truly trusted Christ as their Savior, but then later were led to believe they needed good works to keep themselves saved. Chafer states, “True salvation is wholly a work of God. It is said to be both a finished work and a gift, and, therefore, it lays no obligation upon the saved one to complete it himself, or to make after payments of service for it.”[6]

I personally trusted Christ as my Savior at age eight; however, shortly afterwards I was taught I needed to keep myself saved by ceasing to sin and also by doing good works. Though I did not lose my salvation (which is impossible), the joy I had when I trusted Christ as my Savior was lost, as I became trapped in a vicious system of trying to keep my salvation by good works. Subsequently, I believed I lost my salvation every time I sinned (which  was daily), and felt I needed to come groveling back to God as a failure, and trusting Christ over and over again in order to be saved. Eventually, exhaustion took its toll, and after several years I walked away from God, thinking the Christian life was impossible. It was not until roughly fifteen years later that my assurance of salvation rested in Christ alone, and the joy of my salvation was restored.

Because pride is the default setting of the human heart; it’s our natural proclivity to think we can fix the problem of sin and righteousness and either earn God’s approval by our own efforts, or at least participate in the effort. Pride must die for salvation to occur, as we come to God with the empty hands of faith, offering nothing, but only receiving the salvation which He offers to us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Human efforts to save are useless. Lewis Chafer notes, “No one under any circumstances could forgive his own sin, impart eternal life to himself, clothe himself in the righteousness of God, or write his name in heaven.”[7]


Bridge_to_SalvationSolatheosoterism is the correct biblical view. This teaches that our spiritual salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, plus nothing more. No good works are required for our salvation before, during, or after we trust in Christ. As stated before, good works should follow salvation (Eph 2:10), but they are never the condition of it. This is the record of Scripture in the OT, as “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psa 3:8), and “Our God is a God of salvation” (Psa 68:20 CSB), and “Salvation is from the LORD” (Jon 2:9). In the NT we read about Jesus, and that “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21), and “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13a), and “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5), and it is “God who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim 1:8b-9). In these verses, salvation is always in one direction, from God to us.

Scripture reveals we are helpless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God (Rom 5:6-10), and prior to our salvation, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). Salvation is never what we do for God; rather, it’s what He’s done for us through the death of His Son, who paid the full penalty for all our sins on the cross at Calvary. Having paid the full price for our sins, there is nothing that remains for us to pay. Christ paid it all, and our spiritual salvation was completed at the cross, where Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). According to Francis Schaeffer, “Salvation is the whole process that results from the finished work of Jesus Christ as He died in space and time upon the cross.”[8] And Lewis Chafer notes, “As for revelation, it is the testimony of the Scriptures, without exception, that every feature of man’s salvation from its inception to the final perfection in heaven is a work of God for man and not a work of man for God.”[9]

No one has the means to redeem his own soul, nor the soul of another. Jesus asked, “what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26). The answer is nothing! If Jesus had not paid our sin-debt to God, there would be no hope of ever being liberated from spiritual slavery, for “no man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever” (Psa 49:7-8). However, Paul writes of the “redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24b), and this speaks to the payment He made on behalf of sinners. The word redemption translates the Greek apolutrosis (ἀπολύτρωσις) which means to “release from a captive condition.”[10] Redemption refers to the payment of a debt that one gives in order to liberate another from slavery. Jesus declared “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), and the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6). When we turn to Christ as our only Savior “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph 1:7; cf. Col 1:13-14). Because Jesus died in our place, He is able to set us free from our spiritual bondage and give us eternal life, but it is only because of His shed blood on the cross that He can do this, for we “were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold…but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18-19). The blood of Christ is necessary, for “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22). And the blood of Christ is the coin of the heavenly realm that paid our sin debt. He paid it all, and there’s nothing more for us to pay. Salvation is a gift from God. If we have to pay for it, it ceases to be a gift.

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:

[1] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 254.

[2] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Book of Acts (San Antonio, TX, Published by Ariel Ministries, 2022), 316.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 461.

[4] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Faith Alone: The Condition of Our Salvation: An Exposition of the Book of Galatians and Other Relevant Topics, ed. Christiane Jurik, Second Edition. (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2016), 9.

[5] Ibid., 1.

[6] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan (New York: Gospel Publishing House, 1909), 111.

[7] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 7.

[8] Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 100.

[9] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, p. 6.

[10] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. Frederick W. Danker, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 117.

Free Grace Salvation

God's GraceFree grace salvation means we are forgiven, justified, and saved solely by God’s grace, and not by any human effort or merit. All humanity is inherently sinful and unable to earn entrance into heaven. Our good works do not save. They never have and never will. Salvation is entirely a work of God. He offers it to sinful humanity as a gift, given freely and unconditionally to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, believing He died for our sins, was buried, and raised again on the third day (1 Cor 15:3-4). Faith in Christ is the only condition for salvation. Faith does not save. Christ saves. Faith is merely the instrument by which we receive the free gift. And we are saved by grace, which means we don’t deserve it. Scripture reveals, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Some think their obedience to the Law saves them; however, “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Gal 2:21).

The Bible reveals we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). Paul is emphatic that we are justified by faith and not by works, saying, “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5). Justification is a single act that occurs at the moment we trust in Christ as Savior. It’s a one-and-done event. At that moment, we are declared just in God’s sight, not because of any righteousness of our own, but because of “the gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17) that God gives to us at the moment of salvation. This is God’s righteousness, and is gifted to us “apart from works” (Rom 4:6). It is “the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil 3:9). It is this free gift of God’s righteousness that makes us acceptable in His sight.

Furthermore, at the moment of faith in Christ, we are forgiven all our sins (Eph 1:7), have “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24), are given “eternal life” (John 10:28), and are among those “whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4:3). As a result, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). We will never experience the Lake of Fire. Never. As Christians, “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).

Good Works Should Follow Salvation

Once saved and justified in God’s sight, the Lord directs us to “press on to maturity” (Heb 6:1). That is, to grow up spiritually and become mature Christians who walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7; Heb 10:38). This glorifies God, edifies others, and results in the best life possible in this world. Good works is what God expects of His people. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). Paul wrote, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph 2:10). The Lord instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Tit 2:12) and to be “zealous for good deeds” (Tit 2:14). We agree with Paul who wrote, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:10). God clearly calls His people to a life of obedience and good works. There is no question about this. The Scriptures are plain on the matter, instructing us, “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Pet 1:15).

What About Lordship Salvation?

Though good works should follow justification, they are never the condition of it. Unfortunately, there are some who teach Lordship Salvation, which conflates justification with sanctification. Justification is single event whereby we are declared righteous by God at the moment of faith in Christ. Sanctification is the process of growing spiritually and advancing in a life of good works. Those who advocate Lordship Salvation teach that in order to be saved, one must believe in Christ as Savior AND submit to His lordship, which means committing to a lifetime of obedience. According to John Frame, “you cannot accept Christ as Savior without accepting him as Lord…To receive Jesus as Lord is to make a commitment to keeping his commandments.”[1] And John MacArthur wrote, “Saving faith is a commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms.”[2] Though I love these men and appreciate much of their writings, I disagree with them on this matter, as their view presents salvation as a two-step-process where faith + commitment = salvation. They teach faith in Christ PLUS a total commitment to a life of obedience. According to Charles Bing:

“This view [of Lordship Salvation] demands that a person is saved through faith, but a faith that commits and surrenders to Jesus as the Lord of all of one’s life. In other words, commitment and surrender are conditions of salvation. Resulting from this starting point is the belief that a true Christian is therefore one who evidences that commitment and surrender in a life of good works…[in this view] God’s grace is no longer free, faith becomes works, and the unbeliever is subject to a performance basis for acceptance with God.”[3]

Problems with Lordship Salvation

There are several difficulties with Lordship Salvation. Firstly, it fundamentally undermines the concept of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and appeals to those who, in pride, feel they can earn their salvation by means of good works. Such a view naturally becomes anthropocentric rather than Christocentric. No greater offense can be given to a legalist than the concept that salvation is entirely and freely by grace, as it gives all glory and credit to Christ, leaving none for them. Let them be offended, and let all glory rest in Christ alone! Secondly, it destroys one’s assurance of salvation, for if one’s eternal destiny is dependent on ongoing obedience, that person will never know if they’ve done enough to prove they were saved in the first place. Add to this the reality that sin is still present in an ongoing way in the life of believers (requiring regular confession; 1 John 1:9), it means sinless perfection will not happen this side of heaven. This means believers will never know if they’ve done enough to prove their salvation to themselves or others, for if their salvation (hypothetically) requires a hundred good works, how do they know it’s not really a hundred and one, or a hundred and two? They don’t know, so assurance is lost. But God wants us to have assurance, as the Bible states, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Thirdly, those who feel like they are displaying a lifestyle of good works that proves their salvation, there is the possibility of swelling pride and an attitude of condescension as they become fruit inspectors in the lives of others. In this case, legalism will fill the heart, and we know “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Prov 16:18). Fourthly, Lordship Salvation can be confusing, overwhelming, and discouraging for the new Christian who probably knows little to nothing about the Bible and his new relationship with the Lord. Because we cannot live what we do not know, learning God’s Word necessarily precedes living His will. But this takes commitment, humility, and time. And even when we know God’s Word, it’s no guarantee we’ll obey it. This is why James wrote, “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves (Jam 1:22), and “to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jam 4:17)

Salvation is Free

Salvation is free. Paid in full by the Lord Jesus who died in our place on the cross, Who “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18). Once saved, God calls us to a lifelong process of sanctification. Sanctification is the life we live after being justified, and this process continues until we leave this world, either by death or rapture. The sanctified life requires us to learn and live God’s Word (2 Tim 2:15; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18), walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7; Heb 10:38), be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), and make ongoing good choices to stay on the path of God’s will.

What Happens When We Sin?

Do we sin as Christians? Yes. We sin as Christians. It is possible for a Christian to sin, and to sin as badly as any unbeliever. However, unlike the unbeliever, God disciplines His own (Heb 12:5-11), which includes the removal of eternal rewards (1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 John 1:8), and, if necessary, disciplines the Christian to the point of physical death (1 Cor 11:30; 1 John 5:16). It’s never the will of God that we sin, but when we sin, it’s always His will that we handle it by means of confession (1 John 1:9), and then get back into our walk with the Lord.

Let’s be those Christians who commit ourselves to the Lord, learn and live His Word, advance to spiritual maturity, live holy lives, and live sacrificially for the good of others. This glorifies God, edifies others, and results in the best life we can live in this fallen world.

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:


[1] John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 197.

[2] John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1988), 87.

[3] Charles C. Bing, Grace, Salvation, and Discipleship: How to Understand Some Difficult Bible Passages (Brenham, TX: Lucid Books, 2015).

Christ to the Cross

The Raising of the Cross     The Raising of the Cross was painted by Rembrandt sometime around A.D. 1633. In the painting the artist portrayed himself as one among many who placed Christ on the cross to bear the sin of all mankind. You can see Rembrandt in the center of the painting wearing his painter’s hat. Rembrandt is telling everyone that it was his sin that sent Christ to the cross, and that it was his hands that lifted Him up to die. There is a richness of Christian theology in the painting. 

       I understand what Rembrandt is communicating in the picture. It speaks for itself. More so, I personally identify with the artist, because I see my hands raising the cross of Christ. I too am guilty of the sin that put Him there to die in my place. The cross of Christ is essential to  the gospel message of Christianity (1 Cor 1:17-18; 15:3-4), and every Christian who believes in Jesus as Savior—at some point in his learning—must see himself at the cross, for Scripture declares, “we died with Him” (2 Tim 2:11; cf. Col 2:20). 

       When we think about Jesus, we know from Scripture that He is simultaneously the eternal Son of God and true humanity. At a point in time, the eternal Son of God took upon Himself sinless humanity and walked among men (John 1:1, 14, 18). In theology, this is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union. Though He is fully God, we must always keep His perfect humanity in our thinking as well. While in the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before the crucifixion, it was the humanity of Christ that struggled to face the cross. In the Garden, Jesus “fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Matt 26:39). Jesus went to the cross as His Father willed. When we think about the cross, we realize that it was not Jesus’ deity that died for our sins, but His humanity, as Peter tells us, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Pet 2:24). Peter’s reference to “His body” speaks of the humanity of Jesus. 

       Concerning the death of Christ on the cross, the Bible reveals it was simultaneously an act of God as well as sinful men. When delivering his sermon about the crucifixion of Jesus in Acts chapter 2, Peter declared, “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). In one verse, Peter captures the coalescence of divine and human wills that participated in putting Christ on the cross. On the divine side, Jesus was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God”, and on the human side, He was “nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men [who] put Him to death.” Jesus was not a helpless victim, torn between the will of God and sinful men, but a willing sacrifice who chose to lay down His life for the salvation of others. The prophet Isaiah declares:

But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. (Isa 53:10-11)

       The language is plain, “the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering” (Isa 53:10a). God punishes sin as His righteousness requires, and saves the sinner as His love desires. It is simultaneously true that God sent and Christ went. Christ was willing to be put to death in our place, for the Scripture declares “Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:2).  Jesus said “I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:15), and “no one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative” (John 10:18). Other passages in Scripture clearly reveal that Christ went to the cross willingly and laid down His life for our benefit (Gal 2:20; Eph 5:25; Heb 7:27; 9:14). Jesus was punished in our place so that we might have forgiveness of sins and the gifts of eternal life and righteousness (John 3:16; 10:27-28; Eph 1:7; 2:8-9; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9; 1 Pet 3:18). 

       We must not see Christ dying at a distant time or place. Like Rembrandt, we must see ourselves at the place where Christ died. We should see our hands driving the nails and lifting the cross. We must see Jesus bearing all our sin, and paying the penalty of the Father’s wrath that rightfully belongs to us. Afterward, we must see ourselves risen with Him into newness of life. In May, 2006, while taking a seminary class on the Atonement with Dr. Paige Patterson, I wrote a poem and tried to capture in words what Rembrandt captured in his painting. 

Christ to the Cross ©

I and the Father led Christ to the cross,
Together we placed Him there;
I pushed Him forward, no care for the cost,
His Father’s wrath to bear.
Christ in the middle not wanting to die,
Knelt in the garden and prayed;
Great tears of blood the Savior did cry,
Yet His Father He humbly obeyed.

So He carried His cross down a dusty trail,
No words on His lips were found;
No cry was uttered as I drove the nails,
His arms to the cross were bound.
I lifted my Savior with arms spread wide,
He hung between heaven and earth;
I raised my spear and pierced His side,
What flowed was of infinite worth.

Like a Lamb to the altar Christ did go,
A sacrifice without blemish or spot;
A knife was raised, and life did flow,
In a basin the blood was caught.
Past the incense table and the dark black veil,
To that holy of holy places;
The blood of Christ was made to avail,
And all my sins it erases.

Now this Lamb on a cross was a demonstration
Of the Father’s love for me;
For the Savior’s death brought satisfaction,
Redeemed, and set me free.
Now I come to the Savior by faith alone,
Not trusting in works at all;
Jesus my substitute for sin did atone,
Salvation in answer to His call.

Dr. Steven R. Cook

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Believe in Jesus for Salvation

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

       To be saved means to be rescued from harm or danger. Based on the authority of Scripture, all mankind is under the sentence of sin and death, and in danger of eternal damnation (Jo. 3:18, 36; Rom. 1:18; 3:9-10, 23). The good news, according to Scripture, is that God saves sinners based on the work of Jesus who died in our place. The only true God—according to Scripture—has punished sin as His justice requires, and saves the sinner as His love desires. But the sinner must receive the free gift of eternal life by believing Jesus is the Savior—trusting in Him alone for salvation.

       Some men dare to trust in themselves that they are righteous and good enough to earn acceptance into heaven. This is wrong according to Scripture, which teaches that all men are dead in their “trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), and “helpless” to save themselves (Rom. 5:6). The Scripture is clear that God saves sinners, “not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Tit. 3:5). By sending His Son to the cross to die in the place of sinful men, God has rejected human good as a way of earning salvation.

       Some might ask how God can be just and at the same time declare righteous those who are guilty of sin? God is just in dealing with sin because He has judged it in His Son who died as our substitute and bore the wrath that rightfully belonged to us (Isa. 53:6). He is also loving toward the sinner and offers salvation to us who accept His free gift by trusting in Christ who died in our place (Jo. 3:16; Rom. 5:8). God is both just and the justifier of the one who believes in Christ for salvation (Rom. 3:25-26).

       Jesus alone is the Savior, and to trust Him for salvation is to have eternal life, and be rescued from eternal torment (Rev. 20:14-15). Jesus is the only Savior, “for there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” (Jo. 14:6). This is good news to those who accept it.

       The gospel is the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scripture” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). It’s as simple as, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.