Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

8. What Gifts Does God Give You at the Instant of Salvation?

Each person who responds to God's grace (Titus 2:11) and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:8; 1 John 2:2) by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience instantly receives the great gift of salvation. This gift includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Redemption (Rom 3:24; 8:23) - You are freed from the bondage of sin for the first time in your life.
  • Forgiveness (Mat 6:9-15; 1 John 1:8-10) - You are forgiven your sins by God.
  • Justification (Rom 3:21-26) - You are declared righteous by God; this legal declaration is valid because Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin and lived a life of perfect righteousness that can in turn be imputed to you.
  • Adoption (Rom 3:23; Gal 3:26; 1 John 3:2) - You are a joint heir with Jesus to the Kingdom of God.
  • Regeneration (John 3:1-21) - The Holy Spirit makes known to you the will of God and helps you discern truth from lie. He occupies and purifies all the rooms of your heart into which He is invited. For the first time in your life you are not a prisoner of sin. You are free to pursue the path of righteousness. This is the first day of your Christian life and you are a new creature in Christ. This is the mechanism of your redemption.
  • Sanctification (Heb 6:1; 1 Pet 1:13-16) - You are led by the Holy Spirit along the path toward holiness; this is a lifetime journey.
  • Reconciliation ( Eph 2:11-22) - You are reconciled with all other believers.
  • Unification (Eph 3:1-11) - You are united with all believers in the Church of Jesus Christ.
  • Glorification (Rom 8:30) - You will complete the journey along the path of sanctification when your mission in this life is done.

Commentary on Salvation

In this age, some Christians seek to curry favor with the masses by developing an eclectic religion based on the syncretism of Christianity with other world religions. The end product of such an effort is always failure because Christian theology is completely incompatible with the theology of other religions; no common ground exists. This is particularly apparent in the Christian doctrine of God's work to save mankind by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

One contemporary example is Chrislam, the merger of Christianity and Islam. Can Islam be syncretized with Christianity concerning the issues of: the inborn sin nature of man, the sinlessness of the incarnate Jesus Christ and the crucifixion, death and bodily resurrection? Consider the words of Maulana Muhammad Ali nearly 100 years ago:

"The fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam is that the former teaches that every human child is born sinful, while the latter teaches that every human child is born sinless…Thus in Islam human nature is raised to the highest dignity by a plain declaration of its purity, while in Christianity it is brought down to the depth of degradation by declaring its inherent sinfulness…This low view of human nature which forms the foundation stone of the Christian religion must, sooner or later, be abandoned by the civilized world…suggestions were made to Jesus by the Devil (Luke 4:1-13) and this is inconsistent with the theory of his absolute sinlessness. The suggestion of the Devil is really the coming of an evil idea into a man's heart…Christ never died on the cross and he never rose from the dead: the preaching of the Christian missionary is therefore vain and vain is also his faith."

Antithetical to the teachings of Ali, the salvation of man by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christian theology. The atonement provides the redemption of creation from the bondage of evil and the offer to redeem man from the bondage of sin; man's redemption is accompanied by forgiveness, justification, adoption, regeneration, and many other gifts comprising salvation. Mankind desperately needs salvation because every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life. We are all born with a sin nature and embrace sinful behavior as soon as we are able to exercise free will.

Furthermore, the one attribute of Jesus Christ which is absolutely essential for the substitutionary atonement is sinlessness. If the incarnate Jesus did not live a sinless life, then his crucifixion, death and resurrection could not free any part of creation from the bondage of evil nor could it free one man from the bondage of sin. Scriptures are completely unanimous in declaring the perfect sinlessness of Christ under all circumstances.

Christians believe that one and only one punishment, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, was necessary and sufficient to: (1) redeem all creation from the bondage of evil and (2) redeem all mankind from the bondage of sin. By submitting to this punishment, God redeemed the universe from the vice grip of Satan and, for mankind, offered not only redemption from the bondage of sin but also the far greater gift of salvation in all its aspects. However, redemption from bondage does not mean redemption from influence. For a time and within limits God is permitting the consequences of evil throughout all creation and in the souls of men. Satan will never accept the substitutionary atonement as sufficient payment for redemption. He believes his property was stolen from him by a phony purchase and he is battling God to retain possession.

In Islam, man is not born with a sin nature, Jesus did not live a sinless life and the substitutionary atonement did not take place because Jesus did not die on the cross. No syncretism is possible between Christianity and Islam and those who attempt to create one are serving a different master than Jesus.