The Gospel is universal. Jesus died to forgive the sins of the whole world. However, and to great sorrow, we recognize not everyone will be saved. That is to say, the Gospel is not universalistic. The Scriptures proclaim a universal Gospel, but the Scriptures do not teach Universalism. For the Gospel to be effective in our lives, faith is necessary. The gift of faith must be accepted and applied in order for God’s promises to be true for us.
Faith is in essence the ability to trust that God’s promises are true. Because we are conceived and born sinners, we don’t by nature have this ability. Faith is not something that is naturally in us. Faith is not something we can create within ourselves. The only way we can have the ability to trust that God’s promises are true is for God to give us faith as a gift. When we hear God’s Word, God does a miracle. He creates faith in us. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NASB). Because Christ is God, the entire Bible, God’s Word, is the word of Christ. Faith is created in us when we hear (or read) God’s Word. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). None of what we need for salvation is naturally in us. God gives us salvation as a gift. Included in the gift are both grace and faith.
Like any gift, in order for it to be of value, it must be accepted. “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 3:21-24). Our sin makes us slaves to sin. Our sin makes us unacceptable in the presence of holy God. But it is God’s desire that we live in His presence both now and for eternity. In order to make us acceptable, He gives us a gift. One part of the gift declares that we are not guilty because Jesus took the punishment for our sin by His death on the cross. Another part of the gift frees us from our slavery to sin and sets us free to be children of God. We are given Christ’s righteousness, and we are redeemed. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Our sin earns us death, separation from God. God’s free gift, a gift given for the taking, is eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gift of faith then also needs to be applied. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16, 17). The power of the Gospel for salvation is made active when we believe. To believe is to put our faith into practice. We have life both now and for eternity, we are acquitted (even though we are guilty) of our sin, by faith. God’s promises are ours when we believe them to be true. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). When we admit our guilt and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive. He will cleanse. He does give fulness of life now and the promise of eternal life, also.
God tells us in His Word that we are saved only by His grace through faith. We cannot be saved apart from God’s grace. We cannot be saved apart from His gift of faith. Faith is created in us when we hear God’s Word. God’s gift is accepted and applied in our lives when we trust, when we believe that God’s promises are true. God’s promises are always true. They are true to us when we believe them.