Look at this sign. It reads, “Free Air. $0.25”
See the problem? Not everyone does. The person who made the sign didn’t. To him it made perfect sense.
I’ll admit that a quarter is a good price for air—I don’t see it going for less than $1.25 in my neighborhood. A quarter is certainly cheap. But is it free?
I hope you know enough to answer, “Of course, not! If the air costs anything, it isn’t free.”
And yet, that simple point is lost on countless self-identified Evangelicals. They’ll tell you that salvation is free and then immediately add that you need to obey to be saved, and they don’t see the contradiction!
But that raises the same problem as the “free” air that costs $0.25—if works are necessary for salvation, then it’s not free, right?
How do they avoid that contradiction?
Sometimes they’ll admit that they require works for salvation but try to soften the claim that those same works do not “merit” salvation.
I think “merit” is an “idle word” in that kind claim, i.e., it fails to do anything. What difference does it make if you have to pay a “meritorious” quarter vs a “non-meritorious” quarter? Either way, you pay.
Similarly, if you require works for salvation, it doesn’t matter if you call those works “meritorious” or not—what matters is that they’re required. Either way you’ve got to work. And that is absolutely contrary to the saving message. Paul said that eternal life is a gift, i.e., it is free:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23).
Don’t let anyone slap a price tag on your free gift!
If someones tries it, tell him he’s full of hot air.