40 Questions About Salvation

Answers to the most common questions pertaining to salvation: election, the order of salvation, and the perseverance of the saints.

40 Questions About Salvation
40 Questions About Salvation by Matthew Barrett
40 Questions About Salvation by Matthew Barrett (Credo Magazine)

But as for me, I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to Yahweh.” (Jonah 2:9 LSB)

40 Questions About Salvation was written by Matthew Barrett in 2018, and it is a part of the 40 Questions Series published by Kregel. This is a 1750 word executive summary of a book written to answer "the most common and difficult questions about election, the order of salvation, and perseverance of the saints."

1. Sin and the Need for Salvation

What Is Sin?

Sin is the failure to obey God’s moral law. We can fail to meet God’s commandments through our wrong behavior, attitudes, and motives. Examples of sin include unbelief, idolatry, and pride.

Do We Inherit the Guilt and Corruption of Adam's Sin?

Man's sin problem began with Adam. Original sin refers to the idea that man is born in a sinful state inherited through Adam. This concept, called immediate imputation or Federalism, is explained more fully in Romans 5:12–21. Adam’s sin spread to all of us because he acted as our representative. Therefore, all of us are counted guilty because of Adam’s sin.

Are We Totally Depraved?

Yes, but we need to define what total depravity means. Total depravity does not mean that every person is as bad as he could be. Instead, total depravity refers to the idea that man's inherited sin nature has corrupted all his inner being, affecting his mind, will, and affections. Sin has corrupted all his mental faculties. It is therefore true to understand every sinner as “enslaved to sin.”

Do We Need God’s Grace to be Freed from Sin?

Because our inner being is completely corrupted by sin and we are totally depraved, we are enslaved to sin. None of us "understands" or "seeks for God" (Rom 3:11). Therefore, to be freed from God, we are in need of God's grace.

2. Salvation and Union with Christ

What is Meant by Salvation?

Because of our total depravity and our helpless condition, we can only be set free from our helpless condition through God's great work of salvation.

The Bible describes salvation in the past, present, and future tense.

  • Past, completed action: Ephesians 2:4–9 tells us that God has saved us through faith. Christians already possess this salvation.
  • Present, continuing action: Titus 3:4–7 and 2 Timothy 1:8–9 tells us that we are presently enjoying the benefits of salvation.
  • Future, anticipated action: Hebrews 9:28 declares we await God’s salvation when Christ returns in his second coming.

What is the Order of Salvation?

The order of salvation is also called the ordo salutis. Many aspects of salvation happen simultaneously. Therefore, the ordo salutis is less about chronology and more about logical ordering.

For example, the Bible declares that regeneration precedes faith. God gives a person a new heart before he can respond to the gospel of Christ in faith.

The ordo salutis is as follows.

  • Effectual calling, regeneration, conversion (faith and repentance), justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification.

What Does it Mean to be United with Christ?

Union with Christ is not a component in the ordo salutis. Rather, functions as the unifying principle for the order of salvation. From effectual calling to glorification, every part of a believer’s salvation happens through union with Christ.

“The Spirit’s goal at each stage in salvation is for God’s elect to be found in Christ. Furthermore, while the source of union with Christ is divine election in eternity past, the basis of this union is the work of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection” (85).

3. Election, Calling, and New Birth

Is God's Electing Choice Conditioned Upon Us?

Election is God’s sovereign choice concerning those who will be saved. Romans 9 makes clear that God’s election is not based on his foreknowledge of someone’s future faith or works. Rather, election is only in accordance to God’s own purpose and grace.

The converse of election is reprobation which refers to God’s choice concerning those who will not be saved. God reprobates individuals based on their lack of repentance and their rejection of Christ.

What is the Difference between the Gospel Call and the Effectual Call?

God chooses who He will save, and he calls them to salvation. There are two kinds of callings. There is the (1) gospel call and the (2) effective or “effectual” call.

The gospel call is God’s universal call to all the earth to repent and come to him. God desires all people to repent (2 Tim 2:13). This gospel call can be resisted by hard-hearted sinners (Acts 7:51; Heb 3:8–13).

Does God's Call Ever Fail?

While the gospel call can be resisted, God’s effective call never fails. God's effective call summons his sovereign ability to save those whom he chooses (John 6:36–40; 8:47; 10:26; Rom 8:28).

What Does it Mean to be Born Again?

Regeneration refers to the new birth, or being born again. It comes from the Holy Spirit, and it unites “the elect sinner to Christ by breathing new life into that dead and depraved sinner so as to raise him from spiritual death to spiritual life” (136). As a result, God removes the sinner’s heart of stone and gives him a heart of flesh. The sinner is washed and made clean, born again, and given the capacity to repent and trust Christ for his salvation.

Is the New Birth Something We Bring About?

Man’s role in regeneration is passive (1 Pet 1:3–5; Eph 2:1–7; Col 2:11–14). Yet regeneration does logically precedes faith, and it enables saving faith.

Does God Coerce Our Free Will?

Although regeneration precedes and enables saving faith, God does not have the coerce the will. God’s regenerating work frees a person from enslavement to sin to delight in God, the true object of his God-given desire.

4. Conversion, Justification, and Adoption

What is Saving Faith?

Saving faith is not mere head knowledge. Saving faith starts with knowledge (understanding the truths of the gospel of Christ). Saving faith also involves willful assent (agreement of these gospel truths) and trust (deep-rooted assurance of the forgiveness of sins).

What is True Repentance?

True repentance is necessary for conversion. Repentance is not emotional regret or remorse. It involves both the knowledge of sin and the grief over that sin. True repentanc is a willful abandonment of sin and a turning to Christ.

Are Faith and Repentance Gifts of God’s Grace?

Both faith and repentance are gifts (grace) from God (2 Tim 2:24–26; Rom 4:2–5).

Justification, according to John Calvin, is the “main hinge on which religion turns” (193). Justification is a judicial term. As judge, God pounds the gavel and declares a person “justified.” Justification is not a gradual transformation where a sinner becomes more righteous. Instead, justification is a legal declaration of the believer’s righteousness when he is united with Christ through saving faith and true repentance.

What is the Great Exchange? Is the Righteousness of Christ Imputed to Believers?

Justification includes what is sometimes called “the great exchange.” This "great exchange" depicts the believer’s sin imputed to Christ on the cross while Christ’s active and passive righteousness is imputed to the believer (2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9; Rom 5:19). It is also sometimes called "double imputation."

Is Justification by God’s Grace Alone, through Faith Alone?

Our justification is by God's grace alone. We cannot "bring about" the new birth. Salvation requires the regeneration by the Holy Spirit by God's grace alone. Salvation and justification is also appropriated through faith alone apart from any human work or effort.

What Does It Mean to be Adopted as Children of God?

In Romans 8:15, another aspect of salvation is introduced which is the term of adoption. We, as sinners, were once enemies. But now, we are adopted into God's family. And as God's adopted children, we inherit all the benefits and blessings through Christ. We have been adopted at the moment of salvation, but we still await our future hope and inheritance that awaits us when Christ returns.

5. Sanctification, Perseverance, and Glorification

What is the Difference between Definitive and Progressive Sanctification?

Sanctification refers to "being made holy." There are two aspects to sanctification.

  • Definitive sanctification is the once-for-all act when God sets apart his adopted children for his purposes
  • Progressive sanctification is the ongoing process whereby believers are gradually made more holy in their battle against ongoing sin.

What is the Difference between Justification and Sanctification?

  • Justfication, as discussed previously, is a legal term referring to the removal of guilt.
  • Sanctification is a moral term referring to the removal of the pollution of sin.

Who is the Author of Sanctification?

God is the ultimate author of the believer's sanctification. The believer still has the responsbility to "work out" what has been "worked in." (Phil 4:12–13)

How Do We Die to Sin?

The dying or the mortification of sin refers to the active process of killing sin while striving for godliness. This process is enabled by God's grace through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

How Do We Grow in Likeness to Christ?

Will We Ever Reach Perfection in this Life?

Christians are already currently "holy saints." However, we are not fully sanctified and perfected until the second coming of Christ when call things are consummated. This transitional period between our definitive sanctification and our final sanctification is called perserverance.

Can We Lose our Salvation? Is Perseverance in the Faith Necessary?

The Bible states that all believers can be confident and assured that whoever God elects and calls and justifies, these God will also glorify (Rom 8:30). Our perseverence is necessary and secure.

What Role Do Warning Passages Play in our Perseverance?

The warning passages found in the Bible are difficult to interpret, and there are differing opinions on answering this question. Suffice to say, God gives the believers "warnings" in Scripture as part of his saving work to keep his children persevering in the faith.

What Will Glorification be Like?

When a believer physically dies, he enters an intermediate state where his eternal soul is present with God. When Christ returns, the Christian's body will receive a new resurrected, glorified body and restored soul. He will reign with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth.