Is it possible to overemphasize Christ’s role in salvation? I don’t think so. But by delivering Himself over to death, Christ earned the role of being our Lord, and now He sets certain conditions in order for us to be saved. These include trusting in Him as our Savior, repenting of our sins as we turn to Him, confessing to others our willingness to submit to his Lordship, and joining Him in the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection in water baptism (Romans 10:9-10; Luke 24:47; Colossians 2:11-15; Ephesians 4:4-6).
But it IS possible to overemphasize the conditions, especially when we leave out any reference to the Savior, which seems to make the conditions into works of righteousness which we do to earn our salvation, works explicitly excluded from having a role in saving us.
For example, Titus 3:4-7 states: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (ESV).
Or take Romans 4:4-8: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does NOT work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness APART from works:
‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man against whom
the Lord will not count his sin’ (ESV).
How can we reconcile these passages with the idea that our Lord requires certain conditions before granting salvation? Only by defining the conditions, not as ‘works of righteousness’ or as the way we earn our salvation, but as components of saving faith, the ‘faith’ of John 3:16, Acts 16:31, and Romans 10:10-11. They are what Paul calls “faith, first to last” (Romans 1:17). From beginning to end they are how we trust in our Savior to save us. Severed from Him, they lose their power. Connected to Him, they create the transformation that makes us forgiven, Spirit-filled, and a new creation.