How Do I Earn Salvation?

By:
Colin S. Smith
Perspective:

In the town where my wife, Karen, and I used to live in north London, market day was every Thursday and Saturday. Crews would arrive at around six in the morning and set up the scaffolding and the canopies for the stalls.

There were stalls with fruit and vegetables, a luggage rack, clothing stalls, and a man who strangely seemed to do nothing but sell parts for vacuum cleaners. The place was always milling with people looking for a bargain.

God uses the picture of a marketplace to explain His incredible offer to us:

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1)

Centuries later, Jesus took up these words and applied them to Himself. “If anyone is thirsty,” He said, “let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Thus the street trader of Isaiah 55 is the Son of God. He offers to satisfy the deep thirsts within your soul. Let’s go over to the stall and discover more.

The Price Is Right!

“Come, buy . . . without money and without cost.” (V. 1)

Selling is usually about the trader arguing the customer up to his price, but here we have Christ arguing the price down! It’s like an auction in reverse where everything is turned on its head, because Christ has chosen to sell to the lowest bidder.

So come with me in your imagination to this auction sale! Christ is standing in the stall, and He says, “I am pleased to be able to offer total forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The offer includes the ultimate value of everlasting life, and it is available today to the lowest bidder.”

A man in a pin-striped suit steps forward with the first bid. “I’ve led a good life and run an honest business,” he says. “I have been faithful to my wife and have been a good father to my children. I have served on the boards of three charitable organizations. I would like to offer these good works.”

A murmur rises from the rest of the bidders. That’s a pretty impressive offer. “It’s with the man in the pin-striped suit,” says the auctioneer.

Then a lady in a blue coat lifts her hand. “I haven’t done as much as the man in the pin-striped suit,” she says, “but I have attended church faithfully, and I think that I have become a spiritual person.”

“It’s with the lady in the blue coat,” says the seller. “Can anyone make me a lower offer?”

A girl in blue jeans raises her hand. “I haven’t attended church like the lady in the blue coat, but I am sincere in wanting to do what is right, and I have tried to live a life that is pleasing to God.”

“Well,” says the auctioneer, “that’s not very much, but it’s going to the lowest bidder, so you have it. Am I hearing any other bids?”

A man in a red sweater, with a bit of a red face to go with it, gets up slowly. “I’ve not lived up to my own expectations,” he says. “I have let people down, and I’ve done some terrible things, but at least I have been sorry. I didn’t intend to do what I did, so let me offer the fact that I am truly repentant.”

“Well,” says the seller, “that really isn’t much. But it’s going to the lowest bidder, so your meager bid has it right now. Is anyone going to make me a lower offer?”

This is not a battle of pride; it is a battle of blushes. Many people have opted out of the bidding, not because the cost is too high, but because the offers are embarrassingly low. Most people are just watching to see if anyone would dare to offer less than the man in the red sweater. How could anyone offer so little to God?

Finally someone steps forward and says, “I don’t have anything to offer. My repentance isn’t what it should be; my faith isn’t what it should be; my works aren’t what they should be. Nothing is as it should be! I have nothing to offer.”

And the auctioneer brings down His hammer. “It’s yours,” He says. “It’s yours.”

What Do We Bring?

Maybe you’re saying, “OK, but don’t we have to bring something to God? Don’t we have to be sorry? Don’t we have to believe?”

Yes. But we do not receive salvation because we offer these things. Salvation is a gift. Many people become confused at this point. They think of salvation as a deal in which God offers forgiveness and life, and we bring repentance and faith, and somehow we get together and make the trade. But that’s not the gospel.

The blind man did not come to Christ because he had sight; he came to Christ to receive sight. You do not come to Christ with a changed life; you come to Christ for a changed life. You come to Christ to receive.

If God were to ask you on the last day why He should let you into heaven, the answer is not “because of my good works” or “my repentance” or even “my faith.” Our salvation does not rest on anything we have done. It rests on Jesus Christ alone.

If we are trusting in our repentance and faith, we will never have assurance, because our faith and our repentance are never what they might be. Our salvation depends entirely on Christ. Faith is the open hand that receives what He offers, and repentance is the response of a heart that has received.

Offering the Lowest Bid

Many people have difficulty in worship because they have never received what Christ offers. They are following a moral code and offering that to God. In fact all that they have ever done is offer things to God. Their hands are full, and they have never come to Christ to receive.

God has made it so that every one of us can make the lowest offer. Only pride stands in your way. The man in the pin-striped suit and the lady in the blue coat may have this blessing also, but they must stop trying to buy it. They must lay aside their works and come to Christ empty-handed.

“Our salvation depends entirely on Christ.”

Of course when we do that, it leaves us incalculably in debt to Jesus for the rest of our lives. We look up into the face of Christ and say, “I cannot even express the debt I owe for what You have given me. So I will worship, love, and obey You for the rest of my days; not so that I may receive, but because I have received.”

Making the Purchase

“Come, buy.” (V. 1)

Having established that salvation is a free gift, Christ now invites us to come and buy. He uses the word buy because there is a definite transaction in which you take what Christ offers. Even though you do not pay for it, you must receive it, and unless this transaction takes place, what Christ offers to you remains, as it were, in the stall.

Looking Isn’t Buying

Some people enjoy “just looking” in shops, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s where some people are spiritually. They have come over to Christ’s stall and started asking questions about the Bible and salvation.

Looking is great, but looking isn’t buying. The greatest commitment of your life is worthy of the deepest investigation, so look into the claims of Christ carefully. But don’t confuse looking with buying. If what Christ offers is to become yours, you must close the deal.

Trying Isn’t Buying

If we had bought every dress my wife has tried on over the last twenty years, we would be truly bankrupt! But trying isn’t buying. You could be in a store from nine until five, Monday to Friday, and never buy. And you can come to church, read the Bible, join a study group, and still never close the deal with Christ. You can feel that you should buy and still never buy.

Knowing Isn’t Buying

We were looking at washing machines a few months ago. We did our research and found a brilliant sales assistant. He was like an encyclopedia of washing machines.

“This one,” he said with a rather nasal voice, “rotates with twenty-three minutes of agitation; and this one has the corkscrew spindle, but it does not have the automatic temperature gauge.”

We began talking with him, and eventually he told us that he didn’t own a washing machine himself because he lived on his own, had plenty of socks, and went to the laundry once every month. He knew all about the products but had never bought one himself. We didn’t buy the washing machine either.

Maybe that is where you are spiritually. You have learned many things about Jesus, but what He offers has not yet become yours. Knowing isn’t buying.

There’s a time for doing your research, but if you are going to buy, there must come a point where you make a decision and close the deal. And when you buy, what Christ offers becomes yours.

Christ says, “Come, buy, without money, without price.” Are you ready to buy?

For Further Reading:

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by Colin S. Smith

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