«The Process of Salvation I. Foundational Premises The conclusions one draws are heavily influenced by the basic and foundational assumptions or ...»
The Process of Salvation
I. Foundational Premises
The conclusions one draws are heavily influenced by the basic and foundational assumptions
or premises one brings to the question at issue. The premises which underlie this study are as
1) That there is an objective right and wrong. We live in a philosophical
climate dominated by the theory of evolution which holds that life is a product
of blind chance. There is no plan behind man’s existence and, hence, ultimately no purpose to it. If there is no plan and no purpose to existence, then it follows that whatever moral or ethical standards mankind may have are purely subjective. Right and wrong have no meaning in and of themselves but only what a particular group or society agrees to recognize at any given time.
If no objective values of right and wrong exist then there is also no objective basis by which to judge behavior and attitudes. If right and wrong is subjective there can be no real virtue or heroism nor can there be any real villainy, baseness or wickedness. To praise the works of a Mother Teresa is just as hypocritical as to condemn the actions of a Stalin. The actions of both a terrorist and the rescue worker who rushes to the aid of the terrorist’s victims are totally amoral. In the absence of an objective value of what is right and what is wrong it is meaningless to discuss the topic of salvation because ultimately there is nothing from which to be saved. Every action, desire and attitude is morally equivalent to any other.
2) That an eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, consistent and unchanging God is the one who has determined what the objective values of right and wrong are. It is not the purpose of this study to present the extensive and persuasive evidence for the existence of God or that He possesses the characteristics mentioned above. That He does exist and possesses these characteristics is assumed as axiomatic. It is enough for the purposes of this study to say that God’s moral standards are internally consistent, that they apply equally to every society and culture and that they have remained, and will remain, the same in every era or historical age.
3) That God has communicated His moral standards to mankind. If God has established an objective code of right and wrong which He expects mankind to follow then it is only logical that He would have somehow communicated that moral standard. In one sense the knowledge of right and wrong is inherent
II. The Need For Salvation Before discussing the process of salvation it is necessary first to define what is meant by salvation and to explain why salvation is necessary.
For the purposes of this study salvation is narrowly defined as “deliverance from God’s wrath” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Salvation is actually far more comprehensive than this, but this is the core issue. It should be noted that once a person becomes subject to, or the object of, God’s wrath he is incapable of providing his own escape from it. Numerous Scriptures point out that it is God Himself who provides the means of escape or deliverance through Jesus Christ. It is beyond the scope of this study to explore in detail God’s provision or Christ’s role in the salvation process. The focus will instead be on how man may appropriate the salvation which is offered to him. The essential fact which must be kept in mind, however, is that according to what God has revealed to us in the Scriptures, Christ is the sole and exclusive means of salvation. If there is any other means or method of escaping God’s wrath, it has not been revealed. (For example, refer to John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Galatians 1:6-9 and 1 Timothy 2:5) Those who claim, no matter how sincere they may be, that other faiths or religions are merely different paths to God are mistaken.
But the question is why do people need salvation? How do we become subject to God’s wrath? Simply put, God’s wrath is incurred when we sin. Scripture defines sin as lawlessness (see 1 John 3:4), that is, either actively breaking a prohibition or by refraining from action when God requires it (see James 4:17). In other words, God holds us accountable when we violate one of the objective moral standards which He has established. The Bible makes it very clear that the penalty for sin is death (see, for example, Ezekiel 33:13, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13).
It is important to make a distinction here between physical death and spiritual death. Physical death is a consequence of Adam’s sin. That one sin has subjected all of mankind to physical death. Some hold that each person dies because we each inherit Adam’s guilt. Kenneth Taylor’s rendition of Ephesians 2:3 not withstanding (see the Living Bible and the New Living Translation) the Bible makes it very clear that guilt is not inherited. Each person is held responsible only for his own sin. This principle is explicitly stated in Genesis 18:25, Deuteronomy 24:16, 2 Kings 14:6, Jeremiah 31:29-30, Ezekiel 18:1-32, Matthew 16:27 and implied in many other passages. Even if the principle were not explicitly stated it could easily be inferred. If Adam’s guilt were inherited then either Christ could not have been born as a 2 The Process of Salvation human being, or He could not have been sinless. In either case, He would be disqualified as the Savior. Though God does not hold anyone morally responsible or guilty because of what Adam did, we all die physically just as if we were guilty for what he did. One of the purposes for Christ’s coming was to redress this injustice. It is in this sense that God is the actual, not merely the potential, “...Savior of all men...” (1 Timothy 4:10) regardless of their relationship to Christ. All, not merely some, will be resurrected from the dead (see John 5:28-29, Revelation 20:11-15. The general resurrection of the dead may also be inferred from passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:12-23, though the primary emphasis is on the bodily resurrection of those who belong to Christ.) But while none of his descendants is held accountable for Adam’s sin, each of us is responsible for our own sin. Scripture indicates that nature itself was altered by the introduction of sin into the world (see Romans 8:19-21). It is possible that along with the general decay to which creation was subjected that certain vulnerabilities were also introduced into human nature which make us far more susceptible to sin. Be that as it may, the fact remains that sin is not inherited. We become guilty because we deliberately choose to violate God’s objective moral standards. There are hints that God does not impute sin where the individual does not understand that he is committing wrong. Culpability increases with knowledge and the capacity to know. A child is born innocent, guiltless and not accountable, but gradually becomes accountable as it matures. Only God knows when moral innocence is lost and when wrongdoing is accounted as actual sin. It probably is at a different point in each person’s development. What is certain is that, except for Jesus, no morally responsible person has remained sinless. Each one of us has deliberately violated God’s standards and as a result is under a death sentence. Though the actual penalty will not be carried out until the judgment, Scripture refers to those who are under the penalty as being dead in the present. In God’s eyes the sinner is judicially dead and is on “death row” waiting for the penalty to be carried out in fact. The time between the incurring of guilt and physical death may be compared to the time granted to a criminal to appeal for a commutation of sentence. No appeals will be heard after physical death.
At the beginning of this section salvation was defined as “deliverance from God’s wrath.” In light of this discussion it might also be defined as “rescue from the penalty of sin” or “the commutation or pardon of our spiritual death sentence.” III. What Salvation Must Accomplish Salvation, by definition, must provide reprieve from a sinner’s spiritual death sentence. But there are at least two other requirements. There can be no salvation unless God can “...be just and the one who justifies...” (Romans 3:26 NIV)
As previously noted, it is beyond the scope of this study to explore God and Jesus’ role in man’s redemption or salvation. Briefly stated, however, since mankind cannot redeem or save itself God Himself became a human being in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect, blameless and sinless life and then willingly forfeited it as a ransom on behalf of sinners (see 1 Peter 3:18). The question this study attempts to answer is how Christ’s ransom is applied to, or appropriated by, the individual. Scripture puts it succinctly, “...If we died with him, we will also live with him...” (2 Timothy 2:11, see also Romans 6:5-8).
IV. Things That Accompany Salvation
Dying with Christ seems to be what makes one eligible to live with Him. In other words, participating in Christ’s death enables one to participate in Christ’s eternal life. But what does this involve? What does the Bible associate with salvation? There are at least three ways to
find the answer to these questions. The following lists are:
2) Derived from explicit statements. Looking up the Greek words for save, justify, sanctify, forgive and their cognates leads to the following list of things
Romans 1:16, the gospel and belief Romans 4:24, belief in God Romans 10:9, confession that Jesus is Lord, heart-felt belief that God raised Him from the dead Romans 10:10, belief, confession Romans 10:13, calling on the name of the Lord 1 Corinthians 1:21, preaching 1 Corinthians 15:2, holding firm to the gospel 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance Ephesians 1:13, hearing the word of truth Ephesians 5:26, washing with water through the word (i.e. baptism) 2 Thessalonians 2:10, love of the truth 2 Thessalonians 2:13, belief in the truth 1 Timothy 4:16, persevering in (righteous) living and (true) doctrine Titus 3:5, washing of rebirth (i.e. baptism) James 1:21, accepting the word James 2:14, a working faith 1 Peter 3:21, baptism Note: The Gospels have deliberately been left out of the above list to avoid any possible confusion about whether any particular statement is applicable only under the Old Covenant.
Note: It is good to keep in mind that Romans is written to those who were already Christians. Therefore, the primary application of specific statements in Romans 10 might not be in regard to initially receiving pardon from sin. For example, while reading the statement in 10:9 about confessing Jesus as Lord, a Roman Christian would probably have thought of the “oath of loyalty” which citizens were forced to make to the Roman emperors, not salvation from sin.
That does not mean, however, that the principle does not hold for the sinner seeking pardon.
3) Derived by exegesis. The Bible not only contains example and direct statements concerning how people are saved, but also contains detailed teaching on the subject. Perhaps the most comprehensive explanation of need for salvation, both God’s provision of it and man’s response to God’s provision, is found in the book of Romans. Foundational material is also found in several other of the New Testament books, particularly Galatians and
V. Putting It All Together From the information collected above it is now possible to outline what God requires from a person in order to receive the forgiveness of sin. It is essential to note that each of the items mentioned works in conjunction with every other as part of a whole rather than being several means of accomplishing the same end. In other words, it is not enough to merely repent or to merely listen to the word. One must listen to the word and repent and do all of the rest also in
order to receive salvation. Salvation results when one:
7) Confesses. In its full sense, confession includes the acknowledgment that Jesus is: a) the Son of God, b) the Christ and c) Lord. (see Acts 8:37, Matthew 16:16-17, Acts 2:36, Philippians 2:9-11) To confess Jesus is the Son of God recognizes His deity. To confess Him as the Christ recognizes that He has been anointed to be Prophet, Priest and King. To confess Jesus is Lord recognizes the divine authority vested in Him both by inherited right as descendant of David and by appointed position. Confession is not merely the acknowledgment of fact but implies the intention and willingness to submit oneself to Jesus in the roles being confessed. Scripture is not clear as to how much a person must actually understand about Jesus’ various offices before salvation is granted. But it would seem that a recognition of His Sonship, and therefore His deity, and the willingness to submit to Him as Ruler (i.e. Lord or King) would be the minimum.
8) Is baptized. Baptism plays a crucial role in the salvation process. According to Scripture, baptism is associated with the action of, or the receiving of, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:28-39, Acts 19:1-5, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Titus 3:5). It is a participation in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-7, Colossians 2:11-12, 1 Peter 3:21). Through baptism the “sinful nature” (NIV) is “put off” (Colossians 2:11-12) and rebirth occurs (compare Titus 3:5 with John 3:3-8). It is the “pledge of a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). It is through baptism that a person becomes part of the “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13) i.e. the Church. It is in, or through, baptism that a person receives a new identity by being baptized “into Christ” and being “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-28). In other words, it seems that baptism is the defining moment at which one becomes a Christian.