Salvation is used as a theological term for the process by which human souls are saved from eternal punishment, the result of sin. It is the defining word used to describe God reconciling a people for Himself. It is the Hebrew verb “to deliver.” Hence, we could talk about God delivering His people from trials and trouble in the world; but these events will always serve as types for the ultimate deliverance. Sin separates man from God, and the wages of sin is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23). This death is the just consequence of eternal separation from God in hell and the lake of fire prepared for Satan and his demons, now opened to human mutineers.
What must a man do to be saved from eternal damnation? Theologians look at this process from two viewpoints. The Arminian viewpoint is to look at salvation from man’s viewpoint. Calvinists look at salvation from God’s viewpoint. The conclusions drawn from the process of studying and understanding salvation in these two schools of thought produce different results.
God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1–2). The most celebrated creature in God’s creation is man created in God’s image. Man was given a will that was persuaded by the tempter, to disobey God. Being led astray by Satan, man sinned against God and incurred the judgment of death. Life was now lived in obedience to sin instead of God (Rom 6:6). Man was a slave to sin, and he died along with his progeny throughout history.
Man was no longer “good.” Evil dominated his thoughts and actions. Man remembered the glory of Adam and Eve’s Eden, as a story passed down through every generation. Man attempted to reconcile with God to regain paradise lost, but man’s sin nature was a continual offense to the holiness and righteousness of God.
Man could not save himself, despite the multitude of religious systems he designed to make him good in the sight of God and to discipline him not to sin against God. These works-based systems were all flawed because they were fallen man’s system of salvation. Still, man sinned and died. The Bible assesses man’s plight as being dead spiritually in his trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1–3). Every man and woman is a dead man walking.
Salvation belongs to God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1). It is entirely His will and work so He might receive all of the honor and glory for it. History is God’s story known by Him before the creation. God planned the story before anything was brought into existence from nothing. God knew the rebellion of Lucifer and his legions of angels. He knew the rebellion of humanity, too. In God’s mind He planned salvation for His chosen people in what is called the predestination of the elect by the foreknowledge of God (Romans 8:29–30; Ephesians 1:3–5). These people He gave the right to be called, “the children of God,” through no merit of their own (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 4:5; 1 Jn 3:1, 10).
God is merciful to save even one person, and He extended His mercy to these people representing every nation, tribe, and tongue throughout history. In forming a holy nation under the leadership of His Son (Col 1:13; 1 Pet 2:9), Jesus Christ, God calls out the elect through the Gospel message preached by Holy Spirit-filled men to all men (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15). The Gospel is the story of Jesus Christ setting aside His eternal glory as the Son of God to take on human flesh. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin girl in Bethlehem (Is 7:14; Mic 5:2). Jesus lived a perfect sinless life and entered public ministry as the Messiah near His 30th birthday. He was betrayed by a friend, rejected by the leaders of Israel, and crucified on a cruel Roman cross on a hill called Calvary.
Christ died. His death was substitutionary, in the place of sinners, the righteous for the unrighteous. He took on the full wrath of God against sin for the ones He loved. His sacrifice was acceptable to God as payment for their sins. He was buried in a tomb. On the third day, He was raised from the dead into a glorified body and ascended back to the throne of God to continue His rule and reign over the universe. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead, and He will establish His kingdom upon the earth. Jesus is atonement with God, today and forever, for those who trust this Gospel message.
Before the day of the Lord’s judgment, He is calling in a holy nation of priests to comprise the assembly of His people called “the church.” The church is a visible and invisible entity made up of individuals who have been saved by the blood or death of Christ. The common denominator for these people worldwide and in every generation is their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This faith is given to them as a work of God’s grace through the Holy Spirit.
Regeneration is the act of this same Spirit opening the heart of men and women to respond to the Gospel, as God baptizes a man with His Spirit’s permanent presence. We call this the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon a man who, in this act, is born again of the Spirit. This new birth becomes evident in the regenerated soul brought from spiritual death to new spiritual life in Christ. This new visibility is called conversion, a work of God, not of man so no one may boast of her personal choice, decision, prayer, or asking Jesus to come into her heart.
In Christ, this redeemed soul is justified at God’s judgment. He is no longer guilty because of the work of Christ on the cross and the work of the Spirit in the man’s heart. The man is adopted into the body of Christ, the church, as a new member. He is the recipient of all the spiritual blessings preserved for Him in heavenly places and experienced, in part, for the rest of his life lived in the Spirit.
The rest of a Christian’s life is marked by sanctification, a work of God. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God extend the grace and power to overcome the flesh, the devil, and the sinful kingdom of this world. Although carnal death interrupts life as we know it in our fleshly state being transformed, this is only the death of the body. The believer, re-positioned in Jesus Christ, is saved from the second death of the soul.
The final leg in the journey on the Way to glory is called glorification. The soul of God’s redeemed people will be re-united with their glorified bodies on the day of resurrection from the dead. His people will live in the heavenly presence of God in the New Jerusalem, the city of God in the new creation of the heavens and the earth, forever. Paradise restored and never to be lost again.
Every step in the process of salvation belongs to God, the author and finisher of our faith. From before the world began, salvation is the story of God knowing, determining, choosing, redeeming, ransoming, reconciling, calling, forgiving, justifying, adopting, sanctifying, restoring, and glorifying His people. This is His will, His work, His word, and His glory. This is the indescribable gift of God revealed in Christ Jesus, our Lord. How great a salvation has been executed for the vessels of mercy prepared for glory?
July 19, 2021