Soteriology; on Salvation
Professor Lewis Chafer (former President of Dallas Theological Seminary) writes, ‘Soteriology is that portion of Systematic Theology which treats of salvation. The word salvation is a translation of the Greek… derived immediately from the word …which means Savior… With respect to the meaning of the word salvation, the Old and New Testaments are much alike. The word communicates the thought of deliverance, safety, preservation, soundness, restoration, and healing… it represents what is evidently the most comprehensive one doctrine of the Bible. It gathers into one conception at least twelve extensive and vital doctrines, namely, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, conviction, repentance, faith, regeneration, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, preservation, and glorification. It may be observed… in the meaning of the word salvation; on the one hand, to be saved is to be rescued from a lost estate, while on the other hand, to be saved is to be brought into a saved estate, vitally renewed…’
Some deep stuff – right; well yes it is; but that is not to say that it can’t be understood by the average laymen seeking the truth, and nor is difficult to approach the Savior. Nevertheless, the apostle Paul also wrote ‘some things hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15),’ but no less important to Christian doctrine. We are instructed ‘leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment (Heb. 6:1-2).’ It is sad that a myriad of Christians today are simply told (perhaps by simpletons) that fundamental Christianity is that God is love and that simply if you believe in Jesus you will be saved; sounds right and easy enough – but so misleading to the masses swayed by the deceiver.
Most of those who say ‘God is love’ neither begin the verse in its entirety – ‘whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8),’ nor say the next verse ‘this is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him (see John 3:16; 14:26-15:16:1), nor do 1% of them know the longest name of God in the Scriptures (Exo. 34:6-7, about 50 English words describing the attributes and nature of God which go way beyond the babe statement ‘God is love.’)
One can receive salvation for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a moment. “One of the criminals who were hanged (on a cross next to Jesus)… said (to the other who had blasphemed Christ), ‘Do you not even fear God…? We are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’ And Jesus said, to him, ‘Truly …today you shall be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:39-43).’ Yet, see he spoke of ‘fearing God,’ with a repented heart, in faith that through resurrection from the dead the Lord – the Son of God – would enter the Kingdom of Heaven and have the ability to not only remember us in His mind and the Book of Life, but also has the authority and ability to raise us to ‘everlasting life’ or ‘everlasting shame’ (Dan. 12:2; John 5:29).’ In my search for the heart of the Scriptures, I found several verses that embodied our instructions in righteousness and which lead to salvation. One such scripture was given to Moses from the Lord to instruct the nation of Israel; and do not be deceived – it still applies to all who seek to be a child of God ‘whether Jew or Gentile’ as Paul said to the Romans.
That scriptures is from Deuteronomy (10:12-13) and in many places is called ‘the essence of the Law or the essence of the Torah:’ “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” This principle is spoken by all of the prophets and apostles.
In the pages or parts to come; I hope to address this doctrine in an exhaustive manner. The doctrine is written and formed by men under various names and divisions, such as ‘eternal security’ or ‘perseverance of the saints;’ which is a bit amusing because some of those which defend perseverance of the saints, call Christians saints under this doctrine, but say they are not saints when referring to the Rapture doctrine. It is important to not only be accurate and consistence for logical reasons, it is essential because only the Truth matters and saves and mere assumptions in commentary – no matter how well meant – can led or allow the weak sheep into darkness.
Thus, John Calvin who stated, ‘the soul consists of two parts, the intellect and the will. The work of the intellect is to make distinction between good and bad, and the function of the will is to choose and follow what the intellect says in good, rejecting what is bad,’ when writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion also said, ‘If we seriously consider that the Word of the Lord is the only guide to our understanding of Him, it will prevent all presumption. We shall realize that the moment we go beyond the limits of Scripture, we shall be off course, in dark and stumbling.’
When teaching about a most difficult subject that is beyond the scope of this page (but – yes I am determined to address it later for you who think I and avoiding it) Calvin said, ‘The subject… which is difficult enough already, is made even more puzzling and dangerous by human curiosity.’ That is simply, the greater portion of humans do not ‘trust in the Lord’ and His words ‘with all (their) heart’ but rather ‘lean’ ‘on (their) own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).’
In addressing the topic, we will of course look to the Scriptures; but also to what many notable followers of Christ have taught. Among those of course will include the very founders of many denominations.
(end of Part One)