“being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
Most gifts are both free and conditional.
They are free, because—as the name itself implies—a gift is something presented to you without you having paid its purchase price.
They are conditional, because gifts are usually given on a special occasion like a birthday, graduation, or wedding. On such occasions we clearly understand the conditionality of the gift—you are actually having a birthday, or are graduating, or getting married. And, as a collection of ugly Christmas sweaters attest, you have to be willing to accept the gift offered you. (Who has the nerve to tell a beloved relative that you would not be caught dead in this year’s present of another hideous sweater?) If a gift has any conditions attached to it, you have to be willing to comply to those requirements if you desire to receive it.
All of this seems pretty straightforward and standard. Sadly, all of this changes for some people when it comes to discussing and understanding God’s gift of salvation.
God’s gift of justification is free. The ransom price was paid in full by the Lamb of God at Calvary. “It is finished” was His triumphal cry immediately before He bowed His head and yielded up His spirit (John 19:30). Eternal life is inherited, not merited. Justification is without any of the ransom payment made by its recipient.
And, just like most gifts, God’s offer of justification for free is conditional. It is only available “in Christ Jesus”. To be justified by the redemption His shed blood purchased, you must be in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Ephesians 1:3). If this condition of being in Christ is unacceptable to you, then you have the ability to refuse it. You will not be forced by “irresistible grace” to receive it.
In fact, because getting into Christ occurs when you are immersed into Him (Galatians 3:27) and because it is impossible for the one baptism (Ephesians 4:5) to be done “accidentally” or against your will, you have complete control over whether you receive God’s gracious gift of justification for free. Any coerced “baptism” you may have experienced as an infant or older does not harmonize with the Bible’s plain teaching about how the wondrous gift of salvation is received. You got wet, but you were not baptized and therefore did not receive God’s gift of free justification.
Justification for free is a gift God desires you to have. Its conditions allow you to freely decide whether you want to receive it and be clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27), or reject it and continue wearing the filthy rags of sin.