This is the sixth installment of this series on my theological positions. So far I’ve discussed the Scriptures, the foundation for my different theological positions. I’ve discussed the nature & attributes (in a non-exhaustive way) of God who is the source of our theology. I’ve discussed the Person and Work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. In the last post I covered the nature of man which sets up this post on salvation.
We believe that the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such receive Jesus Christ are born of the Holy Spirit and, thus, become children of God, (Article VI, 1950 EFCA Statement of Faith).
The blood of Christ is absolutely necessary to redeem sinful, fallen man. The blood of Christ is the price of redemption, (Ephesians 1:7):
…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot, (1 Peter 1:18-19, ESV).
Jesus’ shed blood did away with the sacrificial system, becoming the permanent sacrifice on behalf of man’s sin. His blood is paid as a ransom as the price for human sin which God’s holiness requires, (Galatians 3:13). Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin, (Hebrews 9:22).
Christ’s shed blood on the cross atones (makes reparations) for sin and provides for the propitiation of God, (Romans 3:25). It satisfies God’s wrath, (Ephesians 2:3; 5:6). This has opened the way for God to manifest His love and forgiveness toward men, and to bestow righteousness and grace to those who believe, (1 John 2:2). It is only because of the shed blood of Jesus, and His resurrection, that fallen man can stand before God justified, (Romans 3:24-25; 4:25) being declared not guilty and righteous in God’s sight, (1 Corinthians 5:21).
Through the blood of Christ reconciliation also occurs. Reconciliation is an aspect of Christ’s death by which God recognizes a complete change in the position of the world to Himself. By reconciliation man is brought from an attitude and position of enmity against God, to an attitude and position of friendship and peace with God through the work of Christ on the cross, (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
Those who are justified, I believe, are God’s elect. Election is the act by which God, before the creation of the world chose those who would be justified, those who would be saved, (Romans 8:28-30; 9:22-23; Ephesians 1:4-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-13).
The elect are called by God, (Romans 8:30). This call of God is an act that guarantees a response. In Romans 8:30 Paul says that those who are called will be justified. It can draw us out of the kingdom of darkness and bring us into the Kingdom of God. We are called into fellowship with His Son: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (1 Corinthians 1:9, ESV).
God’s effective calling usually coincides with the proclamation of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul writes, “
To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (2 Thessalonians 2:14, ESV). Even though God elects and calls, evangelism is still necessary as He has commanded us to make disciples, (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). However, without His effective calling we would not see any results for Jesus said, “
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” (John 6:44, ESV).
For one to be saved they must also be regenerated. Regeneration is a secret, supernatural work of God in which He imparts new spiritual life to us. This is also referred to as being “born again,” (John 3:3-8). This is a work primarily of the Holy Spirit, (John 3:8), but God the Father is also involved, (Ephesians 2:5; James 1:17-18; 1 Peter 1:3). Regeneration comes before the result of effective calling (our faith) as Scripture indicates that it must precede our response to God’s calling.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God, (John 1:12-13, ESV)
Those who believed were first born again. We also see later in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus he said:
Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God… Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God, (John 3:3,5, ESV).
A person must be born again before they can enter the kingdom. Spiritual rebirth, regeneration precedes entering the Kingdom of God. Regarding when regeneration occurs when the gospel is proclaimed and God works in effective calling is less clear. Two passages suggest they are simultaneous:
…since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you, (1 Peter 1:23-25, ESV, emphasis mine).
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures, (James 1:18, ESV, emphasis mine).
The wording for regeneration in the EFCA 1950 Statement of Faith focuses on the results of regeneration, not the hidden act of God itself. The word regeneration here refers to regeneration’s outward, visible evidence of a changed life that is certainly seen after saving faith. Evidence of genuine regeneration would be a change in behavior and a desire to conform to the image of Christ, (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Faith is absolutely necessary for salvation and is the result of regeneration and God’s effective call. In Hebrews 11:6, God’s word says, that “without faith it is impossible to please (God).” In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians we see:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast, (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).
Repentance must accompany faith, a person must repent of his sin and be
lieve in the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by faith, (John 3:16, 18-19, 36; Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Those who come to God personally, in faith, believing in Christ’s death and resurrection, believing that the gift of salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone will receive eternal life, (John 6:37-40, 44; Acts 13:48; Romans 10:9; James 4:8).
Upon conversion through faith and repentance a person is justified (see above) and having received Christ they are also adopted as God’s children, (John 1:12). God sanctifies those who have received Him. He sets apart unto holiness and sainthood the one, who believes in Christ, (Hebrews 10:10-14). That is done instantly, but it is also an ongoing work, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God the believer is gradually transformed into the image of Christ as he walks in obedience to the living and written Word of God, (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:12-13). This process ends when the believer is glorified at the return of Christ, (Romans 8:17; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2-3).