Article IV: 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. Glorificationis the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
Unifying Principles from Article IV
Here is where some disagreement, or at least potential disagreement, can rise up among Southern Baptists, but controversy over the doctrine of salvation should not surprise us. I am convinced that battling spiritual darkness (Eph. 6:12) is no greater than in the arena of soteriology because Satan knows that it’s the difference between eternal life and death. The fact is that the Bible is replete with examples of God’s people contending for the faith. From the showdown with Baal’s prophets on Mt. Carmel to Paul’s defense of the gospel against Jewish legalism in Galatia, salvation has always been controversial. Despite this fact, I believe that Southern Baptists should be united by the biblical foundation that has been established through the unifying principles set forth in the Baptist Faith & Message. While not exhaustive, the following are some of the more critical principles that unify us within the SBC.
The opening statement of Article IV on the doctrine of salvation is solidly orthodox. As such, Southern Baptist should be unified here, and I believe that we are for the most part. We agree that God redeems “the whole man” by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, “who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.” This is well-balanced for Southern Baptists of various theological stripes. It confirms that salvation is offered to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, while acknowledging that eternal redemption was paid only for believers.
Regarding sections A-D, each section demonstrates that Southern Baptists ought to be unified on salvation as a gracious gift of God. The statement on regeneration can be affirmed by Baptists of varying theological stripes because it includes both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. God sovereignly regenerates believers through “a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit” who convicts the sinner of sin. The regenerated man responds to this work “in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Further, God sovereignly and graciously grants the regenerated man repentance and faith as “inseparable experiences of grace”
The statement on justification can be affirmed by Baptists of varying theological stripes because it roots justification in the grace of God that affects the “full acquittal” of every believer based on God’s righteousness. Thus, man has no righteousness of his own to add to the justifying act of God. Further, the statements on sanctification and glorification can be affirmed by Baptists of varying theological stripes because each one affirms the doctrine of eternal security, or perseverance of the saints.
We may disagree on how the specifics of A-D work themselves out in God’s plan of salvation, but we agree that each of these understandings of Scripture is crucial for defending the true gospel. Anything less than what the BF & M has stated regarding soteriology would relegate salvation to a work of man rather than the supreme work of God in human history.
For His Glory,