We have been asking What is the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ? (207) Because a major part of the question focuses on the word saving, we have been looking into the problem that posits the need for salvation.
The problem has several faces. We need saving because we are in significant danger. The danger is the legal penalty which is assigned to our misbehavior. We have seen that that penalty has to do with the imposition of pain for pain caused. An eye for an eye. Sin always introduces pain of some kind (physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination thereof), and justice requires repayment in kind. The problem is that our sin is against an infinite God and that means an eternal obligation to suffer.
We also need saving because we are in bondage. The principle which we see so clearly in habits illustrates this reality. Actions repeated over time lead to habits (this is how we learn to drive, type, play the piano, etc.). Habits indulged become masters of our behavior. Sometimes we can break these habits and sometimes we cannot. It depends upon the strength of will and desire. But the bondage of which Jesus spoke when He said that we who have sinned have become servants of sin is not a bondage that we can break by strength of will and desire. Sin is the exaltation of ourselves over God and others. So even if we are able to break a bad habit, we are not capable of not being proud of ourselves for being able to do so. So we have replaced a bad habit with an overweening pride. Sin still dominates.
Since the penalty for sin puts us in danger; and since the bondage of sin puts us in greater danger; we need a savior. This is where the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ comes into the picture. But the picture cannot come into clear focus until we see ourselves as genuinely needing saving. No one ever understands or believes the Gospel who sees himself/herself as a basically good person whose need for deliverance is rather minimal. This is why there are so many nominal Christians--religious people who do a great many of the biblically required activities, but who are also inordinately proud of themselves for so doing. They have no real need for salvation because they have no sense of their personal wickedness. This is also why there is so much conflict in Christendom (only by pride cometh contention: Proverbs 13:10): we all proudly believe that we are in the right and whoever disagrees with us is wrong.
But there is salvation in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Once a person is brought to a deep sense of personal sinfulness, the Gospel has a chance of bringing salvation.
By revealing the reality that God is not so much incensed by the actions of sin as He is by the attitude of sin. God can forgive any action of sin, but He flatly refuses to forgive those who refuse to humble themselves and admit their wickedness.