The Christian Basics series covers the basics of Christianity. This article summarizes the basic truths of salvation and how God saves those who believe.
- God's Sovereignty in Salvation
- Evidences of Salvation
- Proper Response to Salvation
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8–10)
1. God’s Sovereignty in Salvation
God’s Plan for Salvation
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29–30)
“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4–6)
- God chose believers before the foundation of the world.
- God’s purpose for His sovereign plan of salvation is “to the praise of His glorious grace.”
“Grace is God’s free and sovereign act of love and mercy in granting salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, apart from anything men are or can do, and of His sustaining that salvation to glorification.” (John MacArthur)
It is God’s will and decree to reveal His plan of salvation.
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:25–26)
God’s Plan of Salvation Implemented
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin. This is necessary because man is utterly deceived and depraved.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Romans 3:10–18)
Man must come to a state of repentance, and the ability for man to repent is granted by God Himself. God alone grants us the right to become children of God.
“Correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25)
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13)
We are not given this right based on our birth and heritage, our own efforts or our own volition. God also is wholly responsible for causing growth in a believer, and God will cause our future bodily resurrection.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)
“And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14)
God’s Plan of Salvation Culminated
God will conform all believers into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). He will also transform us with a new body like Christ’s glorious body.
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20–21)
Christ desires that we will one day be with Him in His presence in heaven.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
When the Israelites looked to the bronze serpent to be saved, it was a picture that foreshadowed conversion.
“And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (Numbers 21:5–9 ESV)
Conviction of Sin
God gave us His law and standard for the purpose of making us consciously aware of our sinfulness.
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
When we become aware of our sin, the proper response is to be convicted and “cut to the heart.”
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”” (Acts 2:36–37)
Repentance from Sin
When we understand the reality of our sin and the just penalty of our sin, we can only cry to God for mercy.
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13)
Genuine godly sorrow and remorse of our sin will lead to repentance. Repentance, turning away from sin and turning to God, leads to salvation.
“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9–10)
Turning to Christ
When the Israelite looked to the bronze serpent on the pole, he was exercising faith in what God said. God promised that anyone who would call on Him for mercy and forgiveness will be saved.
“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” (Romans 10:13)
Faith is required for justification and salvation. We need to confess that Jesus is Lord, and we need to believe that God did raise Christ from the dead. Jesus Christ is the object of our faith. We are to trust, cling and embrace Jesus as our only means of salvation.
“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:8–10)
Becoming Slaves to Righteousness
For the person who has repented of his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation, there is no condemnation. The believer has been set free from the power of sin and death. Being set free from sin, we become slaves of righteousness.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1–2)
“And, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)
Being slaves to righteousness and slaves to God, we will be sanctified, and we will inherit eternal life. Sanctification is the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
3. Evidences of Salvation
There are at least 3 evidences of salvation:
- Faith that works.
- Love that labors.
- Hope that remains steadfast.
“Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,” (1 Thessalonians 1:3–4)
A. Faith that works.
“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
The person with true saving faith will persevere.
“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:39)
B. Love that labors.
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” (Hebrews 6:10)
It is God that enables us to love.
“and hope does not put us to shame, because** God’s love has been poured into our hearts** through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
(Romans 5:5 ESV)
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8)
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;” (1 John 3:18–19)
C. Hope that endures.
“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22 ESV)
“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” (Galatians 5:5 ESV)
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
“So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7)
The Colossians, through hearing the truths of the gospel, were known by Paul to have
- Faith in Christ Jesus
- Love for all the saints
- Hope in heaven.
“Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,”
(Colossians 1:4–5 ESV))
4. Proper Response to Salvation
We are to respond by offering our entire lives as a living sacrifice to God, conforming to our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not to continue in sin and conform to the world.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2)
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1)