Questions About Salvation: The TOP 100 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Salvation
Have Questions, Find Answers on Otakada.org – Salvation Terminology – Daily, people turn to the Internet to find answers to their questions about spiritual matters. Topics related to spirituality are the second-most searched subjects online. Sadly, websites that present false teachings far outnumber those that proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We will provide answers as the Holy Spirit leads us from a biblical perspective. You will also need to pray to secure answers to any question you may have because one of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth – John 16:13. Today, we look at Questions About Salvation Terminology and questions that relate to this with biblical answers.. Enjoy
What is justification?
What is Christian reconciliation? Why do we need to be reconciled with God? What is the meaning of Christian redemption?
What is repentance, and is it necessary for salvation?
What is the difference between mercy and grace?
What is the Book of Life?
What is a faith conversion? What does it mean to be converted?
What is decisional regeneration/decision theology?
What is “easy believism” or “cheap grace”?
What is expiation?
What is lordship salvation?
What is propitiation?
What is regeneration?
What is the remission of sin?
What is righteousness?
What is saving grace?
What is the ordo sa/utis/order of salvation?
Why is sola fide important?
Why is sola gratia important?
What is soteriology?
Question: What is justification?
Answer: Simply put, to justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification happens when God declares those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that
came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
We are justified, or declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because we are in Christ, God sees Christ’s own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God’s demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous— He justifies us.
Romans 5:18-19 sums it up well: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” It is because of justification that the peace of God can rule in our lives. It is because of justification that believers can have assurance of salvation. It is the fact of justification that enables God to begin sanctification—the process by which God makes us in reality what we already are positionally. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Question: What is Christian reconciliation? Why do we need to be reconciled with God?
Answer: To be reconciled is to be restored to friendship or harmony. Imagine two friends who have a fight or argument. The good relationship they once enjoyed is strained to the point of breaking. They cease speaking to each other; communication is deemed too awkward. The friends gradually become strangers. Such estrangement can only be reversed by reconciliation. When old friends resolve their differences and restore their relationship, reconciliation has occurred. Second Corinthians 5:18-19 declares, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
The Bible says that Christ reconciles believers to God (Romans 5:10;
2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:20-21). The fact that we needed reconciliation means that our relationship with God was broken. Since God is holy, we were the ones to blame. Our sin alienated us from Him. Romans 5:10 says that we were enemies of God: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
When Christ died on the cross, He satisfied God’s judgment and made it possible for God’s enemies, us, to find peace with Him. Our “reconciliation” to God, then, involves the exercise of His grace and the forgiveness of our sin. The result of Jesus’ sacrifice is that our relationship has changed from enmity to friendship. “I no longer call you servants … Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Christian reconciliation is a glorious truth! We were God’s enemies, but are now His friends. We were in a state of condemnation because of our sins, but are now forgiven. We were at war with God, but now have the peace that “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Question: What is the meaning of Christian redemption?
Answer: Everyone is in need of redemption. Our natural condition is characterized by guilt: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But Christ’s redemption has freed us from guilt, being “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
The benefits of redemption include eternal life (Revelation 5:9-10), forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7), righteousness (Romans 5:17), freedom from the law’s curse (Galatians 3:13), adoption into God’s family (Galatians 4:5), deliverance from sin’s bondage (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:14-18), peace with God (Colossians 1:18-20), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19- 20). To be redeemed, then, is to be forgiven, holy, justified, free, adopted, and reconciled. (See also Psalm 130:7-8; Luke 2:38; and Acts 20:28.)
The word redeem means “to buy out.” The term was used specifically in reference to the purchase of a slave’s freedom. The application of this term to Christ’s death on the cross is quite telling. If we are redeemed, then our prior condition was one of slavery. God has purchased our freedom, and we are no longer in bondage to sin or to the Old Testament law. Galatians 3:13 and 4:5 teaches about this metaphorical use of redemption.
The word ransom is closely related to the Christian concept of redemption. Jesus paid the price for our release from sin and its consequences (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6). His death was in exchange for our life. In fact,
Scripture is quite clear that redemption is only possible “through His blood” (Ephesians 1:7), that is, by His death (Colossians 1:14).
The streets of heaven will be filled with former captives who, through no merit of their own, find themselves redeemed, forgiven, and free. Slaves to sin have become saints. No wonder we will sing a new song—a song of praise to the Redeemer who was slain (Revelation 5:9).
Question: What is repentance, and is it necessary for salvation?
Answer: Many understand the term repentance to mean “turning from sin.” However, this is not the biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is “a change of mind that results in a change of action.”
What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The book of Acts seems to particularly focus on repentance in regard to salvation (Acts 2:38; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). When it comes to salvation, repentance is to change your mind in regard to Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change
their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ.”
Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind.
It is important to understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. Acts 5:31 and 11:18 indicate that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4).
While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26).
Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance toward the Lord Jesus Christ.
Question: What is the difference between mercy and grace?
Answer: Mercy and grace are often confused. While the terms have similar meanings, mercy and grace are not the same. To summarize the difference: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy.
According to the Bible, we have all sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). As a result of that sin, we all deserve death (Romans 6:23) and eternal judgment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15). With that in mind, every day we live is an act of God’s mercy. If God gave us what we deserve, we would all be right now in hell, condemned for eternity. In Psalm 51:1-2, David cries out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” A plea to God for mercy is asking Him to withhold the judgment we deserve and instead grant to us the forgiveness we cannot earn.
We deserve nothing from God. God owes us nothing. Anything good that we experience is a result of the grace of God (Ephesians 2:5). Grace is simply unmerited favor. God gives us good things that we do not deserve and could never earn. We are rescued from judgment by God’s mercy, and grace is anything and everything we receive beyond that mercy (Romans 3:24). Common grace refers to the goodness God bestows on all of mankind regardless of their spiritual standing before Him (see Matthew 5:45). Saving grace is that special dispensation of grace whereby God sovereignly grants to His elect justification, regeneration, and sanctification.
Mercy and grace are best illustrated in the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. We deserve judgment, but if we receive Jesus Christ as Savior, we receive mercy from God and are delivered from judgment. Instead of judgment, we receive grace in the form of salvation, forgiveness of sins, abundant life (John 10:10), and an eternity in heaven, the most wonderful place imaginable (Revelation 21—22) Our response to the mercy and grace of God should be to fall on our knees in worship and thanksgiving.
Question: What is the Book of Life?
Answer: Revelation 20:15 declares, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The Book of Life is the set of names of those who will live with God forever in heaven. It is the roll of those who are saved. (See also Revelation 3:5; 20:12; Philippians 4:3.) The same book is also called the Lamb’s Book of Life, because it contains the names of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 13:8; 21:27).
How can you be sure your name is written in the Book of Life? Be sure you are saved. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5). Once your name is written in the Book of Life, it is never erased (Revelation 3:5; Romans 8:37-39). No true believer needs to doubt the security of salvation in Christ (John 10:28-30).
The great white throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15 is a judgment for unbelievers. The dead who have been resurrected for this judgment are part of “those who … will rise to be condemned” (John 5:29). Those whose names are not in the Book of Life have their fates sealed and their punishment sure.
Some people point to Revelation 3:5 as “proof” that salvation can be lost. However, the promise of Revelation 3:5 is that the Lord will not erase a name: “He who overcomes … I will never blot out his name from the book of life.” An overcomer is one who is victorious over the temptations, trials, and evils of this world—in other words, one who is redeemed. The saved are written in God’s registry and have the promise of eternal security.
Another passage over which confusion sometimes arises is Psalm 69:28: “May they [David’s enemies] be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.” This “book of life” should not be confused with the Lamb’s Book of Life. David is asking the Lord to remove the wicked from earthly existence and judge them according to their iniquity. The same is true of the “book” mentioned in Exodus 32:32-33.
God keeps good records. He knows His own, and He has set the names of His children permanently in His Book of Life.
Question: What is a faith conversion? What does it mean to be converted?
Answer: To convert is to change from one character, type, or purpose to another. Our bodies convert food into energy. We can convert inches to
centimeters, pounds to kilograms, and dollars to euros. Our hearts can also undergo conversions. We can change direction morally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “converted” means “to turn back or return.” It is also translated “restore,” as in Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul.” A conversion is a return to what we were initially created to be.
Since the fall of mankind, every human has been born with a sin nature. Our natural tendency is to please ourselves rather than God. Our human attempts to be good fall far short of the perfection of God (Romans 3:10, 23; Isaiah 53:6). We cannot please God through our own efforts and we are destined for eternal separation from Him (Romans 6:23; 8:8); we cannot convert ourselves. That’s why Jesus came to earth, died in our place, and rose again to conquer death and sin (John 3:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He took the punishment our sin deserves. He offers to trade His perfection for our imperfection so that we can be seen as righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When we admit our helplessness apart from Christ, we are ready to embrace Him as Savior and Lord (Acts 3:19; Romans 10:9). Conversion happens when we trade our old sin nature for the new nature Christ provides. When we come to Him, confess our sin, and seek His ways, our entire perspective changes. The Holy Spirit moves into our spirits and transforms our entire way of life (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are converted—restored to the relationship God intended us to have with Him. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” This is more than a human attempt to “clean up your act.” It is a wholesale change of direction. You were going south; now you are going north. Conversion changes the human heart from sinful to righteous, from hell-bound to heaven-bound.
The Bible has many examples of people who were converted by the grace of God. The Christian-hating Saul became Paul, who devoted the rest of his life to serving the church he once tried to destroy (1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:7- 8). The impetuous and condemning John was transformed into the “apostle of love” (see 1 John 4:7-21). The demoniac of Gerasene, after meeting Jesus, was “dressed and in his right mind” and begging to follow Jesus (Mark 5:15-18). The Holy Spirit has lost none of His power. Modern conversion stories include the amazing transformations of John Newton, Mel Trotter, David Berkowitz, Chuck Colson, and countless others.
This is all accomplished through faith. Faith is placing your whole life into the hands of Someone your spirit recognizes but your physical senses cannot
confirm (Hebrews 11:1). Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” We are saved from our old sin nature and the penalty of that sin through faith in Jesus Christ. But even that faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). God gives us the faith to believe in Him, but we must receive it and act on it. Exercising that gift of faith results in conversion.
Conversion begins in the heart and radiates outward to affect everything we think, say, or do (James 2:26). Merely stating that conversion has occurred does not make it so. Real conversion is obvious as a person switches direction, changes allegiance, and moves from self-worship to God-worship. As the heart is transformed, the actions follow until the entire life has been converted from sin-filled to God-honoring (Romans 6:6-7).
Question: What is decisional regeneration/decision theology?
Answer: Decisional regeneration, sometimes referred to as decision theology, is the belief that a person must make a decision for Christ, consciously accepting Him as Savior, in order to be saved. According to decision theology, the new birth occurs when someone 1) hears the gospel, 2) is convicted of the truth of the gospel, 3) understands the need for salvation, and 4) chooses to accept Christ rather than reject Him. Often, the decision to accept Christ is marked by an action such as walking an aisle, praying a “sinner’s prayer,” signing a decision card, or similar activity.
Detractors of decision theology consider it a misleading and dangerous teaching because it gives man too much control over his salvation. Some see decisional regeneration (salvation depends on making a decision) akin to baptismal regeneration (salvation depends on being baptized) and other works based systems. If salvation is by grace, then it is an internal work of the Holy Spirit, occurring at the time of His choosing. Decisional regeneration, on the other hand, proposes that the moment of salvation occurs when someone makes a choice to “accept Christ.” This, say opponents, is tantamount to salvation by works, because exercising the will is a human work and therefore cannot be part of salvation.
Some are opposed to decision theology because it risks associating a spiritual event with a physical action. Telling someone to “make a decision for Christ” and to “express” that decision outwardly fosters the notion that salvation is synonymous with walking an aisle or reciting a prayer instead of being the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). This false association, in turn, can lead to false
conversions, because someone who walks an aisle after a sermon may think he is saved (on the basis of an emotional experience), when there has been no work of God in his heart. Also, the detractors of decision theology are quick to point out that nowhere in the Bible are “decisions for Christ” mentioned, nor is anyone commanded to “accept Christ” or to “ask Him into your heart.”
Further, Scripture says that man in his natural state is incapable of choosing Christ. He is “dead” in sin (Ephesians 2:1), he cannot please God (Romans 8:8), and he is utterly helpless to come to God on his own (John 6:44). There is “no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11); an unsaved person is unable to “accept the things that come from the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). This being the case, asking a non-Christian to make a decision for Christ is like asking a corpse to dance. Divine intervention is necessary.
The Bible is clear that salvation is totally the work of God. We can do nothing to secure salvation for ourselves (Romans 3:20). The Lord chooses us (John 15:16), draws us to Himself (John 6:44), gives us life (John 14:6), and preserves us (John 10:28). The new birth is not the result “of human decision” (John 1:13). Just as the Lord brought life to the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), Jesus “gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). At the same time, the Bible commands everyone to repent (Acts 3:19; 17:30) and to believe in Christ (Acts 16:31). While the words “make a decision for Christ” are not used in Scripture, the fact that we are commanded to repent seems to imply an exercise of the will.
How is one saved? By grace through faith—and even faith is a gift created through the hearing of God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Salvation does not come by walking an aisle or raising a hand. Saying a prayer does not save anyone. Reading and agreeing with the salvation pages on GotQuestions.org cannot save. Salvation is the making of a new spiritual creation, something only the Holy Spirit can accomplish.
Does this mean that it is wrong for an evangelist to hold an “altar call” after his message? Not at all. However, we must be careful never to attribute our spiritual peace with God to a physical act of our own. Coming to the front of a church is not the same thing as coming to Christ. Also, we should remember that simply “making a decision” of some kind is not what saves us; it is the all- powerful, sovereign work of God in Christ that saves. Rather than calling on people to “invite Jesus to come in,” it would perhaps be better to urge them to repent, believe, and cast themselves on the mercy of God in Christ.
Question: What is “easy believism” or “cheap grace”?
Answer: “Easy believism” refers to the teaching that “all you have to do to be saved is believe.” Of course, we are saved by grace, through faith; we can add no human work to our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). But, in “easy believism,” what constitutes belief is rather fuzzy. “Easy believism” carries with it the idea that faith can be a loosely held thing, an almost flippant attitude of “yeah, I’ve got religion, so I’m taken care of.” Those who view their salvation as little more than “fire insurance” are often accused of “easy believism.”
“Easy believism” (also known as “cheap grace” or “carnal Christianity”) is a derogatory term, with an emphasis on the “easy” part. Opponents of sola fide (faith alone) often falsely accuse those who believe in grace-based salvation of “easy believism.” Those who hold to a works-based salvation criticize the faith- alone Christians of promoting sin and of denying the need for a committed life of Christian discipleship. But there is a difference between the teaching of sola fide and “easy believism.” Critics of sola fide sometimes confuse justification— the one-time act of being declared righteous by God—with sanctification—the lifelong process by which the justified believer is conformed to the image of Christ. Those who call salvation by faith “easy believism” miss the fact that true conversion will always result in sanctification and a life of good works.
Much of this debate is unnecessary and is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture. The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The essence of this doctrine is found in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” So we see that faith, a gift from God, is what saves us. But the next verse tells of the results of that salvation: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Rather than being saved by some “easy” act of our own will, we are saved by the work of God Almighty, by His will and for His use. We are His servants, and from the moment of salvation by faith, we embark on a journey of pre-ordained good works that are the evidence of that salvation. If there is no evidence of growth or good works, we have reason to doubt that salvation ever truly took place. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20 NKJV), and a dead faith is not a saving faith.
The faith-alone doctrine does not teach that some believers follow Christ in a life of discipleship while others do not. There is no separate category of believer known as the “carnal Christian”—that is, a person who receives Christ during a heightened religious experience but never manifests any evidence of a changed life. “Carnal Christianity” is a false and dangerous teaching. It provides an
excuse for the person who does not want to truly follow Christ. Such a person is lulled into a false sense of security thinking he has eternal life because he paid lip service to Christ, felt a thrill, or said a prayer. The Bible nowhere supports the idea that a true Christian can remain carnal for a lifetime. Rather, God’s Word presents only two categories of people: Christians and non-Christians, believers and unbelievers, those who have bowed to the lordship of Christ and those who have not (see John 3:36; Romans 6:17-18; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:18-24; Ephesians 2:1-5; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:3-4).
While eternal security is biblical—no child of God will lose salvation—it is also true that some who claim to have “made a decision” or “accepted Christ” are not genuinely saved. When we are saved, it is by the power of God for the purpose of God, and that purpose includes the works that are the evidence of conversion. Those who continue to walk according to the flesh, evincing no change, are not believers. Paul exhorts us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The “carnal” Christian who examines himself will soon see that he/she is not in the faith.
James 2:19 (NKJV) says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” The type of belief demons have is comparable to the intellectual assent of many false converts. Many unbelievers say, “I believe in God” or “I believe in Jesus,” meaning “I believe Jesus was a great man” or “I acknowledge that the Bible is true.” Perhaps some might say, “I prayed a prayer, and the preacher said I was saved.” The problem is in misunderstanding the word believe. With true, saving faith come genuine repentance and real life change. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us that, when we are in Christ, we are a “new creation.” Is it possible that the new person Christ creates continues to walk in the lust of the flesh? No, it is not possible. “The new self [is] created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
Salvation is certainly free, but it is not easy. We are to die to ourselves as we are changed into the likeness of Christ. “Easy believism” fails in its lack of recognition that a saved person will have a progressively changed life. Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe, but loving obedience is the response that will no doubt occur when one truly comes to Christ in faith.
Question: What is expiation?
Answer: The word expiation does not appear in the New Testament, but it does accurately describe an aspect of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. Expiation means “to cover sin” and/or “to cleanse sin.” Expiation reflects the idea that the
negative and degrading effects of our sin are removed through the grace of God. Another word for expiation is atonement, and truly cleansing of sin is one of the results of Jesus’ atoning death for us.
Through expiation—the work of Christ on the cross for us—the sin of all those who would ever believe in Christ was cancelled. That cancellation is eternal in its consequence, even though sin is still present in the temporal sense. In other words, believers are delivered from the penalty and power of sin, but not the presence of it.
Justification is the term for being delivered from the penalty of sin. This is a one-time act wherein the sinner is declared not guilty and made holy and righteous in the eyes of God. In justification, our sinful natures are exchanged for the righteousness of Christ at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sanctification is the ongoing process whereby believers are delivered from the power of sin in their lives and enabled by the new nature to resist and turn away from sin. Glorification is when we are removed from the very presence of sin, which will only occur once we leave this world and are in heaven. All these processes— justification, sanctification, and glorification—are made possible through the expiation—or cancellation—of sin.
There are other benefits of Jesus’ death for us. One of them, closely related to the concept of expiation, is propitiation, which is “an appeasement of wrath.” Truly, the atoning death of God the Son satisfies the wrath of God the Father against rebellious, sinful humanity (John 3:36; Romans 5:9). Expiation, justification, sanctification, glorification, propitiation, and many more—we have countless reasons to praise God and to turn to Him in faith and trust.
Question: What is lordship salvation?
Answer: Lordship salvation teaches that submitting to Christ as Lord over your life goes hand-in-hand with trusting in Christ for salvation. It also emphasizes a changed life as the result of salvation. Those who believe in lordship salvation would have serious doubts about a person who claims to believe in Christ but does not have good works evident in his life. The Bible explicitly teaches that faith in Christ will result in a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:22- 23; James 2:14-26).
However, depending on the person and his circumstances, spiritual growth sometimes occurs quickly, while other times it takes a while for changes to become apparent. Submission to the lordship of Christ is a progressive process, not a one-time decision. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is by faith alone, apart from works (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible also declares
that a life changes after salvation (Ephesians 2:10). So it is a difficult balance to maintain. We know, however, that we are not to judge another as to the state of his or her eternal soul (Matthew 7:1). God knows who are His sheep, and He will mature each of us according to His perfect timetable.
So, is lordship salvation biblical? It cannot be denied that faith in Christ produces a change (2 Corinthians 5:17). A person who has been delivered from sin by faith in Christ should not desire to remain in a life of sin (Romans 6:2). At the same time, submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ is an issue of spiritual growth, not salvation. The Christian life is a process of submitting to God in increasing measure (2 Peter 1:5-8). For salvation, a person simply has to recognize that he or she is a sinner, in need of Jesus Christ for salvation, and place trust in Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). But Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10), and so Christians absolutely should submit to Him (James 4:7). A changed life and submission to Christ’s lordship are the inevitable results of salvation, not requirements for salvation.
Question: What is propitiation?
Answer: The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.
The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions, as well as in many religions today, the idea is often taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man reconciled to Him.
In the New Testament, the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man cannot propitiate God on his own. Man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice, or gift man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, acceptable to God had to be made by God Himself. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and to make “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17 NKJV).
The word propitiation is used in several key verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross. For example, in Romans 3:24-25 we see that believers in Christ have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by
His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed” (NKJV). These verses are a key point in Paul’s argument in the book of Romans and are at the heart of the gospel message.
In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul makes the argument that everyone —Jew and Gentile alike—is under the condemnation of God and deserving of His wrath (Romans 1:18). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. But God, in His infinite grace and mercy, has provided a way for His wrath to be appeased and us to be reconciled to Him. That way is through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the atonement for sins. It is through faith in Jesus Christ as God’s perfect sacrifice, foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament, that we can be reconciled to God. It is only because of Christ’s perfect life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection on the third day that a lost sinner deserving of hell can be reconciled to a Holy God. The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because “we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NKJV).
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The only way for God’s wrath against sinful man to be appeased and for us to be reconciled to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other propitiation.
Question: What is regeneration?
Answer: Another word for regeneration is rebirth, from which we get the phrase “born again.” To be born again is to experience a new birth, as distinguished from our first birth. The new birth is a spiritual, holy, and heavenly birth resulting in being made alive in a spiritual sense. Our first birth, on the other hand, was one of physical life and spiritual death because of inherited sin. Man in his natural state is dead in sin until we are “made alive” (regenerated) by Christ when we place our faith in Him (Ephesians 2:1, 5). After regeneration, we begin to see, hear, and seek after divine things, and to live a life of faith and holiness. Now we are partakers of the divine nature, having been made new creatures. God, not man, is the source of this (Ephesians 2:8). It is not by men’s works, but by God’s own good will and pleasure. His great love and free gift, His rich grace and abundant mercy, are the cause of the new birth, and these attributes of God are displayed in the regeneration and conversion of sinners. The Bible often speaks of a person’s need to be born again or born “from above”
(John 1:13; 3:6-7; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18).
Regeneration is part of the “salvation package,” if you will, along with sealing (Ephesians 1:14), adoption (Galatians 4:5), reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18- 20), and many other miracles of God. Simply put, regeneration is God making a person spiritually alive, a new creation, as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. The reason regeneration is necessary is that, prior to salvation, we are not God’s children (John 1:12-13); rather, we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:18-19). Before salvation, we are degenerate. After salvation we are regenerated. The result of regeneration is peace with God (Romans 5:1), new life (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17), and eternal sonship (John 1:12-13; Galatians 3:26). This regeneration is eternal and begins the process of sanctification wherein we become the people God intends us to be (Romans 8:28-30).
The Bible says that the only means of regeneration is by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. No amount of good works or keeping of the Law can regenerate the heart, which in its natural state is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV). This concept of new birth is unique to Christianity. No other religion offers a cure for the total depravity of the human heart, preferring instead to outline an often massive body of works and deeds that must be done to gain favor with God. God has told us, though, that “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20 NKJV).
Total regeneration of the heart is necessary for salvation. Paul explains this concept perfectly in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is true regeneration.
Question: What is the remission of sin?
Answer: To remit is to forgive. Remission is the noun form, and it means “forgiveness.” The remission of sin, then, is simply the “forgiveness” of sin. The phrase “remission of sin” is used eight times in the King James Version of the Bible.
For example, Matthew 26:28 says, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (KJV). Modern translations such as the New International Version render the phrase “for the forgiveness of sins.”
Luke has three examples of this phrase. In Luke 1:77 Zechariah prophesies
that his son, John, would “give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins” (KJV). This prophecy was fulfilled when, about 30 years later, John the Baptist “came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3 KJV). When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He said that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47 KJV).
In Acts, Peter tells a Roman named Cornelius that “whosoever believeth in [Christ] shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43 KJV). Cornelius and those in his home did believe, and they received forgiveness in Christ.
God remits sin on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Romans 3:24-25), and God’s Word teaches that remission only comes by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Question: What is righteousness?
Answer: Dictionaries define righteousness as “behavior that is morally justifiable or right.” Such behavior is characterized by accepted standards of morality, justice, virtue, or uprightness. The Bible’s standard of righteousness is God’s own perfection. For a human to be righteous in God’s eyes, he must conform to God’s perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. God’s laws in the Bible both describe His own character and constitute the plumb line by which He measures human attempts at righteousness.
The Greek New Testament word for “righteousness” primarily describes conduct in relation to others, especially in regard to the rights of others in business and legal matters, and in one’s relationship to God. It is contrasted with wickedness, the conduct of one who, out of gross self-centeredness, neither reveres God nor respects man. The Bible describes the righteous person as “just” or “right,” holding to God and trusting in Him (Psalm 33:18-22).
The bad news is that true righteousness is not possible for man to attain on his own; the standard (God’s perfection) is simply too high. The good news is that true righteousness is possible for mankind through the cleansing of sin by Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We have no ability to achieve righteousness in and of ourselves. But Christians possess the righteousness of Christ, because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is an amazing truth. On the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His perfect righteousness so that we can one day stand before God and, instead of seeing our
sin, the Father will see the perfection of His Son.
This means that we are justified, that is, declared righteous in the sight of God; we are accepted as righteous and treated as righteous. Christ was made sin; we are made righteousness. On the cross, Jesus was treated as if He were a sinner, though He was perfectly holy and pure; and believers are treated as if we were righteous, though we are defiled and depraved. We have received this precious gift of righteousness from the God of all mercy and grace. To Him be the glory!
Question: What is saving grace?
Answer: The phrase “saving grace” commonly refers to some type of “redeeming quality” that makes a person or a thing acceptable. The word grace on its own has another set of definitions. Grace is, generally speaking, “unmerited favor”; in a theological context, grace refers to God’s blessings on those who don’t deserve His blessings—which includes all of us.
Saving grace is grace that saves. Scripture says that grace is necessary because “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law” (Romans 3:20); because we cannot earn our own righteousness, God gives us His grace: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known. … This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22). Second Corinthians 9:8 also shows that God’s grace is what enables us to do good deeds after salvation. Grace is understood as the act of God giving man that which man does not deserve. Grace and mercy (which is the act of God sparing man from the punishment he does deserve because of his sins) are the major components of what the Bible calls “salvation.”
The phrase “saving grace” fits nicely with the concept of our worth being found only in Christ. He is that “redeeming factor” that makes us acceptable. We have nothing in ourselves that will commend us to God (Romans 3:10-11). And if we are fundamentally unacceptable to God, and if all our good works are like “filthy rags” in His sight (Isaiah 64:6), we might ask, along with Jesus’ disciples, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus’ reply places the focus on God: “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:26-27). The Bible tells us that through belief in Christ’s perfect life (which was fully acceptable to God) and His substitutionary death (John 10:11) we will be saved. Therefore, our “saving grace,” or that which makes us acceptable to God, is Christ Himself. His work on the cross is what saves us, and not our own merit. He is the only thing about us that makes us acceptable to God. He Himself is our worth in God’s sight.
The only grace that can save anybody is the grace applied to the soul through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8). His work is the only merit we have, and His work is our salvation. Be careful of the pitfall here: it is easy to think that, by our faith, we contribute in some small way to our salvation. After all, Christ’s merit must be “applied” to us by faith, and it seems our faith is coming from us. But don’t forget Romans 3:10-12, which says that none of us seek after God; and Ephesians 2:8, which says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Hebrews 12:2 also tells us that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, so our faith itself and our ability to believe and accept His grace is just another gift from God. The saving grace of the sheep is that the Shepherd loves them and that He has laid down His life to give them eternal life.
Question: What is the ordo salutis/order of salvation?
Answer: Ordo salutis is Latin for “the order of salvation,” which deals with the steps or stages in the salvation of a believer (e.g., election, foreknowledge, predestination, redemption, regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification—see especially Romans 8:29-30). There is disagreement within the church concerning this order and about the causal connections among the various steps. Before discussion, it might be helpful to provide some basic definitions of many of the terms involved:
Foreknowledge: God’s knowing prior to salvation those who would be saved (Romans 8:29).
Predestination/Election: God’s choosing before time all who would be saved (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Regeneration: God’s renewing of one’s life (not physically but spiritually, reversing the spiritual death caused by sin) (Titus 3:5).
Evangelism: The communication of the gospel by which one can be saved (Matthew 28:19).
Faith: Belief and trust in the message of the gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9). Conversion: One’s turning to God based on the gospel (Acts 26:18).
Perseverance: One’s continued true belief—remaining in the state of salvation (Jude 1:24).
Repentance: Changing one’s mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ (Acts 26:20).
Justification: God’s freeing of one from the penalty of sin—the
pronouncement of “not guilty” on a sinner (Romans 5:9).
10. Sanctification: God’s separation of one from the lure of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
11. Glorification: God’s final removal of all sin from the life and presence of one (in the eternal state) (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17).
The debate over ordo salutis is usually between the Reformed and Arminian systems. In the Reformed or Calvinist tradition, the ordo salutis is election/predestination, followed by evangelism, regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification. In the Arminian camp, the ordo salutis is evangelism, followed by faith/election, repentance, regeneration, justification, perseverance, and glorification. These stages may have various distinctions that are not represented here but serve to show the basic differences between the two systems. It should be noted that these need not be conceived as chronological steps—many of these stages are distinctions within a single process that all (in one way or another) depend upon the work of God.
The differences are much more than mere labels. One’s ordo salutis has as much to do with the cause(s) of salvation itself as it does with salvation stages. For example, the Reformed position has faith as an effect of election rather than a cause of it (as the Arminians have it). Thus, in Calvinism there is a sense in which a person is saved in order to have faith. Who, then, is to blame if a person does not believe? The Arminian position is that a person must exercise faith first; in a way, the believer is responsible for whether or not God saves him and thus must persevere to the end before he can be assured of salvation. What does this say about a believer’s security? These and many other questions are dependent upon one’s view of the ordo salutis for their answers.
Question: Why is sola fide important?
Answer: Sola fide, which means “faith alone,” is important because it is one of the distinguishing points that separate the true biblical gospel from false gospels. At stake is the very gospel itself, and it is therefore a matter of eternal life or death. Getting the gospel right is of such importance that the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 1:9, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Paul was addressing the same question that sola fide addresses: On what basis is man declared by God to be justified? Is it by faith alone or by faith combined with works? Paul stresses in Galatians and Romans that man is “not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16), and
the rest of the Bible concurs.
Sola fide is one of the five solas that came to define the key issues of the Protestant Reformation. Each of these Latin phrases represents an important area of doctrine that was an issue of contention between the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church. Today the solas still serve to summarize the doctrines essential to the gospel and to Christian life and practice: sola scriptura— Scripture alone; sola fide—faith alone; sola gratia—grace alone; sola Christus —Christ alone; and sola Deo gloria—for the glory of God alone. Each sola is vitally important, and they are all closely related. Deviation from one will lead to error in another essential doctrine, and the result will almost always be a false gospel, which is powerless to save.
Sola fide is a key point of difference between not only Protestants and Catholics but between biblical Christianity and almost all other religions and teachings. Most religions and cults teach men what works they must do to be saved, but the Bible teaches that we are not saved by works but by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Biblical Christianity is distinct from every other religion in that it is centered on what God has accomplished through Christ’s finished work, while all other religions are based on human achievement. If we abandon the doctrine of justification by faith, we abandon the only way of salvation. “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5). The Bible teaches that those who trust Jesus Christ for justification by faith alone have His righteousness imputed to them (2 Corinthians 5:21); those who try to establish their own righteousness or who mix faith with works will receive the punishment due to all who fall short of God’s perfect standard.
Sola fide is simply a summary of what is taught over and over in Scripture— that at some point in time God declares ungodly sinners righteous by imputing Christ’s righteousness to them (Romans 4:5; 5:8, 19). God does this in response to faith in one’s heart, and salvation is bestowed apart from any human work and before the individual actually begins to become righteous. This is an important distinction between Catholic theology, which teaches righteous works are meritorious toward salvation, and Protestant theology, which affirms the biblical teaching that righteous works are the result and evidence of being born again by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sola fide is so important to the gospel message and a biblical understanding of salvation that Martin Luther described it as being “the article with and by which the church stands.” Those who reject sola fide reject the only gospel that can
save them and by necessity embrace a false gospel. Yet today this important biblical doctrine is once again under attack. Too often, sola fide is relegated to secondary importance instead of being recognized as an essential doctrine of Christianity, which it certainly is.
“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written:
‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Galatians 3:6-11).
Question: Why is sola gratia important?
Answer: Sola gratia, or “grace alone,” is important because it is one of the key points separating the true biblical gospel from false gospels that cannot save. As one of the five solas that came to define the theology of the Protestant Reformation, this doctrine is as important today as it was then.
Sola gratia is a simple acknowledgement that the Bible teaches the totality of our salvation is a gift of grace from God. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Sola gratia is the acknowledgement that salvation from the wrath of God is based on God’s grace and mercy and not on anything good in us.
One reason so many reject this important doctrine is that they do not want to accept the Bible’s teaching about basic human nature since the fall of Adam. The Bible says that our hearts are “deceitful” and “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV) and that “there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11). Rather than acknowledge our total helplessness and hopelessness apart from the grace of God, most people want to believe that they have some inherent goodness and a role to play in their salvation. Western culture is so saturated with the idea that we are “masters of our own destiny” and “captains of our souls” that the idea we are without any hope apart from God’s grace is foreign to our way of thinking.
The truth of salvation sola gratia, or by grace alone, is what inspired John Newton to write the wonderful song “Amazing Grace.” It is an amazing grace that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still
sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This doctrine is important because it correctly communicates the fact that God saves us because of His mercy and goodness and not because of anything that makes us desirable to God or worthy to be saved. We cannot grasp how amazing God’s grace in salvation is until we first grasp how sinful we truly are.
Sola gratia is important because, if we reject it, we reject the only gospel that can save. The alternative to sola gratia is a gospel that depends on the goodness of man instead of the grace of God. Such a message is no gospel at all. Sola gratia is what makes the gospel “good news.” The Bible says there is “no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11), but the good news is that God seeks after sinners. Jesus said He came to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10), not to wait for the lost to seek Him. It is God who acts first, God who draws the wretched sinner to Himself, God who gives new life to a person dead in sin, and God who causes a person to be “born again” so he or she can enter God’s Kingdom.
Those who deny sola gratia, either in words or actions, end up with a “gospel” that entails God bringing man only so far along the path of salvation and then leaving it up to him to save himself. As a result of “cooperative effort,” man is saved not by grace alone but by grace plus works. However, this is not the gospel presented in the Bible, which says that works nullify grace (Romans 11:6). Everything man does is tainted by sin, so unless God fully brings salvation to pass, unregenerate man will never respond in faith to the gospel.
Finally, sola gratia is important because it is the basis of our assurance of salvation as sinners before a holy God. If we are not saved by grace alone, then we cannot have any true assurance of salvation. Since everything we do is tainted by sin, how can we have confidence that our works are effective, and how can we know if we have done enough to be saved? Fortunately, the Bible reveals that our eternal security is based on God’s faithfulness, not our works (2 Timothy 2:13). Our salvation is based not on what we do but on what Jesus Christ has done. The good news is that Christ came, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead in order to give new life to dead sinners, to deliver them from sin and give them eternal life. God’s grace is the reason we can know that Jesus will lose none of all that the Father has given to Him, but “raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).
Question: What is soteriology?
Answer: Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. Soteriology
discusses how Christ’s death secures the salvation of those who believe. It helps us understand the doctrines of redemption, justification, sanctification, propitiation, and the substitutionary atonement. Here are some common questions addressed in the study of soteriology: Once saved always saved? Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Is baptism required for salvation? What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation? What does it mean to be a born-again Christian?
Along with Christology, soteriology draws clear-cut distinctions between Christianity and other world religions and the cults. Understanding biblical soteriology will help us to know why salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8— 9), through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. No other religion bases salvation on faith alone. Soteriology helps us to see why. A biblical understanding of our salvation will provide a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), because we come to know that God who can never fail is the means by which we were saved and the means by which we remain secure in our salvation. If we were responsible to save ourselves and keep ourselves saved, we would fail. Thank God that is not the case!
The student of soteriology will delve into matters such as the basis for salvation (the sacrifice of Christ), the effects of salvation, the election of the saved, and the relationship between God’s justice and His forgiveness of sinners. The gospel is so glorious, and the salvation of God’s elect so wonderful, that “even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12).
Titus 3:5-7 is a tremendous summary of soteriology: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
Links to Other Q and A on Salvation
Top Questions About the Plan of Salvation with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Jesus and Salvation with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Who Can Be Saved with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Assurance of Salvation with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Salvation and Works with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Salvation Terminology with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Life After Salvation with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Election and Predestination with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Salvation and the Old Testament with Biblical Answers
Top Miscellaneous Questions About Salvation with Biblical Answers