Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation

Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation



            Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation.  This subject should be of interest to all mankind because all of mankind has the problem of sin and the inability to remove sin and its consequences from our lives. 

            "Of all the topics that man can discuss, none is more important or thrilling than salvation.  Truly it is the theme of scripture from start to finish."[1] We can see from the pages of the Old Testament throughout the rest of the Bible that God has always had a plan for man and it is the plan of salvation.  This plan gives the Christian peace knowing that God has provided a way for him to not only have forgiveness of sins but also through his plan allow the child of God to live eternally with him in heaven. 

            We as Christians should be thankful to God everyday for the wonderful plan he has given us.  He had his plan from the beginning and we are the recipients of it.  But we dare not forget that his plan did not come without a price.  His plan of salvation cost his only Son to shed his blood on the cross for all mankind.  When that blood was shed, it extended all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden and also forward to all who are willing to accept his saving grace through obedience to the gospel.








            Before the creation of all things, God had a plan for man's salvation.  He had a plan of     salvation because he knew that man would sin.  Man would sin because he was created a finite being, a free moral agent capable of making decisions for himself.  This ability to make decisions would surely result in sin.  Although God had the knowledge that man would sin and that sin would bring terrible consequences, he wanted us to have eternal life with him and that would not be possible without his redemptive plan.  We are all accountable to God and as the apostle Paul wrote, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23).  We all have the problem of sin. We all fall short of God's expectations.  Because he is a righteous God, he has provided the answer for that problem of sin.  We can be forgiven of our sins through his plan of salvation.  Jesus said,

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16).  This is the message of salvation, the ability to have eternal life if we believe in him.

            The idea of salvation brings to mind the ability to be forgiven, to not have our sins held against us.  Man does not have the ability to do this on his own, he needs divine assistance.  God has laid out his plan for us and it is up to us to accept it on his terms. We cannot do enough good in our lives to erase the sin we have.  The apostle Paul said,

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB).  The salvation we receive is based on our faith in the operation of God.  The whole concept of salvation for all mankind rests upon our faith and obedience to the gospel.

            When we think about this wonderful thing called salvation, we must think about what it cost for us to receive such a blessing. "Salvation for man is predicted on the death of Jesus the Christ."[2] Our Lord came to this earth and knew that his purpose was to be the perfect sacrifice once for all.  Through this sacrifice, we are allowed to be called children of God and receive the gift of salvation. 

            The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.  He was "One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15b).  He truly was just what John referred to him as in John 1:29, "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  This is the message of salvation, Jesus died so that we might live.  He did not die so as to deliver us from physical death, for he endured the pain and suffering of the cross and died.  He took away the fear of spiritual death, he overcame physical death, and arose from the dead so that we too can follow after him.  This is salvation.

            Brother Turner used three examples of conversion in the book of Acts to portray the plan of salvation.  There are other examples of conversion but these three had a particular question in mind.  Each of these examples asked the question "What must I do to be saved?" in one form or the other.  "The eternal destiny of every responsible soul depends on the correct answer and/or compliance to this momentous question."[3]  If one fails in following the pattern established by God and recorded by his inspired writers, he will lose his soul.

            It was truly a momentous occasion when the apostle Peter and the rest of the apostles stood before that multitude on the day of Pentecost to deliver the very first gospel sermon.  We have the scene recorded in Acts chapter two.  The crowd witnessed the apostles speaking so as all who were present could hear in their own language.  They were amazed and at the same time were trying to reason as to how these things could be.   After reviewing with them some of the prophetic statements regarding the Messiah, Peter then revealed unto them his entire purpose for the sermon.  He charged them with the death of the Son of God.  "Therefore let all the house of  Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36).   This statement produced a question from the crowd that is sometimes read with little emotion.  They asked, "Brethren, what shall we do?" They suddenly realized they had crucified the Son of God and wanted to know how they could ever remove the guilt from their lives. Peter gave them the answer to their problem in Acts 2:38, "Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."   This answer clearly links repentance and baptism to the forgiveness of sins.

            The next example used in Brother Turner's book is that of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was a devout Jew, a Pharisee, a student of the law.  He was also a persecutor of Christians.  He was on the road to  Damascus with the intent to find and arrest Christians there and bring them back to  Jerusalem.  We have this story recorded in Acts chapter nine. 

            As Saul neared the city of  Damascus, he is blinded by a light and as he fell to the earth, he heard a voice that said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"  Saul responded, "Who art thou Lord?"   The Lord responded, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" (Acts 9:5).   The response from Saul at this point is much the same as the question asked of Peter by the multitude on the day of Pentecost.  He asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6)     .  Brother Turner points out that the Lord did not tell him at this point what he must do but rather told him to go into  Damascus and there he would be told what he must do.

            Ananias was directed by a vision to go to Saul and tell him what he must do.  When Ananias found Saul, he told him what he must do.  "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Thus Saul received the answer to his original question he asked while on the road to  Damascus.  He was told to be baptized for the remission of his sins.

            The third case of conversion was that of the Philippian jailor.  Paul and Silas had been arrested in  Philippi because they had cast out the spirit of divination from the young maiden and they had been charged with setting forth customs which were unlawful for the Romans to observe.  They had been beaten and imprisoned.  While in prison they were singing and praying.  An earthquake occurred around midnight and opened the doors to the prison and also released them from their bonds.  The jailor was about to take his own life when Paul assured him they were all there and not to harm himself with his sword that he had drawn.  The jailor then asked that most important question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30).  They responded, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31). 

            Brother Turner concludes with a summary of these three cases of conversion and a comparison.  The question at the center of the comparison was "What must I do to be saved?"  Those on the day of Pentecost were told to repent and be baptized, they already believed because as we pointed out, they were pricked in their hearts when they heard the message of Peter and the apostles on that day.  In the case of Saul, he also believed for he had seen the Lord while on the road to  Damascus.  He had spent three days fasting once he arrived in  Damascus and was very penitent the whole time.  He was told to be baptized.  The Philipian jailor had only heard Paul and Silas singing throughout the night and did not know anything else but recognized that he must do something.  Paul told him he had to believe.  Paul and Silas then went to his home and taught him resulting in him and his family being baptized that night. 

            There is a basic thread that runs through all three stories.  In order to reach God's plan of salvation, one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, repent of their sins, and be baptized for the remission of sins.  Each of the three cases of conversion was at a different point on the path to salvation at the beginning of the story but all reached the same ending. 

            The story of God's plan of salvation is truly a magnificent story.  "It is a glorious thought to ponder that a sinful man may come to have peace with God."[4]  Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is a wonderful thought that we can have peace with God by and through our obedience to his gospel plan of salvation. 








Boyd, James W.  System of Salvation, Comments on Romans NashvilleTN: Williams

         Printing Company, 1990


Brents, T.W. The Gospel Plan of Salvation.16th Edition,  NashvilleTN: Gospel Advocate

        Company, 1997.


Milligan, Robert.  The Scheme of Redemption Nashville  TN: Gospel Advocate

         Company, 1972.


Turner, Rex A. Sr.  Systematic Theology another Book on the Fundamentals of Faith.

          MontgomeryAL Alabama  Christian  School of Religion, 1989.


Waddey, John. "Salvation" In Great Doctrines of the Bible, Edited by M.H.Tucker.

         Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company, 1990.


Winkler, Wendell. Things That Accompany Salvation MontgomeryAL: Winkler

         Publications, 1972.


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