Salvation, in the primary Biblical sense, is the free gift of God through the propitiatory (sacrificial atoning) death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, in accordance with the Scriptures. When a person humbles themselves before God (in genuine repentance of the evil in their heart) and accepts Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior (authority in every area of life), that person is given the gift of salvation. Salvation means being forgiven and reconciled with God, being saved from Hell and receiving the gift of eternal life, and entering into a relationship with the Lord of Heaven. It is also more than just being saved from the consequences of sin; also carries with it the idea of being saved out of the slave market of sin; and being forgiven by Jesus.
Terms such as saved or salvation are not restricted to the salvation of the soul, as God saves people daily from temporal evils, but its most supreme manifestation is in relation to the spiritual and eternal realm, that of the redemption of the soul, and which subject is theologically termed soteriology.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains,
In English Versions of the Bible the words “salvation” “save,” are not technical theological terms, but denote simply “deliverance,” in almost any sense the latter word can have. In systematic theology, however, “salvation” denotes the whole process by which man is delivered from all that would prevent his attaining to the highest good that God has prepared for him. Or, by a transferred sense, “salvation” denotes the actual enjoyment of that good... Salvation from physical evil was a very real part, however subordinate, of Christ's teaching. (Mar_1:34, etc.)
The gospel of the grace of God
The Biblical gospel ("good news") is most essentially the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1Cor. 15:1-4ff) This "word of truth" (Eph. 1:13) has the God of the Bible as its object of faith, as "the Father sent the Son, the Saviour of the world." (1Jn. 4:10) This message reveals that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." But whom men, "by wicked hands", nailed to a cross and killed, Christ suffering "once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened [resurrected alive] by the Spirit". And that Jesus Christ "showed Himself alive after His passion [suffering and death] by many infallible proofs, being seen of them [His apostles] forty days," as well as by over five hundred brethren at once. And "who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him." It concludes that it is this Jesus "who is ordained of God to be the Judge of living and dead", and that "to Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 1:3; 2:23; 10:38,40,42,43; 1Cor. 15:6; 1Pet. 3:18,22)
In addition to the living and true God of the Bible being the object of faith and obedience, a primary aspect of the Biblical gospel is that neither the sacrifices or good works of man (or church, etc.) can enable him to escape from his future just and eternal punishment in hell-fire, (Mk. 9:43-48; 25:41,46; Rv. 14:11; 20:10) or merit him eternal life with an infinitely holy and just God.(Rm. 4; Titus 3:5; 2Tim. 1:19) But that instead man must humble himself before God as a sinner, unable to justify himself, and then cast all his faith on the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom God sent to be the perfect sacrifice for sin, and Savior of the world. (1Jn. 4:10,14) By so (truly) doing, one is choosing the Lord Jesus over sin, light over darkness. (Jn. 3:19-21) This faith decision is shown by being baptized in identification with the Lord Jesus. (Mt. 28:19; Acts 2:41; 8:36,37; 10:47,48)
The gospel of salvation has been subject to some confusion and much false teaching down through the ages, and which issue the Bible treats with utmost concern. The apostle Paul warned, "If any preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Matthew Henry comments here, "This will not justify our thundering out anathemas against those who differ from us in minor things. It is only against those who forge a new gospel, who overturn the foundation of the covenant of grace, by setting up the works of the law in the place of Christ's righteousness..."
"The gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) is shown to be made clear enough that a false gospel can be discerned by way of comparison with it. It is principally here that false religions are seen to be in foundational contrast to the apostolic gospel, and which manifests who or what they worship, in which, officially or by way of informal conveyance, they teach that one's own sacrifices and works (or those of their religion) can or must merit them salvation. The Bible also declares that man's own works, by which he supposes he is justified before the one true Holy God, are as filthy rags. (Is. 64:6) In this the Bible is particularly evidenced to most uniquely stand apart from thousands of beliefs, in that it declares that there is only One Way to be justified before God and gain eternal life with Him, that being through true faith in the risen Lord Jesus and His sinless shed blood. (Rm. 3:25) There are different degrees of critical deviations from the Biblical gospel in this regard, and in the West it is often seen that one may have an outward profession of faith in Jesus Christ but not the inward reality, not having experienced the new birth. (Jn. 3:3-7; Acts 10:43-47; 15:7-9; Gal. 4:6)
Another false gospel, among others, found within that which is broadly called Christianity, is one that that holds that one is saved by faith, but that a Christian no longer being "under the law", (Rm. 6:14,15) means that the Christian is not bound to the moral laws of the Bible. This teaching is called antinomianism, of which there are different variations, but which basically enables "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness", (Jude 1:4) and which idea Paul, the "apostle of grace", expounded at length against, as does the Bible as whole. (Rm. cps. 6-8) Being freed from the law basically refers to the law not being a means of salvation, as well as not being bound to literal obedience as regards ceremonial aspects of it. (Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16,17; Heb. 9:10)
Adam Clarke comments,
The Gospel proclaims liberty from the ceremonial law: but binds you still faster under the moral law. To be freed from the ceremonial law is the Gospel liberty; to pretend freedom from the moral law is Antinomianism.
- See also: Leviticus 18
All false gospels are seen to be preaching a different Jesus, spirit, and gospel, formally or effectively. (2Cor. 11:4,13,14) Robertson comments, "It is a tragedy to see men in the livery of heaven serve the devil.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) clarifies the actual meanings of Justification, Grace, Merit and Christian Holiness, by emphasizing that each of these, and all of them taken together, is solely a result of the free and unmerited gift of God, and not a "doctrine of salvation by works alone". "The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
Biblical means of Salvation
The Lord Jesus commanded His disciples that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Lk. 24:47). And thus did the apostles, even as Paul testified "both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21) The Lord Jesus declared that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (Jn. 16:7-11) and which conviction is necessary for man - whom the Bible evidences as sinful and (usually) self-righteous - to realize his need for mercy and salvation. God "desires truth in the inward parts", (Ps. 51:6) and a soul needs to have a heart that can honestly admit his/her own sinfulness and guilt, but which wants a new life in Christ. Unless the sinner hardens his heart (Acts 19:9), this conviction works such a humble and a contrite heart, and it is those who be of such that God saves, when they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ps. 34:18; Acts 2:37,38 16:30,31) And which is to God's credit and honor, and not to that of man. (Eph. 1:6; 2:8,9)
This conviction and drawing to Christ can only by done by God, (Jn. 6:44) but usually He works through preachers of the word to do so, and the preaching of the holy apostles manifests the Holy Spirit working this through them. (Acts 2:14-27; 13:16-41) In so doing, the manner of early Christian preachers in reaching souls was to reason "with them out of the scriptures", (Acts 17:2; 18:28; 28:23; cf. Lk. 24:25-27,44; Rm. 10:17) though if their audience was primarily scripturally illiterate Gentiles, then natural revelation was invoked, (Acts 14:15-17; 17:24-28) with supernatural signs and miracles from God usually providing Divine attestation to both classes. (Acts 2:33; 3; Rm. 15:19) The Divinely inspired words of the apostles themselves were received as the word of God (1Thes. 2:13) being able to be proved by the scriptures, (Acts 17:11), which is the only tangible class of revelation which is given assurance of being wholly inspired of the one true God, (2Tim. 3:16) the finished canon of which man is not to add to, but all is tested by scripture. (Is. 8:20; 2Pet. 1:16-21) (Rev. 22:18,19) The conversion which resulted by such conviction and faith in the risen Lord Jesus and His sinless shed blood was manifested by radically changed hearts and lives, with those who were saved evangelizing as well. (Acts 2:42-47; 6:4; 1Thes, 1:8,9)
Recognition of sin
The Holy Spirit convicts man of the fact that he is sinful, as by nature and in thought and action everyone does things which are contrary to the law of God, (1Jn. 3:4) and "by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rm. 3:20) In God's eyes, stealing a paper clip is a sin, just as stealing a car is. (Ja. 2:10) While any sin is damnable, the ultimate sin is rejecting the only One who fully lived righteously, but whom became the scapegoat for us, (Lv. 16:8,20-22; Is. 53:3-6) and whom God therefore raised from the dead (Acts 17:31) Jesus Christ being the only "name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.(Acts 4:12) Those who will not be saved, but who die in their sins will face judgment, just as their master was and will be, (Jn. 8:21; 16:11; Rv. 20:10), in contrast to those "which die in the Lord." (Rv. 14:13)
A holy God will not allow sin in His presence, (Hab. 1:13; Ps. 5:4; 94:20; Rv. 21:27) and on that basis alone mankind is excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Judgment: the after-effects of sin
If the average man was to die at this moment, he would face judgment.
- It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. (Letter to the Hebrews, 9:27)
- Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (Gospel of John, 5:28-29)
The man facing judgment would stand before God's throne, where his life would be reviewed.
- And I saw the dead, the small and the great, stand before God. And books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation, 20:12)
Every single moment of this man's life would be exposed, from cradle to grave. There would be nothing hidden.
- For there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed; nor became covered, but that it might come to the light. (Gospel of Mark, 4:22)
- But I say to you that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. (Gospel of Matthew, 12:36)
If the man's name was not found in the Book of Life, he is denied entry into God's Kingdom.
- Then He also shall say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. (Gospel of Matthew, 25:41)
- And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life. (Gospel of Matthew, 25:46)
- And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire. (Revelation, 20:15)
Only remedy for sin
- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Letter to the Romans, 6:23)
When a crowd was being preached to by the Apostle Peter in Acts, chapter 2, they were convicted and condemned of their own sin. Realizing the hopelessness of their situation in relation to God, many cried out "what can we do?"
- Then Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts of the Apostles, 2:38)
As in the first Passover, when God ordered the Hebrews to place blood on their doors as a sign of protection from death during the last plague on Egypt (Exodus 13), so God had so loved the world "that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (Gospel of John, 3:16). These famous texts (among many) provide promises for lost souls to believe, who are looking for salvation. from judgment of eternal damnation to eternal life. (Jn. 5:24)
- Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
- For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation.
- For the Scripture says, Everyone believing on Him shall not be put to shame.
- For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him.
- For everyone, "whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Letter to the Romans, 10:9-13)
The Eternal Question
Standing before a crowd of sinful people, Pilate, unbeknown to him, is seen asking the eternal question, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" Their response was, "Let him be crucified." In the Christian gospel this represents a question asked of every soul, with the response essentially being either that of the crowd here, who follow the "broad way" of damnation which Jesus warned of, (Mt. 7:13,14) or those, who like the contrite official in Luke 18:13, humble themselves before the true God as sinners, sincerely seeking salvation from their sins. And who therefore, by God's grace, (Acts 11:8; Rm. 5:15) trust in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, and so follow Him. This manner of salvation and the heart and faith it requires is what is seen consistently throughout the Bible, which even in its last few verses entreats "whosoever will may come" (Rv. 22:17), while warning those who alter its sacred truth, such as seek to "climb up another way". (Jn. 10:1)
- Revelation, Book of (historical exegesis)
- Essay: The superiority of the King James Bible: Looking through!
- Dr. John Gill (1690-1771), Mt. 28:19
- Matthew Henry (1662 - 1714), Gal 1:6-9
- Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832), Romans 1:6-9
- Barnes, Rm. 3:20-25, Gal. 1:6-8
- Barnes, Is. 64:6
- Are you born again? by J. C. RYLE - 1816-1900
- PRECIOUS BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN TESTIMONIES
- Antinomianism, P. G. Mathew, M.A., M.Div., Th.M
- Albert Barnes, (Mt. 5:18)
- Clarke, Gal. 5:13
- Archibald Thomas Robertson, WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part III, Section One, Chapter Three, article 2, numbers 1987-2029.
- CCC 2008
- 40 SINS THAT CAN SEND YOU TO HELL
- God’s Plan of Salvation-For You!
- Christ Came to Save Sinners: From Creation to Christ, a salvation message that begins at Creation and leads to Christ
- Who can be saved? Who can not be saved?