Salvation refers to the act of God's grace in delivering his people from bondage to sin and condemnation, transferring them to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13), and giving them eternal life (Romans 6:23)—all on the basis of what Christ accomplished in his atoning sacrifice. The Bible says we are saved by grace through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
In theology, the study of salvation is called soteriology, from the Greek soteria meaning "salvation". Salvation, virtually synonymous with the overall concept of redemption, includes a past, present, and future sense. As Christians, we were saved from the penalty of sin when God brought us to faith in Christ; we are presently being saved from the power of sin as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us; and we will someday be saved from the presence of sin when we meet Christ face to face in glory. This idea is presented below in terms of initial, progressive, and final salvation.
- The Doctrine of Salvation - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 (QuickTime), by Rob Lister and Bruce Ware - Seminary lectures
- Visual Theology - The Order of Salvation (infographic), by Tim Challies
- Salvation, What It Is and Why It Is So Important (MP3), by S. Lewis Johnson
Arminian and Molinist perspective
- The Doctrine of Salvation - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7; by William Lane Craig
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Apart from Christ, we are "weak" and "ungodly" (Rom 5:6), "sinners" (Rom 5:8), under the coming "wrath of God" (Rom 5:9), "enemies" of God in need of "reconciliation" and salvation (Rom 5:10), under the "judgment" and reigning "death" that followed Adam's "one trespass" (Rom 5:16-17), "enslaved to sin" (Rom 6:6, 16-17, 20), presenting our "members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness" (Rom 6:19), "of the flesh, sold under sin" (Rom 7:14), having "nothing good" dwelling in our flesh (Rom 7:18), having bodies "of death" in need of deliverance (Rom 7:24), "hostile to God" (Rom 8:7), the fruit and wages of which are death and condemnation (Rom 6:21, 23; 8:1).
"It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27) Apart from Christ, we are "by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (Ephesians 2:3) Those with "hard and impenitent heart[s]... are storing up wrath for [themselves] on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5) "[F]or those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil..." (2:8-9) "They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might..." (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
Initial salvation refers to the event of a person's conversion. If you repent of your sin and turn in faith to Christ as Lord and Savior, your sins are immediately forgiven, your fight of faith has begun, and your future in Christ is secured forever. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13) "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:3-7)
Progressive salvation refers to the journey of a believer between conversion and death. It is the only path that leads to eternal life (Romans 6:20-23), and is walked by faith alone, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8, Galatians 3:2-5). It contains bumps and struggles and setbacks, but is marked by growth in love for others and for God. It involves a fight of faith, a striving for peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14, 1 John 1:9), and a reoccurring approach of the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). "[O]ur Lord Jesus Christ... will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:7-9)
Final salvation refers to the event of God saving his people at the final judgment, the great divide between sheep and goats, wherein sheep are identified by their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and accepted on the ground of their union with Christ, the righteous substitute.
Results of salvation
Another aspect of salvation is the biblical doctrine of election. Election to salvation may be defined as God's eternal purpose to save some of the human race in and by Jesus Christ. The Bible discusses election in 3 ways:
- The election of Israel as the Old Testament people of God (e.g. Deut 4:37)
- The election of individuals for specific roles of serivce or office (e.g. 1 Samuel 10:24)
- The election of individuals for salvation (e.g. Ephesians 1:4)
- ↑ In its generic sense, the word salvation refers to deliverance or rescue from some undesirable state or condition.
- Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Crossway, 1997.
- John Stackhouse, ed. What Does it Mean to be Saved?. Baker Academic, 2002.