Is Salvation a Free Gift?

– by Neil Thielke, December 27, 2012

Q: Is salvation a free gift?


  • In Romans 10:9 we read about the importance of Jesus as Lord of our life: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

  • In Revelation 22:17 we are invited to come to God: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

  • In Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul writes that salvation is not through our own works, but a gift from God: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

HOWEVER, the free gift also costs us everything we have.

Keith Green, a Christian song-writer, recording artist, and teacher in the 1980’s, articulated this by saying that becoming a Christian is more than adding Jesus to the garbage truck of your life. The key is found in Romans 10 in the word “Lord”.

kurios, koo’-ree-os; from kuros (supremacy); supreme in authority, i.e. (as noun) controller; by implication Mr. (as a respectful title) :- God, Lord, master, Sir. (Strongs Exhaustive Concordance)

Asking Jesus to be our Lord involves more than reciting a sentence such as, “Jesus, I give you my life.” Furthermore, Jesus becoming Lord in our life is more than merely mental adherence to a list of theological principles. In order for Jesus’ Lordship to take effect in our hearts, think of the sentence, “Jesus, I give you my life,” as entering into a binding contract with Jesus. We are making a lifetime commitment to serve Jesus.

Here are just a few of the many Bible verses that define the cost of the contract we make with Jesus when we give him our life:

  • Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Avoid Extremes:

Just as there are two ditches to every road, there are two extremes to every issue.

  1. More than a “free gift”.

    The first extreme is to over-emphasize “the free gift” like many reformers did. Many people think that no response is needed. In fact any mention of the need for a response is met with the defense of “That’s salvation by works!” Instead of encouraging people to receive Jesus as their Lord, they defer by saying that would be works.

However there is a huge difference between responding to a covenant that includes debt elimination, versus trying to work off a debt. The verse in Ephesians is saying that you can’t work off your sin debt. Not only is the debt too large to even consider a payoff from you, but it has to be paid off in currency that God will accept. God determined before the world began that his Son would be sent to the world, to be born of a virgin. His Son would live a life without sin in full obedience to God the Father. Only Jesus’ blood, the perfect sacrifice, could wash us clean from sin, cancelling our debt caused by our sin. Included in Jesus’ full payment for our sin, Jesus shares his nature with us in the form of the Holy Spirit, and gives us a new heart. Jesus shares with us his righteousness, so we can talk to our Heavenly Father without fear or shame.

In India where there are thousands of personal gods, it is easy to get people to “receive Jesus”. The challenge is to show the relevance of removing the other gods so that Jesus can be the only God in their life. Jesus will not share that spot.

Jesus told his disciples in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . ..”

  1. Not by works

The second ditch or extreme is those who continue to try to work off their sin debt even after they have received Jesus as their Lord and Master. They do not know that Jesus paid off their debt in full. The payment is so completely satisfied that all sins are covered: yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s.

The reason Christians do good works is:

a) they have a different master
b) they are going to heaven
c) and they understand that Christianity is deeper than a rite in a church.

It is we who need changing to conform with our new Master’s goals and mission. Christians often want politics to change things, because there is not much personal cost. If you want to save babies from abortion, offer the young ladies a place in YOUR home and FREE medical help paid by you.

The depth of a Christian is defined in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” This means no sex, no sexual play at all with anyone other than our married spouse. Present-day Christian’s involvement in these activities is almost as rampant as the non-Christians. The issue is not that more law is needed… it is that the fullness of the covenant commitment of a life given away to Jesus needs to be explained and lived out in front of them.

Consider the cost:

The correct response is to consider the cost of becoming a Christian. Everything you have will be God’s and in God’s service. Think about it before you commit. Then afterward consider how everything you have can be used to advance the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ teaching on considering the cost is in Luke 14:

Luke 14:25-33 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.


Kurios (also at times spelled kyrios or kuros, Greek κύριος) is a Greek word that may apply to God, lord, master, or guardian. In ancient Greece, a woman could not enter into a contract herself and arrangements were made by her guardian or Kurios. For an unmarried woman the Kurios would be her father, and if dead, brothers an uncle or relative would be the Kurios.

In some cases, when reading the Hebrew Bible the Jews would substitute Adonai (my Lord) for the Tetragrammaton (the written representation of the Name of God), and they may have also substituted Kurios when reading to a Greek audience (as in the Septuagint translation). Origen refers to both practices in his commentary on Psalms (2.2). The practice was due to the desire not to overuse the name of God. Examples of this can be seen in Philo. In The Jewish War (7.10.1) Josephus remarked that Greek speaking Jews refused to call the emperor Kurios for they reserved that word for God.

Oxford Dictionary of the Bible:

Greek, ‘Sir’, ‘master’, ‘owner’ (e.g. Matthew 25:11), but also used in LXX to translate Hebrew Yahweh. In Christian speech it was applied to Jesus as ‘Lord’, being raised above the human level (e.g. Romans 14:8–9) and Paul designates the brothers of Jesus as ‘the brothers of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19), which seems to point to the Jesus of the earthly ministry as nevertheless a more than human being. According to Josephus the Jews refused to call the Roman emperor ‘Lord’ (kurios), because this was the title reserved for God. Paul, however, transfers to Jesus passages in the OT (e.g. Isaiah 45:23) which refer to God: it is to the Lord Jesus Christ that every knee shall now bow and whom every tongue shall confess (Philippians 2:10 f.).

All Bible references are from the New International Version.

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