“Jesus paid it all / all to Him I owe.” Some hymns have the most wonderful truths, don’t they? Jesus paid it all. We are saved by Christ alone.
In practice, we don’t always believe this. We think that the strength of our faith, the degree of our obedience, or the purity of our motives are bear some of the responsibility for our salvation. When we see stuff really wrong in ourselves, we worry that we haven’t done enough. We fear we don’t believe enough. We know the sin in our hearts and suspect we’re disqualified because of it.
And of course, these self-criticisms are all completely correct. Our faith isn’t strong enough to be saved, our obedience isn’t complete enough to be saved, and we don’t love God enough in our hearts to be saved. In and of ourselves, we have nothing good, and even with the Holy Spirit living in us we resist and quench Him far too much, following the desires of the flesh.
How then can we be saved? If we are saved by faith, but even our faith is shaped with unbelief, what grounds are there for God to save us?
We are saved by Jesus Christ alone.
Not our faith. Not our obedience. Not our love for God or for people. Jesus alone saves us. This is the Gospel: Jesus Himself is our salvation. For it is written:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
We are justified by God’s free grace, namely Jesus who redeemed humanity by His faithfulness. Jesus by Himself makes our salvation. Our faith has no power simply because it is faith, but because it is in Jesus and from the Spirit. Indeed, the faith which saves us is our own, but not our own, for Paul confesses this:
I am crucified with Christ. Even so I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It is Jesus, from beginning to end. He is the Author and Finisher, the Source and Perfecter, of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He accomplished salvation once for all (Heb. 9:12) on behalf of all (2 Cor. 5:14) even while we were still worthless sinners and enemies to God (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10). Because of this, there is absolutely no space left for us to be condemned if we are in Christ (Rom. 8:1).
What does this all add up to? Christ alone. He saves us by His grace, through His faith, with His faithfulness. There is nothing good in me, that is, in my flesh. On my own I am filled with selfishness, lust, anger, apathy, and greed. Unbelief and disobedience work behind the scenes even in my best righteousness, even when I am most in tune with the Spirit of God. But praise be to God that He has done away with all of these things, making them the old and fading reality. Through Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, He has overcome all of my sinful contradiction, all of my frailty and weakness of the flesh. By Christ alone we are saved. Even at our worst, Jesus saves us at His best. How amazing! How astounding! Hallelujah! Amen.