Soteriology: What Is Salvation?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 8, 2021 1 comments

by Katie Erickson

What is salvation? As followers of Jesus Christ, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on salvation, but what exactly is it? That’s what we’ll look into today as we dig into soteriology, the study of salvation.

Specifically, soteriology deals with the divine work of God to bring His Creation, especially humanity, to enjoy His divine purpose in our existence. Why can’t we do that without Him? We as people were created in perfection and in God’s image, but the first people sinned, and that sin has continued to separate all of humanity from God’s perfect presence ever since (see Anthropology and Hamartiology for more on that). Because we as humans were disobedient to God, we need Him to save us from that disobedience and restore a right relationship with Him.

All Christians agree that salvation has to do with Jesus Christ and the “cross event,” but many can differ on the details of how and why salvation happens. The “cross event” refers to Jesus, who was both fully human and fully God, died an actual death and was raised to life again on the 3rd day. What actually happened during that remains a mystery; what exactly occurred in those days when Jesus was dead? What was that experience like for Jesus as a person to be raised again by God the Father? We really don’t know, and that’s ok.

The essential part of the cross event is to know that it happened. It was part of God’s plan for humanity to provide salvation for all of us sinful humans through the cross event, and we simply need to trust that it occurred in such a way that God has fulfilled that promise to save all of humanity. God had promised that as early as Genesis 3:15, right after the first humans sinned: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” God will crush Satan’s head and forever defeat death through the work of Jesus Christ.

I love how this quote from 16th-century theologian Martin Luther summarizes why Jesus Christ died: “Christ does not die for the attainment of a personal benefit, for He does not die for us in order thereby to gain a great profit and benefit from us for Himself. Nor does He die in order to satisfy the claims of justices, for He is not obliged or bound to die either for us or for Himself. But He does die for the sake of our sins that He may help us. The great, unending love He bears us moves Him to die for us.”

This is also explained in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This makes it clear that God loved “the world” (every person who has ever lived or will ever live), and Jesus was sent to earth to save the whole world. God desires for all to be saved; we see this in 1 Timothy 2:3-4: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Everyone has the potential to be saved, but we need to call on the name of the Lord in order to be saved. We even see this in the Old Testament, in Joel 2:32: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” This passage is quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:13. Just before that, Paul tells us exactly what we need to do to be saved: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

There are lots of theories that are supported by various theologians that attempt to explain what occurs in the cross event and how we obtain salvation. However, none of them can be proven to us this side of heaven since no one knows the mind of God. You can check out this article to get a brief summary of 7 of the primary theories of atonement.

The other aspect of soteriology is known as the ordus salutis, literally “order of salvation.” This refers to the way in which events happen in the process of a person experiencing salvation. For example, Lutheranism teaches that salvation is by grace alone, and that grace is received at baptism. The person is dead in his or her sins and can do absolutely nothing in order to be saved; the work is all done by the Holy Spirit. The Arminian view, however, is one that allows the person to make a decision to follow Christ and be saved, though the work of salvation is still performed by God. The primary difference here is whether God is the sole agent in salvation, or if there is a cooperation between people and God in this act.

The Scriptures are not clear on the details of how salvation occurs in an individual and they can be interpreted in many ways, so personally, I find it difficult to take a solid stance on this issue aside from the fact that salvation has to do with faith in Christ and the free gift of grace that God gives us. We can be assured that when we have faith in Jesus Christ and His saving death and resurrection, we will be saved. This is not something we earn by our good works, but a gift that God has given us.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Do you have that faith in Christ that you have received His salvation? We don’t need to have all the details figured out, but simply have faith that Jesus’ death and resurrection are what is needed to restore our right relationship with God. If you have not yet received this gift of salvation through faith, please contact us at Worldview Warriors and we would love to talk with you!

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Rex Goyer said...

Salvation is first and foremost a gift. It is fully attained/received by faith and confession as you said. (Romans 10:9&10) I believe that humans in general want to earn our way. We feel that we need to or want to do it ourselves. In the garden Eve did this exact thing. She wanted to be like God and decided to do it herself by eating the forbidden fruit. Since that event all mankind has wanted to "do it themselves". Even Adam tried to "cover" himself instead of going to God for help. Salvation, by grace alone, destroys this notion so that no person can take credit for entering heaven on their own.