In the course of world history many have devised ways of salvation. Virtually all man-made religions have one thing in common: they are based on human self-effort. Among the major religions, Christianity is unique in that while typically the emphasis is on what a person must do to be saved, Christianity focuses on what one man has done for all humans—Jesus Christ—and what is now available for all on the basis of simple trust in Christ.
Thus Paul’s words ring out in his letter to the Romans: “But now, apart from law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the Prophets—that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:21–24).
In his day, Jesus was asked by religious Jews, “What can we do to perform the works of God?” (John 6:28). This has always been, and will always be, the misguided human quest to please or placate God by human self-effort. But what was Jesus’ response? It was this: “This is the work of God: that you believe in the One he has sent” (John 6:29). Jesus and Paul concur: trust in Jesus for salvation on the basis of his work on the cross is all that is required.
Glorious gospel! Wonderful news! For if it depended on us, we could never do enough to overcome our sinful nature or make amends for our sin. Not only did Jesus, the God-man, die a perfect, sin-atoning death, he lived a perfect, sinless life. In a wonderful exchange, Jesus’ life and death are credited to the account of those who trust Christ: “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21).