Salvation through Judgment

Baptism, like Noah’s Ark, portrays Salvation through Judgment (1 Peter 3:18-22).

A comparison is drawn between salvation in the ark and baptism. In both instances, believers are saved through the waters of judgment, since baptism portrays salvation through judgment. The mere mechanical act of baptism does not save, for Peter explicitly says, “not as a removal of dirt from the body,” meaning that the passing of water over the body does not cleanse anyone. Baptism saves you because it represents inward faith, as evidenced by one’s appeal to God for the forgiveness of one’s sins (for a good conscience). Furthermore, baptism “saves” only insofar as it is grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is a visual representation of the fact that Christians are clothed with Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27), and in union with Christ they share his victory over sin.

(from the ESV Study Bible notes on 1 Peter 3:21)

Salvation in the deep dark jungle

If you have been a part of evangelical Christianity for any length of time, you understand the importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the importance of sharing your faith with others so that they may come to Christ as well. With this understanding, the question is inevitably raised, “what about the people in the remote jungle who know nothing about Jesus?”

There are many ways to address this question; some answers can get quite involved.

One answer is, ignorance is no excuse. God is holy, humans are sinful (all of us, with no exceptions–Romans 3:10, 3:23), and without an acceptable sacrifice applied on our behalf, we deserve to go to hell (Romans 5:12, 6:23). There is nothing wrong with this answer, and it should motivate Christians towards global evangelism (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth–Acts 1:8).

However, this answer is still unsatisfactory to some, who find it difficult to accept that there is no hope of salvation for those who die without ever hearing about Jesus. Perhaps this raises the question, “what does it take for an acceptable sacrifice to be applied on your behalf?”

The question with regards to the inhabitant of the remote jungle might be, “is it possible to be saved by Jesus without knowing about Jesus?”

While not attempting to provide a definitive answer to every question that might be asked, there are several concepts that I find helpful.

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Calvinism

(Also see “Once Saved Always Saved”)

God’s sovereignty does not violate man’s free will. Please understand this…it is very important. God does not force anyone to love Him or choose Him. Please do not let this all-or-nothing thinking be a stumbling block to the biblical principle of man’s total depravity or God’s sovereignty.

I’ve heard lots of objections to God’s sovereignty, usually with the assumption that it overrides man’s ability to choose. I’ve also heard God’s sovereignty explained away such that it’s really man’s choice and God just knows what will happen so He plans accordingly. I don’t recall ever hearing a good explanation of what Romans 9, Matthew 20, and the numerous other passages dealing with God’s sovereignty are really saying if you reject the notion that the choice originates with God, independent of man.

Another thing I’d like to reiterate, as a few people have already mentioned, is that God is the standard of righteousness, justice, and love. God doesn’t just decide what Right is, and then abide with His “rules.” Whatever God does–that, by definition, is Right. If God declared that green was holy and pink was evil, it wouldn’t matter that I think it’s arbitrary and stupid. I would still be sinning if I decided to wear pink anyway. If God decided to eliminate a race of people, it wouldn’t matter if it seemed heartless to us. The fact that God did it, and that alone, makes it Right.

Now, that doesn’t mean that God is inconsistent and contradictory. He has revealed His character to us, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We know from the Bible that He is loving; He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He is very patient, pursuing His beloved even after we reject Him time and time again. Our understanding of salvation needs to be consistent with this.

Our understanding of salvation also needs to be consistent with the biblical principles that have been presented, indicating that man is depraved and does not seek God on his own.

Originally posted 7/15/2005 on bibleforums.org

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is very much dependant on God’s Unconditional Election and Irresistable Grace. With regards to Calvinism vs. Arminianism, I’m not very interested in proving which of the two opposing views are correct. I believe the Bible gives indications of both, and I am more interested in reconciling the seeming contradictory concepts than picking one versus the other.

However, here are some of the common verses that indicate a Perseverance of the Saints:

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Salvation

What about tribes in Africa who have never even heard of Jesus? Are they destined for hell?

Originally posted 12/7/2004 on bibleforums.org:

God has revealed Himself to everyone through nature (Romans 1). Now, you may think that’s pretty limited revelation, but I don’t think it’s so important exactly what or how much God reveals about Himself; it’s how you respond to whatever revelation He provides that is important.

See Acts 17:26-27: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

Also see Deut 4:29, Prov 8:17, Jer 29:13, Matt 7:7, and Luke 11:19, which all tell us that those who seek God will find Him. Someone who has never heard the gospel may not know who it is they are seeking, but if they respond to the little that God reveals to them, He will continue to reveal more of Himself.

We like to draw lines and put things in boxes, and make sure everybody in the world fits into category A, B, or C. Even if we get the categories right, who’s to say we got the boundaries right? I believe that there are boundaries, and God knows where they are, but it’s not that important for me to know where they are (when it comes to someone else’s salvation).

Originally posted 3/15/2005 on bibleforums.org:

If a Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, etc. recognizes their sin against God, repents of their sin, and has faith that God will provide atonement for their sin, they can be saved. Do they have to know about Jesus in order for His atonement to be effectual? I don’t know; people in the OT didn’t know about Him specifically. Did Noah know that a Messiah was going to come? However, if someone rejects God (or Jesus, who is God) and chooses to follow a man-made version of God, they will not be saved.

"Once Saved Always Saved"

Eternal Security of the believer, or “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) is a hotly debated topic among some Christians. Is it possible to lose your salvation? One of the tenets of Calvinism is “Perseverance of the saints:” the belief that a true Christian will never completely turn their back on God. This goes hand-in-hand with the debate about predestination vs. free-will. If we chose God, it would make sense that we could change our minds. If God chose us, then He is not likely to let us go.

Originally posted 9/22/04 at bibleforums.org:

Q: Is it necessary to be “right” on the OSAS issue in order to be saved? In other words, can you truly be saved if your understanding of salvation is wrong?

This is not an attempt to determine which side is right, but to put the debate in perspective, and determine how significant of an issue it is.

A: I do not believe it’s necessary to fully understand how salvation works in order to be saved. If I’m drowning and someone offers to pull me out of the water, it’s not that important to me to understand how the rope is constructed and what kind of footing they have; I’m just going to grab onto the rope and let them pull me in. I think staunch OSAS believers and people who are strongly opposed to OSAS can both be saved.

I believe in OSAS. I believe the majority of Biblical evidence supports this doctrine. I think it’s worth exploring the issue because it reveals something about God’s character and how He operates. However, in some sense, I think the whole debate misses the point. The point is not WHEN you got saved, be it the first time you accepted Jesus as Savior or the most recent time you asked for forgiveness; the important thing is that you are following Jesus. Our goal shouldn’t be to cross the starting line; our goal is to cross the finish line, and that requires making steady progress towards the finish line by following Jesus. Some people can’t nail their salvation down to a specific point in time; it may have been a long process that got them started running the race. At some point in time, they “crossed the starting line” and God knows when that was, but it’s not really that important to us. The important thing to us is that we continue to run the race.

Originally posted 12/12/2004 on bibleforums.org:

I believe that once we respond to God’s call, our Good Shepherd keeps us in His flock. I see value in debating eternal security as a study of God’s character, but very little value in the debate over how it affects us. As far as we are concerned, the question of whether we were “really saved in the first place” or need to “get saved again” is not worth discussing. The only question that matters is “are you following Jesus?” If not, you need to start following Him. Whether you turn and walk His way for the 1st time or 50th time is insignificant.