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Soteriology Defined

Soteriology is the study of salvation – where it comes from, who can offer it, and what we need to be saved from.

Life has a funny way of reminding us just how inadequate we are. Of how much we need help outside of ourselves, and of how frail we are. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically – at some point and in some way every person alive comes to realize they need saving. We might not admit it in such blatant terms, of course, but self-help books, self-care regimens, counselors, social media, friends, food, sex, and more can all have something in common – we go to them looking for something. We want answers for our questions, distractions from pain, solutions to problems, and pleasure in the midst of hurt. All these things aren’t bad of course – they’re good! But if we’re honest, they don’t give us all that we seek. They can’t save us from this life, from this world, from ourselves. And salvation is what we need.

Soteriology Is A Must For Us All

“God saved us..He’s the reason we’re alive. He saved us.”

I mumbled it again and again to my cousin while we sat on the side of the road, and afterwards, as we rode in the ambulance. A motorcycle crash that probably should have taken both our lives left us with injuries that would heal and an altered perspective on life. For weeks and weeks afterward when friends would come to see me I told them the same thing – God saved my life.

I’ve never been so physically helpless as I was that day – lying in the middle of the road. I watched, unable to move quick enough, as hundreds of pounds of metal hurdled after me on the asphalt. The bike crashed into my head, fracturing my neck. I knew it was the hand of God shielding me that allowed me to sit up immediately after, alive, unparalyzed, and coherent.

Maybe you, like me, have experienced a physical event where you knew you could not save yourself. Or maybe the mental maze of anxiety, depression or obsession has brought you to your knees. Perhaps the emotional pain of grief, loss, or loneliness has crippled your life. Maybe spiritual bondage to pornography, addiction, anger, bitterness, or fear has brought you to the end of yourself.

Whatever issues or multiple problems have or will come into your life, soteriology, at some point, is something we all must grapple with.

Salvation From What?

In Christian circles, the word “salvation” is most often used to refer to salvation from hell. But when we study soteriology in the Bible, we find that salvation from hell is not the only meaning of the broad word “salvation”. It can mean salvation from a lot of different things, depending on the context of the word and where it is found in Scripture. It’s really important to study the biblical context of the word before interpreting it in a passage.  For example, in the Bible, the word “salvation” is used in reference to:

  • Salvation from enemies (Exodus 14:13)
  • Salvation from difficult circumstances (Psalm 78:22)
  • Salvation from physical captivity (Psalm 53:6)
  • The future blessings of the Messiah’s Kingdom (Isaiah 25:9)
  • Saved from sins (Romans 1:16)
  • Delivered from the power of sin (Philippians 2:12-13)
  • Delivered from the presence of sin (Romans 13:11)
  • Saved from a storm (Matthew 8:25)
  • Healed from a physical sickness (James 5:15)

And these are just a few examples! So when you’re studying soteriology and you see the word “salvation” or “saved” be sure to ask the question “saved from what?”.

Soteriology In Regards To Salvation From Sin

Of all the things we need to be saved from in this life, it is important to come to a point where we realize that our greatest plight is our desperate need to be saved from sin. My near-death experience with the motorcycle accident showed me that I am physically needy. But my physical weakness pales in comparison to the needs of my soul. Sin’s penalty, power, and presence have marred our inner beings, and our only hope is found in the work of Jesus Christ.

But even the salvation of Christ has more than one meaning. Once we’ve determined that a passage is indeed referring to salvation from sin in some regard, soteriology leads us to dig a little deeper.

The whole view of salvation from sin can be broken down into three tenses:

Justification: Justification is our past tense salvation. As believers, the moment we believed we were instantly saved from the penalty of sin. Our destiny was no longer hell as a punishment for our sins, but life with God and acceptance in His presence as His spiritual child. We’ll discuss justification more in depth in a later post, but much of what we typically think of when we think of God saving us from sin happens at the moment we believe the gospel.

Sanctification: Sanctification is our present tense, daily salvation. We are currently being delivered from the power of sin – God is continually leading us to become more and more like Jesus.

Glorification: Glorification is the future tense reality that we will one day be fully delivered from the presence of sin in our lives.

The beauty of soteriology is that it shows us salvation from God is much more than we ever dreamed.

What Soteriology Means For Us

Understanding soteriology is the most important theology to grasp. It’s eternally crucial; putting our faith for salvation in the right thing is the difference between eternal punishment and eternal bliss with God.  It’s also life-changing. The more we understand the true nature of God’s gift of salvation, the more we will able to walk through this life with hope, peace, and security.

God’s purpose in saving men has always been so that we will not die in bondage. He wants to redeem us with his great love, show us His grace, and bring us all to know Him. In return, we get to enjoy the freedom His presence brings, following Him through this life and into eternity.

Soteriology Is All About The Savior

You’re probably getting it by now – Jesus is the crux of soteriology. His very name is derived from the Hebrew name “Yeshua”, which means “deliverance”. He himself is our salvation.

Soteriology cannot be studied without coming face to face with the author of salvation – may He remind you that salvation is His to give, and He gives it willingly.