Long before we took our first breath, our Creator showed Himself to be a great giver of everything a man or woman could ask for. Today, He still wants to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). As the Father of heaven, He is behind “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). When we say that “the best things in life are free,” it’s a way of acknowledging that when God gives life, and friendship, and laughter, He is showing that no one can give a better gift than He can. Yet His best offer is so priceless and so perfectly suited to our needs and happiness, many think it’s too good to be true.
It’s Described In The Bible
The most quoted of all books describes a wonderfully mysterious gift that goes far beyond anything we have ever received. When unwrapped, it includes peace of mind, acceptance, forgiveness, adoption into the family of heaven, and everlasting life. But does God offer to give us the desires of our heart as a reward for good living? Not according to the Bible. It refers to this spiritual package as salvation and calls it “the gift of God” (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).
It Cannot Be Earned
In most areas of life we work hard to earn respect and the right to be trusted and promoted. But God’s perfect gift of salvation is different. It comes not by merit but by mercy, not by trying but by trusting, and not by working but by resting. In the words of the apostle Paul, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). In another of his New Testament letters, Paul added, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
God Paid For It Himself
Long before wise men brought gifts to a Bethlehem manger, our Creator gave us the gift of choice. Knowing that love must be voluntary to be meaningful, He gave us the freedom to accept or reject Him. From the beginning, however, our first parents chose to walk away from Him. Instead of leaving them in their rebellion, He revealed a plan of rescue whereby an innocent victim would die on behalf of the guilty. An elaborate system of symbolic Temple ritual anticipated what God Himself would do for us on the center page of human history. At the time of God’s own choosing and in a moment of infinite and eternal significance, He did what can only be explained by love—He sacrificed His Son to pay for our sin (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:5-10).
It Comes With A Proof Of Purchase
The receipt we hold for His payment is the record of history. Jewish prophets predicted a Messiah who would deliver His people from their sin (Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:26). When He arrived, the Gospel writers tell us that He healed the sick, raised the dead, and gave hope to the oppressed. Then He did what no one expected Him to do. Instead of riding to power on the shoulders of adoring crowds, He silently bore the slander of critics, and voluntarily died at the hands of Roman executioners. Three days later, He walked out of a guarded tomb (Luke 24:1-7). Eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ died at the hands of enemies rather than deny that they had seen Him alive.
It Was Wrapped With Care
God packaged His perfect gift in thousands of years of fulfilled predictions, widely observed miracles, and breathtaking rescues. Then after centuries of anticipation, the Lord of heaven visited a young Jewish woman named Mary and, in the greatest of all miracles, wrapped Himself in her womb. In the years that followed, He surrounded the gift in the irony of obscurity, the affection of unlikely followers, the envy of religious leaders, and the crushing disappointment of death. When all seemed lost, God wrapped His gift in the excited reports of witnesses who announced an unexpected resurrection from the dead. For a final touch, the Creator gave His gift of salvation a colorful bow of diversity—people from every nation on earth whose hearts and lives have been changed by His love (Revelation 5:9).
God Offers It By Grace
To those who had already accepted the offer of God’s mercy, the apostle Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul had once tried to earn his own way into God’s favor (Philippians 3:3-9). Now he wanted his readers to know what he himself had discovered—that it is only by the grace of God that the angels of heaven welcome fallen and broken rebels into the eternal family and presence of God. In another letter, Paul described the difference between Adam, who spread sin and death to all his descendants, and Christ, who brought grace and life to all who trust Him. So he wrote, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense [Adam’s sin] many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Romans 5:15).
It Can Be Received Only Through Faith and Baptism (by immersion) for remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
Paul’s carefully chosen words to the Ephesians were, “By grace you have been saved through faith.” In this qualifying phrase, we are reminded that God comes only where He is invited. The One who wants us to share the happiness of His eternal family knocks gently at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to welcome Him into our lives (John 1:12). So the gospel says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The first Christians responded in Acts 2:38 with repentance and baptism for remission of sins, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It’s Available To Anyone Willing To Receive It
Most of Jesus’ best friends were fishermen, not scholars. One was a tax collector. One had been possessed by demons. One sold her body for a living. What they had in common was their willingness to accept the gift of God. Together they were the kind of men and women Jesus loved to bring to His Father. Even in His dying hour, while hanging on a cross between two dying criminals, Jesus gave the gift of eternal life. One of the two mocked Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” The other criminal rebuked the first and said, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Only because salvation is a gift of grace could Jesus say to him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).
It Inspires Gratitude
Those who avoid asking for help often take pride in being obligated to no one. But those who are willing to admit their spiritual need discover something more meaningful than self-sufficiency. They join those grateful people who know they owe their lives to someone else. Those who have been saved from a burning car or building by a courageous firefighter or bystander know what it means to live the rest of their lives with a deep sense of gratitude. In a similar way, those who know they have been rescued by God’s grace from the fires of judgment have reason to live the rest of their lives out of the overflow of their gratefulness to God (Ephesians 2:10). Nothing puts a smile on a face or love in a heart like the overwhelming awareness that all we could ever ask for has been given to us in the perfect gift of God