A Quick Overview of Salvation

I’ve been needing to write something short like this for a long time …

Salvation comes in two steps.

  1. Deliverance from slavery to sin and the living death it produces: This comes by faith alone. We are born again, made new creatures, given the Spirit, and delivered from sin and empowered for holiness by grace.
  2. Entrance to Christ’s everlasting kingdom: This is a reward for good works and doing the will of the Father. Faith is not taken into account, only the works that you have done in obedience to God and conscience. If you are saved by faith, you will by greatly aided by God in that obedience.

There it is, short and simple. The fact is, the Scriptures line up neatly when you see salvation as two steps in this way.

Testing Those Steps Scripturally

Describing salvation in this way terrifies Evangelicals. I was going to say it stumbles them, but that’s not true. Their own doctrine stumbles them and causes the majority of them to be unsaved. That is, they do not have grace giving them power over sin, and they do not have grace teaching them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Instead, most Evangelicals are still slaves to sin, and many of them aren’t even bothered by it.

Not all of them, just most.

If you don’t know the Scriptures well enough to compare them to those two steps, then you can go through my pages on salvation at the Rest of the Old Old Story.

If you do know the Scriptures well enough, just go through them on your own. The things Paul said and James said both fit neatly into the steps I gave above.

You’ll need a better description of the atonement than "Jesus paid the penalty for your sins," though. That’s coming soon. Suffice it to say that if you search for something in the Scriptures saying "Jesus paid the penalty," you’re in for a long search. Most passages fit much better into the ideas expressed in Romans 8:3-4.

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13 Responses to A Quick Overview of Salvation

  1. Jennie S. says:

    I agree with everything you said in the last comment, until you came to this: “Faith in the past tense, which brings us into Christ, and works in the future tense, which is tied to our going to heaven.”
    I see faith tied in all through the scriptures about the
    Christian life, at the beginning bringing us to Christ, and all the way through as we walk by faith until we die. It comes to mind that works can be done by faith, OR they can be done for some other reason that is not pleasing to God and does not flow from God’s life and Spirit in us as we abide in Christ. So to separate faith and works brings the danger of doing works from our own flesh instead of by God’s strength and Spirit, by and for the love of God. This may also tie in to the post on 1 Corinthians 3, about the works done in the flesh being burnt up, but the works done by the Spirit remaining and being rewarded. But how does it tie in to salvation, if we do works by the flesh to try to please God or to save ourselves? If we are trying to save ourselves by doing good works, then we will be lost, like the pharisees. Works must be tied to faith and love and grace, or they are the product of our flesh.

  2. Jennie S. says:

    What I don’t understand is why you are saying that the second step is ‘apart from faith’ when scripture is also clear that we must walk by faith and produce works by faith and love or we can’t please God. We aren’t supposed to walk ONLY in fear, but to fear God and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength I’m sure you would agree, so why are you separating the two things, faith and works?

    • Shammah says:

      You asked, “So why are you separating the two things, faith and works?”

      Ah, now there’s the question; exactly the right question. Thank you.

      Because so many Christians think that when God judges them it that their faith will change everything. But it is works that prove your faith, not vice versa. Thus, your works are judged, not your faith.

      For example, John says that if we say we know God but don’t keep his commandments, then we’re lying (1 Jn. 2:4). In fact, he tells us that it is by keeping his commandments that even we ourselves know that we know him (1 Jn. 2:3).

      So many Christians think, “I have faith; that’s everything. Yes, I have works, too, but it’s my faith that really matters.” No, you don’t even know you have faith unless you have works. Your works prove your faith, and they prove your faith to others, to yourself, ***and to God***. Again, as I’ve been saying, note Jesus’ letters to the 7 churches. He comments on their works. He never comments on their faith.

      While we are here on earth, faith gives us access to grace ,and grace teaches us, delivers us, and empowers us to obey God. But when we stand before Jesus Christ, it is the fruit of grace, our works, that will be measured.

      And I say the works apart from faith thing because there are a lot–as we’ve seen, at least ten or so–of references to judgment, and each and every one mentions works without mentioning faith. The same is true with pretty much every Scripture that mentions entering or inheriting the kingdom of heaven.

      So basically, I’m separating faith and works to point out that the Scriptures speak very differently about the two things. Faith in the past tense, which brings us into Christ, and works in the future tense, which is tied to our going to heaven.

      That offends our Protestant traditions, but the fact is it is consistently Scriptural.

  3. Jennie S. says:

    My husband Eddie and I believe that works are important and that true faith will produce good works, or should produce them; we believe that Christians today are ignorant of what scripture teaches about this and what God’s plan is for His people. We believe that many believers will lose their reward because they have done their own works instead of God’s by His power, and that many who think they are believers really are not and will be condemned. We also believe that Christians who have true faith will be judged by their works, but not for salvation. They will be judged by having their works tested by fire, but will not be condemned. We believe that Christians should ‘examine themselves to be sure they are in the faith’ by looking at their lives compared to scripture. The danger is that many who think they are saved are really not; We don’t agree that true believers will be in danger if they endure. Maybe it is a difference in perspective, since it is true that people can be deceived or fall away. I think what is bothering us is saying that we are saved by works apart from faith in the second step, which makes it sound like we must focus on doing works for fear of being lost, instead of doing works by faith and God’s love working through us. I don’t think you really mean to convey that idea, but it seems to produce that fear. Eddie has talked about this on his blog in his latest posts about ‘the love of God that overcomes condemnation’ which looks at a similar subject from a different perspective. I have it linked on my blog.

    • Shammah says:

      I’m not sure where the “true believers will be in danger if they endure” comes from. I don’t think Christians will be in danger if they endure. The warnings are to those who don’t endure.

      If I can make this a bit lighter, I had to laugh at your statement, “I think what is bothering us is saying that wear saved by works apart from faith in the second step.” You’ve made it very clear that’s what’s bothering you! If you’re not sure that’s what’s bothering you, let me assure you that’s it. Right there is the problem.

      The problem, though, is “which makes it sound like … ”

      My answer is that as long as I am saying what Scripture says, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like. I had a long talk with a brother last night, and what I noticed was that when Paul, Peter, James, or Jesus said something, he would talk about context and explain what they meant. When I, however, said the exact same thing, then it was something to worry about. It didn’t matter whether I explained it or not. The very words were a problem.

      We can’t be scared to repeat what the apostles said. When we are, it’s a sure sign that we’re off base.

  4. Shammah says:

    We do walk by faith, and it is by God’s grace and strength. The Scriptures do teach that apart from him we can do nothing.

    But they also call for repentance and say that we will be impartially judged according to our works. They also say that if we practice “such things” we won’t inherit the kingdom of heaven. They tell us that we are to be careful to maintain good works, and Jesus rebukes churches in his letters in Rev. 2 & 3 telling them to strengthen the works which remain.

    We can’t be afraid to use the “w” word. It’s not a bad word. We’re supposed to be a people zealous for and created for good works.

    Further, Paul, Peter, and Jesus all warn Christians that we will be judged by our works. Christians should both believe and repeat that.

    And of course, this is all without even addressing James who says that faith without works is dead–which also means faith without works is possible. Thus, warning Christians, especially in today’s world where “works” is almost a cuss word, is appropriate and necessary.

  5. Jennie S. says:

    Another thing about the 2 steps. You seem to be separating faith from the second step. It fits better in my mind to say that all is by faith. The works of the second step also come from faith, so we are justified by faith and then we walk by faith, which also is by God’s grace and strength.

  6. Jennie S. says:

    Hi Shammah,
    I was up in the middle of the night when my 3 year old woke up and needed to be put back to sleep. I do stay up too late sometimes, though, to have quiet after the kids are asleep.

    I’m not sure about people’s lives excusing them; on one hand I think that there may be a way for those who never hear the gospel, but are trying to live according to the wisdom they have; on the other hand, the bible says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, and all sin and fall short. But I would say that God is merciful and gives people a chance if they haven’t heard the gospel.

  7. Jennie S. says:

    Shammah,
    you said “If you are saved by faith, you will by greatly aided by God in that obedience.”
    This implies that if you are not saved by faith, you are able to do good works and do the will of the Father and enter into the everlasting kingdom without going through the first step. Is that what you mean, or am I misunderstanding? From what I’ve been learning, we are saved by grace through faith, and then we live by grace through faith, which helps us live pleasing to God in obedience, producing good works. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” I don’t think of it as a second step, but as a continuation of the faith that brought us to Him, just as Abraham continued walking by faith after he first believed. If we don’t then we either were not really saved, or we have fallen from faith.

    • Shammah says:

      Hi Jennie. You stay up later at night than me if those times are right!

      I did leave that door open, that there are those who might enter Christ’s kingdom without going through the first step of faith. I feel like Scripture leaves that door open. Romans 2 talks about Gentiles having their conscience as a law. Paul says that their conscience either excuses or accuses them. I don’t know what your experience is with people, but my experience is that in some cases there are people whose lives will probably excuse them.

      Once a person hears the Gospel, that’s different. The Gospel demands a response, and if it’s preached properly, God will give testimony to that Gospel and expect belief in response.

  8. allison says:

    p.s. that comment was more in reference to the “judgment and eternal life” post than this one… sorry.

  9. allison says:

    i’m going to have to think and re-read on these pages when my brain is fresher, but the question in my mind that comes up regarding the thought that we have already been judged when we die (Christ already knows if we are His or not) is, does this support in any way the concept of predestination? can you write a post about that? i’m sort of wondering about it now.

    • Shammah says:

      Well, there’s not any doubt that predestination is mentioned in Scripture. The question is not whether we’re predestined, but whether there are conditions upon which we are predestined. Since I think Scripture states plainly that predestination is based on foreknowledge, I think that we’re only predestined in 2 senses. One, God knows from the beginning what we’ll do. Two, God has a destiny for those who accept and follow Christ. He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ.

      I don’t think it’s controversial to suggest that God knows the result of the judgment pretty much from the beginning of time.

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