LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The basis for salvation is under attack today. The questions that many ask in response to the presentation of the gospel ("I'm a good person -- isn't that enough to be right with God?" "How can you say that Jesus is the only way to God?") mirror their confusion or disdain.
Somehow, they believe, the "God" of whom they conceive will be satisfied with their sincerity or with their good works.
Scripture makes it clear, though, that salvation does not begin with us. We are "dead in sin" (Ephesians 2:1) and thus unable to save ourselves.
Instead, God begins the work that allows us to become new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We call this work "regeneration" or "new birth" -- that is, it is the act of God by which he imparts spiritual life resulting in salvation.
We first encounter the phrase "born again" in Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus (John 3). This phrase is so very descriptive of the work done in us in salvation. As we had no part in imparting life to ourselves at the time of our physical birth, likewise we have no part in imparting spiritual life to ourselves at the time of our new birth.
John 1:13 underscores this truth by stating that this birth is not due to "the will of man, but of God."
Scripture speaks often of this new birth. It is described as made effectual not only through the Word of God (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23), but also through the work of Christ on the cross (Eph 2:5; Colossians 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3) and through the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8; Titus 3:5). The evidence of the new birth is seen in the changed life of the one who experiences it (2 Cor 5:17; 1 John 2:29; 5:4).
But how is this new birth appropriated? Jesus told Nicodemus, "You must be born again." If that same statement was made to someone today, what would he or she be expected to do?
In Scripture, the response needed is expressed in terms of repentance and faith. These two actions are often spoken of together under the heading of "conversion," and both are needed for salvation.
Repentance involves more than just remorse or a feeling of guilt over getting caught in sin. Rather, it refers to a genuine sorrow for sin accompanied by a desire and commitment to leave it behind. Or, as is often stated, it is "a change of mind that leads to a change of action."
The awareness of the need to repent is brought about by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11). Its importance is evidenced by its inclusion as a key element in the preaching of Jesus (Mark 1:15), John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and the early church (Acts 2:38).
The noun "faith" comes from the same root word as the verb "I believe" in the Greek language of the New Testament. More than just acknowledging intellectually that something is true, biblical faith requires a personal trust in and commitment to Jesus based on the knowledge of who he is and what he has done in providing forgiveness for sin.
Often in the New Testament, the word "believe" is followed by the word "in" to express this idea. Most noticeably, John 3:16 states that whoever "believes in" Jesus will have everlasting life.
Paul also reminds us that it is because of God's grace that we are saved through faith and not by our own works (Eph 2:8-9). Which one of us could ever do enough "good deeds" to earn God's salvation?
Taken together, regeneration and conversion are both foundational to the biblical teaching of salvation. God has graciously given us his spiritual life which we experience as we respond to him in repentance and faith.
We declare with the author of Hebrews (2:3), "How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"
DeKlavon is associate dean and associate professor of New Testament at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky.
Visit The Baptist Faith and Message
Full text of Article 4: Salvation
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.
Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.
B. Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.
D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed. Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.
Order a pocket-sized tract of The Baptist Faith and Message at LifeWaystores.com.