The doctrine of salvation…what is it? If we want to understand the Christian faith, we must have a grasp of this doctrine. God’s central purpose in the world today is the redemption of fallen men and women. We as the church are called to make disciples of the nations. This involves sharing the gospel: the saving message of Jesus Christ. Our purpose in life is to glorify God by making the Good News (Gospel) known to the world. How can we honor God in fulfilling this purpose if we do not know what this message really is? It is our duty as disciples of Jesus to know what this salvation he accomplished is all about.
The best way to understand salvation is to know both its objective and subjective elements. The objective elements may be better understood as the story of redemption. The narrative includes Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. This is the story of both God and man unfolding throughout history and culminating in the revelation of Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior of the world. Likewise, the subjective elements include the salvific work of Christ applied to individuals. These include union with Christ, conversion, adoption, justification, sanctification, and glorification. These will be examined in part II.
God’s work in the world is not static, it is dynamic. From Adam and Eve in the garden to the final judgment and new creation, God is working an incredible act in creation. The story starts “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen. 1). Everything he made was good. He even called his best creation, humanity, very good. But we all know the story. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and to sin instead. The problem is a problem of idolatry. Rather than choosing to obey the commands of God, they believed their idea of right and wrong was better. This has been the problem of humankind ever since. And thus, they fell from the perfect state the Lord created them in, choosing a lie over the truth. Therefore, all men are separated from the Lord. These are acts one and two of the story of redemption: Creation and Fall.
Praise God, that is not the end of the story. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). When Christ said on the cross “it is finished” he meant that the work of redemption the Father sent him into the world to do was accomplished.
We might ask the question, “Why did Christ have to die on the cross?” or “What exactly did Christ accomplish on the cross?”
Sacrifice. In the book of Hebrews, Christ’s work is compared to the OT sacrificial system. Except, instead of offering the blood of bulls and goats Christ offered his own blood. He secured an eternal redemption for his people who are cleansed by his blood through his once-for-all sacrifice for sins. “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).
Propitiation. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Christ removed us from the wrath of a holy God.
Substitution. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:6, 12).
Reconciliation. The death of Christ also brings an end to the enmity that exists between God and humankind. God “through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:18-19).
We cannot forget, the resurrection is an essential component of the gospel. There would be no hope of salvation if Jesus would have stayed in the grave. But Jesus did rise from the dead, reversing the curse of the Fall, and defeating sin, death, and Satan. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15: 56-57). And when the end comes, Christ will judge the living and the dead, create a new heaven and a new earth, and God’s perfect rule on earth with no sin or rebellion will be established. Those in Christ will reign with him and enjoy God’s presence for an eternity of unending worship. These are the acts of Redemption and New Creation; acts three and four. This is the gospel story.