We believe that, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offers salvation from sin and a new way of life to all people. We receive God’s salvation when we repent of sin and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In Christ, we are reconciled with God and brought into the reconciling community of God’s people. We place our faith in God that, by the same power that raised Christ from the dead, we may be saved from sin to follow Christ in this life and to know the fullness of salvation in the age to come.
From the beginning, God has acted with grace and mercy to bring about salvation–through signs and wonders, by delivering God’s people, and by making a covenant with Israel.1 God so loved the world that, in the fullness of time, God sent his Son, whose faithfulness unto death on the cross has provided the way of salvation for all people.2 By his blood shed for us, Christ inaugurated the new covenant.3 He heals us, forgives our sins, and delivers us from the bondage of evil and from those who do evil against us.4 By his death and resurrection, he breaks the powers of sin and death,5 cancels our debt of sin,6 and opens the way to new life.7 We are saved by God’s grace, not by our own merits.8
When we hear the good news of the love of God, the Holy Spirit moves us to accept the gift of salvation. God brings us into right relationship without coercion. Our response includes yielding to God’s grace, placing full trust in God alone, repenting of sin, turning from evil, joining the fellowship of the redeemed, and showing forth the obedience of faith in word and deed.9 When we who once were God’s enemies are reconciled with God through Christ, we also experience reconciliation with others, especially within the church.10 In baptism we publicly testify to our salvation and pledge allegiance to the one true God and to the people of God, the church. As we experience grace and the new birth, we are adopted into the family of God and become more and more transformed into the image of Christ.11 We thus respond in faith to Christ and seek to walk faithfully in the way of Christ.
We believe that the salvation we already experience is but a foretaste of the salvation yet to come, when Christ will vanquish sin and death, and the redeemed will live in eternal communion with God.
Ps. 74:12; Deut. 6:20-25; Exod. 20:1-17.
John 3:16; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 1:1-2.
Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25.
Rom. 5:1-5; Mark 2:1-12.
Rom. 8:2; Heb. 2:14-15.
Rom. 3:24-25; Col. 2:13-14; Mark 10:45.
Rom. 1:5; Luke 19:8-10.
Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18.
- In the history of Christian thought, there have been three major views of the atonement. Each has a basis in Scripture and contributes to our understanding of salvation. By breaking the power of sin and death, Christ is conqueror over evil (the Christ-the-victor view). By canceling our debt of sin, Christ is a sacrifice and pays the ransom on our behalf (substitutionary atonement). By opening the way to new life, Christ shows God’s love, inspiring us to receive that love and love God and others in return (the moral-influence view).
- People undergo a variety of experiences in accepting salvation. Some have crisis conversions, while others hear the proclamation of salvation and are gradually nurtured by the community of faith before they make a commitment. In either case, acceptance of salvation is a personal, voluntary decision. Salvation is not acquired automatically because we are born into a Christian family or grow up in the church.
- This confession uses a variety of expressions for salvation. For example, salvation is often expressed as “justification by faith.” The justification that is “reckoned” to us as salvation (Rom. 4:1-12) is experienced as a covenant relationship with God. A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties. God offers the relationship. The just, or righteous, person has received the offer, lives according to the covenant, and trusts in God’s faithfulness. Justification by faith and faithful obedience to the covenant relationship are inseparable (Heb. 11). See “Discipleship and the Christian Life” (Article 17).”New birth” is another way to express salvation. Human beings were created in the image of God. That is, they were children of God. When they sinned, they became children of the devil and lost their place in God’s family (1 John 2:29-3:10). Through salvation, we are “born again” or adopted into the family of God (Gal. 3:23-4:7).The New Testament frequently connects our salvation with peace (John 16:33; Rom. 5:1; 10:15). In doing so, it builds on the Old Testament concept of shalom. Through Christ’s death on the cross, we have both peace with God and reconciliation within the church between groups which had been enemies (Eph. 2:14-17). Christ’s suffering without taking revenge gives us an example; we can follow in his steps and live for righteousness (1 Pet. 2:19-24; Luke 6:35-36; Mark 8:34). See also “Peace, Justice, and Nonresistance” (Article 22).
- God saves us as individuals in community. The Lord’s saving activity embraced an entire people in bondage (Exod. 15). Jesus called a company of disciples. The church is the context of the message of salvation (Eph. 2:11-22; 1 Pet. 2:1-10). There, covenants are made in the presence of witnesses, and members are held accountable. God’s covenant with us also brings about right relationship within the people of God, in which former hostilities are reconciled.
- According to the Bible, salvation includes not only forgiveness of sins which we have committed, but also rescue from powers of evil in which we have become entrapped (1 Pet. 2:24; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 2:14-15), deliverance from enemies who have sinned against us (Luke 21:16-19; Acts 4), and healing. For a discussion of the relationship of salvation and healing, see “The Church in Mission” (Article 10), Commentary paragraph 3. Our ultimate salvation lies in the power of the resurrection.