We know better. Nothing is really free, is it?
That “free” weekend get-a-away isn’t really free—you “pay” for it by enduring a four hour time-share sales pitch.
That “free” 1-month trial isn’t really free—you “pay” for it by needing to give your credit card info which they automatically bill on day 31 as they make it nearly impossible to cancel.
That “free” kids meal isn’t really free—you “pay” for it by being required to purchase two adult meals.
We have all been duped by “free” offers before, so many of us have become a little jaded, cynical even. We are too wise in the ways of the world now.
An Early Question
When it came to being right with God, the early church may have had a lingering suspicion of anything deemed “free” as well. Most of the early believers were coming out of a Jewish background steeped in legalism. To be right with God, one had to do, and not do, quite a bit.
As the early church processed the gospel (we have to remember they did not have the benefit of the completed New Testament and 2,000 years of theologians grappling with doctrine), a question pertaining to the salvation of Gentiles quickly arose: Can a person be saved by faith alone, or is something more needed? In other words, must a Gentile step through obedience to the law to become a Christian? Or, put still another way, is salvation really free?
How the church answered this important question would chart the course of the proclamation of the gospel for some time to come, if not for good.
A Conclusive Answer
Before we get to the church’s answer, we need to pause and appreciate how they reached their answer. First, they gathered together. This question was addressed by the church, not just one or two key leaders. Second, they debated, but seemingly without anger. They discussed and wrestled, but they did so not as foes, but as friends, all wanting the same thing: clarity on the gospel. Third, they rejoiced over their agreement and shared it with the rest of the church. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 really is a strong example for us to follow.
So what was the verdict? The church agreed that salvation is by faith alone. That no work can, nor should, be added to it. Salvation is truly free. There is no catch. No strings. No fine print. We are justified by faith alone.
This answer has guided the church from that day. While our context might differ, the question still lingers. Is there really nothing I can, or should, do to be saved besides believe? And we still echo the same answer with joy: “No. There is nothing at all you need to do to be right with God. You are saved by grace. Salvation is free. Now, enjoy your freedom in Christ.”
The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.” — Martin Luther (1483-1546)Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, trans. Theodore Graebner (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1939), 8, www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Luther%20Commentary%20on%20Galatians.pdf.
Tips for Teaching this Week’s Session
Every week, Karen Jones and I offer guidance to help you as you prepare to teach every session of The Gospel Project for Preschool and Kids. Listen in as we discuss:
- The big idea of the session
- Any areas of caution or requiring additional prep time
- What we hope God will do through this session
This training is available on Ministry Grid, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcast platforms.