Christian Salvation (literal-normal)

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Perspective: Literal-Normal Interpretation.
Its authors are committed to maintaining a high level of scholarly ethics.

Note: this guide approaches salvation from a literal-normal perspective.

My intention with this page is to provide a simple yet complete guide to the Biblical concept of salvation - what it is, and how to obtain it. Unfortunately, salvation is not a universally agreed-upon subject; quite the contrary, there seems to be as many interpretations of salvation as there are denominations.

In this guide, I (User:Opensourcejunkie) have attempted to present what seems to be the viewpoint represented in scripture, when it is interpreted literally (normally). However, I am not the only (or anywhere near the most) authoritative speaker on the subject, and there are many authorities with conflicting viewpoints. Thus I urge you to search out scripture for yourself, to see if the things I am writing are dependable. With something as important as your eternal fate, you shouldn't blindly trust anyone's opinion.

That being said, don't put off taking this step. If the Bible is correct (and my interpretation of it is accurate), then you could step into eternity at any moment. Whether it's eternity with God, or eternity apart from Him, the choice is up to you.

Understanding Salvation[edit | edit source]

In Luke 14:27-35, Christ advises people to count the cost of following Him, because (as He illustrates), it is not a decision to be taken lightly. And there is a cost to following Him; once we are saved, we are called to continually turn from our sins[1]. The Bible admits that sin is pleasurable, but only for a time. Lasting pleasure, on the other hand, comes by looking past the present to the future rewards of obedience[2].

Understanding salvation is integral to counting the cost. If you understand its mechanics, you can better understand what will become of you should you accept Christ, or should you not. Thus in this section, we will examine the need for salvation, salvation itself, and the results of salvation

The Problem of Sin[edit | edit source]

Salvation addresses two related problems - sin and death. Early on in (Biblical) human history, our ancestor Adam sinned by disobeying one of God's commands [3]. At the time, God's Breath (Spirit) was living inside of him, providing him with life [4], but because God cannot tolerate sin [5], His breath had to leave Adam. Thus man died spiritually [6], and began to die physically [7].

The results of sin and death in the world are clear, and widely attested to in scripture. Man's spiritual death is evident in that he is consistently self-centered, sacrificing others' well-being for his own gain[8]. Moreover his physical death has spread to the rest of creation [9], as we abuse the environment for our own comfort.

Now God had decreed that if Adam disobeyed His command, "He would surely die" [10]. The Bible tells us that the payment for sin is death [11], and that God cannot leave sin unpunished [12], so God by His own moral imperative, must punish sin by killing the sinner.

God, however, promised to defeat Satan (the source of sin & death) through a child of the woman [13]. This child, then, has to deal with two problems. First, He has to find a way to remove God's punishment from the sinner, and stop the sinner from sinning. Second, He has to reinstate the Breath of God into the sinner, to bring him/her back to life (physically and spiritually).

The Old Covenant Solution[edit | edit source]

There are a number of covenants (agreements) made between God and Man, which are attested to in scripture. Two of these covenants - that which was made with Israel and that which is made with the Christian - deal with the issue of salvation, and are often contrasted in scripture. The covenant discussed here is the one made with Israel.

Broadly speaking, there were two aspects to the covenant given to Israel. There was a set of laws, accompanied by a description of what to do when one broke the law.

The Law[edit | edit source]

The purpose of the law, as interpreted by the New Testament, was to establish the weight of sin. [14]. Without the law, Man would be unaware that he was sinning. With the law, however, he would know full well God's standards.

The law in and of itself, however, could not provide salvation [15]. It's function is to point out moral failures, but it could never elicit moral success. The Israelites didn't become fundamentally better people by simply knowing the law or even by trying to obey the law [16]. Rather, they were all slaves to sin, as are we, compelled to disobey because of the sinful nature passed down to us from Adam [17].

The same is true of Christians, although many assume they are saved because they are "good people". This tendency to base one's salvation on good works is called "Legalism", and is fiercely combated in scripture. It ignores the fact that a single, allegedly small misdemeanor is enough to condemn a person to death (as in the case of Adam), and that everyone has sinned, missing the mark [18].

The Atonement[edit | edit source]

Because God knew that every Israelite would break at least one law, He made a provision that would cover over a person's sin. This provision, called substitutionary atonement, involved taking an innocent substitute (an animal, often a lamb), leaning heavily upon it, and slaughtering it in the sinner's place. This substitute would thus be punished in place of the sinner, thereby relieving God's wrath [19].

Now both the law and the atonement started with Adam. When Adam broke God's first law, God provided an animal substitute to cover his (and Eve's) sin [20]. Thus Man always had a way to cover over his sin. However, this method of atonement was insufficient (for reasons we'll discuss next). Hence the Old Covenant itself was insufficient, and was eventually replaced by a new, better coveneant.

The New Covenant Solution[edit | edit source]

There were three major problems with the Old Covenant:

  • Israel could not keep God's law[21].
  • Man's sin was never overcome, as sacrifices had to be made year after year[22].
  • Access to God's Spirit was limited; only the high priest could be in His presence, and then only once a year[23].

Hence, God sent Jesus Christ to be mediator of a new covenant.

The Atonement[edit | edit source]

In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ himself is the innocent substitute who was slaughtered in our place. His death on the cross covers the sins of everyone who "leans heavily" on Him [24]. This solves a couple issues. First of all, because Adam was a man, he needed an innocent man (non-existent before Christ) to take his place, not an animal. The sacrifice of bulls and goats merely looked forward to the death of Christ. Second, every person who sinned needed his own animal to sacrifice, one per sin. Because Christ was also God, His one sacrifice was able to cover the sins of a multitude of people [25].

Because Christ's death provides complete coverage for all sins, God no longer needed to be separated from man. The veil in the temple which guarded His presence was ripped [26], and later His Holy Spirit (Breath) began to enter those who believed on Christ [27].

This solved a number of issues, not the least of which is death [28]. Because Christ's death covers our sin, the living Breath (Spirit) of God can now live inside of us again! Moreover the Spirit has given us a new nature that struggles against our tendency to sin [29]. Thus the three problems of the Old Covenant are solved in the New:

  • We can now keep God's law.
  • Our sin is defeated, because Christ's sacrifice covers every sin - past, present, and future.
  • We have unlimited access to God, and can approach His throne in confidence[30].

The Law[edit | edit source]

Just as the atonement in the New Covenant is more complete than that of the Old Covenant, so is the law. (more to come...)

Obtaining Salvation[edit | edit source]

  1. Admit you are a sinner
  2. Turn from sin toward God
  3. Place your trust in God's solution to sin: Christ's death and resurrection
  4. Pray to Jesus Christ, and ask him to take away your sins, and to fill you with His Holy Spirit.

After Salvation[edit | edit source]

For the Skeptic[edit | edit source]

This entire issue of salvation rests on whether or not the Bible is trustworthy. If it is accurate, then there is much to be concerned about. If it isn't accurate, then it is worthless for any practical, life-altering applications - namely salvation.

Many people prefer to base their world view on cold, hard facts rather than on faith in an unverified text (I'm one such person myself). It is for such people that the field of Christian Apologetics was created, an effort to reconcile Christianity with evidence found in other fields of study. I myself have become convinced that Biblical Christianity can more than take the punches thrown by modern skepticism, and return a few blows itself. Check out the Department of Christian Apologetics for more information.

Notes[edit | edit source]