Soteriolology, the Study of Salvation

by WordExplain


The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.”
And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Revelation 22:17





















 What, According to the Bible, is Man's Part in Salvation?


A.    What Must a Person Know in Order to be Saved?

1.    A Person Must Have Some Kind of Understanding of WHO JESUS IS.  John 20:30-31

a.    He is THE SON OF GOD.  On a Divine level, Jesus is DEITY.

b.    He is CHRIST.  On a Human Level, Jesus is KING.  (Note: Both of these are proven by the miracles Jesus performed.)

2.    A Person Must Have Some Kind of Understanding of WHY JESUS CAME.  1 Corinthians 15:1-8 is the most basic presentation of the GOSPEL, God’s GOOD NEWS, in the New Testament.

a.    Jesus came to DIE FOR OUR SINS.  (This is proven by the fact that He was buried.)

b.    Jesus was RAISED FROM THE DEAD.  (This is proven by the fact that there are so many witnesses.)  Jesus’ resurrection is just as essential as His death, for, as Paul goes on to point out, if Jesus is still dead, our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17).

3.    A Person Must Have Some Kind of Understanding of HIS OWN DESPERATE CONDITION.   We are SINNERS.

a.    1 Cor. 15:3.  If Jesus came to die for our sins, it stands to reason that we are sinners.

b.    Romans 5:8-10.  Scripture clearly demonstrates that Christ died for us while we were sinners, enemies of God!

B.    What Must a Person Do in Order to be Saved?  
The Bible is clear in answering this question: When the Philippian jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They (Paul and Silas) said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31).  What does it mean to believe in Jesus?  It means to TRUST in Him, to RELY upon Him, to DEPEND upon Him.

1.    Believe in Jesus.  There are many Biblical statements that indicate clearly that FAITH in Christ alone, apart from any works, is necessary for salvation.

a.    If you receive Jesus, you are born into God's family and become one of His children  (John 1:10-13).

b.    The one trusting in God's only-begotten Son will not perish (be cast into the lake of fire, Rev. 20:11-15), but has eternal life (John 3:16).

c.    The one trusting in Jesus is not judged, whereas the one not believing in Jesus has already been judged! (John 3:18).

d.    The one believing in the Son presently has life eternal; the one disbelieving the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God is remaining upon him (John 3:36).

e.    The one hearing Jesus' message and believing in God Who sent Him has life eternal and will not enter into judgment, but has passed from the realm of death into the realm of life (John 5:24).

f.    Performing the most singular work of God is to believe in the One (Jesus) whom God has sent (John 6:28-29).

g.    The one coming to Jesus, the Bread of Life, will not hunger, and the one believing in him will not thirst ever (John 6:35).

h.    It is the will of God that every one beholding the Son and believing in Him might have eternal life, and Jesus Himself will raise him up on the last day (John 6:40).

i.    Without contradiction, Jesus says the one believing has (present tense) life eternal  (John 6:47).

j.    Jesus said to certain Jewish people, "You will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I -- I AM, you will die in your sins."  (John 8:24).

k.    Jesus asked the blind man whom He had healed and who had been expelled from the synagogue, "Are you believing in the Son of Man?"  The man responded, "And who is he, Lord, that I might believe in him?"  Jesus said to him, "You have both seen him, and the one speaking with you - that one is he."   He said, moreover, "I believe, Lord."  And he worshiped him.  (JTB transl) (John 9:35-38).

l.    Jesus told Martha that He is the resurrection and the life.  The one believing in Him - even if he should die - would live.  Every one living and believing in him would not die into the age.  Then he asked Martha, "Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).

m.    Jesus said that the one believing in Him does not believe [merely] in Him, but in the one having sent Him.  He said furthermore, that He had come as light in the world in order that every one believing in Him might not remain in the darkness (John 12:44-46).

n.    The Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin because they did not believe in Jesus (John 16:8-9).

o.    The Father loves Jesus' disciples because they have loved Him and have believed that He came from the Father (John 16:27).

p.    John recorded selected miraculous signs in his document so that his readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, they might have life in His name (John 20:30-31).

q.    To the jailer who asked Paul and Silas what he should be doing in order to be saved, they replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your house." (Acts 16:30-31).

r.    The righteousness of God comes comes through faith in Jesus Christ upon all  those who believe.  God had to do this in order to save anyone, for all have sinned! (Romans 3:22-23).

s.    Jesus' blood is God's legal satisfaction for sin through faith (Romans 3:24-25).

t.    A man is not declared righteous by obeying the Law, but by believing in Jesus Christ.  It is impossible to be declared righteous by keeping the Law (Galatians 2:16).

u.    We have been saved by grace through faith, which is the gift of God.  Our salvation is not through works so that no one will boast.  God has ordained that we who have been saved by grace through faith  are created to live a life of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

2.    Change of Mind.  There are certain passages which indicate that a person must have a change of mind.  Usually we use the word “repent” here, but the word “repent” in the New Testament means a change of mind.  A true change of mind brings about a change in behavior.  Like so many words, we must let the context tell us what the change of mind is about.  Unquestionably the New Testament speaks of changing one’s mind about sin.  But in salvation contexts, it indicates changing one’s mind about Jesus and who He is.  If one changes his mind about who Jesus is, it is simply another way of stating that he has faith in Jesus!

a.    In the early portions of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John the Baptist appeared, commanding people to repent because the kingdom of heaven had drawn near (both in time and in proximity, because the King was now on the scene (Matthew 3:2). Most people of John’s day believed that the Messiah would come and rescue Israel from Rome.  John told them that to participate in the kingdom they would have to be spiritually prepared (not merely politically prepared).

b.    But John also informed the people that he baptized them with water to show repentance, but that One mightier than he was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (resulting in salvation - the wheat being stored in the barn) and with fire (eternal judgment - the chaff being burned with unquenchable fire)  (Matt. 3:11-12).  So his baptism of repentance was designed to focus peoples’ attention on Jesus.

c.    Jesus used the word repent a number of times, but He often seemed to do so in a context that Jewish people needed to alter their perception of Him..  For example, in Luke 15:10, Jesus said that there was joy among the angels for one sinner who repents.  Superficially, it seems that a sinner who repents is one who changes his mind and his behavior about his sin.  While that may be true in some cases, there is more going on here.  Included in the larger context (Luke 15:1-2) is the truth that the repentance of these “tax collectors and sinners” included a positive response toward Jesus, a response that the bulk of the scribes and Pharisees never made.  Repentance cannot here be divorced from a positive change of mind about Jesus.

d.    As Charles Ryrie puts it, “unsaved people can repent unto salvation.  This saving repentance has to involve a change of mind about Jesus Christ so that whatever a person thought of Him before, he changes his mind and trusts Him to be his Savior.  That is the only kind or content of repentance that saves (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 2 Peter. 3:9)” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, chapter 58, "The Fallacy of Misunderstanding Repentance").

e.    Is it possible to lead someone to Christ without ever using the word “repent?”  The answer is yes.  John’s whole purpose in writing his book was to include miracles Jesus performed so that his readers would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing they would have life in His name (John 20:30-31).  Yet he never used the words repent or repentance.  Did John insist that his readers needed to change their mind about who Jesus is?  He most certainly did!

f.    Selected word usage in the Gospels:

Gospel "Repent" "Repentance" "Believe" "Faith"
Matthew 5 3 11 8
Mark 2 2 15 5
Luke 9 5 10 11
John 0 0 98 0


C.    It is Helpful for a Person to Have Some Understanding of His Own Condition.

1.   Paul, in his classic statement of the Gospel, said, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NASB) “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, {2} by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. {3} For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, {4} and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

2.    When Paul said that Christ “died for our sins” his listeners would understand that they were sinners who needed to be rescued.  Paul stated, (Ephesians 2:1-3) that his Gentile readers, before they trusted in Jesus, had been dead in their sins, dominated by the ungodly world, dominated by Satan, and strangled by the lusts of their own flesh.  They were helplessly enslaved.

3.    If we don’t understand that we all have a sin problem (Rom. 3:9-13, 22-23), we probably aren’t going to exercise faith in Jesus.

4.    Having said that, there are too many Scriptures that speak merely of trusting in Jesus to state categorically that a person must be fully cognizant of his sin in order to be saved.  There are too many Scriptures that do not stipulate that condition.  What do we do, for example, with the paralytic who, in Mark 2:1-13, came to Jesus merely with faith that he would be healed, but whom Jesus not only healed, but forgave his sins?!

D.    A Person Must Believe in Jesus.

1.    The Meaning of Faith. 

a.    Faith means confidence, trust, to hold something as true. 

b.    Of course, faith must have content; there must be confidence or trust about something. 

c.    To have faith in Christ unto salvation means to have confidence that He can remove the guilt of sin and grant eternal life.

2.    The Necessity of Faith. 

a.    Salvation is always through faith, not because of faith (Ephesians 2:8).  Faith is the channel through which we receive God’s gift of eternal life; it is not the cause.  This is so man can never boast, even of his faith.  But faith is the necessary and only channel (John 5:24; 17:3).

b.    Normally the New Testament word for believe (pisteuo) is used with the preposition eis (in) – (John 3:16), indicating reliance or confident trust in the object.  Sometimes it is followed by epi (upon), emphasizing the trust as laying hold on the object of faith (Rom. 9:33; 10:11).  Sometimes it is followed by a clause that introduces the content of the faith (Rom. 10:9).

3.    The Kinds of Faith.  The Scriptures seem to distinguish four kinds of faith.

a.    Intellectual or historical faith.  This [kind of faith understands] the truth intellectually as a result of education, tradition, rearing, etc.  It is human and does not save. (Matt. 7:26; Acts 26:27-28; James 2:19).

b.    Miracle faith.  This is faith to perform or receive a miracle, and it may or may not be accompanied by salvation (Matt. 8:10-13; 17:20; Acts 14:9).

c.    Temporary faith.  Luke 8:13 illustrates this kind of faith.  It seems similar to intellectual faith, except that there seems to be more personal interest involved.

d.    Saving faith.  This is a deliberate and active dependence, trust, reliance [upon Jesus].  It is one thing to believe that Jesus died for peoples’ sins.  It is another to believe that Jesus died for MY sins!

Illustration: A man prepared to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  Did anyone believe he could?  The crowd gasped but most said, "Yes."  He did so.  Then he prepared to walk across again pushing a wheelbarrow.  Did the crowd believe he could make it?  They shuddered, but most said, "Yes."  Again, he did so.  A third time he asked, "I will cross again, pushing the wheelbarrow with someone in it.  Do you believe I can make it?"  Half a dozen people said, "Yes!"  Then he asked, "Do I have any volunteers?"  The crowd was silent and there were no volunteers.  You see, they had faith in the abstract, but not enough faith to crawl into the wheelbarrow.  Faith in Jesus crawls into His wheelbarrow while He traverses the chasm of sin, death, hell, and eternity.  This is saving faith!

E.    A Saved Person Will Persevere in His Walk with Jesus.

1.    Of the 98 occurrences of “believe” in John’s Gospel, 52 of them are present tense.  Of the 9 occurrences in 1 John, 6 of them are present tense.  The implication is that saving faith KEEPS ON believing.

2.    The Arminian View of Security.  James Arminius (1560-1609) wrote essays on salvation.  Simon Episcopius (1583-1643) took his views much further.  Here are the main points.

a.    Foreknowledge.  God’s decrees are based on His foreknowledge (meaning foresight). Election was due to foreseen faith....

b.    Pollution, not guilt.  Man inherited pollution from Adam but not imputed guilt.  Depravity is not total, for man can incline his will toward good deeds.

c.    Perfection.  It is possible for a believer to live in such conformity to God’s will so as to be called perfect.

d.    Loss of salvation.  Arminianism clearly teaches that a believer may lose his salvation. 

1)    Arminius said: “I never taught that a true believer can either totally or finally fall away from the faith and perish; yet I will not conceal that there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect.”

2)    On a more popular level, Arminians sometimes equate the position of eternal security with a license to sin.  I personally have never taught this and have never known anyone to teach it.  Clearly Paul answers the question, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Rom 6:1) with his answer in Rom. 6:2 “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

3.    The Reasons for Eternal Security.  Basically security is based on the grace of God and the fact that eternal life is a gift and it is eternal.  When a person believes in Christ, he is brought into a relationship with the Godhead that assures his salvation is secure.  Of course, this is true only of born again people.  There are those who profess but do not possess life.

a.    Reasons Related to the Father

1)    His Choice of us to be ultimately holy and blameless (Eph 1:4).

2)    His Ability to control our future as His sons (Eph 1:5).

3)    His Purpose.  God purposed to glorify the same group He predestined, called, and justified (Rom. 8:30).  This daring statement could not be made if any one of that group could lose his salvation.  If so, then the ones whom He justified would not be the same number as the ones He glorified.  But the text says they will be the same.

4)    His Power.  God has the power to keep the believer from falling (Jude 24).  But Jesus said we are safe in His hand and in His Father’s hand because they are one (John 10:28-29).  Our security is such that no one, not even the believer himself, can take himself out of God’s hand.

b.    Reasons Related to the Son

1)    His Death.  Paul asked, in Romans 8:33-34, as to who would bring a charge against God’s elect, and who would condemn them?  His answer that no one can is based on the death, resurrection, intercession, and advocacy of Christ.

2)    His Statement: Jesus declared that He would lose nothing of what the Father gave him (John 6:39-40) – everyone who believes in Him would be resurrected at the last day.

3)    His Advocacy.  Jesus is our lawyer for the defense.  We are not to sin.  But if we do, we have a Lawyer who serves before the Father in our defense.  He is successful in His defense because He has already paid the entire legal punishment for our sins, and even the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:1-2)!  Would to God that the whole world would accept the payment!

4)    His Prayers.  Jesus, as our High Priest, constantly intercedes for us with the Father (Heb 7:25). Is there any reasonable thought that He could possibly fail in His mission?

c.    Reasons Related to the Holy Spirit

1)    He Baptizes us into the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13).  If a Christian can lose his salvation, he must be unbaptized from the body of Christ, leaving it a disfigured body with organs missing.

2)    He Seals Us to the Day of Redemption (Eph 4:30).  If salvation can be lost then His sealing would not be until the day of redemption but only until we commit a sin sufficiently great enough in quantity or heinousness to warrant our being disinherited as a child of God.  There is no indication in Scripture that that every happens.

4.    There are some “Problem” Passages.

a.    I believe that there are real warnings in the Scriptures.  True believers will ultimately respond to the warnings.

b.    Here are two typical problem passages in Hebrews that serve as examples of believers that are covered by the preceding statement:  Hebrews 6:1-12 (notice the writer is convinced his readers will not be among those who experience the falling away);  Hebrews 10:26-39 (observe again, that the writer is convinced his readers are not among those who would "shrink back to destruction").

5.    We are secure, but we work diligently to serve Jesus!  

a.    Phil 2:12-13  We are to work out our own salvation, but it is really, then, God who is working in us!

b.    2 Pet 1:10-11  We are to be diligent.

c.    Eph 2:8-10  We are saved by grace through faith, but we are created and destined to work, serving God.

d.    Calvinists speak of "the perseverance of the saints."  I believe they are correct.  Those who are truly believers in Christ will persevere.  They will have their ups and downs, but they will persevere in the end.


The items on this page are either accurate summaries of the Scriptures or literal translations of my own from the Greek text, except where otherwise indicated.  All links are to the New American Standard Bible.

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.)

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Updated June 20, 2014

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