When a gift-giving occasion arises, we want to give the ones we really love a gift to express our feelings for them. The Bible tells that, “We love [God], because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), but love like this is not the kind of love we would have on our own. We’re only able to love God with the love He gives us, along with making us capable of appreciating His love. But we don’t love someone just to get things or gifts—it’s receiving love in return that we really want and truly enjoy. And it’s our desire to please the One we passionately love that motivates us to give ourselves.
In the New Testament, we read that love is a gift, as seen in “…the love of God…shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). This kind of love gives itself away and asks for nothing in return. It also stimulates receiving the same kind of love.
“For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) doesn’t mean that He approved of the way people act, but that He had tender feelings toward them, and sincerely wanted them to be happy. This kind of love cares and gives, because the Heavenly Father “…so loved the world that He gave…”. What did He give? His Only-Begotten Son, whom He loves to the uttermost.
Love is delighted to give. How we all look forward to the time when we can give or receive a gift! But there’s nothing on Earth as delightful as what God is able to give. There is much that He has already given to us, but His most precious gift of all was His only begotten Son. And then His Son was willing to give Himself for us in return! God loved us first, with a love that won’t ever let go, and we should therefore love Him back. Once He has won all of our love and devotion, we’ll be forever united to Him by that love.
Salvation isn’t a reward we’ve earned, but a free gift God bestows on us according to the riches of His grace. “It is the gift of God.” In fact, being saved and receiving the faith that makes it ours are gifts of God’s love, formed in us by His Holy Spirit. We can’t work or pay for a gift, or promise to give God anything. But if we don’t accept the gift of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice of Himself for us, we’ll never be able to know or belong to God in a personal, intimate way.
“We are saved by grace through faith, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The means is faith, which is merely the hand that reaches for the gift God offers us. Once we repent and accept and believe the Gospel—the good news of what Christ did for us—we’re saved. It’s not how but whom we’ll believe. The Apostle Paul said, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). It is not my love that keeps; it is His love. Christ is the One Who saves us, the One faith will lay hold of. If people who’ve become a child of God think they deserve credit for coming to Christ and believing this message, Paul added, “And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
Salvation, faith and God’s grace are the gift of God. They don’t come from us. But if God doesn’t want to give us the gift of faith, how can we believe? The Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The gift of faith is given by God to all who hear and then receive the Gospel message. But even after the Holy Spirit has delivered the message to our heart, resisting Him is still possible for us. It’s also possible to obey Him and be led to have faith in Christ personally. But that faith didn’t come from us, because even faith was God’s gift.
Without faith, we can’t ever be saved. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) to help us have faith. But if we won’t accept His Word, we’ll never have faith in Him. If we pay attention to it, then faith will come by hearing it. The only way we can receive and enjoy salvation is by having saving faith in Christ. This isn’t something we produce on our own, but God’s gift to us. Therefore, no aspect of our salvation can be of “…our own efforts, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8).
Salvation isn’t something we accomplish by our own hard work. It’s purely and simply a gift of God. This means that none of it is of us, but all is of Him; it’s “the gift of God.” Whenever the Bible uses the word “gift”, God is referring to His Son and what He did for us on the Cross as our substitute. That’s what makes all of this possible. We can’t earn salvation by our own effort, no matter what we do, “lest any man should boast” of his own ability and accomplishments. The only boast we’re allowed to make is about Christ’s Cross.
God “…gave His only-begotten Son,” the One Who is as great as He is. It’s hard for us to grasp that this was an eternal gift. “He gave” means that it was a free gift we in no way deserved. He didn’t send, “He gave” instead, emphasizing the idea of sacrifice. Man has no claim on God. But when no one would care enough to pity or save us, it pleased God to give His Son into the hands of men to die in their place. What a demonstration of eternal compassion, so that sinful people wouldn’t go to their grave in that condition forever! “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). This meant lifting up Jesus, the Son of man, Who is also God’s “only begotten Son,” on His Cross of shame and humiliation. This demonstration of divine love alone should be enough to show how much God loves us.
Jesus came on a mercy mission to bring lost people a means to be saved. God sent His Son for that very purpose—to give eternal life to as many as believe on Him. Man had no claim on God—this was a gift we in no way deserved. God gave His only begotten Son—the highest expression of love imaginable. This love was so deep that it would give His own Son into the hands of sinful men so He could be crucified. Through this one, ultimate, loving act, man could be redeemed forever from eternal misery.
God gave the greatest gift. He not only gave His Son to live on earth among men, but also to die on the Cross, so “that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish” (John 3:16). Why did the Lord decide to do this? So that He could pass eternal life and glory on to those who have become His own.
God always has loved us, with an everlasting, infinite love. It wasn’t His will to force Abraham to give his son of the promise to die as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:10-12), but it was His will to give His only begotten Son to do the same. Godly love isn’t selfish. It gives without requiring a sacrifice.
A gift is a free and unconditional present, which is the only basis God offers salvation on. “The gift of God” is to be saved “by grace through faith,” offered to all people everywhere. It’s not something anyone can earn through deeds supposedly worthy of praise. Salvation is given to those who are totally unworthy of it.
Faith is what makes it possible for us to be saved, not our service, not our sacrifice, nor our gifts to God. Whether we have a true love relationship with God or we don’t is measured by our love for Him and His Son, Who “loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). “…the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). And this love is the greatest gift of all, which will last forever.
If you want to know more about the One behind this gift please visit our page on The Way to God.
[Additional image credits: Featured image (when applicable) by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash]