Session 8: “Understanding Salvation”
April 24, 2005
I. Growing in Knowledge of Our Faith
Many of God’s people have some idea of what salvation means –
primarily that we have eternal life. In this lesson, we will explore
this subject further by searching for answers to the following
1. What does it mean to be “Born Again”, and what is the
relationship of this term to salvation?
2. What do the terms, “Repentance” and “Faith” mean as it
relates to salvation?
3. What does the term “Justification” mean and how does
it relate to salvation?
In order to get the most out of this lesson, you should review earlier
lessons, particularly the lessons related to Jesus Christ.
A. What Does it Mean to be Born Again, and what is the
relationship of this term to salvation?
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that in order for a person to see the
Kingdom of God, he must be born again. In verse 5 of that same chapter,
Jesus expounds on this statement by saying, “I tell you the truth, no one
can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit.”
What Jesus is saying in this verse is that a person must be born in two
ways to enter the Kingdom of God. The first “birth” is described as being
“born of water.” This is the natural birth that all humans experience. The
other “birth” is described as being born of “the spirit.” This is the
spiritual birth that occurs when a person experiences the gift of salvation.
Because this birth occurs after the physical birth, Jesus calls this being
“Born Again.” Not everyone who experiences physical birth will
experience this second birth. Being “Born Again” is to experience that
which is described in John 3:16, where John writes, “God so loved the
world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him
shall not perish but have eternal life.”
That Jesus uses the analogy of birth to describe salvation is noteworthy.
Biblical scholars are in agreement that the Bible describes salvation as
occurring in a moment of time (denoted by the use of the Aorist tense in
Greek). This means that a person does not experience salvation over a
long period of time, just as much as a person is not born physically over
weeks, months, or years. Therefore, a person cannot say that he is in the
process of being born again. At any given moment in time, you are either
born again, or not.
Just as a baby being born into this world did not create himself, the
second birth, being “born again” is not something that we generate from
powers or resources within us. Being “born again” is the sovereign work
of God Almighty. Please carefully read James 1:18 and 1 Peter 1:3.
If it is not our power that causes us to be “born again” or “saved”, and that
it is entirely the work of God, none of us should ever have a boastful or
arrogant attitude for having experienced salvation.
Tools for Living
One of the very important ramifications arising from what Jesus says in John chapter 3 is
that salvation is not something that can be inherited, nor passed down from generation to
generation. Every person must experience his or her own “born again” moment. Therefore, a
person cannot put their faith and trust in the fact that their parents may have been active
members of the church, or that their grandparents were missionaries. The Bible declares
throughout its pages that the merits of human beings do not have the vitality to “save” anyone.
B. What do the terms “Repentance” and “Faith” mean, as it
relates to salvation?
Though it is the work of God alone that causes us to be “born again”,
humankind participates in this work of God through our response to the
Gospel message. Acting in “repentance” and “faith” is our response that
leads to the receiving of the gift of salvation. The Bible affirms this in Acts
20:21. We’ll explore repentance first, then faith.
In understanding repentance, let’s first digest what it is not. Repentance is
not just feeling bad that one sins. Hebrews 12:17 tells us that Esau wept over
the consequences of his actions but did not truly repent. Repentance is not a
promise or vow before God that you will never, ever sin again.
In 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, Paul says that repentance leads to salvation, not a
perfect life. In 1 John 1:8, which is clearly written to believers, the Bible
states that if we say we are without sin, we are liars!
Acting in repentance is to have a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing and
turning away from sin, accompanied by a sincere commitment to walk in
obedience to Christ.
Repentance that leads to salvation has 3 components:
Being aware that we are totally depraved
Owning up to this awareness
In response to this awareness, making a personal decision to turn
away from sin, renouncing any tolerance of sin, and a commitment
to a life in obedience to Christ as Master.
In understanding faith, let’s first digest what it is not. Faith is more than
possessing knowledge. Though it is necessary that we be aware of what
Christ did and why He did it (Romans 10:14), merely possessing the facts
about Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection is not the response in faith
that leads to salvation. Paul affirms this truth in Romans 1:32.
The key elements in our response in faith that leads to salvation are: what we
do and the focus of our faith. As stated above, faith is way more than
possessing knowledge. Faith that leads to salvation is an action on our part
that involves our entire being. Faith that leads to salvation is an action that
must focus on the person of Jesus Christ.
We see this vividly illustrated in the well known verse, John 3:16. This verse
tells us that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal
life.” The verse does not say, “whoever believes Him should not perish but
have eternal life.” This subtle, yet critical difference captures the essence of
what it means to respond in faith that leads to salvation. John 3:16 places the
focus of our belief on the person of Jesus Christ, not just what he says or
does. Leon Morris, a very respected evangelical scholar says, “Faith, for
John, is an activity which takes men right out of themselves and makes them
one with Christ.”
To respond in faith that leads to salvation is far beyond mere intellectual
assent. To respond in faith that leads to salvation is to put one’s entire trust
for one’s total being (not just the religious component of a person), in the
person of Jesus Christ. In essence, this means that you place the well being
of your entire self in your relationship with Christ. Paul graphically
expresses this choice in Galatians 2:20.
As in the response of repentance that leads to salvation, there are 3
components of our response in faith that leads to salvation:
Being aware of the basic truths of the Gospel
Approval and acceptance of these truths
A decision of the will to depend on, or put one’s entire trust in
Christ as Lord and Savior
Our response that leads to salvation must include both repentance and faith.
They are inseparable, when it comes to salvation. One cannot merely
renounce sin and make a commitment to obey Christ. Such a response will
evaporate in terms of significance as one runs out of energy and will power.
At the same time, one cannot merely trust Christ for salvation, and not deal
with the reality of our total depravity. We must never forget that the reason
we need salvation is because of our depravity!
Tools for Living
There are some professing “Christians” who seriously desire eternal life in heaven, but want to
continue living a life according to their desires, without ever even seeking what Jesus Christ
might want for their lives. Essentially, such individuals want Jesus to be their savior, but not
their Lord or Master. Though God is the final judge, indications from Scripture as it relates
to repentance and faith, does not bode well for such people in terms of their eternal destiny.
C. What does the term “Justification” mean and how does it
relate to salvation?
Up to this point, we have explored what it means to be born again and our
response that leads to salvation – repentance and faith. We have concluded
that the reason the response in repentance is required is because we have sin.
Based on the fact that the Bible teaches us that the standard that God requires
for acceptance into His Kingdom is absolute perfection – zero tolerance with
respect to sin (Matthew 5:48), we know that a response with respect to sin in
our lives is necessary.
We have discovered that the reason we need salvation is because we are
sinful people, destined for eternal death and suffering. In our study of faith,
we discovered that we are to put our entire trust in Christ alone for salvation.
What happens, then to our guilt arising from our sinfulness? After all, God’s
standard of justice is absolute perfection. As we ponder this question, we
must remember that because God is a Just God, He cannot simply change the
scales to render us “not guilty.”
The Biblical truth of “justification” deals with this dilemma. In the New
Testament, we see the term, “justify”. This verb has the common meaning of
“to declare righteous.” It is a word that conveys legal status.
The word “justify” is sometimes used in contrast with condemnation. This
helps us to understand what the term means. In Romans 8:33-34, Paul
writes, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who
justifies; who is to condemn?” In this context, to be “justified” means to be
declared, “not guilty.” To be declared “condemned” on the other hand, is to
be declared guilty.
According to the Bible, God’s declaration of justification has two aspects.
First of all, this declaration of “not guilty” means that there is no penalty to
pay for our sins (Christ paid the penalty for our sins in full, in His death
on the cross) – past, present, and future. Paul succinctly affirms this truth in
Romans 8:1, when he declares that there is “no condemnation for those who
are in Christ Jesus.” Secondly, being declared “justified” by God means that
our status is more than just being “not guilty.” We are declared to be
“righteous” before God (Romans 3:21-22). Isaiah 61:10 captures the
significance of this truth where it says, “He has clothed me with the garments
of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
We may pause here and think, “God is omniscient. He knows and I know
that I still sin. I can accept God forgiving me of my sins, but how can He see
me as being righteous?” The answer to this dilemma is that our righteous
standing is not based on our performance, but it is the righteousness that
Christ lived out on our behalf ( Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians
To understand this “reckoning” of Christ’s righteousness onto those who
have repented and put their faith in Him alone, we can look at what happened
to us in an opposite way. We were “reckoned” with guilt and sinfulness by
the sinful act of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:19). This is why we are cursed
with sin from birth, evidenced by the fact that every human being is destined
Being justified before God is not something we earn. Romans 3:23-24
declares that being justified is the product of God’s grace, manifested in the
work of Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16 tells us that we are justified by faith in
Justification then, as it relates to salvation is God pronouncing us “not
guilty,” even declaring that we are righteous, because of what Christ has
done on our behalf; thereby making us eligible to receive the gift of
Salvation is a gift of God. It cannot be earned, no matter how hard we may
try (Ephesians 2:8-9). The power that regenerates and causes sinful people to
be born again, comes from God.
As we have discovered in our study of salvation, there is a constant that runs
throughout – the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is central to our
salvation. To say that there is no salvation apart from an intimate
relationship with Jesus Christ would be an understatement of infinite
Though the power to be born again comes only from God, we do participate
in God’s gracious plan of salvation for humankind. Our participation in no
way aids God in saving humankind. Our participation is limited to receiving
God’s gracious offer of rescue by turning away from sin (repentance), and
turning to Christ with all of our being in complete, total trust (faith).
When this happens, though we still sin, we are declared “justified” by the
ultimate judge, God Himself. Our “justified” status prevails with respect to
our sins in the past, present, and future. Furthermore, not only are we
declared “not guilty,” we are also declared to be “righteous”; this status given
to us by the work of Jesus Christ, reversing the “sinner” status that was given
to us by the work of Adam.
What then should be our response to this truly
overwhelming gift from God? We ought to always
maintain a heart of repentance and faith in Christ;
worship Him in spirit and truth; love him with all of
our heart, our soul, our strength; love one another as
He has loved us; and be the light and salt of the earth,
as we bring honor and glory to Him!
II. Integrating Knowledge into Life
A. What does Jesus tell Nicodemus a person must experience in order to see the Kingdom of
God? (write the verse where you find the answer)
B. Faith is not something that is only needed when a person is born again. Faith is
needed everyday by every believer (the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to
please God – Hebrews 11:6). Share some of the ways in which you exercise your faith in
C. What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced as you contemplated receiving the gift
D. The Doctrine of Justification reveals two very important truths:
We have been pronounced “Not Guilty” by the ultimate judge, God (Romans 8:28).
We have been declared “Righteous” by God (Romans 3:21-22; Isaiah 61:10).
Why should these truths be so comforting and motivating for the Christian person?
E. What would you tell someone who claims to be Christian, but lives a lifestyle that
ignores sin, rarely participates in worship of God, and comes to church on Easter and
Christmas to make sure that he will earn a place in heaven? (Please provide a
F. Is Jesus both Lord and Savior for you? If He is, what evidence would you give to support
G. Explain in detail why Jesus is at the central core of what salvation is all about.
“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the
many were made sinners, so also through the obedience
of the one man the many will be made righteous”
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who
are in Christ Jesus”