In another article (074) we wrote, "the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are born again into the family of God by faith in Him as the One who died for our sins (a claim that is supposed to be understood as effectually and completely dealing with the barrier that exists between us and God) and rose again (a fact of history according to the canons of truth as a result of historical inquiry that is designed to validate all of His other claims)".
Then we went on to emphasize the personal exercise of faith as the primary requirement of God for man's salvation. Not faith in anything, but faith in the specific promise of the Gospel--that Jesus died for our sins, and rose again. But, isn't there a contradiction here? If Jesus died for our sins in a way that is effectual and complete in dealing with the barrier between us and God (our sins), how can God then turn around and require something of us? Did Jesus die for our sins or not? If He did, what remains for us to do? If He didn't, there remains too much for us to do! Did He die to take away the guilt of all of the things we have not done that we ought to have done? Did He die for all of the things which we have done that we ought not to have done? Yes. This is salvation by grace.
How, then, is salvation through faith?
In this way: the death Jesus died was sufficient for the removal of the guilt of every man's sin who has ever lived, but it is not efficient until it is accepted by faith. In other words, the deposit has been made in the bank, but it does not become effective until I write the check. Faith is the critical issue. If the banker calls and says that I have $10,000,000 in my checking account, I cannot even buy a jug of milk if I do not believe him enough to write the check. So it is with God. In His awesome grace, He has put all of my sins on Jesus. But, until I believe Him, the death of Jesus remains of no significance to me. I cannot be helped in the realm of the inner man by someone I do not believe.
In the outer world, someone can do something for me that helps me even if I don't trust him. But, salvation is not primarily an outer world phenomenon; it is primarily an inner world phenomenon of entering into a relationship with another Person. This cannot be done without faith.
Therefore, the Gospel is that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and rose again to validate that claim. But, if I refuse to believe the Gospel, it will do me no good. Not in this life. Not in the next.
Hell is full of people who had only one thing to do (put their active trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior), and neglected to do it. And its boundaries are enlarged each day as more and more people die without entering into this trust relationship with the God who made them and died in their place, for their sins.
Where are you going to be 5 seconds after you die? In Heaven to taste of the fruits of faith, or in Hell to endure the enormous load of guilt?