While Christianity asserts many hard truths, one of them is harder to believe than all the rest. The truth that we don’t earn our salvation but only receive it by faith is a lifelong struggle for even the most celebrated saints.
Faith Counted as Righteousness
Abraham is one of the most revered patriarchs in Jewish and Christian history. Abraham is the man of whom God promised to make a great nation. And God fulfilled His promise. Abraham became the father of Isaac, who became the father of Jacob, who became the father of twelve sons whose families became the tribes of Israel.
But Abraham’s journey of faith was a faltering one.
After a series of events that put Abraham on the brink of losing hope in God’s promise, he asks for a sign. “‘Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless?'” (Gn. 15:2). Then God reassured him by saying, “‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness'” (Gen. 15:5-6) And Abraham is remembered in the New Testament as “the man of faith” (Gal. 3:9).
Bargaining with God
The hardest truth to believe about Christianity is belief. All it takes to be right with God is faith in His Son Jesus Christ. As we learn from Abraham’s story and so many others, human beings stumble in their faith and actions all the time. Our default attitude is self-reliance and sin. But God intervenes and offers us salvation from sin and death through faith in Jesus.
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31).
We’re saved by faith. But our pride won’t allow us to believe that all we need to do is believe.
Most of us try to bargain with God. We tell Him, “God if I obey you. If try my best to be a good person, then you’ll have to bless me.” We want God to meet us half-way. We do our part, He does His, and everyone is happy.
The problem with bargaining with God is that we never keep our end of the bargain. No one has ever lived up to God’s standard of holiness and righteousness. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t even live up to our own standards of righteousness (have you ever broken a New Year’s resolution?).
It Is Finished
Not only is bargaining with God impossible because of sin, it’s also unnecessary. God has already kept our end of the bargain for us.
Jesus Christ came into the world to live the perfect life of faith that Abraham, you, and I were all supposed to live. And he died the death that we, as unfaithful sinners, deserve for our disobedience. On the cross he said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). This means that all the work of being a righteous person in God’s sight has been done by His eternal Son. We can add nothing to what Christ has already accomplished nor can we take anything away.
The Hardest Truth to Believe About Christianity: We are saved by faith
So what’s left for a sinner to do? Believe. Jesus says, “‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
You are not saved by your works, neither are you condemned by them. You are saved by faith and faith alone. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Faith in Jesus Christ is all you need to be saved. That’s it. You don’t need to give a million dollars to charity, you don’t need to pray the rosary, you don’t need to help little old ladies across the street to be acceptable to God. Even though good works are a natural result of faith in Christ and faith without works is dead (James 2:17), you become acceptable to God solely by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Hardest Truth is Also the Sweetest One
This is a truth that you and I will struggle to believe for the rest of our days. How can salvation be so simple, so gracious? How can God truly only require me to believe? How can He be so good?
Salvation by faith alone because of God’s grace is the hardest truth to believe about Christianity. But it’s also Good News and the sweetest truth we can ever believe.