We believe salvation is a free gift and is received by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Anyone can be restored to relationship as an heir of God, through repenting, believing, and receiving Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
The truth of salvation is also revealed progressively throughout the Bible. God created us to be in relationship with Him, but from very early on that relationship was broken by sin. God punished Adam and Eve for their sin by sending them out of the Garden of Eden to toil in labor, but He did not punish them eternally. Rather, He promised that a seed of the woman would render a deathblow to Satan and to sin and death, though not before receiving mortal wounds (Genesis 3:15). The seed of the woman is, of course, Jesus Christ. God’s forgiveness of Adam and Eve, and of every Old Testament believer after that, made necessary the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. The only way God could forgive sin yet remain true to His Holy Character was to send Jesus to pay the punishment that all His people from the beginning to the end of time deserve for their sin (Romans 3:25-26). The redemptive word of Christ is the center of all history. God’s people of all time have their salvation secured in the same way, by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Old Testament believers looked ahead through the shadows to that sacrifice while we look back on it with clarity.
The Bible speaks of our salvation as something that is past, present and future. We have been saved (Romans 8:24, Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:8). We are being saved (I Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 2:15. Philippians 2:12-13). We will be saved (Romans 5:10, 1 Peter 1:13, Hebrews 1:14). It is helpful to think of salvation as encompassing regeneration (past), justification and sanctification (present) and glorification (future). The salvation of our souls includes each of these works of God and more. Salvation is much more than simply the moment that we profess faith in Christ.
Salvation is dependent upon the work of God who must give us new life before we can repent from our sin and exercise faith in Christ. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6). Jesus describes the kind of change that must happen to a person in order for him or her to enter the Kingdom of God. It is a change that is effected by the Holy Spirit. Because we are in bondage to sin and Satan, we can no more will to be saved than a dead person can will to rise to life or a blind person will to see (Jeremiah 17:9, John 3:5-6, Romans 3:10-12, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:1-3). We need the work of the Holy Spirit to restore our hearts from the pollution of sin and to give us a new inclination towards God. We then respond to the Spirit’s working in our hearts by exercising faith in Christ. In this way, we receive salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:6-14), Ephesians 2:4-10).
When we are given new hearts and freely respond to the truth of the Gospel in faith, God justifies us. Justification is an act by which God pronounces the sinner righteous, putting him or her in a permanently right relationship with Himself (Romans 3:23-24). God declares us not guilty by crediting the perfect obedience of Christ to our account (Romans 4:5). So, when we identify with Christ the law is fulfilled perfectly in us (Romans 8:3-4). With justification, an exchange takes place. Jesus took our sin and its punishment upon Himself at the cross. We are now clothed with His righteousness. We believe that Jesus will return one day to bring final judgment and that God will judge those who have believed in Him on the merits of Christ rather than their own merits. Those who are judged on the merits of Christ will enter into everlasting life, while those who are judged on their own merits will enter into everlasting hell.
Although we have been saved (Justification) and experience many of God’s blessings, we still struggle with sin and live in a world where Satan rules. Sanctification is the process by which we are being saved as the Holy Spirit works in us to progressively free us from sin and make us more like Christ. While obedience merits nothing towards our salvation, it is the necessary result of the Spirit’s presence in the lives of believers (Romans 6:1-7, James 3:24-26). The miracle of the New Covenant promised by the prophets is not that God would one day lower His Holy standards for our lives. Instead, His Spirit would write His laws upon our hearts, rather than upon tablets of stone, so that we would love and obey Him (Jeremiah 31:33, Deuteronomy 30:6, Ezekiel 36:26). As we examine our lives to see the fruit of obedience (Philippians 2:12-13, 1 Peter 1:2-11,) we must keep in mind two things: First, obedience is not something we produce but something the Spirit produces in us. Second, the Christian is not someone who is better than everyone else, but someone who is better than he or she once was.
We look forward to the time when Christ comes again and our salvation will reach its culmination and we will be glorified with Him. This hope is founded on the resurrection of Christ and the fact that the same Spirit who raised Him from the dead now dwells in us. In Romans 8:28-30, Paul describes the progressive parts of our salvation, ending by saying “those whom He justified, these He also glorified”. Glorification for those in Paul’s day and for us is a future event. Yet, Paul uses the past tense. He does so to stress the assurance of our hope. He is speaking as if it has already happened because it is guaranteed to come about according to God’s sovereign plan and work in our lives. As Paul says elsewhere, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).