Soteriology: The Study of our Salvation
Definition of Salvation:
I. Biblical use of the word salvation:
basic meaning = deliverance
b. National deliverance
c. Spiritual deliverance -- centered in God's
provision in Christ
d. Eternal deliverance -- Hebrews 5:9
II. Theological usage: this is broader than usage of the word.
It expands to the concept of deliverance
I. The Need of Salvation
A. Man's Original State and Fall
1. His creation in the image of God (Gen 1)
2. His fall and consequences (Gen 3, Rom 5, I Cor 15)
B. Man's Present State of Sin
1. Guilt - our legal, external standing before God
2. Depravity (Rom 3:10-18)
C. Man's Present State of Alienation
1. Enmity (inner attitude) -- Rom 8:7-8
2. Separation (external relationships) -- Eph 2:11-13
D. Man's Present State Under Condemnation -- Rom 3:9-23
1. Condemnation is present -- John 3:17-18
2. Condemnation is pictured by wrath -- Rom 1:18ff
3. Condemnation is pronounced by decree -- Rom 3:9 Gal 3:10,22
4. Condemnation is proved by physical death -- Rom 5:12-14
E. Man's Present State Under Control of Darkness -- Eph 2:1-3
1. Blinded by the god of this world -- II Cor 4:3-4 (Can't reason men into salvation).
2. Walking according to the age (spirit of this world system) -- Eph 2:2a
3. Walking according to the prince of the authority of the air -- Eph 2:2b
4. Satan is now constantly working in the unbeliever -- Eph 2:2c
5. Men serve Satan -- I Cor 12:2; Gal 4:8
-Man cannot be considered a free moral being.
-He cannot be considered on a morally neutral level, ready to shift to either good or evil, to righteousness or to unrighteousness.
-He is pictured as under the power and control of the forces of evil, and as under Satan and this present evil world system.
II. The Provisions for Salvation
A. Source of Salvation: God
Eph 2:4-9 "But God"
What is it that prompted God to provide salvation for those in such a helpless and despicable state as previously described?
Note the characteristics of God mentioned in Eph 2:4-9.
1. Rich in mercy
B. Scheme of Salvation: Election and the Divine Decree
2. Plan of Salvation -- Eph 1:3-14 and Rom 9
Note the eternal plan of the Triune God to provide salvation
4. Romans 9
5. Balanced View of Election (sovereignty and responsibility)
6. Final Practical Observation on Sovereignty and Election
III. The Accomplishments of Salvation
A. The Person of the Saviour
1. His titles relative to being the Saviour
2. His unique qualifications for the work of salvation
B. The Passion of the Saviour
2. Benefits of Salvation
IV The Application of Salvation
A. Calling of God
1. General Call
2. Effectual call -- Rom 8:30
B. Content of the Gospel Message
C. Conviction by the Holy Spirit -- Jn 16:7-11
1. Of sin
2. Of righteousness
3. Of judgment
Meaning: it will come because Satan has been judged
D. The Condition of Salvation
1. The proper approach -- faith alone: Rom 1:16-17, 3:25-28, 4:2-5, 5:1
2. The improper approaches
a) Faith + Works (Roman Catholic View)
3. Problem passages:
V. Eternal Security of the Believer
A. Security of the Believer -- Rom 8
1. Definition: by "security" we mean that genuine believers
3. Some problem passages:
B. Assurance of Salvation -- I Jn 5:13; Jn 6:39-40; 10:27-30; 17:11; I Jn 3:9; Phip 1:6; I Pet 5:10
By assurance we mean the confidence that genuine believers may possess that they are in right relationship to God through Christ Jesus.
THE LORDSHIP SALVATION ISSUE:
things have rocked the Bible believing community in
recent years like the "Lordship Salvation"
controversy. This has been true for several reasons. The
discussion strikes at the very heart of Christianity. Not
many things are more important than the issue of how we
become Christians. Also, those who are drawing up the
battle lines are all godly men, who love the Word, and
are careful students of it. Each of the principle players
have a high view of Scripture, and each would support
their views from their study of the Bible alone. Yet,
these men of God have come to different conclusions on
this most vital of doctrines.
The purpose of this study is to identify the principle players, clearly spell out the issues involved, attempt to analyze those issues, and suggest a solution that has Biblical balance.
We must start with what is not being said. No one is espousing a works salvation, although some have been accused of doing so. No one is denying that salvation is by grace through faith alone. However, this vital question is raised, "What is saving faith?"
James 2:14 reads, "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" We will admit that this is a highly controversial passage, but it would seem clear that James is implying that there is such a thing as a kind of faith that does not save. That is, there appears to be a pseudo faith, a faith that has the appearance of saving trust in the finished work of Christ, but that falls short, leaving the individual still in their sins.
The whole "Lordship" controversy is wrapped around the solving of this problem. In other words, no one (in our circle) denies that salvation is through faith, but what is saving faith? In addition there is a corollary issue: if I have saving faith, how will I know it? What gives assurance of salvation? Is my assurance based upon my initial act of faith, or upon subsequent fruit, or upon some mystical feeling from the Holy Spirit? These are big and important issues that must be faced by every believer.
Although there have been many books and articles written on this subject, there remain three key men who have staked out opposing positions. At the two extremes are Zane Hodges and John MacArthur. Hodges supports what some have termed the "radical no-lordship" view. That is, Hodges says that saving faith is believing in the facts of the gospel. When we believe in the facts about Christ as expressed in the Scriptures, we become the children of God. To add anything such as repentance, commitment to Christ, salvation resulting in a changed life, or fruit that follows conversion, is to add works to salvation. Hodges, at least in theory, believes that a person can have a momentary flash of faith that results in him being born again. Then that person can live the rest of his life without faith, yet be saved.
John MacArthur would represent what has become known as the "Lordship" position. MacArthur believes that saving faith includes repentance, a commitment to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Master (hence the "Lordship" handle). The "Lordship" position believes that the true child of God will persevere -- while there may be periods of sins and doubt throughout life, the believer will never totally apostasize. Thus, every born again individual will experience a changed life with resulting fruit.
Charles Ryrie would be the spokesman for a more moderate, middle of the road position, simply known as "no-lordship." Ryrie believes in repentance, but defines it as a change of mind about Christ. Repentance from sin, (or a lifestyle of sin) is not essential. While salvation should change a person, Ryrie believes that it is possible to become and remain a carnal Christian for one's whole life. At the same time he believes that at least some fruit is inevitable if one is truly born again. However, only those who have made a post-conversion act of dedication will see real growth in grace.
These men have written much on this subject, but my comments will be based principally on the following: The Gospel Under Siege by Hodges; Balancing the Christian Life and So Great Salvation by Ryrie, and The Gospel According to Jesus and Faith Works by MacArthur. It should be mentioned at this point that I do not find myself in total agreement with any of these men. My position would lie somewhere between MacArthur and Ryrie. I would recommend for your study the pamphlet, Salvation by Grace through Faith.
Hodges is so concerned that the "Lordship" view is distorting the gospel message that he has aligned himself with the Grace Evangelical Society. Proponents of this group call their position "Free Grace." The "Free Grace" people are concerned that nothing be added to grace as a means of salvation. They even go so far as to say that it is unnecessary to sorrow over, or turn from one's sins in order to be saved i.e. repentance is not part of the gospel. Hodges says, "The marvelous truth of justification by faith, apart from works, recedes into shadows not unlike those which darkened the days before the Reformation. What replaces this doctrine is a kind of faith/works synthesis which differs only insignificantly from official Roman Catholic dogma." (AF p20) Strong words!!
MacArthur, on the other hand, is equally strong when he says, "The gospel in vogue today holds forth a false hope to sinners. It promises them they can have eternal life yet continue to live in rebellion against God." (GAJ p16)
I believe both men overstate their case, and misunderstand the other's position. It must be understood that both sides are reacting to what they view as extremes. For example, the "Free Grace" people accuse MacArthur of adding faithfulness to faith. They claim that MacArthur teaches that in order to be saved we must not only have faith, we must consistently obey and always remain faithful. To this the "Free Grace" people cry, "works salvation!" It must be admitted that at times MacArthur seems to be saying exactly this. At other times he vehemently denies such views. I believe that at the heart of this misunderstanding is the subject of sanctification, more than the content of the gospel. As mentioned earlier, both sides agree that salvation is by grace through faith alone. It seems to me that the real fuss comes over what regeneration produces -- and that difference is transferred back to what is the gospel message. The "Lordship" position says that regeneration should result not only in eternal life, but in a changed life now. "The Bible teaches clearly that the evidence of God's work in a life is the inevitable fruit of transformed behavior (e.g. I Jn 3:10)" (GAJ p73). The "Free Grace" people believe that regeneration may or may not change the present life of the child of God. That is, the one who has been saved from his sins, and transformed into a new creation, may very well remain in those sins. Hodges stretches his interpretation of James and I John to new limits (see GUS), in his attempt to prove that salvation does not have to result in fruit. His view of James 2 is so novel that one Bible scholar claims, "To the best of my knowledge not one significant interpreter of Scripture in the entire history of the church has held to Hodges interpretation of the passages he treats."
With the weight of much Scripture that teaches the fruitfulness of the true believer, and with the backing of Bible scholars of the past (especially the Reformed theologians, such as Calvin, who taught the perseverance of the saints), MacArthur asks, "Is a faith that produces no life truly saving faith?" Yet Hodges says that to impose fruitfulness as a test of salvation is to add works to faith, thus destroying free grace.
Into this quagmire comes Ryrie with a statement that I believe offers some real balance. "The Bible offers two grounds for assurance. The objective ground is that God's Word declares that I am saved through faith. Therefore, I believe Him and His Word and am assured that what He says is true (Jn 5:24; I Jn 5:1). The subjective ground relates to my experiences. Certain changes do accompany salvation, and when I see some of those changes, then I can be assured that I have received the new life....It goes without saying that I will never keep all His commandments....But the fact that these experiences have come into my life, whereas they were absent before, gives assurance that the new life is present (II Cor 5:1)." (SGS p143)
THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE
Repentance, it seems to me, is an important component in this argument. Yet, on this issue our three men differ greatly. Hodges says, that "Repentance is not essential to the saving transaction...it is in no sense a condition for that transaction" (AFp146). Ryrie claims that "repentance is a changing of our minds about Jesus of Nazareth. Repentance from sin is unnecessary (SGS p96)." I believe that these men have left the conviction of sin and guilt out of the gospel.
When we speak of being saved we must recognize that we are being saved from something and to something. When we become believers we are saved to Christ and to eternal life -- all would agree on this point. But we are also saved from something. I believe that we are saved, not only from hell but from sin --its penalty, its power, and ultimately its presence. How can an individual be saved from sin, and yet have no desire to turn from sin? Repentance, in my understanding is part of saving faith. It is the recognition that one is a sinner, bound for hell. By faith that individual turns from his sin and to Christ for His saving grace. If one does not understand the issue of sin, he cannot understand the gospel. For Christ died on the cross for our sins, He died in the place of sinners. He died to set us free from the grip of sin. Therefore, it is my understanding that salvation is not possible without repentance.
THE TEACHINGS OF CALVINISM:
In 1610 the followers of James Arminius presented the five points of Arminianism. They are:
1. Free will, or human ability. This taught that man, although affected by the Fall, was not totally incapable of choosing spiritual good, and was able to exercise faith in God in order to receive the gospel and thus bring himself into possession of salvation.
2. Conditional election. This taught that God laid His hands upon those individuals who, He knew -- or foresaw -- would respond to the gospel. God elected those that He saw would want to be saved of their own free will and in their natural fallen state -- which was, of course, according to the first point of Arminianism, not completely fallen anyway.
3. Universal redemption, or general atonement. This taught that Christ died to save all men; but only in a potential fashion. Christ's death enabled God to pardon sinners, but only on condition that they believed.
4. The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration limited by the human will. This taught that the Holy Spirit, as He began to work to bring a person to Christ, could be effectually resisted and His purposes frustrated. He could not impart life unless the sinner was willing to have this life imparted.
5. Falling from grace. This taught that a saved man could fall finally from salvation. It is, of course, the logical and natural outcome of the system. If man must take the initiative in his salvation, he must retain responsibility for the final outcome.
In 1618, at the Council of Dort, the Protestant Church opposed the Arminians and reaffirmed its former position. In reply to the five points of Arminianism the Council came up with what is known as the Five Points of Calvinism. These are sometimes set forth in the form of an acrostic on the word 'TULIP', as follows:
T Total Depravity (i.e. Total Inability)
U Unconditional Election
L Limited Atonement (i.e. Particular Redemption)
I Irresistible Grace
P Perseverance of the Saints
As can be readily seen, these set themselves in complete opposition to the Five Points of Arminianism. Man is totally unable to save himself because the Fall in the Garden of Eden was a total fall. If unable to save himself, then God must save. If God must save, then God must be free to save whom He will. If God has decreed to save whom He will, then it is for them that Christ made atonement on the Cross. If Christ died for them, then the Holy Spirit will effectually call them into that salvation. If salvation then from the beginning has been of God, the end will also be of God and the saints will persevere to eternal joy.
While we believe that the above system, known as Calvinism is biblical, we would take exception with point three: limited atonement. While some believe that limited atonement is a logical necessity of the other points, we do not believe the case can be made Biblically. Scripture teaches that Christ died for the world (Jn 3:16). Many passages teach this (e.g. I Jn 2: 1,2). Only by arbitrarily defining the "world" (Kosmos) to mean only the elect, can one prove limited atonement from Scripture. Therefore, we take the position that Christ died for the sins of all mankind, but only those who place their faith in Him, will be pardoned from sin.