Norcot Mission Church.
Assignment: The Doctrine of Salvation (Soteriology)
Task: Summarise the New Testament teaching on the gospel recording it’s various and essential elements/facets/component parts. Comment on its Old Testaments roots.
Submitted to: Fingland Dent & John Savage
Presented by: Harrison Mungai Macharia,
Careforce volunteer 2005/2006.
Table of contents
4. Definition of Soteriology
5. New Testament Teaching on the gospel
6. The Sin and fall of man
7. The Sovereignty of God in salvation
8. The election to Salvation
9. The Redemptive work of Christ
10. The Atonement.
11. Reconciliation: Conversion and Regeneration.
12. Assurance of Salvation
13. The Justification of the elect
14. The Adoption of the elect into Gods family
15. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
16. The perseverance of saints.
17. Glorification into eternity.
18. Theories on salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism
I wish to thank the following individuals who have been of great help through the five or so months that it has taken to prepare this paper. Without their contribution, this project would not have been a success
The Lord Jesus Christ for grace, mercy and provisions that have sustained me in his Kingdom this far, for the gift of life and the opportunities that have come up with it.
Fingland Dent, Who gave the original task and for resources you availed for my use, for agreeing to go through the work and give a review.
Dr John Savage, for the many evenings we have spent sharing information and for access to your Library.
David and Janet Riley, for peace and security at ‘home’ and for the use your computer. For many arguments and access to many reference books.
To my family back in Kenya, who have been patient all this while, when I am doing my Careforce year in the UK
To Careforce, for admitting me to their volunteer programme in which this was an important contribution for my training and equipping for Christian ministry.
And to many others who, in one way or another have shaped my thought and character and whom I would not all name, you are most sincerely appreciated.
This work is dedicated to Rhodah Wangui Muchunu, with whom, God willing, we will seek ….To know the scriptures deeply and fully embrace the mystery of salvation.
Glossary of Key terms used
Atonement – The making of reparation for a sin or a mistake; the reconciliation between God and people brought about by the death of Jesus Christ
Adoption – a formal/ legal process to adopt a child, gaining the legal status as children of God.
Conversion – a change in the nature, form, or function of something, an adoption of new opinions or beliefs, especially in religion
Election – the fact of being chosen by God, or God’s act of choosing somebody for salvation, a task, or special favour
Expiation- Expiation means purging out, washing away, covering, making reparation or satisfaction; especially by suffering a penalty such as expiating a crime. Paying the penalty implies the securing of remission.
Gospel- the Good news, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the story of his life
Guilt- The word guilt expresses two things; first, blameworthiness, pollution, moral turpitude, criminality; second, liability to punishment or penalty.
Imputation – The act of accusing somebody of something, or of attributing a result to a particular cause. Imputation means to charge to one’s account.
Justification – Legal absolution from all sin and guilt through faith in Jesus Christ.
Propitiation- to appease or conciliate somebody or something Propitiation means to render favorable one who has been offended. Guilt is expiated [covered or taken away] and God propitiated [satisfied].
Reconciliation – the ending of conflict or renewing of a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups, Reconciliation means bringing into harmony or agreement.
Perseverance – steady and continued action or belief, usually over a long period and especially despite difficulties or setbacks,
Redemption – Deliverance from the sins of humanity by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross
Regeneration – the personal spiritual renewal of an individual
Repentance – a feeling of regret or contrition for having done something wrong
Sanctification – to make something holy, to free somebody from sin
Vicarious – Vicarious means substitutionary; a vicar is a substitute or one who takes another’s place.
The subject of Salvation is far beyond scholarly investigation in the sense that it is a divine work. Many a scholar have attempted to reduce it to a particular structure. Whereas it is important for the church to clearly understand how it all works out, It is also easy to go overboard and get preoccupied with the How aspect of it leaving out the more important what question. Yet it is worthwhile to explore and attempt to establish the principles and systems that God has laid for the salvation of mankind to his Glory.
I have sought to remain true to the gospel as presented in the scripture and tried to avoid taking sides with the different views available. It is fair to mention that some of the thoughts expressed in this assignment are not originally mine and that the paper has not/ will not be presented to any academic institution leading to any scholarly award. The work is not intended for publishing and has been done simply out of an interest to understand and apply scripture.
Many have trod this path before and I have relied heavily on their works. A full bibliography is available at the end of the document. The World Wide Web has also been a great resource.
I consider it a great opportunity to have, albeit in a little way, attempted to study how we have / are being / will be saved. I must state that my investigation is not conclusive and that a lot still needs to be done, this is just a humble submission.
The term “soteriology” comes from two Greek terms, namely, ‘soter’ meaning “saviour” or “deliverer” and ‘logos’ meaning “word,” “matter,” or “thing.” In Christian systematic theology it is used to refer to the study of the biblical doctrine of salvation. It often includes such topics as the nature and extent of the atonement as well as the entire process of salvation.
Salvation is conceived to be the eternal, divine plan designed to rescue the lost and erring sinners and bring them back into eternal fellowship with God. It is the primary theme in Scripture with the glory of God as its goal.
The word “salvation” communicates the thought of deliverance, safety, preservation, soundness, restoration, and healing. In theology, however, its major use is to denote a work of God on behalf of men, and as such it is a major doctrine of the Bible which includes redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, conviction, repentance, faith, regeneration, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, preservation, and glorification. On the one hand, salvation is described as the work of God rescuing man from his lost estate. On the other hand salvation describes the estate of a man who has been saved and who is vitally renewed and made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints.”
According to the broadest meaning as used in Scripture, the term salvation encompasses the total work of God by which He seeks to rescue man from the ruin, doom, and power of sin and bestows upon him the wealth of His grace encompassing eternal life, provision for abundant life now, and eternal glory (Eph. 1:3-8; 2:4-10; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; John 3:16, 36; 10:10).
In general, Soteriology embraces God’s purpose to save, the Person and work of the Redeemer, and the application of redemption by the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of men.
New Testament teaching on the Gospel and its OT roots.
The New Testament is the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises, hopes, aspirations and prophecies concerning the messiah, Jesus Christ. The Gospel, meaning good news is an account of the life and times of Jesus through whom the salvation of Jews and by extension all mankind was to be found. The four gospels tell the same story from different viewpoints with amazing accuracy and consistency.
Clearly, Jesus stated his purpose and mission: He came to the world to save sinners. He came to seek and save the lost. He boldly stated that he was the way the truth and the life and that no one could go to the father except through him. In Summary the New Testament underscores the following aspects of soteriology, which I shall attempt to discuss tracing them through scripture.
The Sin and Fall of Man
Since the original sin in Genesis, the Bible is consistent that man is sinful and fallen. Sin creates a barrier between God and man hindering access to God. Galatians teaches us that man is shut out from God because he is under sin. Romans 3:23 declares that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In Isaiah 59:1-2 the prophet said, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” Isaiah was reminding Israel that though God has the ability and desire to deliver men, He cannot act contrary to nor bypass His perfect holiness.
This is true for the unbeliever who can only come to God through Christ who alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). It is also true for the believer in Christ. Even though they are saved and have access to God in Christ, fellowship with God as His children is broken by known sin which must first be confessed so that fellowship can be restored and God can answer prayer (Ps. 66:18).
The barrier of sin is one of the reasons why God, in His sovereign love, gave His Son to die on the cross for man’s sin.
There are three aspects of sin:
Imputed Sin: Romans 5:12 teaches imputed sin. Adam is the representative head of the human race and because of our natural relationship to him; his sin is imputed, reckoned, to the entire human race. God views the human race as though we all sinned in Adam or with Adam. But in this we also see God’s grace as Paul explains in Romans 5:12-18, for just as Adam’s sin was imputed to every human being as a descendent of Adam because of Adam’s one act of sin, so Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all who become children of God by faith in Christ because of His one act of righteousness (Rom. 5:16-18). As such, Adam was a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14).
Inherited Sin: The Bible teaches the fact that, as the posterity of Adam, every child is born with a sinful nature inherited from his parents. Many passages of Scripture refer to this principle. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, all are dead in sin and are “by nature the children of wrath.” Other important verses in support of this are:
Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.
Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
The vital principle here is that men do not sin and hence become sinners, rather they sin because they are sinners.
Individual or Personal Sin: This refers to the products of the sinful nature of inherited sin, the actual deeds or acts of sin which all men do because they are sinful (Rom. 3:18, 23).
The Penalty of Sin
Because God is holy and man is sinful, God’s perfect justice must act against man to charge him as guilty and under the penalty of sin with a debt to pay, and a sentence to serve. Thus, the Law of the Old Testament shows man as guilty and under the penalty of sin. This is clear from the following passages:
Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Galatians 3:19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made.
Galatians 3:22 but the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
As a further by-product of sin, other things automatically occur, which compound the problem and add to the barrier and the impossibility of salvation apart from Christ.
Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 15:22 that “in Adam all die”. Man’s position in Adam brings spiritual death, eventually physical death, and ultimately eternal death—eternal separation from God. Romans 6:23 tells us “the wages of sin is death,” and in Romans 5:12 we read “therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Death is the awesome consequence of sin (. Gen. 2:17; 1 Cor. 15:21, 56; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13).
Death, whether physical or spiritual, is a product of man’s position in Adam and his own personal sin. This means that man in himself is without spiritual life and spiritual capacity. The result of this is spiritual failure. No matter how hard he tries he fails and falls short of God’s holy character. Men simply cannot save themselves no matter how hard they try or no matter how sincere they are.
So man is not only separated from God by sin, by God’s holy character, and by the penalty of sin, but he is faced with the problem of spiritual death and the need of spiritual life. Being spiritually dead, man needs spiritual life and eternal life which can only come through the new birth and a new position in Christ as the source of life.
The Sovereignty of God
One foundational principle on which the doctrine of Soteriology rests that God is sovereign. It is helpful to understand that God’s rule is sovereign and as Creator, Ruler, and Saviour. He underlies all the provisions of salvation. Man as his creature, has a responsibility to his Creator but he has the capacity for good and bad.
It is clear that the Law of God requires perfect obedience and God as a perfect Being cannot require less than perfection in His Moral Law.
♦ Matthew 5:48 “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
♦ 1 Peter 1:16 “It is written: Be ye holy for I am holy.”
♦ John 5:17 “All unrighteousness is sin.”
The Law of God cannot be lowered or eliminated to accommodate man’s weakness for to diminish or abrogate God’s Law is to tarnish God’s essential nature. The Law must be met to the last letter. Furthermore, It can be argued that mercy cannot infringe on justice else there would be disharmony among the attributes of God’s being. There is an urgent necessity for a cleansing Atonement that expresses justice and mercy alike while maintaining the harmony of the Divine nature.
The Covenant of Redemption
Biblical revelation is clear that in matchless grace, God did not leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery. Out of His mere good pleasure, and for all of eternity, God did elect some to everlasting life. God entered into a Covenant of Grace with the elect to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer. There is Scriptural evidence that a Covenant of Redemption was made between the Father and the Son.
♦ John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me.”
♦ John 6:39 “Of all that He hat given men I should lose none.”
♦ John 8:42 “Neither came I of myself, but He sent me.”
♦ John 10:29 “My Father who gave them to me,”
The plan of the Covenant of Redemption was to save man by a Redeemer, who should become a Substitute, bear the penalty of sin, fulfill all the demands of God’s Law, justify or acquit the sinner on condition of faith, restore the soul to God’s favor, sanctify it wholly and glorify it forever. This Covenant of Redemption was made in eternity, but takes effect in time. It first appears in human history after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden when a Redeemer was promised (Gen. 3:15).
The Covenant of Grace
Issuing from the Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son is the Covenant of Grace between man and God.
“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, and this He hath been pleased to express by way of a covenant ( Luke 17:10; Job 15:7,8).
Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a Covenant of Grace wherein He freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him that they may be saved; and promising to give to all who are ordained to eternal life His Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe
( Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10; Rom. 3:20,21; Rom. 8:3; Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16; Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45; Psa. 110:3).
This covenant is revealed in the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterward by further steps until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtained life and blessed immortality, man Being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms by which Adam stood in his state of innocence” Gen. 3:15; Heb. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:6,13; Rom. 4:1,2; Acts 4:12; John 8:56;
-The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter 7, Sections 1, 2, 3).
The Plan of Salvation is always presented as a covenant, with parties, conditions, promises, and penalties.
The Covenant of Grace is the same in all dispensations [periods of time], patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian. To Adam was given the promise of a Redeemer. Rites and sacrifices were instituted to prefigure the Atonement. To Noah after the flood the covenant was renewed. With Abraham and his seed the covenant was re-established. Moses and Israel embraced that covenant as a national obligation. The gospel in the New Testament is still the proclamation of the covenant. The condition is the same in all dispensations and that is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as He is revealed in every generation. In the Old Testament era, Jesus Christ was revealed as the Messiah that was to come (Isa. 53). In the New Testament era Jesus Christ was and is revealed as the One who has come. And there it is: faith in a Redeemer to come holds the same place as faith in a Redeemer who has already come. Christ is the Redeemer in all dispensations. The Old Testament saints were saved, not by the works of the Law (Rom. 3:20), but by faith in a Redeemer to come (Zech. 12:10-11). “For if the inheritance is of the Law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Gal. 3:18)
Election unto Salvation
God in eternity decreed to save souls, this divine choice necessitated all the preparations involved in the salvation process. Without divine preparation of the heart, an individual could not exercise any choice at all in a positive direction towards the Lord.
The term “election” refers to God’s choice, before creation, of those individuals from the mass of humanity whom he would bless by delivering them from eternal condemnation and granting them eternal life. It is a choice that cannot be frustrated in any way as it is grounded in Trinitarian resolve.
“Election signifies to single out, to select, to choose, to take one and leave another. Election means that God has singled out certain ones to be the objects of His saving grace, while others are left to suffer the just punishment of their sins. It means that before the foundation of the world, God chose out of the mass of our fallen humanity a certain number and predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
– A.W. Pink
The term “unconditional” coupled with “election” means that God’s choice had nothing do to with any foreseen merit of any kind in the objects of his choice. He chose them unconditionally; he freely chose unworthy sinners because of his love not because they in some way merited salvation since men are dead in sin and unable to believe or save themselves (Rom 3:9-11; Eph 2:1). Men believe because God has chosen them. From beginning to end, Scripture is clear that God saves men and they, left to themselves, would never turn to him; indeed, they are unable (John 6:65; Acts 13:48; Rom 9:15-16, 20-22). Those who believe in Christ believe because of God’s work in their hearts.
Scriptural evidence for election is abundant.
ÿ Acts 15:14 “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.”
ÿ Ephesians 1:4 “Accordingly as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
ÿ Ephesians 1:5 “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,”
ÿ John 15:16 “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen”
ÿ John 15:19 “I have chosen you out of the world,”
ÿ Romans 8:29 “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.”
ÿ Romans 8:30 “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.”
ÿ 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.”
ÿ 1 Peter 1:2 “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience.”
ÿ 1 Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:”
ÿ Isaiah 41:9 “Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”
ÿ John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;”
ÿ John 6:44 “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:
ÿ Acts 13:48 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the LORD: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
ÿ Romans. 11:15 “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
ÿ Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
These passages and others show that God elects individuals to salvation. The election is a personal election (not general).
The Redemptive work of Christ: Atonement
Throughout the history of the church a number of different views regarding the nature of the atonement (the theological significance of Christ’s death) have been advanced.
The Recapitulation view was advanced by Irenaeus (ca. 120-ca. 200). In this view Christ sums up all humanity in himself in that he went through all the stages of human life, without succumbing to temptation in any way, died, and then rose from the dead. The benefits of his life, death, and resurrection are then available to all who participate in Him through faith.
The Example or Moral Influence view has been advanced by theologians such as Pelagius (ca. 400), Faustus and Laelius Socinus (16th century), and Abelard (1079-1142). Though they are different, their essential agreement consists in arguing that the cross demonstrates how much God loves us and this, then, awakens a response of love in our hearts; we then live as Jesus himself lived. While there is biblical support for this idea (e.g., Phil 2: 6-11; 1 Pet 2:21), it is incomplete as it stands and fails to recognize the more crucial aspects of scriptural teaching on the issue.
Ransom to Satan view. Origen (185-254) was one of the chief proponents of this understanding which asserts that Christ’s death was a ransom paid to Satan to secure the release of his hostages, i.e., sinful men and women. While ransom language is used in Scripture to refer to the atonement (e.g., Mark 10:45), it is probably incorrect to include in this the idea that a “price” was paid to Satan, for nowhere in Scripture is such an idea suggested.
Divine Triumph or Dramatic view Forwarded by a Swedish theologian Gustav Aul (1879-1977) this view argues for an act of the atonement, similar to the ransom theories of Origen and the early church. In this view, God overcame all the powers of hell and death through the cross and in doing so made visible his reconciling love to men. This too has some biblical support, but it is unlikely that it adequately summarizes all of scriptural revelation on this issue.
Satisfaction or Commercial view mainly proposed by Anselm (1033-1109), this view argues that man has dishonoured God by his sin and that through the death of the perfect, sinless God-man, Jesus Christ, that honour and more—including Satan’s defeat—has been restored to God. This theory also finds support in scripture, but more than God’s honour was restored through the death of his son.
Governmental view of the atonement, advanced by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), places a high value on the justice of God and the demand of his holy law. In this view, the death of Christ upholds God’s moral government in that it demonstrates His utter commitment to His holy law. He could have forgiven men, however, without the death of Christ, but this would have left men without the true knowledge of His commitment to His Law. The death of Christ, then, is not as a substitute for us, but rather God’s statement about what he thinks about his moral government of the universe.
This view has much to commend it, but as a global theory it simply cannot account for the tight connection between three important facts in Scripture: (1) the reconciliation of the believing sinner; (2) the forgiveness of sin; and (3) the death of Christ. Peter says that “Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18; cf. Rom 5:8).
Penal Substitution view of the atonement—the view most often associated with the Reformers, in particular, Calvin—argues that Christ died in the sinner’s place and appeased the wrath of God toward sin. Thus there are a cluster of ideas in this view including redemption (ransom), sacrifice, substitution, propitiation, and reconciliation, Though there are tensions in this view, and though the other views each contribute important insights to the idea of Christ’s atonement in the NT, this one perhaps rests on the best scriptural support, and brings together the holiness and love of God, the nature and sacrifice of Christ, and the sinfulness of man in a way that all are properly maintained. It is important, however, that the valid insights from the other views not be lost or eclipsed by this model.
The Atonement is the central fact of Christianity. The Atonement was the subject of the first promise to man in Genesis 3:15. Christ said, “To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world” (John 18:37).
The Atonement and the Trinity
The Atonement is equally the expression of all persons of the Godhead. All views that place Father and Son in any degree of opposition, as if the Father had to be placated at the expense of the Son, are misleading and mischievous in their tendency. The Son is equally involved with the Father in the expression of His justice; and the Father is equally involved with the Son in the expression of His love and sacrifice. The Atonement expresses the entire Godhead with all the Divine attributes.
The Main Features of the Atonement
The Atonement Was Sacrificial
Christ’s sacrifice was more than the sacrifice of a martyr. A man might be a martyr to a good cause, and His example very praiseworthy; but that sacrifice would make no Atonement for sin. The meaning of Christ’s death is miles deeper than mere martyrdom. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were types of Christ’s sacrifice, and whatever they meant, Christ’s death must also mean. As they were sacrifices for sin, so Christ’s death was a sacrifice for sin.
John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming unto him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.”
1 Corinthians 5:7 “Purge out therefore the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:”
Hebrews 7:27 “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”
Hebrews 9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Hebrews 9:23 “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”
Hebrews 9:26 “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Hebrews 10:12 “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;”
The Atonement Was Expiatory
In the Atonement, Christ paid the penalty of sin, fulfilled the Law, satisfied justice, and secured remission for sins. Proof is derived from the Old Testament. The sacrificial rites of the Old Testament show how penalty was exacted, and remission and forgiveness declared. Leviticus 4 and 6 describe the sacrificial Atonement for sin.
Leviticus 1:4 “And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make Atonement for him. This placing of the hand on the head showed the transfer of the guilt by the one offering the sacrifice.”
Leviticus 4:3-4 “If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering. And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock’s head, and kill the bullock before the LORD.”
Leviticus 4:22 “When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;”
Leviticus 4:31 “And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savor unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an Atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.”
These passages show that sin is expiated by sacrifice and forgiven. Other passages concerning the Passover shows how all were delivered who were behind the blood. Leviticus 16 gives the rites of the Day of the Atonement. All point to expiation and removal of sin. The rites on the great Day of Atonement included the sprinkling of blood on the mercy seat, showing how the blood stood between the Law and the sinner. The Law cursed the transgressor, but the blood removed the curse.
Leviticus 16:8-10 “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an Atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an Atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an Atonement for the soul.”
2 Chronicles 29:23 “And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them:”
2 Chronicles 29:24 “And the priests killed them, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.”
Reconciliation: Conversion and Regeneration
If election, regeneration, justification and glorification describe objective aspects of salvation, that is, God’s work in salvation, then conversion describes the human or the subjective response to God’s gracious working. Conversion involves hearing the pure gospel and mixing it with saving faith and genuine repentance. Thus conversion has two closely related aspects to it: faith and repentance. Faith itself involves understanding the message of salvation through Christ, agreeing with it, and personally trusting him to save you.
An essential element of that trust is repentance from known sin. This involves a turning from sin to Christ for forgiveness. Thus saving faith is penitent and genuine repentance is believing; it is not just worldly sorrow (Acts 20:21; Heb 6:1; 2 Cor 7:10). Faith is not just mental assent and neither is biblical repentance.
In many passages just believing is mentioned (e.g., John 3:16; 5:24; Rom 3:22) and in many others only repentance is mentioned (e.g., Luke 24:46-47; Acts 3:19; 17:30; Rom 2:4). A genuine response to the gospel involves both elements. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. Together they picture for us a genuine response to God’s gracious offer of forgiveness in Christ.
Regeneration is often referred to as the “new birth” (“born again”) and is outlined for us in three principle texts, namely, John 1:12-13; 3:3, and Titus 3:5 (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3). It is a once-for-all act of God’s Spirit (indeed, every member of the trinity is said to be involved in one way or another), not of human will or because of good deeds, whereby a person is renewed spiritually and made alive in Christ; they become a child of God and are “born” into his family and enjoy his special fatherhood. It is a gracious work of the Spirit in keeping with the promises of the New Covenant and is inscrutable from a human standpoint, though its effects are obvious: love for God that cries out “Abba” Father, prayer in dependence on God, hatred for sin, and love for other Christians as well as those without Christ. Regeneration logically proceeds saving faith, for those who are dead in sin cannot believe. No one can enter the kingdom of God, Jesus said, unless he is born again (John 3:5).
Union with Christ
The expression “in Christ” (and its derivatives) is used in the NT to express our union with Christ as believers. It encompasses the whole spectrum of our salvation from its conception in the mind of God to its consummation in the new heavens and the new earth. Our election was “in Christ” (Eph 1:4) and so are all the ensuing benefits, namely, our calling, redemption regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification (Rom 8:29-30, 38-39; 1 Cor 1:30; John 15:1-11; 1 John 2:5-6). Our entire present experience and future destiny is “in Christ.”
Our experience of death to sin and resurrection to new life is in light of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Thus, not only are we “in Christ” but he (as well as the Father and the Spirit) is also in us (John 14:23) and through His indwelling Spirit we are sanctified in Christ and increasingly conformed/transformed to his image (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). And, all believers are “one body” in Christ Jesus which itself is a spiritual reality that should give rise to zealous efforts to develop unity (not disunity or uniformity) among true believers (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 10:17; Eph 4:4).
Assurance of Salvation
Romans 8:1 assures that for all that are ‘in Christ Jesus’ there is no condemnation. All who have believed in Christ have the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16) and can know they have it (1 Jn. 5:12-13). But scripture also warns those who have professed faith in Christ against a ‘dead faith’ that is no more than mere words. It is not those who profess Christ but those who possess him who can know they have the gift of eternal life: ‘He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life’ (1 Jn. 5:12; Jn. 1:12). Without practical holiness, no man will see the Lord (Heb. 12:15).
Peter, Paul, James, John and Jesus all warned against a false or spurious faith (2 Pet. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Js. 2:14-26; 1 Jn. 2:3-4; Jn. 8:30-34) and the repeated admonition of scripture is for self examination — to make our calling and election sure: ‘Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you— unless you fail the test?’ (2 Cor. 13:5).
It is possible to have orthodoxy of doctrine, outward religious conformity and be lost. Assurance is a ministry of the Holy Spirit It is not the place of a preacher or teacher to give assurance of salvation to anyone. We may assure an individual that if he comes to Christ in repentance and faith he will be received: ‘All that the Father gives me shall come to me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out’ (Jn. 6:37). This is Christ’s own promise. But it is fulfilled only to those who come on his terms.
Assurance in scripture is given to the one who has truly received Christ, evidenced by the manifestation of his/her character. This is the purpose of the book of 1 John. John tells his readers that a profession of faith in Christ is meaningless without a corresponding holiness of life. Those who know Christ will keep his commandments (1 Jn. 2:3-4). John tells his readers how to test themselves to see if they really know God, are ‘in Christ’ and therefore abide in him.
Justification of the elect
The doctrine of justification is crucial to a proper view of the gospel. Several things should be noted briefly about this doctrine.
First, Justification refers to a legal declaration by God that our sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven through Christ and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.
Second, it is a once-for-all decision to declare (not make) us righteous in his sight so that there remains no longer any legal recourse or accusation against us.
This is the meaning Paul intends when he asks in Romans 8:33-34: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.”
Third, since justification involves forgiveness of sin and dealing with actual condemnation, it ultimately settles the question of our guilt; we are no longer in a state of guilt.
Fourth, we possess, in God’s sight, the righteousness of Christ, and since God views it this way, this is indeed reality. It is not fiction, but real, though the doctrine of justification does not deal directly with practice, but standing before God’s holy law. Our standing has been forever changed and we are no longer guilty; the law no longer has recourse against us.
Fifth, justification comes through faith and not by works as Paul makes clear in Romans 3:26-28; 4:4-5. We do not earn this standing, but rather it is credited to our account through faith in Christ.
Sixth, it is dangerous to the purity of the gospel of God’s grace to introduce ideas of moral improvement into the doctrine of justification. While justification is related inextricably to sanctification, they are not the same reality and should not be confused. Justification does not mean that God infuses righteousness into us in order to prepare us to receive his grace. Justification deals with our legal standing and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us; it does not refer directly to our day to day growth in the Lord.
Adoption refers to God’s decision to make us members of his family and to offer us all the benefits and (ethical) standards involved in living “under his roof.” If justification deals with my legal standing before God as a sinner, then adoption deals with my familial relationship to the judge; I am now one of his own children through adoption (Gal 3:26) and he has become my Father.
In many different texts, the New Testament claims that God is our special Father through the gospel and that we are his children. It is in the context of this new relationship that we receive many, great blessings.
First, God is our Father, the one who cares for us and all our needs. He is the one Jesus enjoined us to pray to, for our “heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask” (Matt 6:25-34).
Second, He forgives us when we confess our sin, for he is both a Father who is holy but who also understands our weaknesses and draws alongside to help in time of need (Matt 6:12-14).
Third, He disciplines us and chastens us for our sin so that we might share in his holiness (Heb 12:10). He loves us so much that he will not let us wander forever, but will draw us back to his side. Indeed, by His Spirit he leads us into greater experiences of his holiness and this is essentially what it means to be a son or daughter of God (Rom 8:14).
Finally, it is through our sonship that we become heirs of Christ, and of God, and of all that eternal life has in store for us, including suffering in the present life (Gal 4:7; Rom 8:17).
Adoption leads to a new kind of life in God’s family. We are to imitate our Father who loved us with such a great love. We are to love others according to the example he set for us (Eph 5:1; 1 Pet 1:15-16). Through regeneration we are transformed morally and spiritually so that we can live like sons of God and not like slaves who do not know their masters.
Sanctification is the process of transformation into the image of Christ and the cause of this glorious change is the Spirit living in us (2 Cor 3:18). He mediates the presence of Christ to us and unfolds the moral will of God to us (John 16:13-14; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19-20). The Spirit uses the people of God (Col 3:16), the word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17), circumstances God ordains to mould and shape us (Rom 8:28), and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt 28:19-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26). We are on his potter’s wheel, not a treadmill; relationship, transformation, and holiness are the goals, not exhaustion.
Sanctification can be spoken of in three tenses. With respect to the past, we have been set apart, both to belong to God, positionally speaking, and to serve him, practically speaking. We were sanctified at the moment of conversion and were declared legally holy and belonging to the Lord (1 Cor 6:11).
With respect to the future, we will be totally sanctified someday in our glorified bodies. At that time our practice will completely match our position or standing before God. At the present time we are being sanctified, that is, increasingly being transformed into the image of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18). Thus the nature of sanctification is transformation; we are being progressively conformed into the image of the Son who died for us. This is God’s decreed purpose (Rom 8:29).
The purpose for which the Spirit is aiming in our lives is Christ- likeness and the degree to which we are conformed to him is the degree to which we are sanctified. The fruit that should characterize our lives, then, ought to be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:23-24).
The root of this transformation lies in our co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Christ (Rom 6:3-4), and the process is never completed in this life (Phil 3:12-13). Nonetheless, we shoot for perfection (1 Peter 1:15-16), knowing that such will not be the case until the Saviour comes from heaven to transform our lowly bodies (Phil 3:20). Until then, the process is colored by struggle against the world (1 John 2:15-16), the flesh (Rom 8:6-7; Gal 5:17), and the devil (Eph 6:12).
Our role in the process of sanctification relates directly only to the present time. It involves mortifying the deeds of the body – putting to death those things that belong to our earthly (carnal) natures (Col 3:5) and conversely, putting on Christ (Rom 13:14). If, by the Spirit, we put to death the misdeeds of the body, we will certainly enjoy all the power, comforts, and joys of the spiritual life (Rom 8:13). We must remember in our struggle against sin (and, for righteousness), however, that we live in relationship with God on the solid foundation of justification. Though we strive to please him, it is not so that he will become our Father and takes us in; rather it is because he has already declared his Fatherhood over us and because he is the One who works in us to this end. Again, our responsibility can be summed up in the word: “cooperation.” God is the one who works in us both “the willing and the doing” (Phil 2:12-13).
The perseverance of saints is really the idea of sanctification taken through the whole of a person’s life. If God is the author of their salvation, he is also the finisher of it. As Paul says, he will bring to completion the good work he has begun in Christ (Phil 1:6). Since faith itself is a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9), God enables believers by the power of the Spirit to persevere in their trust and to continually move toward Christ-likeness, even if for a long while they err in sin. God does not revoke his call, nor annul the justification he has put in place (Rom 11:32). Those whom he has called…he also glorified (Rom 8:30). He will never let his own perish (John 10:28-30).
Perseverance means that the Spirit is persevering with us in order to bring about the fruit of the Spirit in us. He has been doing this from the beginning since we were at one time dead in sin when he breathed regenerating life into us. We are no more sinful now, than we were then. Our election is unto holiness and glorification and the Trinitarian plan cannot be thwarted (Eph 1:4; Rom 8:30). We must also note that not every one who claims to be a believer is a believer, and therefore to be saved. Hence the warnings by several scriptural writers… Many will say to Him on that day, “Lord, Lord,” and he will say to them, “Depart from me, for I never knew you” (Matt 7:21-23). Therefore, just because a person claims to believe in Jesus does not mean that they do. The doctrine of persecution refers only to those who are truly born-again and who therefore persevere to the end. Scripture and history are full of examples of Christians who had to pay a great price for their faith, including through death itself.
Glorification is the moment at which the life of God is strikingly manifested is us when we receive our resurrected bodies and are perfectly fitted for existence in the eternal state. This will be a series of events as studied in the doctrine of the last things (Eschatology). Resurrection of the dead will be the great event and the judgement of sinners. There may be some similarity between our mortal bodies and our glorified bodies, as the example of Jesus after his resurrection demonstrates ( John 21:4), It will be patterned after Christ’s own resurrection body (1 Cor 15:49). In these glorified bodies there will be perfect concord between desire and fulfilment in terms of our obedience and service to our great King. Our experience of God will be one of complete fulfilment as well. At that time we will be able to worship and praise God in a way he rightfully deserves. The eternal fellowship between God and his people will be fully restored and man will once again walk in the sight of God.
Main Views on Salvation
A study of soteriology cannot be complete without a look at the two main theories of salvation – Calvinism and Arminianism. The question is often asked is, “For whom did Christ die?” Both views give answers that appear to enjoy support from Scripture, tradition, and logic. They are: that “he died for all men” (the general redemption view) and that “he died only for the elect” (the limited or particular redemption view). It is not exactly right to say that Christ died to save the entire world in the sense that every last man will go to heaven on the basis of his death. But it is true to say that his death was sufficient for the salvation of all men.
Both sides in this dispute agree that the gospel can and should be genuinely offered to all men, that it is sufficient for the salvation of every man, but that not all men will be saved. In the end, however, it seems that the most consistent summary of the Biblical evidence is that Christ died for the elect only. In this way, he paid the penalty for the sins of the elect only and all other people will pay for their own sins in eternal destruction. In this scheme there is unity in the workings of the Godhead in that the Father elects certain ones in eternity past, Christ dies for them in history (he does not die for all men, only for those the Father has chosen), and the Spirit applies that death to the elect and keeps them until the day of Christ. We get that in Ephesians 1:3-14 and John 17:9. In the case of particular or limited atonement, then, the term “world” in Scripture (e.g., John 3:16) does not mean all without exception, but all without distinction and the term “bought” in 2 Peter 2:1 does not ultimately mean actually “bought”, but only that God is the rightful owner of these men though they deny this by their teaching (cf. Deut 32:6).
Forwarded by John Calvin, it emphasizes that salvation comes through faith in God, and also that God has already chosen those who will believe and be saved.
The starting point for Calvinist/Reformed theology is that God is sovereign and decrees certain things. …My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.… What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do… (Isa. 46:10, 11)
Total Depravity: As a result of Adam’s sin, people are born in a “depraved” state. This means that although people may do things that are good, they are constitutionally unable to submit themselves to the gospel.
(Rom. 3:11, 12). . . there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless. . .
(John 6:44, 65) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day….. (65)And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
Unconditional Election: Because of total depravity, salvation is completely dependent on God’s choice to bestow it. For his own good reasons, God sovereignly chooses which individuals he will save. “Unconditional” in this context means that there are no conditions that humans must meet, including faith. Faith is a gift of God (ROM 12:3; Eph. 2:8). If human-generated faith plays a part in salvation, salvation is not entirely by grace.
(Eph. 1:4,5) He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. (5) In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will. . .
(1 Pet. 2:8). . . they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
(ROM 9:16, 18, 22-24) So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. . . (18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires . . . (22) What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (23) And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (24) even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
“Double predestination” (also called reprobation) means that God predestines the elect to heaven, and that he predestines the non-elect to hell (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; ROM 9:22, 23). “… God does not create everyone in the same condition, but ordains eternal life for some and eternal damnation for others.” – John Calvin (Cited in Alister McGrath, Christian Theology, p. 396)
Limited Atonement: Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect. Calvinists infer this from the passages that say that Christ died “for his people” (Matt 1:21; John 10:11, 15, 26-27; John 15:13; Acts 20:28). Since God sovereignly elected some to salvation, he sent Christ to die only for them. Not all Calvinists hold to limited atonement.
Irresistible Grace: God’s grace in salvation includes imparting saving faith to the elect. This grace is irresistible since it does not depend on human will (ROM 9:16; Jn. 6:37, 44, 65; 15:16). God causes the elect to believe the gospel (Acts 13:48), even though they may not be aware of this fact.
(Jn. 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.
(Acts 13:48) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Perseverance of the Saints: Because election depends on God, those who are elected cannot lose their salvation. However, the elect will show evidence of their election by continuing to believe in Christ and manifesting good works consistent with salvation (2 Pet. 1:10; Heb. 3:6,14; Col. 1:23).
(2 Pet. 1:10) Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.
(Heb. 3:6, 14) Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. . . For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.
Implications for Evangelism
“Since Christ has elected people to salvation, I can persevere in witnessing with the confidence that I will be fruitful.” Bill Bright, and many other effective missionaries have been motivated in this way. “If God has already decided who will be saved and irresistibly calls them, does it really matter whether I witness or not?” This was the logic of those who told William Carey, “Sit down, young man! If God wants to save the people in India, he can well do so without your help.”
Arminianism is named after Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian who strongly objected to the Reformed system —especially limited atonement. His position was published posthumously in the Remonstrance of 1610.
Starting point for Arminian theology: God wants all people to be saved.
(2 Pet. 3:9) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
(1 Tim. 2:4) God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Total Depravity: Arminians agree that left to themselves, people are unable to respond to the gospel. However, God in his common grace has enabled all people to respond to his convicting influence (John 12:32; 16:8)—he has given the gift of faith to everyone.
(Jn. 12:32) “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
(Jn. 16:8) “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment. . . ”
Conditional Election: God’s election of people to salvation is conditioned upon their faith in response to the gospel (Eph. 1:13; ROM 3:28). Arminians reject the claim that faith is a work, since faith merely receives the gift that God offers (ROM 4:4,5; Gal. 2:16).
(ROM 4:4,5) Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. (5) But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. . .
Both predestination and election are based on God’s foreknowledge of our decision to trust Christ (1 Pet. 1:1, 2; ROM 8:29).
(1 Pet. 1:1,2) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.
(ROM 8:29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;
Unlimited Atonement: Christ died for the whole human race. Christ’s atonement is therefore sufficient for all people, but effective only for those who believe (Jn. 1:29; 1 Jn. 2:2*; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Tim. 4:l0; Heb. 2:9).
(1 Jn. 2:2) He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
(2 Cor. 5:19) God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
(1 Tim. 4:10) For it is for this we labour and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savoir of all men, especially of believers.
Resistible Grace: It is God’s will that all people be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9; Ezek. 18:23). Therefore, God in his grace draws all people to himself (Jn. 12:32; 16:8). But scripture clearly teaches that humans are capable of resisting God’s will (Mt. 23:37; Heb. 4:2; Lk. 7:29,30).
(Matt. 23:37) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”
(Luke 7:29,30) And when all the people and the tax-gatherers heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. (30) But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.
Present Assurance of Salvation: Most Arminians do not believe in eternal security. Like John Wesley, they believe that we can have present experiential assurance of our salvation—but that we could lose our salvation for various reasons.
Implications for Evangelism
“I am motivated to share my faith because I know that more will be saved if I am faithful as Christ’s ambassador.” The logic of Arminianism makes it easy for Christians to believe that evangelism is both a privilege and a responsibility. “Evangelism is a heavy burden since my friend’s salvation depends on my witness.” Arminians need to be careful to fully emphasize God’s will and non-Christians’ responsibility as they evangelize.
In conclusion, one important truth that cuts across all theological understanding is the love of God, for this we can be certain of….. For God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus Loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
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