In the Book of Acts 16:30, we encounter the Philippian Jailer who asks Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Their answer was simple – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. How would we answer this question? Our response would tell us a great deal about our theology and understanding of historic Christianity. Christianity is based in history. The Old and New Testaments are an historical archive and genealogy, describing man’s fall and God’s redemptive work throughout history. It is declared, narrated, and foretold by His prophets. It is His special revelation to man, fully and completely inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is infallible in all it teaches and is inerrant in the original manuscripts. The history of the church after the apostles or outside the cannon of the Bible, is recorded by men but not inspired, and gives us facts, events, and insights to draw on an understand where we’ve been regarding doctrine and theology.
Scripture teaches, as the Reformers declared by the 5 Solas (sola – alone in Latin), that salvation is totally an act of God from first to last. It is by God’s grace alone (sola gratia), by faith alone (sola fide), in Christ alone (solus Christus), for God’s glory alone (soli Deo gloria). The other ‘sola’ is scripture alone (sola scriptura). Further, the Doctrines of Grace describe our stae prior to rebirth by the Holy Spirit and God’s gracious work in saving us.
There is no work that we can do that will expiate (atone for) our sins, or propitiate (appease, or satisfy) God’s righteous anger. However, in this present time we have come to believe that God’s work in the salvation of an individual requires a ‘decision’ to be complete. A decision can be in the form of a personal declaration, to oneself or others; saying a prayer; signing a card; walking “up front” in response to an altar call; or some other human act. Even the simple act of making a decision, it seems to us, is necessary to complete God’s work. This is false. We can do nothing to finalize or confirm God’s work, or contribute in any way to our salvation. Nothing. For an understanding of ‘Decisional Regeneration‘ click on this link for a description of how we came to expect this.
Well then, as the Philipian jailer asks, how can we be saved or more specifically, know that we are saved? We are saved when we are ‘born again’ by the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that in our natural state of unbelief in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we are already condemned (John 3:18). Due to original sin, Adam’s act of rebellion and defiance of God’s word, we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3) until the Holy Spirit brings us back to the spiritual life that was lost by Adam’s sin.
Question: how much input did you have regarding your physical birth? Did you decide when that would take place, or how it would happen? Our regeneration by the Holy Spirit – that is, being born again, is the same. We did nothing to bring it about, finalize it , or confirm it to make it official. Yet, here we are!
This brings up more questions, however. Fortunately, because God is rational and acts in time and space, we can know if we are saved. We know by our attitude or response to Christ as He is preached and taught in the Bible. Do we desire to know Him? Do we love Him? (This is a tough one. If one is honest, we will admit we don’t love Him in the manner we should, or nearly enough as we should. Pause now and read this devotional by theologian and pastor R.C Sproul. about how one can know if they are saved.) In other words, there is a change in our nature. We will regret and repent our past attitudes and behaviors that fell short of His standard of righteousness. We will begin to desire to change, and follow His teaching. We will begin to desire to know and understand Christ and His word. We will want to obey, and not offend Him. This change in behavior may not happen suddenly, or be evident immediately, but is a work in progress. It is begun at the instant we were regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and began to have faith in Christ (we are at that point justified by faith before God). This requires no decision, or other human action. It is simply the realization that God’s has brought us to Himself and adopted us, and has given us new spiritual life that we may now see Him, hear Him, understand His word, and desire to know His Son, Jesus Christ. We simply believe, where as before we did not. As result of this regeneration to new life, we turn away from our sinful past, and think and act like a new person. This is repentance, and this is the evidence of our salvation. For a description of how this might look in the life of a Christian read this brief article by R.C. Sproul, Jr, a theologian and pastor. He’s the son of the author of the article above.
Please bring questions and comments to the “Reformation’ Sunday University class at 9:00 am in the Himmelreich Library, or at 2 pm for Sunday Conversations, also at the Himmelreich.
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