Jesus died for us on the cross. What does this mean? He sacrificed Himself voluntarily for us and for our benefit. What for? This is the big question: What we gain from His sacrifice? We gain a justification, a grace, not depending on us, but which becomes effective for us when we believe in this grace. From this point of view, grace is universal in that it applies to all those who believe in God. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3, 16 NRSV)
In other words, we have access by faith to God, free and guaranteed full access. This access does not mean automatically that all they have it is using it correctly. The gift of God is dependent on our faith, but we have to receive correctly what we are given. Without Jesus' death for our sins we would be separated from Him irretrievably. With all these, it is possible that such access not to be useful, if our faith is not followed by the birth from above, meaning being born from God. We benefit from God's grace because of Christ's death, but this is not enough for salvation. Faith without works is dead, says the Apostle James, but I would be stating that faith without love is dead. (James 2; 20: 1 Corinthians 13; 2)
We are justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3, 24) If we have been justified, in practice, can we do what we whish, because no matter what we do, we are justified by faith? We can believe in the existence of God and kill people. Is that type of action O.K.?
It is not enough that we have faith? It is not enough, it is a trap, that we learn as we go and many institutional Churches sustain a false doctrine, in this regard. We are justified in order to get righteous and not to continue to sin. (Ephesians 1, 4) We are justified precisely not to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the task of righteousness, standing before us. In our nature it is impossible to be righteous by ourselves. Jesus was righteous by being born from God and we become righteous only after being born again, born from God. We have an example which tells us that righteousness is possible and that is Jesus’ life on earth. We just have to follow this example and step on His footsteps. We are justified because salvation for mortals it is impossible, without this justification, but we are saved because we love God and our neighbour. (Mark 10, 27) St. Augustine said: “love and do what you will” but if we follow the formula “believe and do what you will,” a disaster will happen. To be sure, just look at the history of Christianity.
To be justified is not the same as being righteous. After 18 years old the citizens of certain countries are counted to be mature people, but that does not mean that they are, in fact, all adults. Justification comes by faith, but salvation comes by faith and love and only for those who are born again. Unless we are born again we cannot see the Kingdom of God, and of course we will not go into it. (John 3; 3.5) This is so important to be sure that Jesus stressed it, repeating it twice. Faith is sufficient for justification, but is not sufficient for salvation. If our personal faith is sufficient for salvation it means that salvation is still possible with people easily acquiring it and that Jesus was not right to maintain the contrary position. Only that Jesus was right, because it is God who does the new birth in us, and our faith, deprived of this new birth, is deficient in relation to salvation.
We can not save ourselves only by our faith, but God saves us when we become His children, in the sense that we are born of Him. Therefore, the new birth is not only men, but God's work. If we do not get righteous in fact, by being born again, the reality that we are justified in Christ becomes useless for us. In other words, if our cross doesn’t follow Christ’s we just stick with the possibility of being saved, but never updated. In this case, we will not enter the Kingdom of God. Paul informs us that we can have faith enough to move mountains and yet not be saved. All Paul tells us that he or she who has no love is nothing, from the point of view of spiritual life. (1 Corinthians 13, 2) Faith alone is not sufficient for salvation and the Apostle James tells us that the demons believe and shudder. (James 2, 19) What kinds of faith have us, Jesus’ faith or the faith of the demons? (Revelation 14, 12) The two of them are two very different forms of faith. Salvation comes only through faith of Jesus. What distinguishes this faith from the faith of the devils? Only the cross distinguishes it. Jesus died on the cross not only to take our sins upon Him, but also to show us what kind of love the Father has for us and how we should love one another. (John 13, 34-35, John 15, 13) Our justification before God comes undoubtedly from our faith and for this we don’t have to do anything but believe. When we believe we are justified before God, we have acquired without anything added to it this justification, just because Christ died in our place. However, our justification before God does not lead automatically to our salvation; there is a need for spiritual regeneration, a need to be born again.
This new birth is not the same as the justification that comes by faith, as a free gift, but requires a profound change in our character. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3; 6) Who does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. (Romans 8, 9) Changing the character is in practice achieved by love of the divine nature, which is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5, 5) As an example, would be profound transformation of our way to be when we are in love. Christianity means to be in some eternal psychological state of being in loved, in a mature way, deeply spiritual. Eternal life means eternal love. Of course we should not expect to permanent sentimental effusions but the personal commitment of our neighbours, to respect the other persons, in every way and above all respect justice. Perfect justice and fairness is the essence of love on this earth. Jesus taught us to do justice, mercy and faithfulness, in the first place. (Matthew 23, 23)
Therefore, the faith that doesn’t lead to a profound transformation of our character doesn’t give us the chance to be accepted by God and doesn’t lead automatically to our eternal rescue. We must continue to open ourselves to God and follow holiness, which God does for us, through His Word and through the actions of the Holy Spirit upon us. Good works come, necessarily, in the heart of loving people. We must not make an effort to do good deeds; we will do them when we love our neighbour anyway. In any case, good works without love are useless. (1 Corinthians 12; 3) Our justification comes by our faith, but salvation comes through faith and love, first love of God, who loved us and sacrificed His Son for us and then our love for others. (1 John 4, 10, Matthew 22, 36-39) What should we do? Take up our cross every day and our cross means love for our neighbours, who often crucify us because we love them. Our cross, like the cross of Christ is the answer to a world that often does not understand our intentions and misinterprets them against us. This teaching is entirely in Paul's epistles and fully consistent with Jesus' teaching. Jesus told the healed by Him that they are saved by faith, but He taught people that love for God and neighbour are the greatest commandments. (Luke 8, 48) After being healed those who were in that situation had to become disciples of Jesus, otherwise their healing has served in this life only. Unfortunately, many Christian doctrines focus only on justification but don’t emphasize the need for the new birth.