Salvation brings peace with God. Our peace with God is through our Lord Jesus Christ alone—because our salvation is by him alone.
That is the simple truth. But as you probably know, this truth is rejected by several false religious systems that take issue with the extent and effect of Christ’s atonement. To mention a few:
- Roman Catholics say that fallen mankind was redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ—but salvation requires being part of the Roman Church, believing in God, taking the “sactifice of the mass” at their priests’ hands, doing religious works, and suffering for several hundreds or thousands of years in purgatory.
- Mormons say that Jesus’s atonement redeems all people from the effects of the Fall, leaving us accountable for our own sins.
- So-called Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Christ’s sacrifice atoned for all mankind’s sins, giving people the opportunity to be reconciled to Jehovah.
The basic logical argument of these pseudo-Christian, salvation-denying systems is the same. As for the extent of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, they assert that it is “universal,” covering each and every fallen, sinful human being. From here they say that the effect of Christ’s atonement, being arguably the same for each person covered by it, is not salvation but something else—something different according to each false system. Something that that needs to be supplemented by the followers of those false religions, in order to their salvation (so they say; but we affirm that salvation is to be found in Christ, the Saviour, alone).
There is another popular soteriological1 system, similar in some ways to those mentioned above, found within western non-Roman Catholic churches today. Sometimes referred to as Arminianism2, it is so popular, that it is commonly thought of as the correct way to present the gospel in many churches. The Arminians’ primary proposition states that Christ died for all mankind, so that his atonement has been provided for every fallen sinner—it is “universal” in extent. But then they understand, as both Calvinists and the false systems mentioned above also understand, that not all mankind is saved by Christ’s atonement. But then, the Arminians’ primary proposition places them in the same dilemma as those false systems: what is the effect of this universal atonement? If Christ has paid the redemption-price for all mankind, how is it that not all mankind are redeemed?
But the Bible teaches us that Jesus’s substitutionary atonement does save all the world that he died for:
- He is “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1.29).
- Jesus says concerning himself, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: … and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6.51).
- Jesus says, “I came … to save the world” (John 12.47).
- As the apostle Paul teaches, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19).
- Christ Jesus is “one mediator between God and men… Who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2.5-6), thereby ransoming (redeeming) all those for whom he gave his life.
- In his sacrificial death, the Epistle to the Hebrews says of Christ, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2.9).
- Writing to fellow Christian believers, John says of Christ, that “he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2.2).
- And, “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4.14).
The Arminian interpretation diametrically contradicts all the “Saviour of the world” passages by asserting that Jesus doesn’t save all those people for whom he gave his life. But these verses are among the the very proof texts from which Calvinists draw their doctrine—that Christ’s atonement is effective as far as it extends.
The Saviour of the world saves the world. He came to save the world—and save the world he did, and still does. But this world, contrary to all forms of actual and hypothetical “universalism,” does not include each and every sinner of mankind.
Both Arminians and Calvinists understand that not all mankind is saved. However, instead of asking, “Am I included in the world that Jesus saves?,” Arminians ask, “What else is needed? If the Saviour did not save all whom he died for, but only made salvation possible, how can I make it become a real salvation for me?”
The Bible teaches: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16.31). The truth is, “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3.16). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. … I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever…” (John 6.47,51). “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10.9).
“That’s it!” says the Arminian. “Faith makes Jesus’s potential salvation become actual salvation. If you believe the gospel, you make it yours—you make it real for you.”
No, there is no plus that you provide.
The Saviour does all the saving.
There is nothing you can do, nothing you would ever will to do in your fallen state, to accomplish your own salvation. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone.
The Arminian disagrees. He says, “You Calvinists are denying the part that faith plays in salvation. But faith plays the most crucial, decisive part, as far as we individually are concerned: don’t you know that we are justified by faith?”
Yes, we do know that we are justified by faith. Indeed, how can we forget that one of the Five Solas3 of the Reformation is that justification is by faith alone (sola fide). We have always asserted, and never denied, that we are justified by faith alone, and not by works, not by “doing good so that God accepts me into heaven,” not by self-help, not by personal development—not by anything of ourselves. Faith alone involves a total desisting from all attempts at saving ourselves. We are saved by God’s grace alone, by Christ alone (two more of the Five Solas), through faith alone.
Please understand this: salvation is by Christ alone—not by “Christ plus our faith.” And our assertion that we are justified by faith alone is in no wise a denial that we are justified by Christ’s blood alone, by God’s grace alone.
Christian, your believing is not what saved you.
You are not justified by faith itself.
When Paul speaks of being “justified by faith” (Romans 3.28), he does not mean that faith, in and of itself, is the justifier. No, the apostle’s doctrine throughout is that God justifies his people by faith. When people are converted, becoming Christians, they are “Being justified freely by his [i.e. by God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (3.24-26). “Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith” (3.30). “It is God that justifieth” (8.33).
There is no way that we can justify ourselves or save ourselves.
Christian, you should know yourself.
Arminianism would throw you back upon your own inner resources, requiring that you find faith in an unrighteous, unregenerate heart, or in a carnal mind that is at war against God (Romans 1.18; 3.10-18; 8.7). Remember that before you were saved, you were a fallen, Hell-deserving sinner (Ephesians 5.6; Col. 3.6, 2 Thessalonians 1.9; Matthew 25.31-46). You were spiritually dead in your sins until you were “born again.” And that is how you would still be now, if you haven’t been “quickened” (Eph. 2.1-7; Col. 2.13).
Only those whom God gives to his Son will turn to him and believe in him (John 6.37,39,44; 10.26). As the apostle Paul says, the gift of God is this—“by grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2.8). Notice Paul triples his doctrine here, for emphasis: salvation through faith is “by [God’s] grace…not of yourselves…it is the gift of God.”
Our belief in the gospel is not what saved us. We provided no contributing factor in our salvation.
We are not saved by a what but by a who: namely, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone.
Salvation is an undeserved, unmerited, free gift! If you are saved, know that your salvation is not of yourself in any way. Salvation is not a reward, and not an award. Elsewhere, Paul also says that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6.23). Eternal life is God’s gift.
Yes, your faith can be described as like a hand reaching out to receive this gift—but this hand of faith contributes nothing, it does no work for the gift, and it does not earn the gift. And God did not merely offer the gift of salvation to you in a manner that you could take or leave: the very faith that you have in Christ, Christian, is also an integral part of that that salvation that our Triune God has given to you.
Christian, it is no thanks to yourself, but all thanks to God, that you believe in Christ.
“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6.17). To obey a doctrine, or to obey a “form of doctrine,” involves believing what it teaches—and this involves applying what it teaches and living it out. The form of doctrine that Paul was writing about, here, is the gospel of our Saviour, that he has been teaching his readers since the beginning of his epistle (Romans 1.1,5).
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ… to believe on him…” (Philippians 1.29). “Saving faith,” faith in Christ, is an integral part of God’s gift of salvation. It is not of yourself, it is the gift of God. The salvation that Christ provides his people is salvation bestowed, and experienced, and known by them.
Remember that Jesus himself taught this same truth: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. … And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6.45,65).
If you think that your faith (belief) in Christ played a part in saving your soul, you think wrong. Salvation is all the work of our Triune God from beginning to end:
- God the Father chose to save particular people from among mankind before the world began (Matthew 25.34; Ephesians 1.4; Romans 8.29-30).
- Christ the Son of God came to save those sinners (Matthew 1.29; 20.28; Isaiah 53.11; John 3.16; Acts 2.21; 20.28; 1 Timothy 1.5; Hebrews 9.12; Revelation 7.9-10).
- And their regeneration, and faith, and all other good things that grow in their new nature, all comes from God the Holy Spirit (John 1.13; 3.5-8; Ephesians 2.4-5; Galatians 5.22; James 1.16-18; 1 John 5.1).
Jesus died to save all who come to believe in him. We know this because he himself said, “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3.16). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6.47). “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10.43). If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are saved by him (Acts 16.31; Romans 10.9).
Jesus saves all whom he died for. We know this because that’s what is taught in all those “Saviour of the world” passages listed above, and because in every place in the Bible that we read of the atonement accomplished, and redemption accomplished, in Christ’s death and blood shed on the cross at Calvary—it is not a potential or hypothetical but a real atonement accomplished, a real redemption accomplished. And in God’s resurrection of Christ from the dead, we have it proved to us that he has accepted his Son’s sacrifice on the behalf of those for whom he died (see Acts 2.24,32; Romans 4.25; 1 Corinthians 15.3-8; Colossians 2.12).4 So this real atonement and real redemption brings real salvation—to those for whom Christ died.
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20.19-20).
We have salvation—we have peace with God—through our Lord Jesus Christ. Alone.
Soteriological means something that has to do with salvation. ↩︎
Many Christians are not familiar with Arminius (1559-1609) and his teachings directly. But these teachings have been passed along thorugh Wesleyan Methodism, Pentecostalism, and many other Protestant demoninations. ↩︎