For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23 NIV)
Theologians have developed complex explanations about the doctrine of "soteriology", or
salvation. We believe the Bible's teaching is clear and simple (it must be!). This week's
approach will be to learn through focussing on key definitions and appreciating their context.
Some words seem old-fashioned and obscure; some are expressed differently in recent versions
of the Bible; this has had the (partial) effect of taking away some of the richness of their
From the beginning of time, people in every culture have been looking for salvation. Religion
means many things to many people, but behind most religious expressions is a search for God, or
to please God or gods, and ultimate meaning in this life, as well as assurance for eternity.
The doctrine of "soteriology" has to do with how we can be saved, by being restored to right
relationship with God our Creator, through whom we are alienated by sin, and have confidence
moving on into eternity.
Definition and Context
English: at-one-ment, ie
bringing together people
who have been enemies,
into a relationship of
"And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus
Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." (Romans
5:11. NIV translates "reconciliation")|
Meaning in the Old Testament
From Hebrew kaphar, or "to cover", especially in Leviticus and
Number. Typified by the covering God provided for Adam and Eve
when they sinned (Genesis 3:21), and the "covering" in the ark
(pitch, to keep water out, Genesis 6:14). The sacrificial blood of
animals covered sinners and stood between them and God.
The Jews celebrated on the Day of Atonement (known today as
Yom Kippur, which coincides with the Western Easter). Leviticus
describes "scapegoats"; one died for sins; the other (as a type)
carried them away (cf Psalm 103:12, Micah 7:19; Isaiah 38:17b).
The problem was that these sacrifices only had a temporary effect
and had to be repeated over and over again.
They also focussed on sins, not the underlying issue of sinfulness.
The Mercy Seat on the ark of the covenant came from the same
Meaning in the New Testament
There is only one NT reference, Romans 5:11 (translated
"reconciliation": in some versions.
Like the scapegoat, Jesus took our sins on Himself (being "made
sin for us", 2 Corinthians 5:21), then carried them away forever.
He was the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world
The "atoning" death of Christ is the meeting place of God's justice
Implies a change in
relationship between two
parties (in this case
between God and
humanity), based on our
changed status (reconciled
to God through the work of
|"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. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though
God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on
Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)|
Jesus Christ reconciled sinners to God through His death (Romans
A new basis of fellowship, or friendship, with parties in a state of
enmity, or separation, is established. Not only forgiveness and the
removal of sin, but entry into a new level of friendship based on
man's new legal condition before God, in Christ's righteousness.
That is why sinners cannot make themselves "good enough".
Reconciliation is always the work of God, initiated by Him, as He
reaches out to us.
Practical implications: reconciliation with others. We are given a
new role of ministers of reconciliation (Ambassador analogy).
Greek: hilasterion - from
Hebrew word meaning
"Mercy Seat", the place of
Latin: provision for pity,
"In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and
sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our
sins." (1 John 4:10, Amplified Bible)|
In OT, blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies
on the Day of Atonement. "This is what sin costs; no waivers."
Our account with God is "settled" by the blood of Christ (1 John
2:2). God is both just and justifier (the judge pays the penalty).
|Substitution||Jesus Christ died in our place. His death was "substitutionary"
(Isaiah 53; John 11:50; Romans 5:6, 8, 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15, 21),
Hebrew paraq = to tear
"It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become
for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and
redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV)
|Greek lytron = a ransom||
Analogy from a marketplace, eg to buy a slave for freedom
(Galatians 3:13; 4:15). Release on payment of a ransom (Titus
2:14; Romans 3:24). The Greek also implies deliverance (Hebrews
9:12). (The word is still used in English.)|
We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). He paid
the ransom (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6). He redeemed us from
the curse of the Old Testament Law; he was made a curse for us
(Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; Revelation 5:9).
We are delivered from bondage to sin and Satan; free to serve God
with a new life (Romans 6:4)
Redemption therefore has two sides:
- from - the Law, its penalties, sin, Satan and all evil
- to - freedom, new relationship with God; new life in Christ.
"For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is
great" (Psalm 25;11)|
OT concept (used 20 times). Implies that a record is kept.
A pardon has to be accepted to be effective.
In the NT, "justification" has greater effect.
Greek daikyo = to absolve,
vindicate, set right.
|"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we
have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
.... Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more
shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 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! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in
God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now
received reconciliation." (Romans 5:1, 2, 9-11)|
Justification is the legal act by which we are freed from the guilt
and penalty of sin and identified with the life and complete work
- Declarative act - declared to be free from the guilt of sin
and its consequences (Romans 4:6-8; 5:18, 19; 8:33, 34; 2
Judicial act - Christ fulfilled the law on our behalf (Romans
8:3, 26; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3;18;
Matthew 10:41; 1 Timothy 1:9). Satan has no legal basis to
condemn. We are made righteousness (Romans 3:25, 26).
- Remissive act - God forgives/remits our sins (Romans 4:5;
6:7). We ought not to dwell on what God has "remitted".
- Restorative act - sinners are restored to favour with God
through Christ's righteousness (Romans 5:11; Galatians 3:6;
1 Corinthians 1:30). Not a question about our "worthiness";
Christ has done it all for us. We have a new legal standing
before God - an exchange - while Christ stood in our place
we stand in His place (Galatians 3;15; 1 Corinthians 5:21;
Justification is God's work. Based on our faith in Christ (Romans
Greek elegcho = to
convince, prove guilty
|"When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about
sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do
not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the
Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment,
because the prince of this world now stands condemned." (John
Conviction is the first stage of repentance, when we realise we
have sinned, eg Psalm 51.
True conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11).
Greek metanoia = change
(of mind, heart
Metamelonia = change of
|"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and
leaves no regret" (2 Corinthians 7:10)|
Repentance is often depicted as regret. In fact it means much
Change of mind/heart, in relation to sin (Acts 2:38; Romans 2:4).
Accompanied by sorrow for sin; evidenced by turning away from
God is the author of repentance - He gives the capacity to do so
(Acts 4:31). We so cannot save ourselves that even the heartfelt
desire to change comes from Him. More than a resolution ("my
Produced by the Holy Spirit, in cooperation with men and women
(sinners) responding in faith. Left alone, our natural inclination is
Repentance is necessary for salvation (Matthew 3:2, 8; 4:17; Acts
20:31; 2 Peter 3:9).
- the act of repenting
- a state of repentance in our lives ("Produce fruit in keeping
with your repentance" - Matthew 3:8)
Greek = to be born again.
|"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" (Titus 3:5)|
Only used twice in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5);
however other passages refer to it:
- born again (John 3:3, 5, 7)
- born of God (John 1:13; 1 John 3:9)
- quickened/made alive (Ephesians 2:1, 5)
- renewed Romans 12:2; Titus 3:5)
- a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17
Describes the spiritual change in the heart by an act of God, in
which the sinful nature is changed and enabled to respond to God
in faith. Involves a changed heart, will, disposition, and nature
(partaking of the divine nature - 2 Peter 1:4). By the agency of the
Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:13). Divine life is planted in the heart.
Cleansing from sin takes place (Titus 3:5).
Greek epistrophe = turn.
Return, turn back, ie a
change in direction; only
occurs once in the Bible
|"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)|
Conversion involves choosing to turn from sin towards God; change
in direction in the life of the sinner. Involves choice and
obedience, not coercion. God calls sinners to turn (Ezekiel 33:11;
Conversion is associated with repentance (Acts 3:19; 26:20) and
faith (Acts 11:21). Empowered by God (Acts 3:26).
Conversion is the change that Jesus Christ makes in our lives. Not
as a result of human agency or effort, but a supernatural event.
(The word "conversion" is common in current English.)
Greek charis (we get our
word charity from the
|"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came
through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)|
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all
men." (Titus 2:11)
- God's goodwill, lovingkindness, mercy, given to those who
do not deserve it and cannot ever earn it by their own
works or personal merit (Ephesians 2:4, 5)
- God's favour, freely given for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Three theological uses of the word "grace" explained:
- "Prevenient" grace (an old-fashioned term, literally
"preceding" conversion) = God's influence "drawing" us to
salvation (cf John 6:44).
- "Actual" grace - the grace of God at work in our day-to-day
lives, enabling us to live rightly, resist temptation, do our duty
- "Habitual" grace - the practical effects of the Holy Spirit living
in us as individuals, moulding our characters, resulting in fruit
(Galatians 5:22, 23)
Greek pistis = belief, trust,
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what
we do not see ... And 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."|
(Hebrews 11:1, 6)
Implies total "trust" of the human personality in Jesus Christ, in
absolute dependence on His wisdom, power, goodness, saving
Trust so deep that, if the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins is not
enough, we would be lost for eternity.
Trust that declares "God is not a man, that He should lie"
We are saved BY grace, THROUGH faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
Faith "appropriates" all of Christ's work, making it effective for us
(Romans 3:22, 4:11, 9:30; Hebrews 11:7; Philippians 3:9).
Lit. being placed in
relation to a father as a
son. Drawn from Roman
|"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For [the
Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to
put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the
Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of]
which we cry, Abba (Father)! Father! The Spirit Himself [thus]
testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are
children of God. And if we are [His] children, then we are [His]
heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His
inheritance with Him]; only we must share His suffering if we are
to share His glory." (Romans 8:14-17, Amplified Bible)|
Adoption is the act in which God receives us as "sons", on the
legal basis of our receiving Christ, giving us the rights and benefits
of sonship (Romans 8:14-19, 9:8; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians
3:26, 4:6, 7, 28; Ephesians 1:5; Hebrews 2:10, 12:5-8; 1 John
Implies a total change in our legal position before God.
Greek hagiasmos =
separation, setting apart.
|"But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in
the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."|
(1 Corinthians 6:11)
Old Testament Meaning
The idea of sanctification appears through the Old Testament. The
Israelites were (variously) commanded to set apart animals,
vessels of worship, places (eg the Tabernacle), days, even
themselves and their children and possessions. In so doing they
were declaring that everything belonged to God, that He was the
Maker, keeper, sustainer, that He was sovereign. What He gave
them was to be regarded as holy and used to glorify Him.
New Testament Meaning
Christ was "set apart" as the redeemer and sacrifice for our sins.
Christians are "set aside" to the Lord. He has purchased us.
The word "saint" comes from the same Greek word; in the NT
Christians are called "saints" (eg 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians
Sanctification has two elements. The distinction is important.
- Positional - who we are because of Jesus Christ. We have
been taken "out of this world" and given God's nature (2
- Progressive, or experiential; being conformed into the
image of Jesus Christ, being made holy. Possible only
through ongoing surrender and consecration of ourselves to
God. He is holy; we are called to be like Him. The Holy
Spirit has come to make it possible in our lives now (see
Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:10).
The Bible does not teaching "sinless perfection". It does say that
the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us (present continuous tense in
Greek) from sin; if we sin (not as a habit, but a temporary fall) we
have an advocate, a representative, Jesus Christ. He continues
the work of sanctification, to enable us to live like Him. The Word
of God in us continues to renew us (John 15:3).