The Need for and Reality of Salvation
Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) but that image is now tainted and distorted by sin. Through repentance and faith in Christ alone (Acts 4:12), trusting only in the work of Jesus, one may be saved from the penalty and power of sin (Acts 13:38-39) and have assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:12-13).
A person receives the benefit of Christ’s substitutionary death by faith in response to the Gospel. This salvation is the free gift of God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone and is not dependent upon church membership, baptism, sacraments, good deeds, works of righteousness or intermediaries to attain or sustain it (Eph. 2:9). Conscious, personal faith (i.e. trust) in Jesus Christ, believing in who Jesus is and what he has done, is essential and there is no salvation without it.
The significance of the death of Christ is the center of the Biblical message and thus the heart of the Christian faith. When Paul describes the content of the Gospel, that is, the “good news” about Jesus Christ, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 he describes (1) the death of Christ and (2) states that this death was “according to the Scriptures.” In this statement, Paul presupposes (1) that the historical events surrounding Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are significant, and (2) that the Old Testament will bear out his claim that this is indeed good news.
In this same passage, Paul states unequivocally that Christ died “for our sins” and elsewhere states that Christ “was made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). The death of Christ then served a substitutionary and salvific purpose. Jesus’ own statements regarding the significance of his death in Matthew 20:28 (“the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”) and Mark 10:45 (“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”) and the OT prophecies, such the suffering servant motif of Isaiah 53 with its strong substitutionary and expiatory overtones, also express the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death.
Christ, by his death, discharged the debt of those who will believe (Heb. 10:14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Isa. 53:5-6) and satisfied the wrath of God that was directed toward them (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). Justification is the act of God wherein, because of Christ’s death on their behalf, God declares a person righteous on the basis of that person’s faith in Christ alone (Romans 3:32; 5:1). Justification is instantaneous and not a process.
No true believer can fall from their state of justification (Luke 22:32; John 10:28; Heb. 10:14). I do prefer, however, to go farther than mere eternal security since the faith in Christ that leads to eternal salvation does not constitute a freedom to live as one wants. Salvation frees the believer to live in a manner worthy of God’s grace such that they will persevere to the end (Phil. 1:6; 2 Pet. 1:10; John 10:28-29; 1 John 3:9; 1 Pet. 1:5, 9). Indeed, one’s manner of life demonstrates that they have truly received God’s saving grace (James 2:18, 22) so that they may glorify God (1 Pet. 2:12; Phil. 1:11; John 15:8).