In the matter of saving faith, there is no mutual discussion or agreement between God and man. It is a complete work of God and our standing before Him is not something for which He will bargain. Saving faith is not flexible; we cannot design a relationship with Him according to our own ideas or desires. It is not up for grabs or open for discussion. It is not a contractual agreement based on what we bring to the table or what we promise to do. It is not a simple act of deciding to accept Jesus or invite Him into our hearts. It is a One-sided covenant agreement made by God and completely dependent upon His work and His power.
In the opening verses of his first epistle, John alludes to at least Seven Essentials of the Faith that are non-negotiable, absolute requirements for biblical salvation.
1. The Person of Jesus Christ – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life - the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. (1 John 1-2)
Real saving faith begins here. The Bible declares His deity. And there are other doctrines about Jesus Christ that are equally not negotiable (His virgin birth, His sinless perfection, His resurrection). Jesus was more than a good teacher, a martyr, or a spiritual guide. He is God in human flesh, fully God and fully Man. And He is all that the Word of God declares Him to be; nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. If the Jesus you are worshipping and trusting is NOT the Christ as He has revealed Himself in scripture, your faith is in a false Christ. (ref. Gen. 1:1, John 1:1, 1John 2:13)
2. The Blood of Christ -… the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7b). God is absolutely righteous and He demands absolute sinless perfection. Anything short of that merits and requires His Justice. His righteous verdict is guilty and His sentence is final, “The wages of sin is death”(Rom. 6:23). That means someone had to die.
Modern evangelicalism is woefully anemic, but preachers used to refer to “the crimson thread that runs through the entire Bible from the beginning to the end.” That crimson thread is the blood of Christ for, “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sin" (Hebrews 9:22)
3. The Cross of Christ - And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 J n. 2:2). Propitiation means satisfaction. What God did to His own Son was far worse than just the physical pain and suffering. He punished, crushed, and slaughtered Him to execute His just anger and wrath on Him instead of us. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross satisfied the justice of God because it was there where God poured out all His wrath against our sin.
The cross is the means by which God can be merciful and gracious because of the sacrifice of His own Son. Lots of people think that a loving merciful God will never allow anyone to go to Hell. But that kind of thinking misses God’s greatest act of love that was demonstrated at Calvary; God’s justice cannot be compromised. Propitiation or satisfaction is obtained by faith (ref. Rom. 3:23-27). Either Christ’s blood has washed you clean and God is satisfied or you remain filthy and will face His righteous wrath.
4. The Guilt of Sin - If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1 Jn. 1:8-10). We are all guilty of sin and just in case you need to be further convinced, consider this, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10), or this, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are sinners by nature, by choice, and by practice. There are no innocent people.
Back in verse 7 John tells us that it is the blood of Christ that cleanses from sin. We cannot clean ourselves up through good deeds, good living, or self-help programs. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God by our sincere determinations to reform ourselves. “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). If Christ does not make us clean, we cannot be clean. Our sins are on us, we are responsible for them, and we will pay the penalty for them.
5. The Fear of God - This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). Do you think you know me? You do not have any idea how bad I am. And I don’t know you, either. We may be able to hide our wickedness; in his Gospel, John says that, "men love the darkness because their deeds are evil" (Jn. 3:19). But we can’t hide from God. He knows everything about each of us. There is nothing that escapes His attention. He knows every private sin and every little thought; pretty scary, huh? And remember, He is the Righteous Judge and He is absolutely just.
Judgment day is coming and everyone will appear before Him to give an account. That should put some real fear in us. A person who does not fear God does not know God. And a person who rejects God is condemned already.
6. The Necessity of Repentance - …if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (1 Jn. 1:7a). God never invites us to accept Him; He commands us to repent. Repentance is a change of mind about sin; a determination to stop, turn around, and go the opposite way (ref. John 3:19). The verse says that God is in the light. We were in darkness. When the light of God shines on us, our eyes are opened so that we see the sin in our lives as something that condemns us to Hell. Real saving faith includes a turning from that sin and turning toward God (1 Thess. 1:9-10, 2 Cor. 7:10-11). There can be no forgiveness without confession (agreeing with God about sin) and repentance (a change of direction).
7. The Necessity of Holiness - My little children, these things I write to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 Jn. 2:1). To be holy means to be set apart unto good works as opposed to evil works. It is not a self-effort; it is an act of God. This can be a real self-examination to see if you really are “in the faith.” The evidence of the indwelling Spirit is that He convicts us of sin and He produces fruit in our lives.
“The difference between a Christian and non-Christian: When a non-Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with his sin. When a Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with God, against himself” (John Piper).
If you are never bothered by your sin, you probably do not have the Spirit of God living in you and, therefore, you do not possess salvation. Those who are really born again do not fall away from the faith and revert back to a life of sin and unbelief.