Salvation, broadly conceived, is a Trinitarian work. The Father chose certain ones in eternity past, the Son died for them, and the Holy Spirit now personally applies the benefits of Christ’s death to those whom the Father has chosen (Eph 1:3-14). Salvation, therefore, involves being brought from sin, death, and certain judgment, into mercy, grace, and an eternal relationship with God through the Son in the power and personalized ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is totally and completely a work of God’s grace from beginning to end. His wrath is satiated in the death of His Son and he is free to love and embrace the sinner, justifying him/her according to Christ’s atoning merits and not by any works, religious or otherwise, done by the sinner. The human response to what God has done is called conversion, where the sinner repents from sin and turns to God in faith. Even this decision—since all men are dead in sin and cannot under their own guidance or locomotion turn in repentance to God—is motivated, guided, and brought to fruition by the convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
To the disciplemaker there is no greater message in all the universe. There is joy in meditating on God’s gracious saving work in Christ and we are blessed when we emphasize this truth to those we disciple; we are wise to encourage them to prayerfully think long and hard about it as well. Conversely, we invite God’s judgment should we depart or teach others to depart from the message of his grace (Gal 1:6ff).
Finally, the work of salvation is both a past, present, and future work: We were saved, are being saved, and someday will be saved. What we mean is that when we were received by the Father at conversion, we were declared free from the penalty of sin. At the present time in our Christian experience we are being set free from the power of sin, and someday, when we join our great God in eternal bliss, we will be free from even the presence of sin. When the future becomes the present we will know God in ways we can only dream of now (1 Cor 2:9). It may be winter now, but Christmas is coming!
The present experience of our Christian life is called sanctification; we are being progressively transformed into to the image of Christ, in the here and now. The process is carried on by the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18) and our responsibility is to cooperate with the Spirit in his work. This is an exciting prospect for it means that we can count on the Spirit, as did the apostle Paul, when we’re working with people. He will lead them into the truth and into the life of discipleship. We are to co-labor with Him as He works out his plan in the life of each believer.
Let’s turn now to get the big picture of the doctrine of salvation.
The plan of God to save people began in eternity past, is carried out in history, and will someday culminate in glorification for believers. Romans 8:30 gives us this panoramic view of salvation throughout eternity and time.
Romans 8:30 And those God predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
The doctrine of unconditional election refers to God’s sovereign and free choice—in eternity past and according to his good pleasure—of certain persons to salvation and eternal glory on the basis of no foreseen merit in them. The end result is that they should praise him for his condescension, mercy, and power.
Ephesians 1:4 For he lovingly chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight.
Special calling refers to an act of God the Father whereby he efficaciously summons people to himself through the human proclamation of the gospel. It is 100% effective with respect to those whom the Father has chosen for salvation. Those whom he has not chosen hear the gospel with their ears, perhaps, but it is accompanied by no internal conviction wrought by the Spirit. They cannot understand or “welcome” that which is being taught to them (1 Cor 2:14).
1 Corinthians 1:9 God, who has called us into fellowship with His son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful.
Regeneration is a secret act of God—and done totally by him—whereby he implants spiritual life in us.
Titus 3:5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit…
Biblical repentance involves an understanding of the “wrongness” of my sin, an emotional sorrow for it, and a turning from it with the conviction never to return, but instead to submit to the Lordship of Christ (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 3:19; 5:39; 17:30). It is a process that continues throughout all of my Christian life (Rev 3:19).
Luke 24:46 “Thus it stands written that the Messiah would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 24:47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Biblical faith involves three related elements: knowledge, agreement, and personal trust. We must understand the gospel, agree with it, and personally trust in Christ. Anything short of this is not genuine or saving faith. As far as it depends upon us, we ought to ensure that those whom we disciple understand what faith is, not confusing it with mere assent to a creed, or attendance at a certain kind of church. Rather, we want our folks to understand that they must personally commit themselves to Christ himself, having understood his promise of pardoning all who come. As with repentance, so also faith must be exercised and continue to grow our whole lives (Heb 11:6).
John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Union with Christ is a favorite expression used by the apostle Paul to describe the many facets of our relationship to Christ and the blessings we have received as a result of being chosen “in Him” (Eph 1:3-4). It relates to our new sphere of existence “in Him” where righteousness, life, and peace reign and is to be seen over against our old mode of existence in Adam where sin, death, and judgment went unchecked (Rom 6:1-11). We now live, move, and breathe in Christ and he lives in us through his Holy Spirit (John 14:23; 15:26; Rom 8:9).
Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 2:5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!—2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us legally righteous in his sight.13
3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed—3:22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 3:24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Adoption is the act whereby God, having chose us in Christ and justified us by faith—even when we were by nature children of wrath—now considers us as one of his family. This includes privileges of access to God, his loving fatherly presence and help, his discipline for sin and his “presence in blessing” throughout eternity.
Galatians 4:4 But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 4:5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. 4:6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” 4:7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.
Sanctification is the ongoing process of being progressively set free from sin and living to God’s glory in greater degrees of Christlikeness. It refers to growing in holiness and therefore intimacy with, and usefulness to, the Lord (cf. 2 Tim 2:20-21). There are three stages to sanctification. Positional, which occurs at the moment of salvation (involving justification); practical which is ongoing until death, and perfect (glorification), which occurs at death (1 Cor 6:11; Acts 20:32; Rom 6:12-13; 2 Cor 7:1; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 12:14).
Philippians 2:12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 2:13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.
The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly believers and indwelt by the Spirit of God will by God’s power persevere in the Christian life until their death and that only those who do persevere are truly born again.
John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 10:29 My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 10:30 The Father and I are one.”
Glorification is the final step in the outworking of God’s plan of saving us in which, at his coming, he gives us (every saint who has ever lived) our resurrected bodies and we are like him in untainted holiness (1 John 3:2-3).
8:23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church is the community of those who are saved according to the gracious purposes of the Father, through the merits of Son and His work, in the power and personal ministry of the Spirit. The church is holy in that it possesses the Holy Spirit and human in that it is made up of redeemed human beings. Thus there are many local churches, but there is one universal or catholic church which can flow into any culture, yet at the same time stand opposed to the those elements in culture that repudiate God. The church is apostolic in that it stands on, and adheres to, the inscripturated apostolic interpretation of Christ and his work and also in the sense that it is sent into the world as witness to God’s saving work. In general, there are numerous metaphors in scripture which describe the church. It is known as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the Vine and the branches, Shepherd and the flock, cornerstone and the building, a holy priesthood, a father and his family, etc.
The church comes into existence through the preaching of the gospel and God’s calling of people from darkness to light (Col 1:7, 13-14). The church is His idea and he will ensure her victory over all the forces of evil. Indeed, the gates of hell will not overcome her. Though the church is not the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God, i.e., God’s kingly reign, gives rise to the church and the church in turn witnesses to the power and glory of that kingdom.
9:23 And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory— 9:24 even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 9:25 As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’” 9:26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether we are Jews or Greeks or slaves or free we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
4:11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ…
10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, 11:24 and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 11:25 In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual act of worship.
1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”
12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
3:8 The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil.
6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 6:13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. 6:14 Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, 6:15 by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, 6:16 and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 6:18 With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.
5:8 Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. 5:9 Resist him, strong in your faith…
4:7 So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. 4:8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded.
Hebrews 9:27 And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment…
2 Corinthians 5:8 Thus we (i.e., Christians) are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
The intermediate state for unbelievers, i.e., what happens to them after death, seems to involve conscious punishment in Hades where they await a future, bodily resurrection to eternal punishment in Hell, the final place of the Devil, his angels, and the wicked (Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:19-31; 2 Thess 1:8-9).
Acts 1:11 “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.”
Matthew 24:30 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
John 5:28 “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 5:29 and will come out—the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation.
Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25:32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 25:33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 25:34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! …25:46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Revelation 20:4 …They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 20:5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among men and women. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist.”
In lectures four and five we dealt with some basic beliefs and doctrinal knowledge each disciplemaker and disciple should possess. We started with our understanding of God and then moved to the Bible and Man. In this lecture we discussed Salvation, the Church, Spiritual Warfare, and End Times. It is important to possess this Biblical or Christian “worldview” because our goal is not to make disciples that look like us, per se, but those who look, feel, and act like Christ. These are truths by which we can evaluate our practice of discipleship. For example, if we realize that in our discipleship plan we are simply not using Scripture very much or helping our friends “get into” the Bible in a responsible and meaningful way, then to that degree we are falling short, as it were, of Christ’s standard for us (Matt 13:52; Acts 2:42). We know that we must do something about that. Or, if someone feels that involvement with other Christians, i.e. church, is not that important, we can see from this brief Biblical overview that such reasoning is not from the Lord and therefore not correct or helpful.. With patience and love we can confidently move them in the direction of thinking about their need for fellowship, both to receive from others and to contribute to others’ lives.
1. Do you see the train of thought in the section on salvation? Why is it important to have this “bird’s eye-view” of God’s plan of salvation? Why would Paul tell us that?
2. How does “justification” help with feelings of insecurity and unbelief regarding the struggle that God can use you? How do the other areas of salvation relate to discipleship?
3. We will deal with the doctrine of the spiritual life in the next couple of lectures. For the meantime, however, how does the doctrine of perseverance relate to discipleship?
4. How do spiritual gifts relate to discipling another? What if the person you’re helping is spiritually gifted in an area in which you as a disciplemaker are not?
5. How does the Devil relate to the task of making disciples?
6. How will you help your disciples get a balanced, biblical, and spiritually realistic view in this area?
7. Someday we will all die. How does this relate to discipleship and helping others to love God and people? What about rewards?
13 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 723.