Posts Tagged ‘Soteriology’

A brother in the Lord mentioned an anti-Reformed interpretation of Acts 13:48 he saw in a conversation on Facebook.

Here’s what Acts 13:48 states:

When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of [ac]the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed

A Reformed interpretation would mean that God took the initiative in appointing people to believe.  Of course an anti-Reformed interpretation would deny that.

Here’s the anti-Reformed take of Acts 13:48

The Greek verb tasso means being arranged or position, which makes perfect sense, the ones who accept the Gospel are arranged or positioned for everlasting life by the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures are very clear God mold us into whatever we decide, if we reject the message of the Gospel He hardens our heart by our choice but if we accept the Gospel the Holy Spirit prepares us for everlasting life.

Here’s my response:


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Have you ever heard of the “Scarlet Thread through the Bible?”  Its the idea that the theme of the blood of Christ runs through the entire Bible including the Old Testament.  Studying Scripture and its typology is beautiful and boosts one’s faith in the Word of God.  The famous preacher W.A. Crisswell has preached a famous sermon with the same title which has been also made into a book that’s available for free on PDF if you click HERE.

My mother in Law shared with me over email about the scarlet thread throughout the Bible and it got me thinking.  Have you ever realized there is a scarlet thread through soteriology (the doctrines of salvation)?


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Please see the last post on the series, “Roman Catholic Church View of Salvation.”

Before I give details concerning justification, I would like to tell you what justification is.  Justification is a forensic event in which God declares the once-hell bound believing sinner as righteous because of the grounds of imputed righteousness of Christ.  This imputed righteousness is also not understood properly if one does not take into account the active obedience of Christ’s full obedience to “all” that God the Father willed for Him to fulfill in this earth.  Justification is not based upon our works or righteousness; and not even our faith.  Faith is only the means or the instrument that allows us to receive the benefits of justification.[1]   Unlike the Roman Catholic position which sees justification as the process of becoming just, the biblical view is an event in where God declares the believing sinner as righteous.  The Catholic view distorts justification by seeing the sacraments and good works as the process that makes them righteous.  Another aspect of justification is that it  is more than a pardon; takes into account both the negative and positive aspects, is once for all, and has no degrees or changes.  More explanation will be given.

Why does man desperately need justification?  He needs it because his greatest problem is sin.  Sin, which is the result of the Fall of Adam, has brought catastrophic results.  What you see on this earth such as cancer, diabetes, aids, heart disease, liver problems, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, murder, pain, rape, abuse, etc., are all a result of sin.  But more devastating is what sin has done to the human heart.  Since sin has affected the human heart, man has an internal problem.  His heart, his whole being, and his mind has been corrupted and is an offense before a holy God.  In order to satisfy God, we need to be positionally perfect before Him.  Since we are not, we are declared as unrighteous and hell-deserving sinners who deserve the wrath of God.

In light of our bad condition before God, the question that needs to be answered today is, “How can man become right before God?”  This question has taunted many men down in history.  For example, men like Martin Luther lived in the horror of how to be right before God.  It caused him to crawl on his knees up the steps of the so-called Scala-Sancta in Rome.  It has also caused indigenous tribes to sacrifice humans to their sun gods.  Today, we see people going to church to perform good works to placate their conscience, but they are nothing but modern-day Pharisees who have not truly repented from their self-righteousness.  In their blindness, they think they are wonderful and good people who are not evil because they have not murdered, rape, and done any sins that that media deems to be notorious.  But the truth of the matter is that before a holy and just God, all sins committed, qualifies a person of being a criminal in God’s holy courthouse.

Modern-day Pharisees are not those who pursue enslavement to Christ (1 Cor. 7:22), righteousness (leads to sanctification) (Romans 6:18-19), etc. Modern-day Pharisees are those who use Christian lingo, pray, attend church, give their offerings, sing Christian songs, prayed a prayer, signed a card at an evangelistic crusade; think they are saved because they are born into a Christian home; are anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, anti-gay marriage, anti-liberal, but Inside their heart, they are whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27) who love their pride (Proverbs 8:13) ;claim they are without sin (1 John 1:8-9), don’t desire reconciliation with God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and Christians (Matthew 5:24), don’t desire obedience to God’s Words because their hearts are far from Him(1 John 2:4-5; Mark 7:6); self-centered before God and others (2 Timothy 4:3; Ephesians 4:31-32), do not support the Gospel ministry (Matthew 23:13), place their traditions equal to or above God (Matthew 15:3), act Christ-like before other Christians, but in the dark, they are in bed with their sinful desires (Proverbs 28:13).  Modern-day Pharisees are also too prideful to confess their sins before God and other believers (1 John 1:9; James 5:16), are unteachable (Ephesians 5:21-22; James 4:6; Proverbs 15:31-32; Proverbs 19:20), get easily offended when a loving Christian calls out their sin, love being called a disciple, but do not understand the demands of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33).  Modern-Pharisees substitute their own laws and opinions for God’s laws, twist Scripture and act like Satan when they willfully misinterpret Jesus words in Matthew 7:1, “”Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”  Modern-Pharisees explain away God’s truth by seeking to discredit the teacher (John 9:14), are not good listeners (John 9:18-23), love to label and divide people into different camps (John 9:28-29), and resort to intimidation to win arguments (John 9:22) (crbaptist).  Modern-day Pharisees’ greatest need is to be right before God.  They desperately need Christ and need to come to Him in desperation because nothing in them is good.  They are nothing but filthy rags that need forgiveness (Isaiah 64:6).  That now moves us to our next question in terms of how to be justified before God.

If justification cannot be based on our works or superficial profession, then what is it based on?  Justification is based on the penal substitution of Christ.  Penal substitution is Christ’s death on our behalf.  He took the punishment, curse, and the death that should have been absorbed by us.  Romans 5:9 says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”  1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  So what does justification based on the blood or Christ’s sacrifice mean?  It means that justification proceeds on a ransom paid and proceeds on the basis of the satisfaction of justice.  In other words, God did not look on a man, but on Christ’s perfect holy blood that was spilled on Calvary’s cross.  We are justified by His works which ultimately led to the shedding of blood, which resulted from His death and sacrifice.

You see?  There is nothing in man to please God.  You can’t satisfy Him because you are unable to perfectly obey Him.  Not even his faith and repentance is enough if it was not for the death of Christ.  The exaltation of Christ’s death explains why the weak in faith can be justified because of the death of Christ. If God relied on our faith, we are doom, because we never have perfect faith.  Someone once told Hudson Taylor that he was a man of great faith.  He responded by saying, “No, I am a man of very little faith in a very great God.”

As stated earlier, the term  to “justify” also means “to declare righteous.”  It does not mean, “to make righteous.” It means, God declares us to be righteous objectively from the outside according to His laws and standards.  Also to justify does not mean to make righteous from the inside.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He is involved in that particular work to make righteous, which is called “regeneration (Titus 3:5).  Please also see Eph. 4:24; Rom. 8:33-34.

Justification also has no degrees or changes.  Man is either fully righteous or fully condemned (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Also justification is more than a pardon because we have the righteousness of God imputed into us because of Christ’s death.  God sees us as positionally perfect before His law.

Justification is both negative and positive.  Negative in the sense that our sin debt was imputed to Christ and paid for by Him and positive in the sense that Christ pays for our fine and debt and credits us with righteousness into our accounts (Rom. 5:1-2; John 5:24).  Amazing grace, indeed!

Justification is once for all (Heb. 10:10; Romans 8:33-35).  It will never be revoked.

Also justification is received by “faith alone in Christ!”  Not faith plus your works (i.e. sacraments, your righteousness, etc.).  He is the supreme object of our faith, not your works.  To do so would be to offend the Holy One.  Our works is just the natural outflow/result of being saved in Christ alone.  Once you place your faith in Christ, you are justified.  But it must be a genuine faith that expresses a passionate convicting and  satisfying acceptance within one’s soul concerning God’s truth (Romans 10:9). Justification does not happen when Christ comes back for the church.  Nor can you work for it.  Please see Acts 16:30-31.

[1]R. C. Sproule, Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie that Binds Evangelicals Together (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 160.

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Divine Calling

Please see the last post on the series, “Doctrine of Salvation,” Christ’s Atonement

Divine calling/Gospel call can be defined as the call that invites and draws the unsaved person to Christ for salvation.  The definition may not be straight forward, as it seems because there are particulars that needs to be considered.  For example, what are the different callings of God?   Is the Gospel message effective that people hear, read, and see, effective?  In order to tackle that, we need to understand that there is general call and irresistible/effectual call.  Is a calling necessary and can the calling be resisted? Next talking point will be the historical views.  But before we get into it, I will try to define and describe the terms that are critical to our understanding of Divine calling.

The first term to cover is effective/effectual calling.  Effective calling can be defined as the act of God the Father that operates in the context of the Gospel proclamation in which He calls people to Himself for salvation.  Effective calling is referred to as internal calling. The Gospel call is offered to all people—even to those who do not desire the Gospel.  Sometimes, the Gospel call is referred to as external calling or general calling.  Since the Gospel call is the vehicle used in Gospel proclamation and is intended to be preached to all, it can operate as an effective call or general call to the sinner.  In order to get more clarity,  it will be beneficial to see the elements involved.

The elements of the Gospel call, which invites sinners to embrace the message, involves the explanation of the facts concerning salvation.  The facts concerning salvation indicates that all of mankind have sinned (Rom. 3:23), the penalty of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of sin (Rom. 5:8).  Another element is the invitation to respond to Christ via repentance and faith (Matt. 11:28-30; Matt. 11:28; John 1:11-12); and thirdly a promise of forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16; Acts 3:19; cf. 2:38; John 6:37).  Let’s now move into the historical views.

As for the general call, Pelagians and Liberals believe that the call can be responded to without divine assistance.  In other words, humans can respond with their own strength.  This humanistic thinking is a result in a denial of original sin, denial of total depravity, and a belief in the universal fatherhood of God upon everyone.

As for Lutherans, they believe that the special ability to hear the Gospel maybe resisted. Also the universal call to salvation in their mind, brings some measure of illumination that reveals that sinners need Christ and are provided some measure to respond to the Gospel message.  However, they do believe that sinners may resist God’s grace.  In their perspective concerning external calling and internal calling, they do not believe that there is a Calvinistic distinction.

When it comes to the Arminians, they believe that all are able to respond to the general call.  They believe that there is a single, general call of God to the sinner for salvation.  They believe that the emphasis on the general call and inner effectual call from Calvinism is not warranted.  As a result, general call and effectual/inner call should not be distinguished from their perspective.  Arminians also believe that since prevenient grace neutralizes the effects of Adam’s sin, all people are able to respond to God’s universal call to salvation.  They also believe that those who respond to God’s general call are the elect and the called.  Moreover, since prevenient grace neutralizes the effects of sin that came from Adam, sinners are able to respond positively to God’s Gospel call.  Also, the Spirit’s work in calling people to faith is resistible.

As for the Reformers, the general call (which happens in the Gospel proclamation) can be resisted, but the special call cannot be resisted (Romans 8:29-30).  This camp believes that because of sin and total depravity, a person does not have the ability in his own strength to believe God for salvation.  Man cannot respond to God on His own because of total depravity (Ephesians 2:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:14). Man’s mind is marred by sin and can never respond to spiritual things.  As a result, a sinner needs the Holy Spirit to intervene (John 3:8; Titus 3:5).  As stated earlier, general call is for all to hear, but the response to the general call depends upon the gracious power of God’s Spirit.  If he chooses to work upon an individual, then the person will respond.  Once they respond, then it becomes a special call or effective call.  Another important area to cover is the language of calling.

In the Old Testament, the verb qara and the root-related words occur 689 times and means, “to call out” or “invite.”  And in the New Testament, the term kaleo, which means, “to call,” is a term that is used 148 times.  When Apostle Paul uses the words kaleo (29 times), klesis (8 times) and kletos (7 times), it is almost always used with the sense of divine calling.  Apostle Paul understands that the calling is the process by which God calls those who are elected before the foundation of the world.  And He does that for the elect in order to justify them and sanctify them.  On another note, in the NT Epistles and Revelation, the word kaleo is a particular word and related word that becomes a technical term used in conjunction of drawing sinners to Christ through His powerful Word and Spirit.  Moreover, the effectual drawing that happens in the context of the Gospel call/general call, brings sinners to faith.  For that example, please see Matt. 22:9; Acts 2:39 (proskaleomai); Rom. 8:30; 9:11; 1 Cor. 1:9, 26; 7:20; Gal. 1:6, 15; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1; 9:15; 1 Pet 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 1; Rev. 17:14; 19:9.  In each of those verses, those whom God called, inevitably came to saving faith in Christ because those whom God elected will come to salvation (Ephesians 1:3-4)  I will now move into the OT and NT understanding of the external call of God.

The general call, which is also referred as the Gospel call because of its general invitation, takes place whenever the Gospel or the Word of God is preached.  It is used in the OT (Isa. 45:22; Isa. 65:2; Jer. 7:13) and in the NT (Matt. 11:28; Luke 5:32; Luke 13:34; Rev. 22:17).  It must also be remembered that the Gospel call is not a sham or deception.  Anyone who responds will be saved.  And when people do not respond, it is not God’s fault, but it is the fault of the person who desires a lifestyle of rebellion.  Scripture indicates that the fault of the person not being saved lies not with God, but with the spiritual impotence of the depraved person.  God does not force people to sin or make them sin.  God is holy and perfect.  For example, they do not respond because some hardened their hearts (Exod. 7:13; 8:15, 19, 32);“there is no one who understands” (Rom. 3:11); and things that come from God are foolishness to the unbeliever (1 Cor. 2:14).  In order for them to respond, they need their eyes open by the sovereign Holy Spirit.

As for the Bible’s description of effective calling that happens in the Gospel proclamation, there are many verses that gives great insights, but we will only cover a few.  For example to be called by God means to be delivered from “darkness and into His marvelous light.”  To be called by God, means to “enter into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12; Acts 2:39).  To be called by God means one “belongs to Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6), a “saint” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2), “citizen of the realm of peace.”  To be called by God means that one has “freedom” (Gal. 5:13), “hope” (Eph. 1:18; 4:4), “holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7), “eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12), etc. [1]

[1]Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 692-693.

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Please see the last post on the series, “Doctrine of Salvation,” Election

Before I explain to you the various views on the atonement, it is important to keep in mind that one’s understanding of the doctrine of God, Christ, man, sin, and salvation will influence or determine one’s understanding of the atonement.  Since God is holy, he can save sinners from their sins in order to save them.  And since Jesus is God, He can pay for the sins of humanity.  But if one takes the view that Jesus is just a man, then His death has no power to save because he is not God.  Moreover, since the Bible teaches total depravity, that means that man is hopeless and needs a substitute for his sins because man in his imperfect condition cannot atone for sins.

Another important component to keep in mind is the cause of the atonement.  What was the ultimate cause that drove Jesus to come to this sinful world and die on behalf of wicked sinners?[1]

In light of my overall study of Scripture, I believe it is motivated by the glory of God’s love and justice.  Because God loved sinners, He sent His representation, His Son, perfect and Holy, to die on behalf of His people.  No other sacrifice would suffice God’s justice, but only His Son.

Man is not good and can never offer a perfect sacrifice.  Let us now move into some key questions before we get into the historical views.  After going over the historical views, we will find out what historical view answers the key questions.

Some of the questions that need to be answered are as follows, “Could God really allow all of humanity to go to hell, is there something within God’s nature that requires Him to make the way of salvation, could God have atone for man’s sins that did not involve the death of His Son, what did Jesus sacrifice do, and how does Jesus’ death on the cross affect people over 2,000 years later, did the cross achieve something objective or subjective, how could Jesus’ death pay for every sin, did Jesus die only for the elect or for all, how were Old Testament saints saved, did the blood of animals take away the sins of the Old Testament saints, etc.  I probably will not be able to answer all the key questions mentioned, but I just wanted to throw out the questions to satisfy your curiosity.  Let us now move into the historical views of the atonement.

The first view I will tackle is the classic or ransom theory that was held by some church fathers such as Origen, Gustaf Aulen and others.  This view believes that the ransom Christ paid to redeem us was paid to Satan in exchange for the souls of humans that are held captive to Satan.  This view finds no direct support in Scripture and has few supporters in the history of the church.  Instead of viewing God as the person who requires payment be made to Him, this view thinks of Satan as the one who required payment from Christ in order to free sinners.  This reason is unbiblical because it rejects the biblical understanding of God’s justice.  The justice of God can be seen through the administration of God’s law.  The ransom views fails to understand that they give more power to Satan than he actually has.  The truth is that Satan was thrown out of heaven by God and is subordinate to Him.  Another thing this view fails to take into account is Christ’s propitiation that was offered to God the Father.  His sacrifice was never to propitiate or please Satan.  The ransom or classic theory that was developed mainly by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa needs to be rejected.  The key text they use in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 which stresses that Christ died to give His life as a ransom for many is taken out of context and hence misinterpreted.  Thank God for men like Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius who rejected this view.  The next view is the satisfaction theory.

The satisfaction theory views the atonement of Jesus as compensation to the Father by satisfying His honor.  Anselm was instrumental in developing this view that emphasized the idea of feudal overlord.  In order to satisfy God’s honor, he believed that Christ’s death was sufficient.  Anselm rejected the view that Christ’s death was to pay a ransom to Satan.  At the end of the day, the way to distinguish the ransom theory from the substitutionary view of the atonement is to know which bucket the two key terms, God’s honor and His wrath, falls under.  For the satisfaction theory, they do not believe satisfying God’s wrath is included.  The next view is the moral influence theory.

The moral influence theory robs the objective aspect of the substitutionary atonement.  This view, which is first advocated by Peter Abelard (1079-1142), a French theologian believes that the moral influence theory is simply about showing the death of Christ as God’s love for us; and how much He loved us.  His death was to identify with our sufferings.  It is clear that this view exalts mostly love, while ignoring the justice and holiness of God are not emphasized.  This view also believes that God’s love is so strong that it overcomes the resistance of the wicked sinners.  The view believes that the love of God is strong that it will compel humans to come to God.   Many Unitarians adopt this view.  The problem with the moral influence theory is its lack of perspective on the objective character of the atonement.    There are many passages in the Bible that speaks of Jesus dying for our sin, bearing our sin, and dying as propitiation.  Jesus’ death propitiated His Father’s wrath.  Because of God’s justice, the wrath of God had to be satisfied.  If not, we would be dead in our sin.  The next view is the governmental theory.

The government theory which was first taught by a Dutch theologian and jurist, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) believes that God did not actually require a payment for sin.  Since God is omnipotent He could of set aside His righteous requirement and simply forgive sins without the payment for a penalty.  The question still persists.  If Christ did require a payment for sin, then what was the purpose of His death?  In response, they note that as the Lawgiver, who requires a penalty when His laws are broken; Jesus on the other hand, satisfied the law by simply suffering.  However, His suffering shows that there must have been some penalty paid to God.  The government theory view does not answer the question adequately.  To say that Christ’s death was not a payment of an actual sin we committed, but to say that is death was simply that of an object used by God to make us realize that God’s laws must be kept, robs the objective character of the atonement.  Those that advocate this view must realize that Christ died for His people’s actual sin.  To deny that objective reality is blemish the unchangeableness of God and the infinite purity of His holy justice that we see in the pages of Scripture.  We must not underestimate the absolute character of the justice of God.  The next view is the universal reconciliation theory.

The universal reconciliation theory, views that Christ’s death reconciled the entire world to God.  In other words, the cross signifies the election of everyman through the death of His Son.  The death of Christ intended to save everyone.  This view is clearly unbiblical, because we know that not everyone receives the benefits of the cross because according to the Bible, not everyone will be saved.

The view that is biblical and that Christians should embrace is penal substitution.  This conveys the notion that Jesus Christ bore the just penalty for our sins and by doing that He appeased or satisfied the anger and wrath of God.  Penal substitution is a humbling truth because it is a powerful reminder that we as sinners, deserved to die from the penalty of sin.  We deserve to absorb the wrath of God, we deserve to be separated from God by our sins, we deserve to be in bondage to sin, and we deserve to be in the kingdom of Satan.

[1]Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 568.

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For the first post of this Doctrine of Salvation series, please see the first post: Summary of the Doctrine of Salvation

A good definition can be as follows: God’s sovereign selection of certain sinners for salvation before the foundation of the world that is not based on any human merit.

Before we get into the details concerning the doctrine of election, it is important for us to define some important terms that come up in many discussions concerning this topic. The first word is foreknowledge (prognosis).  Foreknowledge is in regards to a predetermined relationship of certain people before the foundation of the world; and is distinct from mere knowledge and facts.  In Romans 8:29 the use of foreknowledge is linked to predestination and in 1 Peter 1:2, foreknowledge is linked to election.  What is important to note that only twice does the term of foreknowledge in the New Testament is referring to knowledge and facts beforehand (Acts 26:5; 2 Peter 3:17).  The other references to the word foreknowledge signify foreordination and predetermination (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2, 20).

Another important term is “predestine” (proorizo).  This term means to determine things beforehand (Acts 4:27-28; Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:5, 11). According to Reformed theology, the term “predestination” a term that is related to election is not only a term included for believers, but also unbelievers (reprobation).

The next term is election.  The Hebrew term for election is bahar (“elect” or “choose”) and its derivatives occur 198 times in the Old Testament.  With this term, God chooses a people for Himself (Psalm 135:4), certain tribes (Psalm 78:68), specific individuals (1 Kings 8:16; 1 Chron. 28:5).  In the New Testament, the Greek verb  “to elect” is eklegomai and the Greek noun for election is  eklektos, which is found around 22 times.  The primary meanings of those two words refer to salvation, not service.  Let us now move into the categories of election.

The first category is election to service.  Concerning election to service, God chose Moses for leadership (Num. 16:5-7), Eli’s father for priestly functions (1 Sam. 2:28), David’s appointment to be Israel’s king (1 Sam. 10:24), Solomon appointed to be king and to build the temple (1 Chron. 28:4-6; 29:1), Jeremiah appointed for prophetic ministry (Jer. 1:10), Zerubbabel for leadership (Haggai 2:23), the Levitical priesthood for ministry (Deut. 18:5; 21:5); and He chose kings to govern (Deut. 17:15).  Moreover, Jesus chose his apostles and followers to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 3:13-15; John 15:16).  Next category is corporate election.

For corporate election, we can refer to Israel as a primary example.  Deut. 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”   What is interesting is that Israel was chosen and given the privilege to serve God (1 Kings 3:8; Psalm 132:13); and were chosen not based on their merits, but solely on God’s sovereignty and love (Exod. 32:9; Deut. 4:37; 9:6; 10:15; Psalm 47:4).  On another note, God’s election of the Israel is also irrevocable (Rom. 11:28-29).  Corporate election is not only seen with Israel (not all Israel is saved), but with the church too.  The church is the community that is sovereignly chosen by God to serve Him.  They are called out from the power of sin and called to worship Him.  In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the church is mentioned and the church is described with language language that was used in the Old Testament.  For example, Peter uses, “chosen generation,” “a royal priesthood,” “an holy nation,” “a peculiar people,” and “a people of God” in juxtaposition to the church.  When the church is used in the New Testament regarding election of the church, it is referring to salvation, but when election is used to refer to Israel in the Old Testament, it emphasizes the difference concerning the nation Israel as “chosen, blessed, and commissioned” from the pagan nations that surround Israel.

Besides the corporate election of Israel and the church, there is also personal election that is mentioned in the Bible.  In the Old Testament, God is seen as seeking Adam and Eve after their sin.  He did not destroy them, but he covered them with animal skins (Gen. 3:21).  God also sought Noah because “Noah found favors in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).  God’s personal election is clearly seen with Abraham.  God chose Abraham to be the father of Israel so that he would bring blessings to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3).  In Gen. 18:19, Moses the write notes that Abraham is chosen also so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD; and they are to do that by doing righteousness and justice.  What is fascinating about the word “chosen” (ידע; yada) means “to know.”  So in this context, it paints the picture that God sovereignly chose Abraham for salvation.  Yada is also used in Exodus 33:17 to refer to God knowing Moses.  Yada is used in Isaac Gen. 17:19-21 to refer to God choosing Isaac rather than Ishmael.  It is also used in Psalm 65:4 concerning God to bring people near to Him and is used in Jeremiah 1:5 to refer God’s election of Jeremiah before He was formed.  The idea of personal election is clear in Jeremiah.  God chose Him and knew Him personally and lovingly.

For verses in the New Testament concerning election, please see Matthew 11:25-27; John 5:21; John 6:44; John 13:18; John 15:16a; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-30; Romans 9:11-13; Romans 11:7; Ephesians 1:4-6; Ephesians 1:4-6; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 1:1-2a; and Revelation 13:8.

Another category that needs to be pursued is the concept called “foreknowledge.”  Understanding this term will help one see clearly the doctrine of election.  When it comes to this view, some believe that the word “foreknowledge” means foresight.  Hence, God looks through the corridors of heaven and down into the tunnel of time to see who will believe in His Son.  As a result, it perceives God’s election being conditioned upon whether a person believes or not.  Others see the concept as referring to a predetermined love relationship that has nothing to do whether man believes or not.  Thus, I believe foreknowing means foreloving in this context.

In conclusion, although there are passages where there are occurrences of the word foreknowledge referring to foresight and not forelove, but each verse must be examine the context of each verse and passage to determine what it means.  For example, the use of the word “foreknew” in Romans 11:2 means a predetermined love relationship.  God has not rejected the people whom He chose.  It would be odd if the word foreknew means foresight.  In Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2, the word “foresight” is best understood in the sense of “forelove.”  Another example would be Romans 8:29, which states an important phrase: “those whom He foreknew.

The word “foreknew” is not a reference simply to foreknowledge.  Hence, it cannot simply be tied directly to God’s omniscience in the sense that from eternity past, He chose some because He knew who would place their faith in Him.  According to Granville Sharp Rule, the word “forelove” equates with predeterminism.  Hence, God, set His love on His people and established an intimate relationship with His elect.

Another thing to take into consideration are the perspectives on the doctrine of election.  Besides the notion that Christ chose His people before the foundation of the world without being condition upon man’s choice, it is important to remember that election in Christ (Eph. 1:3-7), is presented as a comfort (Rom. 8:28-30), is a reason to praise God (Eph. 1:5-6, 12), is an encouragement for evangelism (2 Tim. 2:10); and election is a reason for us to not take it too hard on ourselves when people consistently refuse the Gospel.

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The doctrine of soteriology is a major concept and a major theme in the Bible.  The terms related to salvation are prevalent in the OT and NT.  In the OT, the Hebrew verb yasa and its derivatives appear about 353 times in the OT.  In the Niphal it bears the meaning “to be saved” or “be delivered” and in the Hiphil it means to “deliver,” “give victory,” or “save.”  The noun form of yasa is yesuah (64 times), yesa (31 times), and tesuah (19 times), which means, “help,” “deliverance,” and “salvation.”  When looking at the OT, the above verb yasa and nouns yesuah , yesa, and tesuah refer to deliverance from Egypt via the Exodus (Exod. 14:13, 30; 15:2), victory over Israel’s enemies (Num. 10:9; Judg. 6:14-16), release from exile (Ps. 106:47; Isa. 46:13), God’s preservation in times of national danger (Jer. 14:8), deliverance from sin, wickedness, and evil (Jer. 17:14; Ezek. 37:23).

In the NT, the verb sozo, which means to “rescue,” “deliver,” and “save” is used more than 100 times in the NT.  In the NT, the noun soteria (49 times) mean salvation and the personal noun soter, used 24 times, means “redeemer,” “deliverer,” and “savior.”  In the NT, the verb and nouns used refers to deliverance from danger, disease, enemies, or bondage (Matt. 8:25; 14:30; Mark 5:34; Luke 1:71; Heb. 11:7; Jas. 5:15).  The verb and nouns also bears theological meaning of deliverance from sin, death, and the Devil (Luke 1:69, 77; 18:26; Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:9-10).  In light of the verbs and nouns related to salvation and how it is used in the OT and NT, it is beneficial to cover other reasons why the study of soteriology is important. Salvation is important to study because the doctrine of soteriology touches upon the time issue, the means, and the objects.  The time issue answers whether salvation is an event or a process, the means answers how one is saved, and the objects issue answers who are the objects of salvation.

When it comes to the time issue, the notion of justification comes into the picture.  The Roman Catholic perceives justification as a process.  They do not see justification as a one-time event.  In other words, there is a process a person needs to do in order to be just.  Their view of salvation is also different in how they view grace.  For Christians, grace is a gift that cannot be infused by man or any deeds we do.  For the Roman Catholic Church, grace is infused into the human nature through the sacraments.

As noted earlier, Christians define justification as an event, whereas based on Christ sacrifice and man’s faith upon Christ’s sacrifice, declares the believing sinner righteous.  For sanctification, Christians view it as a process in which the Holy Spirit causes the believer to grow in the grace of knowledge of Jesus Christ throughout his life in word and deed.

For the discussion concerning the means issue, which answers the question of how one is saved, there are different views.  For the Roman Catholic, one is saved through the sacraments.  For liberation theology, they see salvation through the overthrow of oppressive structures.  Christian existentialism sees salvation in the existential encounter with Christ.  For Christians, we see salvation by grace alone through faith.

And for the objects issue which answers, who are the objects of salvation, it can only be limited to humans.  Fallen angels and the creation cannot experience salvation.

Besides the time issue that answers whether salvation is an event or a process, the means, which answers how one is saved, and the objects issue which answers who are the objects of salvation, let us now cover the traditional views of salvation in more detail.  In order to do that I will cover Roman Catholicism first.

Roman Catholicism believes that salvation is linked to the visible church through the apostolic succession from Peter.  They see salvation, as a process that includes the combination of faith and works.  Hence, their view of salvation is synergistic (salvation is a result from God and man).  What is interesting about Roman Catholicism is that since the Vatican II Council of the 1960s, the religion is inclusive.  In other words, they believe that Protestants and other religions can be saved too.  It is contradictory from Roman Catholicism before the council to include their new view. This becomes problematic for them because their religion changes and is not consistent.  Their leaders determine what is right and what is wrong for the most part.

For Protestant liberalism, they deny the traditional concepts such as the fall of Adam, human depravity, God’s wrath, and substitutionary atonement.  These traditional concepts are historical truths that are the bread and butter of orthodox Christianity.  To reject them would be heretical and detrimental.

Protestant liberalism also denies supernaturalism such as miracles, and the Bible as being authoritative.  They also deny the new birth (born-again), but believe that salvation is a moral transformation of individuals and society.  Moreover, they do not focus on the Gospel, but education, social change, and political action.  They also see Christ mostly for His ethical ideas instead of his doctrinal statement concerning hell, sin, eschatology, judgments, etc.

The next view would be the Christian existential theology.  They would emphasize the experience of the individual.  Experience is very dangerous apart from Scripture because mankind lives outside of the Scripture.  Because they live outside the authority of Scripture they cannot account for truth and morality.  As a result, they develop their own view of salvation.  At the end of the day, existential theology is dangerous because if one holds onto their scheme, then once cannot prove one’s faith by reason and logic that is found only in Scripture.

Another view is Barthian neo-orthodoxy.  This view believes that salvation is given to all mankind through His death on the cross.  At the end of the day, everyone is saved because they are elected in Jesus Christ.

Liberation theology believes that the main problem in the world is societal injustice, oppression, etc.  This theology is also known for its three major classes: black liberation theology, feminist liberation theology, and third world liberation theology.  They use the account of Exodus from the Book of Exodus to as the model or paradigm for liberation theology.  Because of their heightened view on social injustice, Liberation theology does not focus on the salvation for the next life; nor do they focus on the atonement of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Much has been said concerning the different views of salvation.  What makes their view different from Christianity is their works-righteousness.  They have a faulty view of man and of the Gospel.  A faulty view is dangerous because it will damn people to Hell.  According to the Bible, all mankind is alienated from God because of total depravity (Eph. 2:1-3).  Through Christ’s substitutionary death, He paid the penalty for His elect.  Salvation is only provided by God’s grace via faith in Jesus Christ.  For those who are in Christ, they are justified (declared righteous because of Christ’s imputed righteousness), sanctified (is a process of being made more like Christ through the help of the Holy Spirit). And for those who are justified and sanctified, they will be glorified (future part of salvation).

It is important to embrace the correct view of salvation.  To choose any other view of salvation outside of Christianity is a faulty and dangerous view that will prevent people from experiencing salvation.  Having the correct view of salvation is critical for believers and the whole church.  If the church does not teach it correctly, false teaching will spread like wildfire.  May we as ambassadors of God protect and serve one another. With that said, I will leave you with this verse from Colossians 1:28, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with allwisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”

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