Soteriological Summary


Grace is optional.  Man is inherently capable of obeying God.  As the first man, Adam typified the choice that every human makes to obey or disobey God.  His “original sin” was simply the first sin, and sets a bad example for the rest of humanity, but did not change the subsequent nature of mankind or destroy man’s ability to obey.  As the “second Adam,” Jesus sets a good example of a man who consistently obeyed God.  Jesus’ death on the cross is not necessary for man’s redemption, but represents the ultimate act of selflessness to inspire man to endure suffering and sacrifice his own desires.

Analogy:  A man is swimming in the ocean.  He can make the decision to swim to safety, where God stands on the shore calling, or he can ignore God and stay out in the water where he will eventually drown.


Grace is necessary, in part.  Man is inherently capable of hearing God’s voice and choosing to obey, but his ability to actually obey has been damaged (the result of inheriting a corrupted nature from Adam).  In response to man’s decision to obey, God extends his grace to enable man to obey.

Analogy: A man is close to drowning in the ocean.  If he tries to swim to shore, he will in fact drown.  He sees and hears God on the shore, and he calls out to God for help.  In response, God provides a life jacket so that the man may safely swim to shore.


Grace is necessary, but not sufficient.  As a result of Adam’s sin, man now has a sin nature that is so thoroughly corrupted that he has lost all ability to please God.  However, God in his grace, has extended prevenient grace to all men, effectively counteracting total depravity, leaving man still depraved (totally depraved, in and of himself), but now with the undeserved (and foreign to his own nature) ability to respond to God’s gift of salvation.  Man can choose to accept God’s grace, receive a new nature, and rely on God’s grace for salvation, or he can choose to reject God’s grace and remain in (or, at a later date, return to) his depraved condition.

Analogy: A man is drowning in the ocean, and has lost consciousness.  God awakens the man, places him on a lifeboat and begins pulling the man to shore.  As long as the man does not intentionally get off the lifeboat, he will be saved.

Calvinism (aka Augustinianism)

Grace is necessary and sufficient.  As a result of Adam’s sin, man now has a sin nature that is so thoroughly corrupted that he has lost all ability to please God.  The only way for man to respond positively to God is for God to replace the dead heart of stone with a new nature, a nature that is inherited from Jesus instead of Adam.  As a result of God’s regeneration, those whom God has elected will freely respond in obedience to God.

Analogy: A man has drowned in the ocean.  God sends Jesus to breathe new life into the man and carry him to shore.

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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(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

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

Originally posted 12/7/2004 on

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

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.