“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
NCFCA’s Apologetics questions challenge student’s theology and defense of the faith in a constructive environment. God’s Word, given to us in the Bible, is God’s “Basic-Instructions-Before-Leaving-Earth” and contains numerous eye-opening truths for those who are willing to seek (Matthew 7:7-8). Will you seek today?
Presently, you are reading my second blog post for a series where Jala Boyer, Luke Castle, and I, Zachary Kos, cover the NCFCA Apologetics topics in six categories: God, Jesus, Man/Sin, Church/Community, Salvation, and Bible/Scriptures. Each category has its own distinct blog posts. Go read the other five! After this one of course.
Here are the NCFCA questions that pertain to salvation:
- What is God’s grace and why is it significant?
- What is the gospel and why is it significant?
- What is faith in Christ and why is it significant?
- What is adoption into God’s family and why is it significant?
- What is the resurrection of Jesus and why is it significant?
- Is artificial intelligence our hope for saving mankind?
- What is regeneration and why is it significant?
- Respond to a friend who doesn’t understand the need for a “new birth.”
- Respond to the person who says, “I’m not sure I’m saved because I never had a dramatic conversion experience.”
- What is repentance and why is it significant?
- What is justification and why is it significant?
- What is sanctification and why is it significant?
- Why do so many Christians live lives that look no different than nonbelievers?
- What is redemption and why is it significant?
- Respond to the person who says, “I hate my brother for what he did. I could never forgive him for that!”
- What is reconciliation and why is it significant?
Allow me to provide a broad range of information that is central to any questions regarding salvation. Let us focus on three key questions:
- What is Salvation?
- How do we attain Salvation?
- Why does Salvation matter?
Just in case you have any questions about the lingo used in this article, check out the appendix for a ton of information on key terms regarding salvation. (Seriously, there is a ton of life-changing information down there!)
What is salvation?
First, let’s start with a simple definition. Salvation is defined as “a source, cause, or means of being saved or protected from harm, risk, etc” (ref. 1). In order to understand what Christians are being saved from, we need to start with the beginning of time.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God’s creation, the physical universe (and the heavenly realms), were declared not just good, but very good, perfect, and without corruption (Genesis 1:31). Humanity was created without flaw; no death, decay, or disobedience existed. God, out of His pure and righteous love, gave humanity free will, freedom to do as they please without restraint from God. As a result, Adam and Eve were able to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the one tree God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat, of their own free will. When Satan, a fallen angel, twisted the truth of God’s command not to eat of the tree, Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave some to Adam. Immediately, Adam and Eve became corrupted by sin, otherwise known as disobedience to God. Because of this event, known as “the fall,” humanity could no longer have union, peace, and relationship with God. (I highly recommend you read the first few chapters of Genesis.)
Essentially, God’s creation, created perfect, became corrupted. Our disobedience toward God requires punishment. The punishment brought about from the fall is physical and spiritual death, eternal separation from God and His presence, holiness, and perfect love (Romans 6:23). Thus, we, as fallen, broken, disobedient, sinful humans (Romans 5:12), cannot come near, connect with, or have a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2). Thus, salvation means being saved from eternal punishment (through God’s justice) for our depravity, our state of being inherently disobedient toward God.
A single word is used to encompass our necessity for salvation: sin. The Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms states, “the Bible presents sin as both fallen humanity’s state of separation and alienation from God and as a person’s purposeful disobedience to God’s will.”
The Bible makes it crystal clear that each and every one of us need salvation (saving) from God’s pending judgment for our disobedience. Have you ever told a lie? I have. Have you ever disobeyed your parents? I have (sorry mom and dad). Have you ever done something you know you should not have? I have. None of us for a single moment should think we do not need salvation. Admit it, we are all imperfect, broken sinners (Romans 3:10). “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death [physical and spiritual] through sin, and in this way death came to all people [even you and I], because all sinned [disobeyed God]” (Romans 5:12). Paul affirms this in declaring “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Clearly, we need hope. Clearly, we need salvation. Clearly, we need a solution.
How do we attain Salvation?
We cannot. (You: Hold up! Seriously?!)
Yes. I’m not joking. We, ourselves, alone, cannot attain salvation.
Christ did what we as imperfect beings could not: attain salvation. He alone was able to pave a way for our salvation. How can this be? Keep reading, you are in for a treat.
How many of you predicted that John 3:16 would make an appearance? Now it can shine: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). In our brokenness, Jesus stepped in with a rescue mission for humanity. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, anointed savior of Israel and beyond, living a blameless life and being the sacrifice for all sin, past, present, and future. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). As a result, “by one sacrifice he [Jesus] has made perfect [justified, made right in God’s eyes] forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17).
Through Chist living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and raising again to life, we too are able to partake in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4)! How is this possible? Because the same power that lives in Christ, the Holy Spirit, is now available to us (Ephesians 1:19-20). Ephesians 1:13-14 elaborates that when we receive the Holy Spirit, it is a mark of salvation, securing our promised inheritance (eternal life with God and a share in His kingdom).
For the purpose of unpacking further what salvation encompasses, I am challenging myself to fit all nine words found in the appendix in as few words as possible:
The Gospel ushers faith. Repentance then finds God’s grace which redeems and reconciles all as “born again” and justified enabling sanctification.
Here is an approximate order of the process of salvation: Gospel → Faith → Repentance → Grace → Redemption → Reconciliation → “Born Again” → Justification → Sanctification
Allow me to explain this a bit further in detail. When someone first hears the Good News, the Gospel, about Jesus Christ and is convicted by the Holy Spirit that it is real, their faith is placed in Jesus and His work on the cross and they are declared saved. Once an individual places faith in Christ, it is common practice they pray The Sinner’s Prayer which focuses on repentance for past sins committed before the individual knew about Christ. Repentance ushers in God’s grace and forgiveness. The individual is then considered redeemed by the Work of Christ on the cross. Thus, with Jesus being the mediator between the new believer and God, their relationship with God is reconciled. As a result, they die to their flesh and are “born again” into spiritual life receiving ownership in Christ’s inheritance: eternal life. Overall, the believer has been justified, made right before God, and thus allows the Holy Spirit in them to begin the work of sanctification in their life.
The entirety of the above paragraph would not be possible without Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Never forget that the cross does not symbolize a dead, buried Jesus, but instead, an arisen, alive, and active Messiah who has saved us from the power of death, demons, and sin.
Why does Salvation matter?
Alright, you just read a ton of information, you are probably thinking “so what?”
- Salvation is not from ourselves, it is a gift from God.
Not for a single moment should we think that we can earn salvation. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Paul emphasises this fact countless times to the Pharisees. Even Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for thinking that their legalism (frequent reading of scripture, prayer, and devotion to the Jewish code) could get them into Heaven.
Just like any gift, it must be accepted. Salvation only comes to those who accept it from God by faith in Christ’s sacrifice. Charles Spurgeon said it best, “It is not thy hold on Christ that saves thee; it is Christ. It is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee; it is Christ. It is not even thy faith in Christ, though that be the instrument; it is Christ’s blood and merit.”
- Do not fear, salvation is secure.
Imagine living your whole life scared and concerned that you were not good enough to “earn” salvation. Every minute, you would stop and consider how your choices will affect your “goodness.” Eventually, you would become so analytical of every action that life would be impossible to live. Martin Luther elaborates on this truth, “we find many who pray, fast…do this or that, lead a good life before men, and yet if you should ask them whether they are sure that what they do pleases God, they say, ‘No’; they do not know, or they doubt.” Thank God our salvation is secure by the blood of Jesus. Take comfort and find rest knowing God has secured your salvation.
- Salvation is offered to everyone.
Paul’s life reflects God’s proclamation to have all people, even those outside Israel (Gentiles), hear the message of salvation (Ephesians 3:8). Jesus Christ died on the cross that all may be saved from the power of sin in their lives. No matter your background, past mistakes, skin color, political beliefs, etc., God’s salvation is extended toward you. “…if we [Paul referring to himself and the reader] confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
- The Great Commission is never finished.
Our obligation to fulfill the Great Commision (proclaiming the message of salvation to the ends of the earth) is never finished, people’s eternities are at stake! Get to work! Proclaim the Gospel with confidence of salvation. Why the sense of hurry? People’s eternal destinations are on the line! Hell is just as real as Heaven. In fact, the Bible emphasizes the suffering of Hell more than the reward of Heaven!
- There is peace in God’s grace.
No matter how broken and sinful your life may feel, God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy are far stronger. Through faith in God’s assurance of our salvation, we gain a sense of peace and joy beyond comprehension. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
- We love because Christ first loved us (not to mention saved us).
1 John 4:19) proclaims this truth all too well, “we love because he [Christ] first loved us.” We love and forgive others because Christ has forgiven us of our sin. In the same manner as Christ, we are to forgive even our enemies and those who persecute us (Luke 6:27-28).
- “It is our privilege to know that we are saved” (Dwight L. Moody).
Now that you have read this article, you have the privilege of knowing that you can be saved too. Will you receive or reject this privilege?
Do you believe that you are broken and in need of a savior? Do you believe in Salvation? Is Jesus Chrsit the Savior of your life? I hope that God is not only your Savior, but also your Lord. Life is but a mist (James 4:14); now is the time to commit to Christ and find out what He has in store for your time on this earth.
Look at Paul, the Pharisee of all Pharisees, the self-described chief of all sinners, and prosecutor of the early church. Even in his brokenness and disobedience toward God, Paul’s worldview was radically altered when he encountered Christ. He discovered Jesus was the promised Messiah, the savior of both the Jews and Gentiles (a.k.a., everyone). No matter how shattered your life may be, Jesus Christ understands and relates to your hardship. Everyday, he offers you the opportunity to be picked up, broken piece by broken piece, until you are restored into a beautiful creation in the new Heaven and new earth soon to come. Will you let Him pick up your brokenness and replace it with His own? Today, will you accept Jesus’ gift of salvation in your life?
If possible, please take as long as you need to read this information. Challenge yourself to think long and hard about these crucial concepts found in Christianity. I pray your relationship with God will be strengthened by your reading of these definitions, pastoral quotes, and scriptures.
“Born Again”/Second Birth/Regeneration: Dying with Christ and being raised to life with Christ (Colossians 2:11-12). Essentially, dying to our past selves, the flesh (as children of wrath), and becoming children of God. Through this adoption, we receive an eternal inheritance and the Holy Spirit as a seal of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). “The Bible is clear that all people are God’s creation (Colossians 1:16), and that God loves the entire world (John 3:16), but only those who are born again are children of God (John 1:12; 11:52; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-10)” (ref. 2).
Faith: Operationally defined as placing absolute trust in someone or something. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3). “Faith is a free surrender and a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God” (Martin Luther). “Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right” (Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones: Everyone Needs a Miracle)
Gospel: “In Greek, it is the word euaggelion, from which we get our English words evangelist, evangel, and evangelical. The gospel is, broadly speaking, the whole of Scripture; more narrowly, the gospel is the good news concerning Christ and the way of salvation” (ref. 3). For a good recap of the Gospel by Paul, read 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.
Grace: “Grace can be variously defined as ‘God’s favor toward the unworthy’ or ‘God’s benevolence on the undeserving.’ In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously” (ref 4.). “The Gospel is about grace…grace is about us receiving from God blessings that we don’t deserve” (Tony Campolo, pastor and former spiritual advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton). “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue” (Eugene O’Neill, American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature).
Justification: Defined as “the declaring of a person to be just or righteous” (ref. 5). “In summary, justification is an act of God’s grace: A guilty sinner places his or her faith in Christ and is acquitted by God. A wrongdoer is ‘made right’ with God” (Arnold Fruchtebaum, contributor to Bible Study Magazine).
Reconciliation: Defined as “the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement” (ref. 6). Sin creates a divide between humanity and God. Jesus Christ bridged this divide for us. Christ’s death allows us access to the Father.
Redemption: Defined as “the process by which sinful humans are ‘bought back’ from the bondage of sin into relationship with God through grace by the ‘payment’ of Jesus’ death” (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms). Through Christ’s death, the final sacrifice for sin was made. Thus, being redeemed, we have access to a relationship with God through faith in Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and second coming.
Repentance: “The Greek word metanoia…means ‘to change the mind.’…you change your mind about sin as well as you discover what it really means to honor God. You realize that it’s no longer about performance. It’s about a heart attitude that confesses Christ and seeks to honor Him in every aspect of life!” (ref. 7). “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive” (C.S. Lewis).
Sanctification: “To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer” (ref. 8). “Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in us whereby our inner being is progressively changed, freeing us more and more from sinful traits and developing within us over time the virtues of Christlike character” (Jerry Bridges, evangelist, author, and speaker in Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ).
Feel free to use any of the verses, quotes, or references mentioned in this article. Also, if you have any comments, questions, or thoughts about this article, feel free to reach out via the comment section, email, or Discord.
Have we met?
For those who do not know me, my name is Zachary (Zak) Kos, I competed in Apologetics for four years in high school. During my senior year, I ranked first in the nation until after nationals. Before you read any further, allow me to pass on a crucial lesson: While competing in Apologetics, it is more important to learn from God than about God. In Jesus’ days, the Pharisees had all the head knowledge, but failed to have a relationship with Jesus. Far too often, competitors have the knowledge to compete and be successful in Apologetics, but fail to have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. Do not miss a relationship with the God you defend!!
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