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Salvation: God’s Work or Man’s? My beliefs about the doctrine of Soteriology

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Salvation: God’s Work or Man’s? My beliefs about the doctrine of Soteriology

Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation

There are many who have studied this wonderful doctrine more than I, but the following is the result of my lifetime of study of the incredible free gift of God, made possible by Jesus Christ, that is called Salvation.

Statement of Belief:

I believe that salvation is offered freely to all men (John 3:16).  Salvation describes God’s plan of redemption made possible by Christ’s atonement on the cross for the sins of mankind.  It is given to sinners, who, by the grace (unmerited favor) of God, repent of their sins and put their complete faith in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 20:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9-10).  This is the only way for sinful man to be reconciled to holy God.  Man is powerless to attain salvation through any other means, person, or work (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is not an end in itself.  It leads to sanctification, the process of growing in Christlikeness (Philippians 1:6).  Sanctification leads to the ultimate goal of salvation, which is the glorification of God in heaven for all of eternity (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

Acts 4:12:  “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Romans 5:1:  “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”

Details of Salvation:

The Provision for Salvation:

God provided salvation by sending His only Son, Jesus, to be the substitute for man and thereby to incur the wrath of God’s punishment for sin.  Jesus was the only worthy substitute because He was born sinless and lived a sinless life.  He is the spotless Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice, and He shed His blood for the sins of all men.

Acts of God in Salvation:

Election:

I believe that God, in His sovereignty, has already chosen those who will be saved (Acts 16:38; Colossians 3:12).

Ephesians 1:4:  “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”

His choice was not based on any effort or merit of man.  Nor was it a reactive choice based on God’s ability to see who would choose Him anyway.   He chose for reasons known only to God.

Romans 9:15-16:  “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

I do not believe that the doctrine of election eliminates the responsibility and need for God’s people to evangelize the lost (II Timothy 2:10).  We are commanded to preach the gospel to every creature.

Matthew 28:19-20:  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

I do not believe that the doctrine of election voids man’s guilt due to his sin and his need for a Savior.

Romans 9:19-21:  “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?  Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

Though it may seem contradictory, I also believe that God has given every person a free choice to be saved and that no one is forced to accept Christ’s gift of atonement (Romans 10:13).  Furthermore, I believe that the atonement is available to all, and is not limited to a chosen few.

Revelation 22:17:  “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

I do not believe that it is possible to fully reconcile the conflict between God’s sovereign election, and man’s free choice.  It is a mystery that God has not revealed to us.  We are not required to fully explain this quandary, but must simply accept both as true according to God’s Word.  It is a comfort to me to know that God’s wisdom far surpasses my capacity to completely understand this doctrine.  I rejoice that as one of God’s elect, His Spirit opened my eyes to my need for a Savior, and enabled me to choose Christ and accept His free gift of salvation (Romans 8:28-35; Ephesians 1:5-6; II Thessalonians 2:13).

Adoption:

When a person trusts Jesus Christ as His Savior He becomes part of God’s family.  Believers possess all of the rights, privileges, and expectations of God’s family (Galatians 4:5-7; John 1:12-13).  These include:

  • Eternal inheritance – assurance of salvation (Romans 8:17)
  • The presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14)
  • Discipline (Hebrews 12:6-8)
  • Intimacy – God is our Father, our “Abba” (Romans 8:15-16)

John 1:12:  “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”

Romans 8:15-17:  “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Justification:

God declares that the believer will not receive the penalty due for his sin.  He is given a new legal standing of righteousness before God (Romans 5:1; I Corinthians 1:30; II Corinthians 5:19-21).

Romans 4:5:  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

Imputation:

At salvation an individual’s sin is charged to Christ’s account and the righteousness of Christ is transferred to that person (I Peter 2:24; Romans 4:1-8, 22, 24).

Romans 3:25-26:  “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

Romans 5:19:  “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

Propitiation:

When Christ died on the cross, He appeased God the Father by accepting His wrath on Himself.

I John 2:2:  “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

I John 4:10:  “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Vicarious Universal Atonement:

Christ died in the place of the sinner.  He was sinless, but accepted punishment for the sins of the world.  For the believer, there is no further payment due for sin.  The full punishment was poured out on Christ.  I do not believe that Christ’s atoning work is limited.  I believe that is freely offered to all who will believe (Isaiah 53:5-6; Romans 5:9; I Corinthians 15:3; II Corinthians 5:21).

Mark 10:45:  “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Reconciliation:

Salvation restores the relationship between God and man.  There is a barrier between God and man because God’s holiness cannot tolerate any sin.  For the believer, that barrier is removed, and man can once again have sweet communion with his maker as it was in the beginning when man was created (II Corinthians 5:18; I Peter 3:18).

Romans 5:10-11:  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

Redemption:

Christ’s payment for sin satisfied the demand of God’s law that sin deserves death.  At salvation, Christ redeems the Christian by bringing him out from under the curse of the law (Ephesians 1:7).

Galatians 3:13:  “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

Regeneration:

When a person is saved, he is changed by God and given a new nature (II Peter 1:4).  He is “born again (John 3:5)” and becomes a “new creature (II Corinthians 5:17).” He experiences newness in all areas of his life.  With the new nature, God makes the believer a new man (Ephesians 4:24), and gives him a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27), a new name (Isaiah 62:2), a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27), new desires (Galatians 5:17), new mercies (Lamentations 3:19-25), and a new song (Isaiah 42:10, Revelation 5:9; 14:13).  The believer worships and serves a new God, who is also his new Father, and who will one day take him to a new heaven and a new earth.  All things are changed, or regenerated, when an individual is saved (Titus 3:3; John 3:5; Ephesians 2:1,5).

II Corinthians 5:17:  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Psalm 40:1-3:  “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.  And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.

Sanctification:

According to Romans 8:28-30, God orchestrates all of life’s circumstances to conform the believer into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  The text says “that all things work together for good” for Christians.  It is important to recognize that the text does not say that all circumstances in life will be good, but rather that God will work all things (the good, bad, tragic, and delightful alike) together for good.  It is also important to note the definition of good in that passage as being “conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).”  God’s ultimate good for every believer is Christlikeness and often that is refined in the believer’s life through trial and tragedy.  I believe that positional sanctification takes place at salvation when a person is declared righteous and holy in the sight of God because of Christ’s atonement (I Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Hebrews 10:10).  That is certainly an act of God.  However, I also believe that each Christian is required to responsibly work toward personal holiness in the ongoing practical process of sanctification (Ephesians 4:21-24).  This is accomplished by the grace of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.  The believer is to display the fruit of the Spirit and should seek to live a life of obedience to God’s Word (I Peter 1:15-16; Galatians 5:16-23).  Complete sanctification, also called glorification, is a goal that will not be attained by the natural man, but will be surely realized by every believer in glory (Jude 24; I Thessalonians 3:13; I John 3:2).

II Corinthians 3:18:  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

I Peter 1:15-16:  “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Glorification:

When a believer is taken to heaven, either by rapture or by death, he is changed to be like Christ.  This is called glorification.  I believe that glorification takes place in two steps.  When a believer is taken to meet Christ in glory, the sin nature is left behind.  The inward battle between base sinful passions and the desire to pursue Christlikeness no longer rages.  For all of eternity the believer in heaven will be complete righteousness and perfection (Romans 8:29-30).  I also believe that all believers, on earth and in heaven, will be given new perfect bodies at the time of the rapture (I Corinthians 15:35-57; II Corinthians 5:1-5).

I John 3:2:  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

I Corinthians 15:52:  “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Assurance and Eternal Security:

I believe that once an individual is saved by the grace of God, through faith and repentance, He can never lose his salvation.  It is eternal.  A believer’s confidence in this fact strengthens with the increased knowledge of God and greater understanding of Christ’s atoning work (Romans 5:10-11; I Peter 1:5).

John 10:27-30:  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one.”

I Thessalonians 5:23-24:  “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”

Man’s Response in Salvation:

I believe that salvation comes to a man through repentance and faith.

Repentance:

One must repent of his sin.  That does not mean that he will never sin again.  It does mean that he changes his disposition toward sin.  He rejects the previous condition of living without care for sin, and embraces a lifestyle of serving God.  He purposes in his heart to live a righteous life and asks God to forgive him for the sins that he has committed (II Corinthians 7:9-10).

Psalm 51:3:  “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.”

Isaiah 55:7:  “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

Faith:

A sinner must look to Jesus and trust Him as the one and only Savior.  He must believe in his heart that the solitary means of justification is accepting Christ’s free gift and he must place full confidence in Christ’s atoning work as hope for redemptive salvation. Faith is more than believing about Christ.  It is believing in Christ.  It is the difference in saying, “I trust your statement,” and “I trust you.”  The Bible says that faith comes “by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). So then, faith itself is a gift of God that comes from the illumination of His Word in the heart of an individual.  Faith is in stark contrast to any thought that salvation could be attained because of self-worth, or by self-merit.

Romans 3:28:  “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Galatians 3:11:  “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”

Hebrews 11:1:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Predestined for Christlikeness:

God has pre-determined that those who have trusted Christ as their Savior will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, through the full process of calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification.  Christlikeness is a certain future for every believer.

Romans 8:28-30:  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

The Exclusivity of Christ for Salvation:

I believe that Jesus Christ’s atonement is the one and only hope for the salvation of men.  I reject any teaching or system as heresy that adds or detracts from the truth that Jesus Christ is the only Savior.

John 14:6:  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Galatians 1:8:  “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

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Discussion

  1. Ricky Blaha  February 7, 2012

    God is a great God! We have a marvelous salvation. Good work on this. I just talked with a close friend of yours for about an hour just now. I was so excited to hear the little bit that I did of what God is doing in your life. We need to talk some time.

  2. JT  May 24, 2012

    Ricky, I’ve been meaning to reply for weeks! So sorry for my delay! It’s great to hear from you. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Todd and Wendy very much. It sounds like you are doing a great work at the church! Keep at it! I’d love to talk! Give me a call anytime. God’s best to you Brother!

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