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4. Survey Of Bible Doctrine: Salvation

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Introduction

1. The need for individual salvation is clearly seen in the study of man and sin. The person and nature of Christ the Savior has already been given separate study (See “SURVEY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE – CHRIST”). This study focuses on the work of Christ on the cross and how the benefits of that work are given to man who is in need of salvation.

2. The History of Salvation

In every age God has provided salvation. Prior to the cross it was unknown to man that Jesus Christ would die for their sins. But the requirement for salvation was always to trust in God’s provision for sin – even when that provision was unknown or only pictured as in the sacrificial system. One thing that was always present, however, was the idea of sacrifice.

a. God provided Adam and Eve with a covering of animal skins (Genesis 3).

b. God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice of an animal (Genesis 4).

c. Abraham sacrificed a lamb (Genesis 22).

d. At the Exodus from Egypt, a sacrifice was required (Exodus 12).

e. The Levitical system revealed to Moses centered on animal sacrifice for sin (Leviticus 17:11).

So when Christ came as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), the world was well-prepared by God for the final sacrifice which would permanently atone for man’s sin.

I. The Atonement – Part 1

What did Christ accomplish on the cross?

A. Inadequate Views

1. Ransom to Satan Theory – Christ died to cancel Satan’s claim on man.

Problem – God didn’t provide salvation to “make a deal” with Satan – a created being.

2. Moral Influence Theory – Christ died to influence people to come to God in repentance.

Problem – We don’t need motivation to repent, we need payment for our sin.

3. Example Theory – Christ died to inspire us to love, faith and obedience.

Problem – Man can’t save himself by those things.

4. Governmental Theory – God set aside His justice to accept Christ’s death as a token sacrifice.

Problem – God’s justice must be totally satisfied.

5. Mystical Theory – Christ’s death somehow transformed the corrupted nature of man.

Problem – Our nature is not mystically transformed and our sin must be punished.

B. The Adequate View – Penal Satisfaction

1. Definition: Christ’s death was in our place satisfying God’s righteous wrath toward sin.

a. The key biblical word – Propitiation (“to placate, appease”)

  • God’s wrath on sin is inevitable and just (Romans 1:18,28-32; 2:2)
  • Only death can satisfy God’s wrath on sin. God has provided that His wrath is satisfied by the death of a substitute. Sacrifices in the Old Testament were God’s appointed temporary substitutes. Christ is the complete and final substitute. Those who reject the substitutionary death of Christ for them will experience God’s eternal wrath (John 3:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 21:8).

1 John 4:10 – In love God sent Jesus to bear His wrath on sin.

1 John 2:2 – Christ’s death was sufficient to bear God’s wrath on sin for the whole world.

Romans 3:21-26 – By trusting in Christ – the propitiation – we are released from God’s wrath.

b. Other key words and concepts explaining penal satisfaction.

1. Substitution – The sin which Christ bore in His death was not His own but ours.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “He (God) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.”

Romans 5:6-8 – “Christ died for (huper – “in the place of”) the ungodly/for us

Mark 10:45 – “…and to give His life a ransom for (anti – “in the place of”) many.”

2. Redemption – Sinners are released from the penalty of sin by Christ’s payment for sin.

Mark 10:45 – “… and to give His life a ransom (a payment) for many.”

Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7

3. Reconciliation – This is the result of Christ’s death. The enmity was removed between God and man.

Romans 5:10 – “…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His son.”

2 Corinthians 5:18,19

4. Justification – Believers are legally acquitted of their sin because Christ’s death fully bore their penalty.

Romans 3:24 – “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 3:26 – “the demonstration of his righteousness … that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

The Relation between Propitiation and other key terms for Salvation

(adapted from Craig Glickman, Class Notes, Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring 1984)

II. The Atonement – Part II

How is Christ’s death applied to individuals – How are we saved?

A. Election – God chose us.

1. Definition: From eternity past God chose those who would trust in Him for salvation.

2. Scripture – God definitely chose who would believe.

Ephesians 1:4 – “He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

1 Peter 1:2 – “…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

Romans 8:29 – “For whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”

2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

1 Timothy 1:9 – “who has saved us…according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

3. Scripture – Man, however, definitely has a free choice whether or not to believe.

Romans 10:13 – “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

John 3:16 – “…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”

4. Scripture – God has sovereignly chosen us, yet we have a free will in salvation.

John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

John 6:44 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

  • In these last two references Jesus states both sides of the coin with no apology or contradiction. Any can come and not be cast out (free will of man – 6:37). All who come have been chosen (sovereign election by God – 6:44).

Acts 13:48 – “…And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”

See also Acts 16:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (“chosen…through faith”)

5. Three different views of what God’s election in salvation means

a. View #1 – God’s election and foreknowledge is merely “foresight.”

“God simply knew ahead of time who would believe.”

Problems: God’s free choice and sovereign plan is entirely ruled out. Salvation is thus only according to man’s free will. This contradicts the scriptures about election.

b. View #2 – Election was corporate not individual.

“God chose the group – the church. We become elect when we believe.”

Problems: Again, there is no sense of God’s election if God only said there would be a group of saved people and man does all the choosing.

c. View #3 – Election is personal and real.

“God chose the individuals who would believe while it is also true that each person makes a genuine choice to believe or not.”

Problem & Solution: While we can’t understand how both election by God and the free will of man are simultaneously true, they are both taught by scripture.

6. Examples and Illustrations – We cannot exactly illustrate infinite truth, but perhaps these explanations will help.

Christians experience and accept the combination of God’s sovereign choice and man’s free choice all the time. One example is the time of our death. God determines when we die. Yet our free choice might, from our perspective, determine when we die (choice of road in auto accident, suicide, etc.) Likewise we don’t question that God has determined certain events to occur (who we marry, where we work, etc.) yet we freely made those decisions as well.

7. Logical and emotional barriers to accepting God’s sovereign election.

a. “I can’t accept that someone (my father, mother, relative, friend, etc.) is not elect.”

1) God seems arbitrary and unloving – No, God elects according to love (Ephesians 1:4).

2) God seems unjust – No, it is God’s grace that any are saved (Ephesians 2:8).

3) God seems responsible for some being lost – No, God desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Man’s sin is responsible for his lostness (Romans 2:2-5; 3:11,12).

b. “I can’t accept as true anything I can’t understand.”

1) We also don’t understand the trinity. We also don’t understand how Christ is fully God and fully man. Yet both are clearly taught and true and accepted.

2) The real struggle we may have is accepting something we can’t control. As God’s creatures we must come to grips with accepting His control and His truth and completely trusting Him to do what’s right.

c. “If God elected some then I don’t need to witness.”

  • No, it is God’s will and plan that we are His tools in accomplishing His plan to save people. We are commanded to tell others so we must be obedient (Matthew 28:19,20). Yes, all the elect will be saved, but if we don’t share the gospel we have disobeyed and missed out on the opportunity God gave us (Romans 10:14). We are responsible for the human perspective. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13). Think of it. There are unsaved elect people all around you. You can be the one to tell them the good news.

Conclusion:

Both election by God and man’s free choice are true. The obvious emphasis in ministry is that people must choose to trust in Christ for salvation or they are lost. And we must tell them. But as we share we can rest in the fact that God is sovereign and all will be saved whom He chose.

B. Faith – We chose to trust in Christ.

Introduction

We have already discussed that man must choose to come to Christ for salvation. But what exactly is it that a person must do to be saved? How are the benefits of Christ’s death applied to the individual? What decision or choice must be made? These important questions will be answered as we discuss three issues: 1) What is the gospel? 2) What must a person do to be saved? 3) What the gospel is not.

1. What is the Gospel?

a. The content of the gospel is simply that “Christ died for our sin and rose again” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 – His burial proved He died; His resurrection proved He arose). The gospel message is that Christ died and arose to take our punishment for sin and give us eternal life.

b. The response to the gospel needed to be saved is simply, “Put your trust (“believe”) in Christ’s death alone to pay for your sins.”

2. What must a person do to be saved?

The key word in the New Testament describing what one must do to have eternal life is “believe.” The term “believe” means more than believing a fact. It means “trusting in” or “depending on” a fact. It’s one thing to believe that a boat can get you across a lake. It’s another thing to put your trust in that boat and climb in. That’s what “believing in Christ for eternal life” means. In the Bible, “faith” in Christ means the same thing. It’s the noun form of the verb “believe.” Below are some of the key passages teaching that all a person must do to have eternal life is put their trust in Christ alone to pay for their sin.

Other descriptions for “eternal life” you will find in these passages are “salvation, saved, justification, justified.” The word “grace” describes the whole process of God giving eternal life as a free gift – apart form works – to those who believe.

Each of the following passages contains the key terms (faith, believe) to explain what we must do to receive eternal life: John 1:12; 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 6:47,48,51; 7:37,38; Acts 10:43; 16:30,31; Romans 1:16; 3:22; 3:27,28; 5:1; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 2:16; 3:22; Ephesians 1:13; 2:1-10 (esp. 8,9);1 Thessalonians 5:9;1 Timothy 1:15,16; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 3:4-7; 1 John 5:11-13;

3. What the gospel is not.

a. Problem – Adding to the gospel (See also Hampton Keathley, Common Assaults on the Gospel, (/article/common-assaults-gospel)

If the gospel message is “Trust in Christ alone to pay for your sins,” then it is corrupting the gospel to add anything to that requirement (Galatians 1:6-9).

Examples:

1) Trust in Christ and do good works.

        No, That is really salvation by works (see Ephesians 2:8,9). If we think good works help to save us, we’re not trusting in Christ alone.

2) Trust in Christ and be baptized.

        No, Water baptism is an outward sign after we are saved (Acts 2:41).

3) Trust in Christ and make Jesus Lord of your life.

        No. This confuses discipleship (following, obeying and serving Christ) with salvation (trusting in Christ alone). This view is called “Lordship salvation” which holds that to be saved a person must also promise to fully follow Christ.

b. Problem – Confusing the gospel

Well-meaning Christians often use phrases that actually mislead people who need to understand the gospel.

1) “Ask Jesus into your heart” – This is often used with children but it can only confuse them. What does it mean to “ask Jesus into your heart”? The real issues are: I am a sinner, Christ died for my sin and I must trust in Christ alone. That’s what a child must understand and the decision he/she must make.

2) “Make Jesus the Lord of your life”

        “Make Christ number one in your life”

        These statements actually describe Lordship Salvation (see above). We should submit to the Lordship of Christ (obey His commands), but that’s not the gospel.

3) “Accept Jesus as Savior”

        “Receive Jesus as Savior”

        These phrases may be all right if they’re understood. Christians may understand them to mean “trust in Christ,” but unbelievers may wonder “How do I accept or receive Jesus?” To Catholics “receiving Jesus” means communion. Never does scripture say to “accept Jesus” and only once does it mention “receiving” Him (John 1:12). And even that reference about the Jews receiving Him is clarified by the expression “believing in His name.”

III. Eternal Security

The question here is “Can a person who has put their trust in Christ for salvation ever lose that salvation?” The Bible’s answer is “no.”

A. Reasons why some Christians think salvation can be lost

1. They fear that believing in “eternal security” would encourage sin. “If I’m saved no matter what, why not sin more?”

2. They misunderstand some passages that can appear to teach that salvation can be lost.

3. They don’t fully understand that when a person has trusted in Christ’s atonement, God does an irreversible work that does not depend on man’s ability to “keep believing” or to “keep living righteously” (see below).

B. Reasons why salvation is secure – We cannot lose our salvation.

1. Because God’s plan for an individual’s salvation will be accomplished.

From election to arrival in heaven God’s plan will not be thwarted (Romans 8:30).

2. Because all the things that happen when we trust in Christ depend upon God’s nature, God’s power and God’s promises and cannot be reversed.

a. We are given eternal life (John 3:16, etc.)

It isn’t “eternal” if we can lose it.

b. We receive eternal life as a gift (John 10:28; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 6:23)

If we can’t earn it by works we can’t lose it by lack of works.

c. We become God’s possession.

The Good Shepherd doesn’t lose His sheep (John 10:28-29).

God’s seal can’t be erased (Ephesians 1:13,14).

d. We are “in Christ.”

A part of Christ’s “Body” can’t be taken away (1 Corinthians 12:13).

We cannot be lost after we are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3).

Nothing can separate us from Christ (Romans 8:38,39).

e. All our sins are forgiven (Romans 3:1,23).

All our sins were future when Christ died (They were all paid for). So sinning cannot change the security of our salvation.

f. We become God’s children (John 1:12).

Nothing can reverse a person’s birth.

g. God commits Himself to us forever and unconditionally (2 Timothy 2:13).

“If we are faithless, He is faithful for He cannot deny Himself.”

C. Proper Motivation to obey God

Which is the proper motivation to obey God?

Fear

Love

If we sin we lose Salvation

Obey because Salvation is secure
(2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Illustration: The best motive for pleasing our spouse is appreciation for their commitment to us, not fear that the other will leave us if we make mistakes.

D. Problem Passages

Some passages at first glance may seem to teach that salvation could be lost. Here are two necessary principles to remember:

1. Unclear verses should always be interpreted in light of those which are clear. Since all the above passages clearly teach salvation is secure then the honest Bible student would understand that the problem passages must mean something other than loss of salvation.

2. The problem passages have other reasonable and likely interpretations.

a. Some passages are warning believers who are saved by grace (and secure) not to go back to practicing the Old Testament system of Law and sacrifices (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:1-8; 10:26-31).

The warning is not that salvation will be lost. Rather, by reverting back to a false system outwardly (Law), the believer is “apostate.” He becomes hardened and will not return to a life of committed obedience. In that sense a person keeping the old rituals as a believer is said to be “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4), “fallen away” and “impossible to renew again to repentance” (Hebrews 6:6) and “sinning willfully…there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrew 10:26).

b. Some passages are warning against losing rewards or fellowship with God, but not losing salvation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; John 15:6).

c. Some passages are teaching that it is possible to stop living a committed obedient Christian life (2 Peter 3:17; 1 Timothy 1:19,20; 6:10).

IV. Assurance of Salvation

The issue of “assurance” is related to “eternal security” but different. “Security” is the fact that we can’t lose our salvation. The issue of “assurance” is “How can we be confident that we are saved or that someone else is?”

A. Two basic views of assurance

1. “Lordship Salvation” position – We are assured of salvation by lifestyle.

The basis for evaluating a person’s salvation is, “Does their life show it?”

2. “Free Grace” position – We are assured of salvation simply on the basis of personal faith in Christ?

The only basis of assurance is, “Has a person put their trust in Christ alone to save them?”

B. Support for Free Grace Position

1. Based on all we’ve discussed about salvation thus far, salvation is clearly a free gift, apart from works, received by faith alone. Therefore assurance of salvation can be based only on those facts – “Has a person put their trust in Christ?” (not “Have they proved it by their life?”)

2. It is true that believers should have the “fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23), but the very fact that we are told to obey and bear fruit is evidence that some may not. Some Christians indeed evidence the “deeds of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). “Carnal” Christians indeed exist (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). The problem with carnal Christians is that they do in fact live like and look like the unsaved.

C. Problem passages: Matthew 7:15-20; Luke 6:43-45

1. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20)

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus’ point is simply that false prophets (7:15) can be identified by the results of their life and teaching. Salvation is not the issue. In Luke 6:43-45 Jesus is simply observing that our outward lifestyle reveals our inward character. But the issue is not that lifestyle proves whether a person has trusted in Christ for salvation or not.

2. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26)

Many say this passage means that works prove whether we have genuinely trusted in Christ. Actually the passage contrasts two kinds of Christian lives (a living or dead faith) instead of contrasting believers and unbelievers (See Zane Hodges, Gospel Under Siege, p.19-33 or Hampton Keathley, Common Assaults on the Gospel, /article/common-assaults-gospel).

Conclusions:

1. An individual can know he/she is saved only on the basis of whether they are trusting in Christ’s atonement for their sin (1 John 5:11-13). Our “eternal security” gives us “assurance” not our lifestyle.

2. While someone’s lifestyle may give strong clues about their spiritual condition, we can only evaluate if they are really saved based on what they are trusting in – not how they are living.

3. We or some Christians we know may be living in serious sin. But if a person has in fact trusted in Christ they are saved. What is needed is to confess our sin (1 John 1:9) repent and begin to live in the victory that the Spirit provides and God intends. We don’t need to question our salvation; we need to grow in it.

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)