Soteriology – The Doctrine of Salvation

The doctrine of soteriology is a linchpin doctrine in the Christian faith. What is the doctrine of soteriology? The word soteriology comes from two Greek words, “soteria,” which means salvation and “logos,” which means study of, or word. We understand the word soteriology to be the study of salvation. What makes the doctrine of soteriology a linchpin doctrine of the Christian faith? A person’s understanding of salvation impacts the whole of their theology. There are two primary views of salvation, the view that God elects those who will be saved, and and the Free Will view. While salvation in both views centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ, as it should, there stark differences between the two.

Free Will View
The Free Will view of salvation focuses on the free will of mankind to choose salvation and is adopted by Arminians, Wesleyans, and others. In this approach, a person is free to choose or to reject the saving grace of Christ. What does this mean? Simply put, the Free Will approach puts mankind in the driver’s seat when it comes to salvation. According to those who adopt a Free Will theology a person can choose, of their own accord, to come to Christ and lay hold of saving grace. Extending this, a person is then free to choose to do good works that, in other views, are the result of God’s working in a person’s life.
Free Will adherents claim myriad verses support their view. However, much like those who hold that God elects those who will be saved, these verses can be used to make an argument for the “other side.” The Bible is, in my opinion, clear on this matter, but some passages that are used to support Free Will salvation are John 3, John 6, Luke 7, 1 Cor. 10.

God’s Elect View
The God’s Elect view of salvation, often related to Calvinism and/or Reformed theology, focuses on God’s choosing who will be saved and who will not. Full disclosure, this is the view which I hold. The reason I hold to a Reformed theological approach is because many of Paul’s writings support this view (Rom. 8-9, 1 Cor. 4, Eph. 2, 2 Thes. 2). We will focus on two of these passages, Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 9:21-24. Ephesians 2:8-9 read, “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.” (ESV) If this were the only verse that we had, it is clear that Paul’s intention was to portray faith as a gift of God, given to those whom God would choose. It is not we who choose to receive the gift of faith, but rather God who chooses to extend it. If you carry on to verse 10 it becomes clear that the by-product of salvation is good works. Note, good works are a result of God’s work in the life of the believer, not the choice of the person.
Another passage in which Paul clearly teaches that it is God who chooses those who will be saved is Romans 9:21-24, which reads, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (ESV) Who are we, as the created, to dictate the terms of salvation seems to be the question Paul is asking.
Does God’s election of those who will be saved eliminate man’s ability to choose? No. The Bible is clear that, apart from the work of God, mankind will always choose sin. Even those who are elect will continue to battle sin. Does this ongoing struggle mean that God’s elect are not saved, even though we consciously choose to sin? Again, no. What it means is that we persist in our fleshly and imperfect bodies. There is much, much more that could be said, but for conciseness we will move on.

What Should You Know
There are two things you should know. First, regardless of the view, salvation is an undeserved gift. We are, in and of ourselves, helpless and hopeless beings, incapable of saving ourselves. Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, a work in which He took our place suffering the wrath of God’s judgement on sin, allowing us thereby to bathe in the goodness of His grace, is the only means by which salvation is possible. We are debtors who have had their debt paid in full.
Second, regardless of the view, salvation is marked by good works. If there is no change in your life, there has, likely, been no change in your heart. The wonder of salvation is that God takes a heart of stone and turns it into a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). This change in heart is lived out by good works.

What Should You Do
There two things you should do. First, you should dig into Scripture. Study, research, read, re-read, contemplate, and pray for wisdom and understanding. The more you read and understand the Bible, the more you will want to read and understand the Bible.
Second, visit next week’s blog as we will delve into sanctification.

Resources For Further Knowledge
Here are a few resources you can check out to learn more. All links are to Amazon and are not affiliate links. There are many other great resources. If you would like further recommendations reach out to us on social media and we will be happy to provide those.

“All of Grace” by C.H. Spurgeon
“So Great Salvation” by Charles Ryrie
“Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation”
“40 Questions About Salvation” by Matthew Barrett
“The Truth of the Cross” by R.C. Sproul

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