Man inherited a sinful nature through Adam at the Fall (Genesis 3). As the Apostle Paul concludes in Romans 3:23, all have sinned (present perfect tense) and fall short (present tense) of the glory of God. That means all of us in the here and now.
Man’s condition before God is perilous. We all sin and violate God’s Word that he has written on our hearts, so none of us can plead ignorance. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes, “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them … so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
Man’s condition is so desperately wicked that we cannot reason our way out of sinfulness and find God by ourselves. Scripture teaches that it is God who reaches down to us. He does the finding and saves man!
The magnificent good news of the gospel is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! This act of salvation is described by many specific words in Scripture. These profound components of the biblical doctrine of salvation are formally known as soteriology. Soterios is a Greek verb that means “to save.”
This Bible study, “Understanding All the Biblical Descriptors of Salvation,” explains the doctrine of salvation and the words used to describe the process. Understanding these words and knowing that they are precious gifts from God will bless you in a special way as you learn about all that God has done on your behalf.
Even some seasoned Christians draw a blank when asked to explain words used in the Bible. Those words include substitution, atonement, propitiation, redemption, reconciliation, regeneration, adoption and justification.
Propitiation, for example, is defined as an atoning sacrifice. Speaking of Jesus Christ, 1 John 2:2 puts it this way: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
Baker’s Dictionary of Theology defines propitiation (hilasmos) as the “averting of wrath by means of an appropriate transaction or sacrifice.” It is the satisfaction of violated justice. John Stott adds additional insight. In his book “The Cross of Christ,” Stott writes, “It is God Himself Who in Holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God Himself Who in holy love understood to do the propitiating, and God Himself Who in the Person of His Son dies for the propitiation of our sins. God took his own loving initiative to appease his own righteous anger.”
Propitiation is God responding in mercy when we are due his wrath. Note 1 John 4:10 in this regard: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Most importantly, the study reveals how man is expected to respond to these gifts from God. The importance of faith in this process is examined. Faith is a total commitment of oneself to Christ. It is the volitional acceptance of God’s gracious offer, the affirmation of the human heart of the works of God.
The word “conversion” means “to turn around; to change one’s mind or behavior.” In Acts 26:20b, Paul explains salvation to King Agrippa: “That they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”
Paul is showing that true salvation is always characterized by a person’s turning around. A person who has no desire to turn from his sinful ways is not really saved. Scripture speaks of conversion both in terms of man’s responsibility to turn and God’s turning of a man.
Relative to the former, Isaiah writes in 55:6-7, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him. … He will abundantly pardon.”
Accordingly, conversion is both a work of God and an act of man — by faith alone in Christ alone by his grace alone. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis puts it this way: “Conversion leads to a fundamental change of the whole life. It receives a new outlook and objective. … It involves a complete transformation of his existence under the influence of the Holy Spirit.”
If you are a Christian who has never understood propitiation, atonement, regeneration or the other biblical descriptors of salvation, or if you are someone who is interested in knowing more about the pathway that God provided sinners to him, this study provides the biblical answers.
I trust that God will use this study to speak to your heart in a profound way about salvation found in Jesus Christ alone. Amen! Read the full study here.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.