Article VIII – Soteriology – The Study of Salvation

Section 1  Genuine Offer of Salvation

Since it is impossible for God to be unfair to any person, and since He loves all men equally, desires all men to be saved, is not willing that any should perish, and invites all men to be saved, He freely and graciously offers salvation to all men.  The drawing ministries of the Father and the Son and the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit make it genuinely possible for any member of the human race to receive the Lord Jesus Christ (John; 6:44; 12:32; 16:7-11; 1st Timothy 2:4; 1st John 2:2).

Section 2              Election

We believe Scripture reveals two clear and indisputable lines of evidence.  One line shows God sovereignly choosing His own in Christ; the other shows man possessing the function of volition, able to receive or reject God%u2019s uniquely born Son (regarding sovereignty, see Job 42:2; Psalm 135:6; Isaiah 46:9%u201310; Jeremiah 1:5; Matthew 24:22, 24, 31; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:29-33; Galatians 1:15; 2nd Timothy 2:10; 1st Peter 1:1-2; regarding human volition, see John 1:9-13; 3:16, 36; 6:47; 20:30-31; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:11-13; 1st John 5:9-13, as well as every command in the epistles).

Section 3  Means of Salvation

We believe salvation is the gift of God, offered freely to whoever will honor the Son by believing on Him alone as their Savior, through the provision of His blood that was shed at Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 3:24-25).  We believe that God’s justice demanded that payment be made for sin (Ephesians 5:6; Romans 1:18; 6:23; 2nd Thessalonians 1:8-9), and that, because God so loved the world, He gave His own Son Jesus over to wicked men to execute punishment for those sins (John 3:16, Acts 2:23).  We believe that in the divine tribunal of heaven, Jesus was declared by God to be guilty of the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:6; 1st Peter 2:24; 2nd Corinthians 5:21), thereby providing God the legal basis to punish His son in our place, and to receive Jesus’ sacrifice as lawful payment for our sins.  We believe that Jesus was tried and/or interrogated six times (before Annas – John 18:13; before Caiaphas – John 18:24; before the Sanhedrin – Luke 22:66; before Pilate – Luke 23:1; before Herod – Luke 23:6-7; and to be returned to Pilate a second time) that he was ultimately found without fault, but nevertheless condemned to death – Luke 23:12-24; John 18:28, that He was scourged, beaten, and crucified unto death.  We believe that through His violent and bloody death, Jesus offered to God, a perfect, final, and absolute payment for the sins of the world (John 19:30; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:10-12).  We believe that the just demands of God were thereby satisfied by the death of Jesus, receiving it as sufficient payment for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 1:3).  We believe that Jesus rose again on the third day (Mark 16: 1-14; Luke 21:1-48; John 20:1-29; 1st Corinthians 15:1-8).

Section 4  Man’s Faith Response

We believe that a man appropriates salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 1:12; 3:16), whose death and resurrection are the ground of man’s salvation.  God neither overrules mankind’s volition in accepting or rejecting His provision of salvation, nor implants into the lost some ethereal vitalizing agent that “irresistibly” compels their volition to believe on Christ.

Section 5  Justification

We believe that the body of Greek literature generated prior to, and concurrent with the writing of the New Testament, requires that the term “justification” is a forensic decree by which a person or object is declared to be “all right” or “o.k.” in the estimation of the declarant, not a process by which a person or object gradually conforms to the will of another.  We therefore believe that when Scripture speaks of men being justified before God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20, 24, 28), that this does not refer to a process by which God molds or conforms men to holiness or godliness over time, but rather, to a divine decree whereby men, though still sinful and subject to all manner of wickedness, are declared “not guilty” and wholly acceptable in the sight of God (Romans 5:8).  We further believe that the intrinsic meaning of justification being a forensic decree rather than a dynamic process can be demonstrated by the use of various forms of the term “dikiao” (justify) within Scripture, even apart from extra-biblical literature (Luke 18:14; Acts 13:39).  We believe that the sole basis of justification before God is the blood of Jesus Christ, and that the sole requirement for justification before God is faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24-25; 5:1, 9).  We believe that progressive conformation to the will of God through obedience to His laws has never been, and will never be the basis of justification before God (Romans 3:28; 4:2).

Section 6  The Extent and Benefits of Salvation

We believe that the benefits of salvation include, at the very least:

Expiation – that those who are saved have had their sins taken away by Jesus Christ (John 1:29) and blotted out by His blood (Isaiah 43:25, Colossians 2:14);

Redemption – that those who are saved have been redeemed from sin and its penalty (Galatians 4:5; Titus 2:14) by Jesus Christ who paid the cost of redemption with his own blood, suffering and death (John 19:30, Colossians 2:13-14);

Propitiation – that those who are saved are no longer under, or subject to, God’s wrath and His just demands against sin, which have been fully satisfied by the death of Jesus (Isaiah 53:10-11; Luke 18:13; 1st John 2:2);

Justification – that because God’s legal demands against sin have been satisfied by Jesus Christ in the events of Expiation, Redemption and Propitiation, those who receive Jesus unto themselves, relying on His sacrifice for their salvation, are “justified” or declared by God in the eternal tribunal of heaven as “not guilty” of their sins (Romans 3:20, 24, 28, 4:5, 5:1 & 9, Luke 18:14);

Regeneration – that those who are saved have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit – creating in him a new man (John 3:3-6; 1st John 3:9), who is incorruptible (1st Peter 1:23), and who is, in a literal sense, a child of God (John 1:12), that the new man possesses eternal life that can never perish (John 3:16);

Indwelling/Sealing – that those who are saved have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; 2nd Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:40); and

Baptism of the Holy Spirit – that those who are saved have been baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1st Corinthians 12:12-13).

We believe that every person, as soon as he is saved, comes into possession of each of these spiritual blessings and is absolutely complete in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, Colossians 2:10).  We therefore deny that there is any so-called “second blessing,” or a “second work of grace” which any believer is to seek.

Fellowship and Filling of the Holy Spirit – We believe, however, that our fellowship with God (1st John 1:3), and the filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), are not automatic products of salvation, but are dependent on our moment-by-moment walk with Christ.  Believers, though saved once and for all for eternity, can be carnal (1st Corinthians 3:1-4), and out of fellowship with their Redeemer (1st John 1:6) [1], and are instructed to maintain that fellowship by an ongoing evaluation of their lives and motives (2nd Corinthians 5:10-11), by confessing their sins to God (1st John 1:9), and drawing upon the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) to conform their lives to holiness and godliness (Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:1-9; 1st John 1:3-10).

Heirship (Inheritance) – We further believe that the privilege of ruling over the world to come and reigning with Christ is not an automatic benefit of saving faith, but is rewarded to believers who exhibit a life of persevering faith and godliness (Luke 19:11-27; 1st Corinthians 3:8-15; 9:24-27; Galatians 6:7-9; 2nd Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 4:1; 6:10-12; 10:23; 10:35; Revelation 5:10; 20:6; 22:5).

Sections 7-10  Salvation by Grace

We believe that salvation is a free gift apart from the works of the law.  (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28; 4:4-5; 11:6, Galatians 5:1-4).

Section 7  Basic Salvation by Works

We reject as heresy any teaching that holds that any work of man is necessary for obtaining eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, including, but not limited to, public confession of Christ, baptism by water, prayer, or faithful attendance in church.

Section 8  Lordship Salvation

“Lordship Salvation” or “Bilateral Contract Salvation” refers to a false doctrine whereby God offers a lost sinner the promise of eternal life in exchange for a lost sinner’s promise of future works.  It is thereby an exchange of promises, or a bilateral contract.  Accordingly, we reject all forms of “Lordship Salvation” or “Bilateral Contract Salvation” as heresy.  We believe that there is no theological distinction between corrupt systems of theology that require works, such as water baptism, to be performed prior to gaining salvation, and corrupt theological systems that require the promise of future works in exchange for salvation.  Accordingly, we condemn as heresy any gospel presentation that makes, as a requirement for gaining eternal salvation, repentance from one’s sins, committing one’s life to Christ, making Christ the “Lord” (master) of one’s life, becoming a disciple of Christ, and other equivalent statements that require a promise of future behavior (Romans 5:8; Titus 3:5).

Lord    We believe that, in the time of Christ, the term Kurios (Lord) could variously mean “God,” “master,” or “Sir” depending on the context of usage. We believe that any verse in Scripture using the term “Lord” in conjunction with the salvation of an individual refers to Jesus’ divinity, not a lost sinner’s concession to Jesus’ mastery over their life.  We believe this hermeneutic is consistent with other verses making Jesus’ divinity an element of saving faith.

Repentance  We believe that extant Greek literature demonstrates that the Greek verb “metanoeo” and the noun “metanoia” are simply a change of mind.  We believe that this change of mind can take virtually any object, as evidenced both by Scripture, and by extant Greek literature.  Accordingly, we acknowledge that sin can be the object of repentance, but we categorically deny that there is any basis in the Greek language for understanding “sin” to be the necessary or intrinsic object of repentance.  Moreover, we believe that in no passage of Scripture directed to eternal salvation is sin ever the stated or implied object of repentance.

We believe that, in passages dealing with eternal life, repentance is used in a sense that is equivalent to believing on Christ alone, which, within the witness of the New Testament, has the reasonable scope of:

rejecting other gods (Acts 17:22-30), thereby affirming our Triune God as the only true God;

rejecting as the means for salvation all other vehicles, such as religion (Matthew 3:5-9), sacraments, animal sacrifice or religious ritual or sacerdotal functions good works, animal sacrifice, religion, or religious rituals (Hebrews 6:1 [c.f. Hebrews 9:9-14]), or salvation by obedience to the ten commandments (Luke 13:1-5), thereby affirming Jesus as the only means by which men must be saved; and

evaluating the person and work of Christ and turning to Him in faith (Luke 24:47, Acts 26:20).

Accordingly, we deny that saving repentance is ever directed to sin, either by way of sorrow for one’s sins, or the resolution or promise to “turn” from them.

We affirm that the demand for obedience to the Lordship of Christ should properly be set before the believer, but wholly reject that this demand is ever placed before a lost soul as a requirement for obtaining for eternal life.

Section 9  Eternal Security

We believe that a Christian, having believed in Jesus Christ as Savior, is, from that moment in time, forever secure in his eternal relationship with God, in spite of human frailty or subsequent failure.  The security of the believer is attested to in Scripture on multiple independent grounds, any of which would, by itself, be sufficient to establish the doctrine of security.  Those independent grounds include, at least,

(a)        That salvation is granted apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28; 11:6-7), making it impossible that a believer should lose his salvation through disobedience and sin.

(b)       That the sin debt was paid in full by Jesus at Calvary (John 19:30), and that one accepts that total payment for sin, including their future sins, the moment one believes in Christ alone as their Savior (Hebrews 10:10-12, & 10:14), making it impossible for one who has accepted Jesus Christ to somehow commit a sin that was not paid for at Calvary.

That a believer is given a regenerate nature which is not capable of sin (1st John 3:9), and therefore, not subject to the punishment for sin.

That the believer is not even subject to the laws of Moses, but only to the law of Christ, and is therefore, jurisdictionally insulated from the penalties associated with the law of Moses such as the Ten Commandments  (Galatians 3:10; 3:24-25; 4:21; Hebrews 5:5-6; 7:12; 7:18; 8:7-13; 10:1; 10:9).

(e)        That the eternal life formed during regeneration is infused with divine life from the very “sperma” of God, thereby divinely imparting unto a lost man, a regenerate nature, having the same eternal nature as the life that God himself possesses, which is not even subject to death (John 3:3, 16; 1st John 3:9; 1st Peter 1:23).  We therefore believe that, if it were possible for man to lose the eternal life implanted in him by God, it would necessarily mean that the life of God Himself is not eternal or incorruptible, but subject to death.

(f)        That God has sealed believers of this age with the Spirit as an “earnest,” that is, a non-refundable down payment; who is given as a guarantee of our eternal life (2nd Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30)  The plain meaning of this specific guarantee being, that if God were to break His word and condemn one of His own to eternal hell, that He would have to send His Spirit likewise to hell for eternity.  We believe that the horrifying absurdity of this prospect was the deliberate intent of Scripture, highlighting in the most vivid language possible, the offense given to God to suggest that a believer can lose his salvation.

(g)        That justification of the believer by God, (“dikiao,” “dikiasune”) is a forensic (legal) process by which God declares a lost sinner to be “not guilty” in the supreme tribunal, imputing to the believer the spotless righteousness of His Son in spite of the reality of sin in the life of the believer, and that any doctrine that impugns the absolute righteous standing of the believer before God necessarily impugns the righteousness of his Son that has been imputed to those who are saved.

(h)       That faith alone is stated over one hundred sixty times in scripture to be the sole requirement to be justified through the blood of Christ and to receive the give of eternal life.

(i)         That God has made explicit promises to the believer, and God cannot break His word (John 10:27-30; 17:12; 18:9; Numbers 23:19; 1st Peter 1:3-5).

(j)         That Scripture attests to believers falling into terrible sins, including incest (1st Corinthians 5:1-5); murder (1st Samuel 11:14-16), ritual infant sacrifice (1st Kings 11:7), and even falling away from the faith or denying Christ (1st Timothy 1:19-20; 2:Timothy2:17-19), each of whom, though outside the realm of fellowship with God and subject to divine chastisement, remained in an eternal relationship with God.

(k)        That those who fall away from true faith and embrace false Gods or false gospels remain saved, and that God is able to distinguish those who were truly His (2nd Timothy 2:19).

For at least these reasons, we believe that the doctrine of eternal security is indissolubly bound to the very core of virtually every aspect of the doctrine of salvation and the gospel message.  Accordingly, we believe that any professing Christian who denies the security of the believer is not simply in minor error, but fails to demonstrate even the most rudimentary grasp of any aspect of salvation whatsoever, that such a grievous error is a strong indication that the smallest vestige of the gospel has never been comprehended, and that a true saving faith in the work of the Savior is not evident in a profession of faith that is tainted by the denial of Eternal Security of the believer.

We deny that the doctrine of eternal security is an invitation for sinful or licentious living, nor do we believe that the doctrine of eternal security cultivates such a life style when taught in a biblical context that includes a clear understanding of the judgment seat of Christ.  Rather, we believe that Scripture plainly teaches that the doctrine of eternal security is both a basis, and a primary motivation for godly living (Luke 7:40-43, John 10:27-30; 14:21; Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1st John 4:19).

We affirm, however, that God does discipline an erring son as a beloved child when necessary (Hebrews 12:8).

Section 10      Assurance

We believe it is the privilege, not only of some, but of all who are begotten again by the Spirit through faith in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, to be assured of their salvation from the very day they take Him to be their Savior, and that this assurance is not founded upon any fancied discovery of their own worthiness or fitness, nor hopeful self-reflection that they are “persevering” in faith, godliness or good works sufficient to “confirm” their salvation.  Rather, assurance is wholly based upon the testimony of God in His written Word to whosoever believes (Luke 10:20; John 5:24; 6:47; 1st John 5:9-13; 2nd Timothy 1:12; Heb. 10:22).  Accordingly, we deny that lack of commitment, lack of appreciation or other emotions, or lack of “fruit” constitutes proof that someone was never saved.

We believe that the numerous admonitions in Scripture for Christians to live a holy and godly lifestyle would be pointless if such changes were, within this lifetime, the automatic consequences of saving faith.  We affirm that a life marked by holiness, godliness and good works can, and should follow regeneration, though not necessary to a firm assurance of eternal life (Luke 22:31-32; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8).  The ungrateful lepers remained cleansed in spite of their ungratefulness (Luke 17:11-19).

(a)        Assurance and the Perseverance of the Saints  Perseverance of the saints is defined herein as a doctrine taught within the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, Part 1 of the Second Part, Treatise on Grace, Questions 109-114; Early American Puritanism, and other sects, particularly within modern Reformed Theology.  The false doctrine of perseverance holds, as its fundamental axioms:

1.   That genuine believers will, in this lifetime, irresistibly and without exception, experience a visible and enduring fruit of faith and good works.

2.  Therefore, serious or habitual sin would constitute proof that true conversion was never experienced – that the person was “never really saved.”

3.   Since at any moment anyone may backslide into serious or habitual sin, thereby “proving” that he was “never really saved”, no one can be absolutely sure that they are saved.

Assurance of one’s salvation therefore is not derived from one’s certainty of his faith in Christ, but circumstantially from evidence of one’s changed life.  Assurance can never be absolute.

In view of the foregoing statements related to assurance, we believe that the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints” is fundamentally incompatible with the doctrine of assurance, and therefore constitutes a denial of the doctrine of assurance.

We believe that sincere attempts to reconcile carnality with perseverance, by statements like, “the believer may fall away for a time, but the true believer will always return,” imply that the carnal Christian is impervious to death when engaging in sin, the very opposite thing as taught in Scripture.  As such, we believe the logical conclusion of the doctrine of “perseverance” is an invitation to carnality.

We believe that, when taken to its logical conclusion, perseverance of the saints is a form of justification by works, offering a forensic declaration that someone is truly saved only after a life of good works has preceded that declaration.  We believe that this errant view of sanctification and assurance is often predicated on an errant view of the meaning and operation of “grace.”

(b)                   Assurance and the False Profession of Faith  We affirm that there is such a thing as a false profession of faith.

i)          The Doctrinally Aberrant  We believe that men are unsaved who make a sincere, but misguided profession of faith.  We believe that salvation is not bestowed simply on those who invoke the name of “Jesus” without a rudimentary understanding of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4).  A man must “know – John 4:10,” “grasp – 1st Corinthians 15:2” or otherwise understand the person and work of Christ before they can believe on Him.

The Almost Persuaded  We believe that men are unsaved who evaluate and understand the gospel, but remain un-persuaded, refusing to receive it unto themselves as the basis of their eternal hope (Acts 26:27-28).

Reprobation and Deception.  We believe that there exists a class of persons known by various names including “reprobate,” “sociopath,” “the wicked,” “narcissists,” and “character disordered,” who, in varying degrees of reprobation, regard truth as a mercurial commodity for advancing their selfish pursuits, personal gain, self aggrandizement, or appetites.  We cite, for example, Herod, who professed interest in the worship of the Christ for the purpose of slaughtering the innocents (Matthew 2:8)  We believe that such a profession is so transparently worthless as to not merit refutation.

Reprobation, Self Deception, and Self Examination  We believe that when someone lives a life of lies, wherein truth is not weighted on the intrinsic merit of a proposition, but only as a mercurial commodity for advancing one’s self interests, that such a person become progressively hardened to the truth, and increasingly susceptible to self deception.  We acknowledge however that every fallen descendent of Adam has some capacity for self deception and denial (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:18; 1st John 1:6-8; James 1:22-25; 2nd Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2nd Peter 3:5-6).  Accordingly, we believe that Scripture admonishes professing Christians to examine themselves to evaluate whether their profession of faith is genuine, or whether they are a self deceived reprobate (2nd Corinthians 13:5).  We believe that some professions of faith, though initially motivated by deception or self deception for personal gain, such as prison parole, social approbation, employment, familial harmony, or romantic interests, may eventually grow into valid saving faith in spite of the insincere origin of the initial profession.

We deny that Paul’s admonition for self examination (2nd Corinthians 13:5) is ground for denial of assurance.  We believe that a deceiver, as well as one who is self-deceived, has, by the very nature of deception, never been truly concerned about their own personal salvation through Christ.  One cannot lack assurance of their salvation in Christ when they have never actually been concerned about their salvation in Christ.

We believe that those of genuine faith and delicate conscience, who are inclined to compulsively question the genuineness of their own faith, demonstrate an inner dialogue that is simply not present in reprobates or sociopaths.  Because assurance is a birthright of every Christian, we believe it is the duty of a pastor to know the condition of his flock, to identify brethren of sensitive conscience, and, having confirmed their true testimony of faith in Christ, to affirm and validate them, and to build within them a firm and solid assurance of their salvation.

We believe that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).  Accordingly, we believe that the most effective way for a pastor to address concerns about false professions within his flock is to proclaim the gospel message clearly and often.  The regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an excellent opportunity for this.  Hymns that actually talk about the blood of the lamb, rather than some personal experience or emotion of the congregant, are also excellent opportunities for cultivating, imparting, or reinforcing genuine faith.

[1]  An honest interpretation of the “hina” (purpose) clause in 1st John 1:3 (“in order that you might have fellowship,”) demands that it is possible that a believer might not be in fellowship.  Fellowship is not an automatic consequence of salvation.  By equating fellowship to salvation, false teachers pretend that the works and holiness required for fellowship (1st John 1:6-7) are actually requirements for salvation.  Accordingly, those who equate salvation and fellowship are typically motivated by the desire to support their corrupt pre-conceived commitment to salvation-by-works.  We believe this dishonest representation of Christian fellowship not only removes the grace oriented admonition for believers to walk in fellowship with our Triune God, it also does grave violence, both to the integrity of the gospel of grace, and to the spiritual lives of believers, leading to compulsive doubts about one’s salvation, resulting in spiritual defeat and emotional destruction to the people of God.