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Christian Salvation – an Overview
By Bruce F. Levi, ICARE Ministries, May 2009
The word salvation means deliverance from something. That something can be embarrassment, danger, suffering, even death, etc. “To save” is the act of rescuing someone from something. Salvation also has the idea of being preserved unto something good, like people save money for some purpose. Sometimes the Bible uses the words saved or salvation in reference to mere physical deliverance, such as Paul’s deliverance from prison. (Philippians 1:19)
However, the kind of salvation more commonly referred to in the Bible, and about which we are concerned in this article, concerns spiritual deliverance for eternity. For example, when the Philippian jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, he was referring to his eternal destiny (Acts 16:30-31), not his temporal, physical needs. This spiritual, eternal salvation is what Jesus referred to with his disciples in (Matthew 19:24-25).
From what does spiritual salvation deliver us? From what are we saved? Christian salvation is the act of being saved from God’s wrath on and judgment of sin (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 5:9). The consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). God’s justice and His proclamation that our sinning will result in our deaths (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4) require Him to punish us with spiritual, eternal death and eternal separation from Him. Salvation is God’s decision to not carry out that sentence upon us.
First, just what is sin? Sin is the transgression of God’s law or will (1 John 3:4). All unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17), which means that anything not perfectly in line with God’s absolute holiness and character is sin. In fact, anything done outside of faith in God is sin (Romans 14:23). Humankind’s condition of sin is so powerful that all people are, by nature, when born into the world, “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and separated from God so that God will not hear us (Isaiah 59:2).
Where did this sin come from that is in us, which, God hates? Sin comes from within us (James 1:14-15). It is easy to see by observing people that all people sin without having to be taught to do so. Sin first entered the created world when Adam transgressed God’s command in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:3). This condition of sin was then passed on to all people (Romans 5:12). The natural ability and propensity to sin is so pervasive within all people that the Bible says, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “There is none righteous, no, not one” and “there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-18).
Biblical salvation rescues us from God’s judgment of our sins (Hebrews 10:17), but does spiritual salvation save us unto or preserve us unto any purpose? Yes, for in salvation, sinners are declared to be justified in the sight of God (Romans 4:1-13), made perfect, or complete (Hebrews 10:14), and reconciled to God (Romans 5:10). Biblical salvation regenerates us unto a living assurance and inheritance with God that is incapable of being corrupted that is reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1: 3-4). In addition, God saves us to do good works for Him (Ephesians 2:10). Our good works do not save us. Rather, God saves us to do good works. Upon salvation, we become fellow laborers with God (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Who does this saving? Do people save themselves? Does God do all the saving? Or, does salvation come about by some combination of what God does and what man does? The Bible is crystal clear that only God can forgive sin against Him and deliver us from sin’s penalty (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). People do not, and cannot, save themselves in any way or in any part (John 6:28-29; James 2:10; Galatians 3:10). Mankind’s so-called good works, even his apparent “righteous acts” are filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6) God alone saves us completely (Hebrews 7:25) through His sovereign will as carried out by the One, Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
How does God save? In Biblical salvation, God rescues, or saves, us through and by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross (John 3:17-18; 14:6; 17:3; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 2:24). God the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and draws us into truth (John 16:7-14). Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8).
How do we receive salvation? We are saved by God’s grace (His favor or love that we do not earn or deserve), through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Salvation is not received by any ordinance, sacrament, or ceremony such as baptism, communion, etc. Such are done in remembrance of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
We must hear the gospel (Romans 1:16) - the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) for our sins. And, because we are “dead in sins” we must be regenerated, be made spiritually alive or reborn by the Holy Spirit of God (John 3:5-8). Then, we will repent, or turn from our own sinfulness toward God (Acts 3:19; 20:21), which God grants to us. Then, God gives us the gift of saving faith to fully trust the Lord Jesus Christ alone to save us and to call on the Lord Jesus for salvation (Romans 10:8-13).
Where does this faith in Jesus Christ for salvation come from? Is it inherent within us, or does it originate from God? The Bible is clear that saving faith is itself a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Because, as described above, people are, by nature, unable to seek God and are His enemies (Genesis 3:15; Ephesians 2:14-16), God must regenerate and give people repentance (turning) toward Himself (Luke 5:32; Acts 5:31; 11:18; 20:21) and give people the faith to believe in Him unto salvation.
What is the nature and effect of the faith that God gives us unto salvation? Is this grace and faith only preparatory or partially effective? Or, is this faith powerful and effective so that it will necessarily bring the sinner to salvation? Paul clearly taught the early Chistians that God both initiates His work in those he had chosen unto salvation and also brings His work in them to completion (Romans 5:10; 8:29-39; Ephesians 1:4-5; Philippians 1:6). The Apostle John taught this same doctrine (John 6:39-44). God does not give people some kind of weak grace or preparatory faith that is only partially effective. In His sovereignty God chooses, determines, initiates, and completes salvation in all whom He calls to be saved, so that none will ever be lost (John 6:37).
A definition of the Christian doctrine of salvation may be stated: “God, by His grace, sovereignly chooses and determines to deliver some sinners from eternal punishment for sin; makes all these alive with His Spirit; grants all these repentance toward God and saving faith in the Lord Jesus; unpon that faith, God declares all these to be justified and seals them unto salvation and reserves for all of them a sure inheritance in His presence for eternity; God then works in their lives to conform them to His will.”
Salvation is dependent on God alone for its intent, design, provision, initiation, completion, preservation, and assurance.
DOCTRINES of the FAITH
Bruce F. Levi was raised in Mormonism in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, was a Mormon Missionary in Germany and graduated from Brigham Young University.
understand people in oppressive religions
and reaching those people with The Gospel.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. – Titus 3:5