Archives For Soteriology

A guy was wrestling with a question that had troubled him for years.

“Can a person lose his salvation?”

The question came up when I was recently visiting his men’s Bible study. He explained a scenario to me:

“Christopher, right now you are saved and you are a Christian. You serve the Lord faithfully and are a man of God. However, let’s say that something drastic happens in your life and you walk away from God and your faith. Furthermore, you not only walk away from God but you become an active worshipper of Satan. If you start to worship Satan and have walked away from God, are you still saved?

The men’s group shared that they often struggle with that same question. If I am saved can I lose my salvation? How do I know I’m saved?

And to be honest, as a pastor I also struggle with this question.

In this post I want to explain two main topics: eternal security and assurance. First, let’s define those terms briefly and then, second look at what Scripture says.

Soteriology - The Assurance of Eternal Security

Photo Credit: Finn Terman

SOTERIOLOGY
The Assurance of Eternal Security

I. DEFINITIONS OF “ETERNAL SECURITY” AND “ASSURANCE”

Eternal security is the biblical fact that once you are saved you cannot lose your salvation. Assurance is the feeling of comfort you experience because you are certain you cannot lose your salvation. 

II. WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ETERNAL SECURITY

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As a Small Groups Pastor of a local church there are three topics that I encounter most when interacting with Christians: grace, faith, and justification. They are essential topics that every Christian learns about, wrestles with, and tries to live out. Growing as a Christian leads to improved understanding of these three topics and should result in living them out better and better. As I continue my series of soteriology blog posts, I hope to give you a biblical description of each of these topics and point you to some ways you can live out grace, faith, and justification in your life.

SOTERIOLOGY
Grace, Faith, and Justification

Soteriology - Grace, Faith, and Justification

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”

I. GRACE

We have been given a gift we don’t deserve.

A. In Grace, God Punishes Jesus, Not Us

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he talks about grace in the third chapter saying,

Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight [literally “declares us righteous”]. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past. (Romans 3:24–25, NLT) 1

Let’s take each part of this verse and examine grace.

1. God Takes Initiative

Paul tells us that God “in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight” (v. 24) and “God presented Jesus” (v. 25). It’s clear that God takes the initiative to provide grace to us. This is something he does for us, and it is not something we have caused.  Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are from the New Living Translation, 2015 revision

For most of my life I have enjoyed playing golf. Golf courses often “aerate” their tee boxes, fairways, and greens. This is a process in which a machine punches holes in the ground and removes a small amount of dirt from those holes. The better quality golf courses aerate more often, while smaller less maintained golf courses do this less often. 1

The simple act of removing a small amount of dirt from the ground provides five benefits to the well traveled soil and grass that golfers use. One benefit is that it allows much needed nutrients (air, water, and fertilizer) to get to the root zone under the surface of the ground. Another benefit is that it reduces thatch buildup. Thatch is a layer of dead grass that can prevent important nutrients from getting to the soil. An additional benefit of aeration is that it relieves soil compaction. Severely compacted soil prevents air, water, and fertilizer from reaching the grass’s root system. Another benefit of aeration is that it helps with over seeding. When you are trying to over seed (laying seed on existing grass) aeration allows for that seed to penetrate the soil and germinate. A final benefit of aeration is that it prepares grass for going dormant in the winter and/or a green spring. If your grass goes dormant in the winter you want it to be as strong as possible, and aerating helps strengthen it. Additionally, aerating gives grass a fertile environment to grow when spring comes. 2

You have probably heard pastors say that “Jesus died for your sins on the Cross.” My point in sharing about aeration above is that, yes, Jesus did die for your sins on the cross. But, he accomplished much more than that on the cross. Similar to how that one act of aeration provides five benefits to grass, Christ’s death on the cross accomplished five things for us. Let’s take a look at those. 

Soteriology - What Christ Did on the Cross

Photo Credit: “Christ Dies on the Cross” by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804)

SOTERIOLOGY
Christ on the Cross

I. SUBSTITUTION

Christ died in our place and took the sinners’ just punishment.

A. Old Testament Backgrounds on Substitution

The idea of substitution is woven throughout the Old Testament. Here are some examples of substitution in the Old Testament.  Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. When I worked as a caddie at a very nice private golf course in Texas while in seminary it seemed like we were aerating something every month.
  2. 7 Benefits of Lawn Aeration” by TruGreen, https://www.trugreen.com/lawn-care-101/blog/aeration-service/7-benefits-of-lawn-aeration. Accessed October 1, 2019.

The Bible makes it clear that Christ died on cross (Matt 27:32-61; Mark 15:33-47; Luke 23:44-56; John 19:28-42) and three days later Jesus came back to life and left the tomb in which he was buried (Matt 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10; Acts 1:4-8; 9:1-9; 1 Cor 15:6-8). 

Historical Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Carl Heinrich Bloch, “The Resserection” (sic) from the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace in Copenhagen

I love the Bible and trust it as a reliable and credible witness to events that occurred in the first century. Yet, the Bible is not the only witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are five different categories of sources that contain at least thirteen different independent references to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

ANCIENT HISTORIANS

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If there is one event that Christianity relies on more than others, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John Stott once said, “We live and die; Christ died and lived!” And that “died” and then “lived” is what our Christian faith is about.

Soteriology: The Bodily Resurrection of Christ

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

As I study books of the Bible, one literary feature I look for is a “pivot.” A pivot is where you see the a significant theme shift or change in the book. One example of a pivot is in the book of Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that no wise man or magic astrologer could interpret. So Daniel is brought in front of the mighty powerful and high ruler of the known world, King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel says, “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or future tellers who can reveal the king’s secret. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future.” (Dan 2:27-28, emphasis added). 1 That’s a pivot: power from the earthly king to power to the heavenly king.

The pivot of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament predicted, the Gospels described it, and the book of Acts and New Testament letters explained what it meant. Let’s do a study of the resurrection. 

SOTERIOLOGY
The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ
(Acts 1:3)

I. BODY, NOT GHOST

First steps in studying the resurrection of Christ is to notice that the Bible describes him as having a real physical body. In other words, Jesus was not a “ghost.” Jesus’s interaction in the Gospel of Luke with two people walking to Emmaus tells us that Jesus had a “body” and was not a “ghost.” Jesus had appeared to these two people, was walking with them (Luke 24:15), talking with them (Luke 24:17-27), but they did not recognize him (Luke 24:16).

A. Held Bread and Broke It

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Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are from the New Living Translation

While attending Dallas Theological Seminary one of the richest classes that I took was the class on salvation, also known as “Soteriology.” For an entire semester we talked about elements of salvation, biblical views on what it means to be saved, historical interpretations of salvation, as well as people that have tried to make salvation something other than what the Bible describes it as.

Soteriology - What Christ Did on the Cross

Photo Credit: “Christ Dies on the Cross” by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804)

In this post I want to talk about salvation. More specifically, five things Christ did on the cross. 1

I. SUBSTITUTIONChrist died in our place and took the sinners’ just punishment.

A. Substitution in the Old Testament Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. These five things are adapted and simplified from a teaching given by J. Scott Horrell at Dallas Theological Seminary.

This is my final post in the summary doctrine series. Today we look at what it means for people to respond to the Gospel and what happens to those who do or don’t accept the Gospel message. Like my other posts, I’m using the Evangelical Free Church of America’s statement of faith as a guide.

A Summary of the Doctrine of the Gospel and Hell

Gustave Dore’s “New Jerusalem”

Response and Eternal Destiny. Article #10. We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.

I. BASICS OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE

A. The Gospel Message Continue Reading…

Today I’m sharing some material about the doctrine of the work of Jesus Christ. This blog post is based on the Evangelical Free Church of America’s Statement of Faith which reads:

The Work of Christ. Article #5. We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.

A Summary of the Doctrine of the Work of Christ

Lippo Memmi (1291-1356)

I. JESUS AS OUR “REPRESENTATIVE” AND “SUBSTITUTE” Continue Reading…

Today’s post looks at theology based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. While this post is a brief summary, I hope that this post can be a starting point when looking at the doctrines of trinitarianism and soteriology. 

Jesus Christ. Article #4. We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate. (This statement is from the Evangelical Free Church of America)

A Summary of the Doctrine of Jesus Christ

Interior of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (Venice) – Jesus Christ bearing the Cross

I. THE HYPOSTATIC UNION OF JESUS CHRIST
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When I moved to Texas I had to learn all about the “big three” schools. Places such as “Lubbock” and “College Station” and “Austin” were legendary cities because of the large schools located there. These were the cities of the “big three” colleges in Texas: Texas A&M (College Station), University of Texas (Austin), and Texas Tech (Lubbock). While Texas might have it’s “big three,” Paul writes about the “big three” in the lives of believers in Philippians 3:9-11.

First is justification. This is the teaching that we have righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. He writes, “and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith” (Phil 3:9, NLT). The basis and grounds for Christians be counted as righteousness depends on faith.

Second is sanctification. Once a person has placed his faith in Jesus Christ and committed to follow Him, the next step is sanctification. Sanctification is the daily act of becoming more like Jesus. “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,” (Phil 3:10, NLT). The Christian life is not always warm and happy. Here Paul reminds his readers that if they are to become more like Jesus, then they are going to suffer along the way. This suffering was predicted in the book of Acts, “And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16, NLT). That suffering was lived out as Paul has shared, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” (Phil 1:29, NLT) and “through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:10, NLT). Sanctification includes joy as well, but suffering seems to be a big theme of sanctification for Paul. 

Third is glorification. After a person has experienced justification and participated in sanctification, there will be a glorification for all believers at the end of their lives in heaven. “So that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Phil 3:11, NLT).

While it is easy to get caught up into the worldly view of things (as I learned about the big three in Texas), we should be reminded of the “big three” that Paul describes for believers: (1) justification, (2) sanctification, and (3) glorification.