This is an extract from my (much delayed) book on the story of the Bible and the Church:
It is very important to recognise that it was Jesus who achieved all of this through his death on the cross. Human beings can be forgiven and reconciled to God because of what Jesus did. There is nothing that they, themselves, can do to earn forgiveness and reconciliation. The Holy Spirit draws us into a relationship with God the Father, through the death of Jesus on the cross. The Triune, relational God did everything that was needed for us to be brought into relationship with Him. The word that Paul uses for this is grace. Grace means that God does good things for us even though we don’t deserve them in the slightest. If we could earn our salvation, God would not need to show us grace. But we can’t earn it, and, thankfully, God is gracious to us.
It should be obvious from everything that we have said so far that salvation is about much more than me and my personal relationship with God. What Jesus achieved on the cross was cosmic in scale. God was reconciling the creation to himself and in the process he was creating a people to serve him and to bear his image into the world. We are not just saved from sin and rebellion; we are saved into The Story as part of God’s people. Being a Christian means being part of everything that God has been doing since the very creation of the world and it brings with it a huge responsibility!