What is Salvation?
DEFINITION OF SALVATION
God created man with the capacity to choose good or evil. Accordingly, He knew that humanity would ultimately sin and need to be reconciled to Him. The heart of God’s plan is to reconcile sinful humanity to Himself through the Mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5–6). The word salvation is defined as “deliverance from the power and effects of sin.” All have sinned (Romans 3:23), but we cannot save ourselves, because only a sinless person can save a sinful person. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ died for sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:6–8).
PROVISIONS OF SALVATION
Certain provisions were necessary for salvation to be available to humanity: the death of Jesus Christ, the burial of Christ, the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3–4), the ascension of Christ (Mark 16:19, Acts 1:9), and the exaltation of Christ (Acts 2:33; 5:31; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:3).
PROCESS OF SALVATION: GOD’S PART
God is the initiator of our salvation. He is sovereign and acts to secure salvation for sinners through election, regeneration, justification, adoption, and sanctification. Election: By grace, in omniscience (all-knowing power) God has chosen salvation through Christ for those whom He foreknew would accept Him (Ephesians 1:4–5). Regeneration: God makes us alive through Christ, enabling us to be born again and to experience a new birth (John 3:3). Without a new birth, we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Justification: When God justifies us, He declares us guiltless before Him and places all of the righteousness of Christ to our credit. Justification represents both God’s forgiveness of our sins and the righteousness He has accounted to us (Romans 3:28; 5:1). Adoption: Adoption means, “The placing of a son.” God gives us the full rights of inheritance in His family as if we had been born into it (Galatians 4:4–5; Ephesians 1:5). Because we are God’s children, we can call Him Abba, or, Daddy (Romans 8:15). As God’s children, we can be confident that He understands us, takes care of us, and will bless us. Sanctification: When we become Christians, God sanctifies us, which means to set us apart. He sets us apart positionally, practically, and permanently for Himself (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Through sanctification, we become more and more like Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.
PROCESS OF SALVATION: HUMANITY’S PART
Just as there is a divine side of salvation, there is also a human side that shows itself through “free will.” God is the initiator and man is the responder. God, in the person and work of Jesus, initiated the process (Romans 5:08), while man, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, chooses to respond in belief, repentance, and faith. Belief: Acknowledging Jesus Christ not only in our heads, but also in our hearts (John 3:18, 36; 5:24; 6:47; Romans 10:9). Repentance: This is a sincere and thorough change of mind and heart toward sin (Psalms 51:3; 2 Peter 3:9). We must not only turn from our sins, but we must also turn to God (Acts 3:19; 26:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). Faith: This is a confiding trust. It involves our intellect, emotions, and will (Mark 4:16–17; Romans 10:9, 17; Ephesians 2:8–9; Hebrews 11:1, 6). PRODUCT OF SALVATION God created us, and Christ purchased us so that we might know Him, walk with Him, and glorify Him (Ephesians 1:11–12). He also wants us to bear much fruit (John 15:8; 13:34–35), as we invest our lives in service to Him (Matthew 16:24–26; Galatians 6:10). We bear fruit by winning others to Christ and helping them grow spiritually (Romans 1:13; Proverbs 11:30), by sharing our blessings with others (Philippians 4:17), by giving praise and thanks to God (Hebrews 13:15), and by living a changed life through our conduct and character (Galatians 5:22). Some people wrongly think that because they have “prayed to receive Christ,” they can live as they please. This is not so, because salvation brings about a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17) and motivates believers to follow God’s purpose for their lives.