Posts Tagged ‘Salvation’

Soteriology

Posted: April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Soteriology is the doctrine or the study of God’s means to bring salvation to human beings. There are different beliefs as to how and why God saves humans and soteriology will answer those questions.

What is grace? Grace is “God’s goodness towards those who deserve only punishment (Grudem 1243)?” Or grace is God’s unmerited favor towards those who deserve wrath (Matthew 5:44-45). All men deserve wrath or eternal punishment (Ephesians 2:1-2). Within the word, grace, there are two types of graces that are often explained. There is common grace and special grace.

Common grace is God showing his goodness or favor to those who are Christians and to those who are not Christians (Luke 6:35-36; Acts 14:16-17). An example would be when the sun is out shinning. The sun shines in both the believer and unbelievers lives. This is a very generous, yet common grace from God.

This leads to what is known as special grace or saving grace. Special grace is the goodness of God that is given only to those who are believers in Him (Christians) (Romans 9:15). God chooses to grant this special grace to believers at conversion and forever. One outcome of this special grace that God gives to us is to be declared Holy by God (Romans 5:1), this doctrine is called justification which will be addressed later. Without special grace from God, not one will turn to God (Romans 3:10-12).

God does give grace to all men! Every single human has received some kind of grace, but not all grace has been given equally to all men. Some were given special grace while some were given common grace. Both are gifts from our Maker!

This leads us to the doctrine of “election” or the more common known word, “predestination.” Election or predestination is the act of God who sovereignty, before creation, chooses who will be saved and who will not be saved (Ephesians 1:4). God does this electing before the world was created and thus happens before sin has entered into the world (Ephesians 1:4; Romans 9:9-11). God, in his sovereign justice chose some humans for his honor and chose some for to bring dishonor (Romans 9:22-24). Why does God elect?

God elects some to be saved because no one would choose God (Romans 3:10-12). God elects people so He can extend His grace to those He has chosen! God elects because He desires to extend His grace to men and women who would not come to Him unless He did so. Romans 3 says one does good, no one will seek after God; and if no one will seek after God, there is no good in men to cause God to want to elect us. What are the effects of predestination?

Predestination is the only reason one can come to God (Romans 9:16). Election should be viewed as a comfort (Romans 8:28). God works for our good (Romans 8:29-30)! Jesus is our ultimate good and is election causes us to be conformed to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29-30). The point is, if someone sins, they do not need to think they are not elected. One should think, “I am saved because I am elected” and focus on God’s grace and praise Him for election. Another reason is to praise God (Ephesians 1:5-6, 12). Christians should praise God because God has chosen them (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Wayne Grudem makes an excellent point by saying, “Understood in this way, the doctrine of election does increase praise given to God for our salvation and seriously diminishes any pride that we might feel if we thought out salvation was due to something good in us or something for which we receive credit (Grudem 674).”

A very common misunderstanding of election is that Christians then should not evangelize. If this is the conclusion then election is not understood correctly. For the Apostle Paul writes about election yet encourages evangelism (Romans 10:14-15). It should be encouraging that God may choose to use us to save some men and women, but we must not think that it is up to us, God is the one who does the saving, and we are a vessel of His (Romans 9:22). Because God chooses to use us, it encourages us to go and preach the Gospel (Romans 10:14-15) and essentially God is saying, “I guarantee some will be saved.” Grudem says, “It is as if someone invited us to come fishing and said, ‘I guarantee that you will catch some fish—they are hungry and waiting (Grudem 674).’”

One must conclude that God chose some in Christ because He chose to demonstrate His love to many (Ephesians 1:5). The only conclusion one must accept is that election is unconditional and should cause humility.

What about the atonement? There is much disagreement around the atonement. Even among those who accept election and are usually Calvinists. Calvinists do differ slightly on this point—the extent of the atonement. Some Calvinists refer to themselves as Moderate Calvinists or 4-point Calvinists if they reject the doctrine that is called, “Limited Atonement” or to put it in the positive, “Particular Redemption.” This doctrine teaches that Jesus Christ’s blood is sufficient for all, but Jesus’ blood covers those whom God has chosen to same; a particular purpose (John 10:11).

Jesus came to earth to die for the sins of His disciples and for His entire sheep (John 10:11; Hebrews 9:28) who the Father has given Jesus (John 10:15; John 17:9)! Christ died for His sheep, but how is one made righteous? Romans 5:19 says that Jesus died on the cross so that Christians can be made righteous. This doctrine is called the imputation of Christ. Christ transfers His holiness, his perfection to His sheep so God looks down and see’s Jesus’ blood covering us. There is absolutely no other way to be made holy than by the blood! Those who are imputed by Christ are justified and Christ’s free gift has become our own (Romans 5:17; Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6; and 1 Corinthians 1:30). “It is central to the heart of the gospel to insist that God declares us to be just (Grudem 727).”

This leads us to justification. Justification is the Christian doctrine that says God declares one righteous. Or that God views one as if they have never sinned. Justification is a legal stance before God. As mentioned earlier, no one would choose God and all are sinners (Romans 3:23) which means one should be sent to hell (Romans 6:23). God is declaring us righteous if you believe on Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26; Galatians 2:16). Romans 5:1 says we have been justified by God, declared righteous, through our faith in Jesus and we now have peace with God. Justification is amazing and another reason to praise God.

What is the difference between the Gospel Call and the Effective Call? The effective call is a call that God gives to those he has predestined (Romans 8:30). This insists that the effective call is an act of God, not man (Romans 8:29). Those who are elected are called to belong to Jesus and to conform into His image (Romans 1:6; 1 Peter 2:9). “It is an act of God that guarentees a response (Grudem 693).” Dr. Wayne Grudem gives a great definition, “Effective calling is an act of God the Father speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith (Grudem 693).”

In order to have an effective call, there must be a gospel call (Romans 10:14-15). The gospel call is a general call to unbelievers to repent and accept Jesus Christ. The main distinction is that the gospel call is communicated through human beings and is not a supernatural act of God (Romans 10:14). The gospel call is a call for people to understand everyone is a sinner, the penalty of the sins is death, but that Jesus Christ paid for the penalty of the sins. This then leads to a life of forgiveness and the future hope of eternal life with God (Grudem 694-695).

The gospel call and the effective call do work together. It is really cool how God chooses to use humans to accomplish His will in saving people. Acts 16:14 is a very clear example of God opening a heart using the gospel call/gospel message yet God was issuing a effective call. A human presents the gospel call (Romans 10:14), yet God issues the effective call (John 6:44).

What is regeneration? Grudem is correct in defining regeneration as, “…a secret act of God in which he imparts spiritual life to us (Grudem 699).” When one understands that everyone is inherently sinful, how can that person choose God (Romans 3:10-11)? By themselves they cannot choose God (Romans 3:11). God imparts regeneration moments prior to conversion (Romans 3:11). Once regeneration is given to a person; the outcome is a new convert in Jesus (Grudem 700) (Ephesians 2:4-5; Colossians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3). A similar connection is irresistible grace where God gives the special grace to an unbeliever and God draws him or her to Himself joyfully. Regeneration happens only once since conversion follows shortly. Ezekial 36:26-27 speaks of a prophecy of regeneration of God giving a new heart and a new spirit inside His converts! The source of regeneration is God Himself regenerating us to have spiritual life again, but what are the effects?

The effect of regeneration is conversion or a new life in Jesus Christ! In Acts, once God opened this girls heart, she believed (Acts 16:14). The effect of regeneration is that one will be born again (1 John 5:1). What grace has God given to humans in that they wanted nothing to do with God and yet He saves them anyway! Regeneration is the start of a new life in Jesus and this life in Jesus will forbid someone to keep on living in their sin (1 John 3:9). Someone who loves like Christ has been regenerated (1 John 4:7). Regeneration is from God alone and the effects of it, is being born again living like Jesus.

How role does faith and repentance play in conversion? Faith and repentance must go hand in hand in order to be converted. Repentance is turning away from sin and joyfully walking in obedience to Christ (Acts 20:21). While faith is trusting and depending on God for what He says and accepts all that God says to be true (Acts 20:21). All men are commanded to repent (Acts 17:30). God’s goodness and common are given to humans in order that God’s goodness may lead men to repent of their sins (Romans 2:4). There is a call to repent, and a call for faith (Galatians 2:20). Repentance and faith must go together which makes conversion (Romans 10:9). One must remember that this is still an act of grace from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith and repentance are crucial in conversion, without it one simply cannot be converted.

What does the Bible say about a person losing his or her salvation? The Bible does not teach one can lose his or her salvation (John 10:27-29). Some argue that no one else can cause you to lose your salvation, but John 10:28 says that no man can snatch you out of the father’s hand. No man can! That includes any human! Christians have a guarantee that God will keep you until He comes back (Ephesians 1:13-14). One of the most strongest and blunt passage in the Bible that says God will finish the work He started is Philippians 1:6. If someone can lose their salvation, then God did not finish his statement here and would cause God to be a liar. Obviously this is not the case.

There may be some people who think they are believers or who are pretending to be part of the family of God, but they are not true believers and no inheritance in the kingdom of God (Hebrews 6:1-6). Again, the Bible speaks of false brothers in sisters in Christ who are only pretending (Galatians 2:4) and they disguise themselves as servants of God (2 Corinthians 11:15). Jesus speaks of those who are believers in Him will be continue to be His in the parable found in John 15 verses 1-7. There may be a period of time in a believers’ life when he or she backslides or acts like the world. This is very hard for other believers to determine if he or she was a real believer or one who was pretending (Galatians 6:1). However, we should be praying and try to restore the backslider (Galatians 6:1).

The term eternal security is misleading because it implies that you can continue to live in sin and still be a believer. This is not what is meant by Perseverance of the Saints. The correct understanding is that a true believer will not want to keep living sin but that God will finish the work He started and that no one can remove the salvation that was given to him or her (John 10:28; Philippians 1:6). This doctrine should be encouraging to know that even when we do sin, God is faithful and will forgive us and that we are still a child of His (1 John 2:1-3).

These are the doctrines involved in sotereiology. God is the giver of such grace and gives so much to us. A closer study of soteriology should cause great humility and praise to God who is in heaven!

Works Cited
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. Print.

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