The Bible on Salvation
What Is Salvation?
The doctrine of salvation is obviously the first doctrine revealed to all new Christians. Without a saving knowledge of
Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we could not enter into the deeper truths of God's Word. Too often, however, the term
salvation is taken only at face value. The word salvation implies being saved from something, and in the Biblical context, we are
indeed saved from an eternity of fire in hell. Most
Christians understand that along with that saving comes eternal life in
(John 3:15-16, 2 Thessalonians 2:16) which Revelation 21:1-8, 27 describes as eternal paradise. In fact, Hebrews 5:9 uses the
phrase "eternal salvation," because it indeed ushers us into the eternal plan of God. However, there is still much more to
salvation than just eternal life.
Before we explore the other facets of salvation, let's take a look at its source. As you would expect, salvation is consistent with
the preeminent doctrine of grace. Throughout the Epistles, the persistent message that salvation is a free grace gift from God is
explained. Ephesians 2:5 says, "By grace you have been saved." Also, Romans 4:4-5 and Romans 11:6 indicate that grace and works are mutually
exclusive. If one attempts to gain salvation by works, this nullifies the saving grace.
Who Does It?
The scriptures are also emphatic to indicate that God is the one that supplies salvation--not man. He provides salvation in His
omniscience as he purposes (Romans 9:11, 18). We are led to repentance by His kindness (Romans 2:4). It is His
choice--not ours (Romans 11:5). God does as He wishes (1 Corinthians 15:38). He chose us--we did not choose Him
(Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 2:10). We are God's inheritance (Ephesians 1:18).
God's purpose in saving sinners is that they will learn to please
Him by bearing fruit for Him and increasing in His glory and grace (Romans 7:4). Colossians 1:10 specifies that believers are to
please God and bear His fruit through good works and increasing in the knowledge of His word.
Throughout the epistles, Christians are often called the elect or the called (1 Corinthians 1:24-26, Galatians 1:15, 5:8, Ephesians 4:1, 4).
This establishes the doctrine of election (Jude 1). This is consistent with the fact that God is the one who is in control.
Romans 8:30 says that all Christians are predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God (salvation). Romans 8:29 shows that God
actually foreknew us in eternity past. This was not just a
knowledge of our future actions, but an intimate relationship between God and us. He has adopted us as His own (Ephesians 1:5, 11),
and he has approved us (1 Thessalonians 2:4). He prepared us beforehand (Romans 9:23-24, Ephesians 2:10), and even wisdom is
predetermined (1 Corinthians 2:7). In fact, even the ungodly have their destiny predetermined (Jude 4).
Justification by Faith
Most Christians know that Ephesians 2:8 says we are saved by grace through faith. The scriptures are not always easy to
understand, but if there is one message about salvation that is clearly repeated throughout the Epistles, it is this doctrine of justification
by faith, as opposed to justification by works. Romans Chapters 3 through 5 and Galatians Chapters 2 through 5 are dedicated to this
doctrine, and it is explicitly stated in many more scriptures (Acts 16:31; Romans 1:17; Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28; Romans 4:3, 5, 9,
11-13, 16-20, 24; Romans 5:1, 2, 21; Romans 9:30, 32; Romans 10:4, 9-14; Romans 11:20; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Corinthians
6:1; Galatians 2:16, 20; Galatians 3:6-9, 14, 22, 24, 26; Galatians 5:5-6; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9; 1
Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 12; Hebrews 3:19; 1 John 5:1, 10-11, 13).
We cannot begin to cover all the proof texts here, but it is worthwhile to look at a few of them in order to show the clarity of the scriptures
concerning justification by faith.
Probably the most emphatic and complete verse on justification by faith is Galatians 2:16, "A man is not justified by observing the law, but by
faith in Jesus Christ. So, we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by
observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." Now, how could that be clarified any
further? Romans 1:16 says that the gospel
is the power of God to everyone who BELIEVES (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 1:21). In
fact, the most common terms found in the scriptures for differentiating Christians from non-Christians are "believers" and "unbelievers," so
justification by faith is even inherent by definition! It should also be noted that this justification by faith is in accord with
the doctrine of grace (Romans 4:16, 5:2), in that even our faith comes from God (Romans 12:3, Philippians 1:29, Colossians 2:12), 2 Peter
1:1). God is the one who justifies (Romans 8:33, 1 Corinthians 6:11).
John 3:6-7 uses the phrase "born again" to speak of
our regeneration in
Christ. This is another gift of salvation. Christians are changed into new creatures (2
Corinthians 5:17). We are given salvation and the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). We are now God's children (1
John 3:2), His sons (Galatians 3:26) and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). He has adopted us (Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:4-5), and
he has annulled the former hardness of our hearts (Ephesians 4:18).
In our new position in Christ comes the doctrine of sanctification (Romans 6--8). At salvation, God also gives us the Holy Spirit
(1 John 4:13). He regenerates us and gives us a newness of life in the Spirit (Romans 7:6). Furthermore, Romans 6:4-6
assures us that through the Holy Spirit, we now have power over the flesh.
The Holy Spirit
At salvation, God gives us His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:22). God pours the Holy Spirit upon us richly (Titus 3:6).
This is the third member of the Trinity
of the Godhead. God the Holy Spirit actually lives eternally within us (Romans 8:9), and we
are to continually be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). In 1 Corinthians 12:13, the Bible is emphatic to note
that ALL believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit!
Along with the Holy Spirit comes the gifts of the Spirit, or spiritual
gifts (Romans 12:1-21, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 12-14), which enable us to
perform Christian ministries. These gifts are given to us by
God, just as He pleases, according to His own good pleasure (1
Corinthians 12:11, 27-31). We are to hold these gifts in high
esteem (1 Corinthians 14:1), and use them properly so as not to grieve
the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The gifts listed in these
passages are probably only a subset of all gifts. The
emphasis is not on particular gifts, but on the fact that everyone has
different gifts, and we should not try to conform to anybody else's
expectations, or else we won't be exercising the gifts God gave
us. The illustration in 1 Corinthians 12:16 shows that just
because the ear is not an eye, does not mean that it is not part
of the body! We should never try to impress people or pretend
that we are something that we're not. Spiritual gifts are given by
God--not developed by some human means. They're another gift of salvation.
Another free gift accompanying salvation is found in
the doctrine of redemption (Romans 3:24, 1 Peter 1:18-19). In grace,
God redeems us out of the slave market of sin
by forgiving us of all of our sins (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14).
This redemption is
made possible by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). We
also have God's continuing forgiveness of our temporal sins of the flesh through confession by 1 John 1:9.
However, this forgiveness is the negative facet of salvation. The positive factor is that we are given the absolute
righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22). When God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which alleviates any condemnation for
Jesus not only brought righteousness, but he brought freedom from the law (Romans 6:14). Where Moses brought the law, Jesus brought
grace and truth (John 1:17). In our salvation, we have complete liberty in Christ (Galatians 3:10, 5:1).
Another gift bestowed upon believers in salvation is a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9, Revelation 1:6). We now have
access to God the father through Christ the Son (Ephesians 2:18, Hebrews 10:19-20). When Christ was crucified, the temple veil
was miraculously split by God--indicating that each believer now was his own priest, and that a mediator or intercessor is no longer
necessary for communication with God, as was the case with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Also, the very nature
of this priesthood implies privacy of the priesthood. This relationship is between the individual believer and God, and nobody
else should try to interfere in it (Job 19:4). This is inherently obvious by
virtue of the fact that our relationship with God is a personal one.
In salvation, each individual priest now has access to God the father through Jesus Christ the Son, in one Spirit (Ephesians
2:18). This was symbolized by the tearing of the temple veil at the point of
Jesus' death on the cross (Matthew 27:51). Hebrews 10:19-20
explains that we now have confidence to enter the holy place because
Christ inaugurated us through the veil by His flesh. Now we
are to draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) through prayer.
Another sub-doctrine of salvation is the doctrine of
(1 John 4:10). This doctrine explains that through Christ,
the wrath of God toward us is now appeased (1 John 2:2), and we have no
condemnation for sin (John 3:17-18, Romans 8:1). It was the
blood of Christ on the cross that afforded us this blessing (Romans
3:24-26). This passage says that God can now "pass over" our sins, and
this is possible because Jesus is our "Passover" sacrifice (1
Corinthians 5:7) just as lambs were offered by the Old Testament Jews
for their Passover sacrifices. God's wrath is now appeased
because Jesus' sacrifice on the cross served as the propitiation for
the sins of the whole world. Although this is usually treated as a lesser doctrine of salvation, we should not take
this lightly. Read Psalms 51 to see David's description of the jubilation over realizing that his sins were not counted against him.
Through the redemption, forgiveness, and propitiation
of salvation comes our reconciliation by God (Colossians 1:22). Now God can
reconcile us to Himself, and give us the ministry of reconciliation (2
Corinthians 5:18-19). This is necessary in order for God to restore the earth and humanity which has been separated from him since
the Garden of Eden. Again, this gift of reconciliation is
made possible through the blood of Christ (Romans 5:10).
we are freed from the slavery
(Galatians 5:1) and curse (Galatians 3:10) of the law (Romans 6:14). We are also
freed from the power of the old sin nature (Romans 6:6). It
is annulled, and we are empowered to serve Christ according to God's will, because we are now complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).
Lights in the World
At salvation, we are taken from darkness (Ephesians 5:8) into the light (1 Thessalonians 5:4). God is light, and there is
no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). We should walk in the light and have fellowship with each other (1 John 1:7). We are called to be
lights in the world for Christ (Philippians 2:15).
At salvation we enter into God's eternal kingdom (Colossians 1:13). God
calls us to our new position in His kingdom (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and
we enter it through Christ (2 Peter 1:11). This kingdom is
one that we live in a temporal way now on earth, but it will be fully
realized only when we see it in heaven. This is not the same
kingdom as the millennial kingdom where Christ will reign for 1000
years on earth from the city of Jerusalem. This millennium
will be discussed in the Chapter on The End Times.
The citizenship of all believers is in heaven
(Philippians 3:20). We are not really at home here on the earth. We are actually strangers here (Ephesians 2:12, Hebrews 11:13). Luke 10:20
says that the names of all believers are recorded in heaven.
We are members of God's household (Ephesians 2:19), and we won't really
be at home until we reach heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Another gift bestowed upon us when we enter the Church
at salvation is the ambassadorship of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). With
this privilege comes the responsibility of any ambassador--mediation.
We are now God's lights in the world (Philippians 2:15) to those who
don't share our ambassadorship. Obviously, here is where we
should be witnesses to others for Christ.
The final facet of salvation is glory, although we do not fully realize the glorification of God while we remain in this life.
However, we have the hope of the glory of God in heaven (Romans
8:18).This is true of all who have been justified (Romans 8:30). We will realize this glory when Christ returns (Colossians 3:4).
To conclude this discussion on salvation, we must remember our initial
comments on the eternal nature of salvation--eternal life. By
definition then, we are eternally secure in our salvation. Our
salvation cannot be revoked (Romans 8:31-39, 11:29). When one
understands that salvation is performed completely by God, this
eternal aspect of salvation is not difficult to accept. God
made us secure, and He will keep us secure eternally. Just as we
are children of our natural parents, and we cannot negate that
physical relationship, so did we become God's children when we were
born again, and we cannot be "unborn" (Romans 8:26)! We are
His children forever (John 10:29). God protects us (1 Peter
1:5) in what Romans 11:29 calls an irrevocable calling!
Romans 8:38-39 assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Salvation not only secures us, but it assures us also. By 2 Corinthians 3-4, we can have assurance of our salvation simply by
realizing that we understand the gospel message (1 Corinthians 1:18,
2:14). The gospel is foolish to the lost, so if it is not foolish to
us, then we are saved.
How Not to Be Saved
Unfortunately there are many misnomers about salvation, especially
concerning how it is attained. Salvation is not attained by
walking an aisle, talking to a preacher, joining a church, public
profession or confession, stopping one's sinning, partaking of water
baptism, communion, or circumcision, calling a toll-free number, or by
"doing" anything else. Neither is it attained by more subtle
misnomers such as being good, saying a prayer, "giving one's life to
Jesus," making some commitment, accepting some challenge, being
sincere, dedicating one's life to Christ, coming to "know Jesus," humbling
oneself, making Jesus Lord of one's life, or even by believing that there is a God.
A particularly misleading tactic about salvation is implied by the
phrase, "inviting Jesus into your heart." This is usually supported by Revelation 3:20
which says that Jesus is knocking at the door of the hearts of
Christians. Unfortunately, too often it is misinterpreted as being an
"invitation" of salvation to unbelievers. This deception often misleads
sincere soul-searchers into believing that some sort of physical
"works" is required for salvation. For example, some heart
transplant patients have been known to ask their doctors whether the
heart donor had Jesus in his heart. Now how clear can that person's understanding of salvation be?
Another deception about salvation is when church members are sometimes
sent on guilt trips because they haven't lined up to somebody's notion of
their proper degree of involvement in the activities of the local
church. Then this issue is cleverly confused with that of
salvation, and Christians then get salvation confused with works. This results in Christians who ignorantly question their own<
salvation, and then try to "compensate" by increasing their
involvement in church activities in which the Holy Spirit has not led them.
Salvation is simply a free gift of grace from God to an undeserving sinner through his believing that Jesus is his savior. This
simply means trusting what Christ has done on the cross alone, as all
that is necessary to take care of one's sin problem. That sin
is what had separated each of us from God (Romans 3:23), and condemned us to eternal damnation. Only through our trust in Christ's atonement do
we have eternal salvation. We must avoid any illustrations which imply that salvation is attained through some combination of faith and works.
Salvation is the forgiveness, propitiation, reconciliation, and
absolute righteousness given to us in grace by God, by means of
faith in the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, so that we can live
eternally in paradise. It is a free gift given by God to
whomever he chooses to give it. With it comes freedom, individual
priesthood, access to God, heavenly citizenship, and a responsibility
to be lights in the world and ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
God has justified believers by grace through faith. He has
positionally sanctified believers so that He sees us as righteous as
Jesus Christ. He will sanctify us experientially in the day
that we reach glory in heaven.
Owen Weber 2008