I had great difficulties as a Catholic priest in listening to evangelists in my fourteen years of searching for the Gospel. Christian radio programs continually told me the amount of things I had to do to accept Jesus into my heart. Christian tracts likewise told me the amount of dedication or commitment I needed in order to make a decision for Christ.
After an agonizing search in the face of being told what I must do to be saved, I discovered that the first thing that must be understood biblically about the Gospel is that it is “concerning Jesus Christ our Lord,” in the words of Paul in Romans 1:3. While the Gospel is proclaimed to all, it is not about us or about anything that happens in us. It solely concerns what Jesus Christ did and His death and resurrection.
I found out, too, that the Gospel is a historic fact. Biblical faith is not concerned with recommending techniques, whether mystical or ethical, whereby salvation may be obtained¾for that is the burden of all false religion. Rather the Bible proclaims the fact that God has in concrete historical fact saved all His people from destruction. The Gospel “by which ye are saved” is the finished and complete work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The God Before Whom We Are Saved
What seems to be totally missing from modern evangelical circles is “the knowledge of the Holy.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). The Bible defines knowledge of the Holy as knowledge of Who God is in Himself as the All Holy One. Unless it is proclaimed, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all,” how would anyone begin to see the evil of sin? In the Scripture are words a person must echo, “Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy.” With the Apostle Peter, one must rightly come to fear the Lord God’s command, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Unless a person understands something of God’s attributes and that He is All Holy, there is no reason to desire the perfect righteousness of Christ in salvation. Thus, Scripture asks the question, “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”
The Author of the Gospel: God Just and Justifier
It is “the God of all grace” that seeks, finds, and saves His people. Justification is God's gift to the believer, which is imputed to him based on Christ's finished work on the cross. Quite simply, justification is God’s righteous judgment of the believer, declaring him both guiltless in regard to sin, and righteous in regard to his moral standing in Christ before the Holy God. This judgment by God is legally possible because of the substitutionary death and resurrection of Christ Jesus in the place of the believer. Justification is first and foremost God’s legal judgment of the believer. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
Justification is God’s righteous judgment to demonstrate in the words of Romans 3:26, that He is “just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” This righteous judgment of God is the center of the apostolic preaching of the good news in the Bible. It is a righteous judgment freely given by God:
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).
Scriptural Meaning of Justification
The precise import of the term “to justify” is clearly seen in that it is the exact opposite or contrast to the term “to condemn.” “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” (Romans 8:33-34) Condemnation is not a process by which a good man is made bad, but is the verdict of a judge declaring a man blameworthy. Now just as to condemn a man is not to infuse evil into him, but declares him guilty, so justification does not infuse goodness into a man, but declares that he is just. Justification is that formal sentence of the Divine Judge whereby He pronounces the believer before Him righteous.
Purpose of the Justification: to Reveal Christ’s Righteousness
The Scripture declares the righteousness of God without the law is manifested; it is the purpose of the Gospel. What is declared is not human works righteousness of any kind, but rather it is God's righteousness in the Lord Jesus Christ that is revealed. The Gospel is the demonstration, in concrete historical fact, of the perfect satisfaction which Christ rendered to all the demands of the law, and which God places to the credit of every true believer in Him. Before God’s all Holy nature, sin had to be punished and true righteousness established. This has been accomplished in the faithful obedience of the Lord Christ Jesus and His propitiatory sacrifice. Thus Christ’s faithfulness is proclaimed in v. 22, “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ. When the Bible declares that justification is God’s gift to the believer, it also shows in few words what this justification is. Justification is found in and of Christ. It is the demonstration of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, even unto death. Such perfect rectitude is of God, and from God, “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ” (v. 22). The great news is that this absolute righteousness is “unto all and upon all them that believe.”
Legally what is shown is the true believer’s identification with the Lord Jesus Christ. God has provided Christ’s righteousness to sinners who believe. There are several passages in which faithfulness of the Lord is mentioned. In each case, the name of Jesus Christ is in the genitive case indicating that faithfulness is a character quality that He possesses. Galatians 2:16 is an example of this usage, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” Knowing that the law must be fulfilled for God to declare a person righteous, the faithfulness of Christ must be also understood as applying specifically to this context.
The Human Condition and the Graciousness of God
According to verse 23, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” every person under the law has fallen short of the glory of God and thereby is possessed both of a bad heart because of sin nature and a bad record because of personal sin. The good news is stated in v. 24, “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” This is the pure Sovereign grace of God, showing as it were the very heart of God. His own graciousness moved Him, to devise a way whereby His wondrous love could be seen in the vilest of rebels. As it is written, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25). The design of God is highlighted by the adverb “freely.” This excludes all consideration of anything in man or from man should be the cause or condition of justification. That same Greek adverb is translated “without a cause” in John 15:25, “they hated me without a cause.” The believer’s right standing before God is in Christ's redemption, which is freely given, as it is outside anything he can do for himself.
“Being justified” means that since there remains nothing for man in himself, being smitten by the just judgment of God, but to perish, he is to be justified freely through God’s provision in Christ. There is perhaps no passage in the whole Scripture that illustrates in such a striking manner the efficacy of Christ’s righteousness as this one does. It shows that God’s grace is the efficient cause, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” This shows being justified freely by his grace is through Christ Jesus’ payment and nothing from the believer, lest one might imagine a kind of “half grace,” and should be bold enough to attempt to add his own merit to God’s grace.
Riches of God's Grace: Work's Righteousness Excluded
Herein is the love of God shown through his Son, Jesus Christ, in that this gift of righteousness, which cost Christ Jesus his life, is a finished work and is freely given. For to whom does God owe anything? And who can meet His standards under the law? So who can bargain with God or with Christ Jesus that he should even think of offering God anything in exchange for God’s righteous judgment of himself? To make such a natural and ridiculous offer would be to attempt bribery of the highest order. Again and again the Bible states, as in the above text, that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer freely by God, or by God’s grace alone. It is in Christ alone that one has right standing before the All Holy God “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Biblical justification, therefore, is perfect and a finished work of God. “It is God that justifieth.” Justification is God’s work alone to show His righteousness and the fact that He alone saves. Once God has justified any person, He views that person “in Christ,” for God, having forgiven the sinner, reckons to his account Christ’s righteousness. Thus justification is by faith alone “without the deeds of the law.” In the Lord Jesus, believers have a righteousness without spot or blemish, perfect and all glorious; a righteousness which has not only expiated all their sins, but satisfied every requirement of the law’s precepts. It is not a transfusion of Christ’s righteousness unto those who are to be justified, so that they could thereby be inherently righteous. No it is a Divine and legal right to eternal life and the title to an everlasting inheritance.
The perfect meritorious obedience of Christ is so truly transferred to believers that they will be called “the righteous” in the last judgment (Matthew 25:40). Surely the believer has cause to cry out in praise in the words of Psalm 71:15-16 “my mouth shall show forth thy righteousness, thy salvation all the day. I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.”
The Gospel: Not a Process
The type of witnessing that states, “If you will do this and that or take these steps, then God will save you,” is a false gospel, a return to the lie of Satan that implies that God can be manipulated. The Gospel does not do this. It declares historical facts: God has acted already in Christ to accomplish the reconciliation that is the Gospel. Rather than offering possibility thinking, what every person is commanded to believe on is objective and complete fact. God has redeemed all of His own (Isaiah 44:22, Romans 5:18, II Corinthians 5:14-21).
Two Main Points of Receiving the Gospel
Biblically, receiving the Gospel has two main points. First, all men are commanded to believe on the Lord Jesus. Second, while the faith to believe is a free gift of God, yet without God’s grace, no person can believe. The Lord put the command to believe in a nutshell when He said, “if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” Likewise, Paul and Silas declared “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The central importance of faith was given by the Lord in the words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” In a word the Lord summarizes the situation, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” The Lord Jesus Christ states clearly the reason for this, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18-19).
The highest expression of the loving kindness of God is grace. The term denotes the very nature of the graciousness of God. Therefore the Scripture insists, “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us, through Jesus Christ. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Salvation does not proceed from anything in the one witnessed to, but rather it issues forth from the sheer mercy of God. The contrast between His grace and human merit is clearly marked out in the plainest of words, “And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” The plan that God has devised for saving people is by faith, in order that His justification of them might be by grace alone, that His promise and faithfulness be firmly manifested, and they, therefore, perfect and secure. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed....”
Biblical Tension Between the Two Points
The Biblical tension between these two points¾that every person is commanded to believe, but without God’s grace, a person cannot believe¾must be clearly evident in witnessing to unbelievers. This tension is expressed in some texts, for example, “Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.’”  One of the clearest examples is in John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Both aspects are also give in the preaching of the Apostle Paul, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
The design of the Lord in these and other verses is to show that man cannot be justified by his works, to guard against the temptation of Satan that one can be saved by his or her own righteousness. God’s promise of grace is the result. “But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” In witnessing it must be made clear to the lost that, in the words of Scripture, each person must, “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19), “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps 51:17).
Presenting the Gospel the Way the Bible Does
Biblically believing on Christ, trusting on Him, or coming to Him has an essential difficult side that is often not mentioned in present day tracts and witnessing. In the Bible, however, it is often first, and it is always a big part of the message. The Lord Jesus Christ’s message is, “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). He came to “call sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32) and He insisted that, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3-5). The risen Lord teaches in His word “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). Peter, in Acts 3:19, proclaims, “Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out!” Paul went everywhere preaching, “Repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20), “testifying to both Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Repentance is so essential to saving faith that if repentance is neglected, a person does not have saving faith. Conviction of sin is the first work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the lost (John 16:8). Without conviction of sin, a person does not have salvation. “And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Repentance is always part of trusting on Christ because Christ came not to save a person in his sins but from his sins. “[God] now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
Non-Biblical Terminology: Men’s Words
In the light of the biblical truth examined here, it is necessary to analyze what is generally given as the gospel in our times. The following words and phrases that are often used in modern Evangelical circles are biblically wrong. These expressions can lead an unsaved person to think that some specific behavior on his part is necessary for him to be saved. When these phrases are used, even saved people may mistakenly teach error when witnessing to lost people.
“Accept Jesus into your heart” is one of the most used sentences in modern Evangelical circles. This humanistic concept is not biblical. Basically, it is the second lie of Satan. The biblical concept of justification is that by it the believer is made accepted in Christ. The whole theme of Ephesians Chapter 1 is summarized in verse 6, “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” The terminology, “accept Jesus into your heart” is backwards. It assumes wrongly that the person himself makes the choice to accept Jesus into his human heart and that he initiates the action that will save him. When the believer does abide in Christ by faith and in love keeps His commandments, Christ does dwell in that person’s cleansed human heart. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John. 15:4). The whole process of sanctification, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) depends first on a person being positionally in Him, clothed with His righteousness.
It is unscriptural to think that salvation begins by Christ first coming into the sinful heart of a man. The dead and ungodly person can be made acceptable to God only as he is “in Christ,” as was seen in Ephesians 1:6. Then, and only then, does Christ come to sanctify the one already saved. The verses below are often wrongly used to evangelize. Rather these words are addressed to “believers” in the church of the Laodiceans to re-establish fellowship with Christ, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne’” (Revelation 3:14, 20-21). This misuse of Revelation 3:20 (a sanctification message) as teaching justification is inexcusable. Justification differs from sanctification. Sanctification is internal and experimental, while justification is objective and legal. Justification is instantaneous and immutable, whereas sanctification is gradual and progressive. Those who misuse this passage know better, yet for the sake of what they call success in witnessing they persist. Since this abuse of Scripture is so serious and soul damning is important to give examples. The Billy Graham Association proclaims the following, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Jesus Christ wants to have a personal relationship with you. Picture, if you will, Jesus Christ standing at the door of your heart (the door of your emotions, intellect and will). Invite Him in; He is waiting for you to receive Him into your heart and life.
In a similar presentation, Campus Crusade International states,
“‘How to know that Christ is in your life.’ Did you receive Christ into your life by sincerely praying the suggested prayer? According to His promise in Revelation 3:20, where is Christ right now in relation to you? Christ said that He would come into your life. Would He mislead you? On what authority do you know that God has answered your prayer? (The trust worthiness of God Himself and His Word.)”
Here Campus Crusade’s way to be saved is “sincerely praying the suggested prayer.” Faith in Christ alone saves, not faith in some inner process that has been subtly given in its place. The sanctification text (Rev 3:20) spoken by the Lord to those in the Church is totally misused. It is no wonder that Campus Crusade fully supports “Conversion as a process” in Evangelicals and Catholics Together: (ECT 1) and other similar false Ecumenical documents.
Multitudes are deceived upon this vital matter, sincerely believing that they have received Christ as their personal Savior while, in fact, their foundation is resting on unstable sand. Vast numbers will only be awakened from their pleasant dreaming only when the cold hand of death lays hold of them. It is unspeakably serious to give a deceiving salvation message.
“Give Jesus control of your life to be saved” is another well-known unbiblical approach. This teaching is in error because the Sovereign God of the universe controls His creation. He is the One “Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Nothing any person might think of to give God in exchange for salvation is acceptable before God. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us...” (Titus 3:5). Jesus Christ was the only sacrifice for sin acceptable to the Holy God, and that sin offering was accomplished completely at the cross of Calvary. The sacrifice for sin is finished. A person spirit or soul is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by a promise of “controlled behavior.” Controlled behavior is a process following on salvation, rather than the initiating cause of salvation.
“Give your life to Jesus (to be saved.)” This teaching is in error for several reasons. First, eternal life is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 5:15-18, 6:23). A person does not “give” anything for a free gift. God gives this free gift to a person when He places that person in Christ Jesus. With the gift of salvation also comes the gift of faith to believe that this is what God has done(John 5:24-25). Sin separates a man from God (Romans 3:23). Second, such phrases as “give your life to Jesus” wrongly presume that a person has something worthy of God to give. Spiritually dead people cannot give anything that will save them from their sins. Because man is dead in sin, Christ Jesus gave His life for the sins of His people (Galatians 1:4). There is no Bible verse that says or teaches that a lost, spiritually dead person “gives” anything, not even his life, in order to be saved.
When a lost person is taught to “give his life to Jesus” to be saved, he may think that he has to give his service, time, works, money, etc., to be saved. This may lead the lost person into a works gospel, which can never save. Getting saved is not a “trade-in” by which a person gives something to Jesus to be saved. A person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone – and nothing else can be added or subtracted from this salvific plan of God. See Eph. 2:8-9. Repentance is also God-given and not a human “trade-in” item. “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
Biblical methodology is an important part of the Lord’s truth. The Lord’s own method of evangelising was essentially by asking questions, and by proclaiming the need to repent and believe. Likewise, the Apostles proclaimed the Lord’s commandment to believe. There are no invitation systems in the Scripture. Such a method, flagrantly setting aside the sovereignty of Holy God, presupposes that man has within himself the power to accept or reject salvation as he so wishes.
The biblical method is to ask questions, as did the Lord Himself. Using the actual words of the Bible, one presents the holiness of God, and God’s holiness and goodness in declaring the righteousness of Christ to be the covering of each person He saves. One shows that the Lord Jesus Christ’s saving work is factual and complete. Clearly one must make it known that all are commanded to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To do this, one must repent of all his or her own efforts to establish his or her own righteousness and cry out to God for His free gift of grace. The central point of God saving the ungodly is that He does so by imputing the righteousness of Christ to the one who believes. This is the theme of Romans Chapter Four and is summarized wonderfully in verse five, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” The reason why God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the believer is to show who He is. “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Unless modern Evangelicals return to this clear Biblical understanding in their witnessing, it will become easier and easier for them to promote an inner process or technique like unto that of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Father initiates a person coming to Christ. He draws each individual (John 6:44) and has given each one to Christ (John 6:37). Salvation is accomplished by God’s grace alone. It is His free gift through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Coming to Christ is having eternal life now, which life will be fully glorified in heaven. In witnessing, to talk about “getting to heaven” not only changes the focus from who God is to man’s fulfillment, but it also fails to make clear that through the precious faith that is ours now as believers, we already have eternal life. Rather than talking about getting to heaven, those who have been saved are to proclaim to the lost, “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). And what is written likewise must be proclaimed by those saved, whether in the supermarket or on the telephone, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (I John 5:13).
Two extremely great offenses to God and His Gospel are 1) the attempt to negate His power by so-called free decisions of the unsaved, and 2) the unbiblical idea that justification, which is an act of God, is located in the believer’s heart rather than in Christ alone and in the heavenlies. The Gospel is not magnified nor God glorified by going the worldly wise and telling them that they “may be saved by accepting Christ as their Personal Savor” while they are wedded to their idols and their hearts still in love with sin. This is to tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into debauchery.
When full credit is given to God and His grace, when His word, which is powerful, is used, He saves the sinner; and the one through whom the word has been given is humbled by a demonstration of the might and mercy of Holy God. Both people benefit, to the glory of God. All is as stated in Ephesians 1:6, “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” ¨
 I Corinthians 15:1-4
 I John 1:5
 Revelation 15:4
 I Peter 1:16
 Exodus 15:11
 I Peter 5:10
 Romans 4:5-8, II Corinthians 5:19-21, Romans 3:21-28, Titus 3:5-7, Ephesians 1:7, Jeremiah 23:6, I Corinthians 1:30-31, Romans 5:17-19
 Romans 5:18
 For a detailed study of the term see texts such as Deuteronomy 25:1; Job 9:20; Job 32:2; Proverbs 17:15; Matthew 12:37; Luke 7:29; 1 Timothy 3:16, Psalm 143:2; Isaiah 50:7, 8
 Greek pistis. There are many contexts where this is necessarily translated faithfulness Matthew 23:23, Romans 3:3, Galatians 5:22, Titus 2:10, etc. There are several passages in which faithfulness of the Lord is mentioned. In each case, name of Jesus Christ is in the genitive case indicating that faithfulness is a character quality which He processes (Galatians 2:16, 3:22; Ephesians 3:12, Philippians 3:9).
 Romans 8:33
 The concept in Christ (in the Beloved, in Him, in Whom etc) occurs 18 times in Ephesians Ch 1 & 2
 Romans 3:28
 John 8:24
 Acts 16:31
 John 6: 47
 John 3:36
 Ephesians 2:7-9
 Romans 11:6
 John 6:29
 Galatians 3:22