General Information

Salvation (from the Latin salus, "health," "safety," "well being") is a religious concept that refers either to the process through which a person is brought from a condition of distress to a condition of ultimate well being or to the state of ultimate well being that is the result of that process. The meaning of the concept varies according to the different ways religious traditions understand the human plight and the ultimate state of human well being. Ideas of salvation may or may not be linked to the figure of a savior or redeemer or correlated with a concept of God.

In Christianity, salvation is variously conceived. One prominent conception emphasizes justification - the process through which the individual, alienated from God by sin, is reconciled to God and reckoned just or righteous through faith in Christ. Other religions present other views. In certain forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, for example, salvation is understood as liberation from the inevitable pain of existence in time by means of religious disciplines that ultimately achieve a state of being that is not determined by time bound perceptions and forms of thought.

BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects
These and other ideas of salvation rest on the notion that the human condition is marked by fundamental forms of distress that prevent persons from attaining true and enduring well being. Salvation, then, is the process through which true well being is realized.

William S Babcock

K Klostermaier, Liberation, Salvation, Self Realization: A Comparative Study of Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian Ideas (1973); A W Pink, The Doctrine of Salvation (1975); C R Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Salvation: A Study of the Atonement (1969).


General Information

Salvation is perceived in a variety of ways by different Christians and even different Christian Churches. The Salvation process is unique to each individual. In some cases, it can be a slow, methodical procedure. In others, an instantaneous flash of insight causes a miraculous transformation! For most people, the Salvation process is somewhere between these extremes.

In all cases, the central human condition involved for Salvation is absolute total trust in God.

A very analytical way of looking at it involves the following:
(This presents a generalized Protestant perspective. Catholics and Orthodox are taught rather different views on Salvation.)

Many Christian Churches consider only some of these 'stages' to be part of the Salvation process. Various Denominations describe their concept of Salvation in different ways. In addition, the indwelling Holy Spirit understands what unique sequence and process is necessary for each individual, so sweeping generalities (like this description!) are often incorrect. These matters make precise general discussion on the subject somewhat difficult.

In addition, this listing is a specifically Protestant description. Catholic and Orthodox desciptions have some differences, and generally discuss fewer "stages". Also, where Protestant beliefs insist on Salvation being totally by the Grace of God, with no input by the person, Catholic beliefs include finding substantial value in the Good Works of the person.

(BELIEVE contains individual presentations on these different matters. See the very end of this page for links to them.)


Advanced Information

The saving of man from the power and effects of sin.

The Biblical Idea

The common Hebrew words for salvation, deriving from the root yasa' (width, spaciousness, freedom from constraint, hence, deliverance) obviously lend themselves to broad development in application. Literally, they cover salvation from any danger, distress, enemies, from bondage in Egypt (Exod. 14:13; 15:2), exile in Babylon (Isa. 46:13; 52:10 - 11), adversaries (Ps. 106:10), defeat (Deut. 20:4), or oppression (Judg. 3:31; etc.). Metaphorically, in salvation from social decay (Hos. 1:7) and from want, the meaning approaches moral and personal welfare ("prosperity"; Job 30:15); in Ps. 28:9, religious blessing in general. "The Lord is. . . my salvation" is the heart of OT testimony, always with an overtone of underserved mercy. Later Judaism anticipated a messianic deliverance, which might include political, national, or religious elements (Pss. Sol. 10:9; T Benj. 9:10; cf. Luke 1:69, 71, 77).

Soteria therefore gathered a rich connotation from LXX to carry into NT. There, too, it means deliverance, preservation, from any danger (Acts 7:25; 27:31; Heb. 11:7). The roots saos, sozo, however, add the notion of wholeness, soundness, health, giving "salvation" a medical connotation, salvation from affliction, disease, demon possession, death (Mark 5:34; James 5:15; etc.). Sometimes this meaning is literal; peace, joy, praise, faith are so interwoven with healing as to give "saved" a religious significance also. Jesus' self description as "physician" (Mark 2:17) and the illustrative value of the healing miracles in defining his mission show how readily physical and spiritual healing unite in "salvation" (Luke 4:18 - 19).

Much of the most frequent use of soteria and derivatives is for deliverance, preservation from all spiritual dangers, the bestowal of all religious blessings. Its alternative is destruction (Phil. 1:28), death (2 Cor. 7:10), divine wrath (1 Thess. 5:9); it is available to all (Titus 2:11), shared (Jude 3), eternal (Heb. 5:9). It is ascribed to Christ alone (Acts 4:12; Luke 19:10), "the pioneer of salvation," and especially to his death (Heb. 2:10; Rom. 5:9 - 10). In that sense salvation was "from the Jews" (John 4:22), though for Gentiles too (Rom. 11:11). It is proclaimed (taught) as a way of thought and life (Acts 13:26; 16:17; Eph. 1:13), to be received from God's favor by faith alone, a confessed confidence and trust (Acts 16:30 - 31; Eph. 2:8) focused upon the resurrection and Lordship of Christ (Rom. 10:9), "calling" upon him (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13). Once received, salvation must not be "neglected" but "held fast," "grown up to," humbly "worked out" (Heb. 2:3; 1 Cor. 15:2; 1 Pet. 2:2; Phil. 2:12), some being only narrowly saved in the end (1 Cor. 3:15; 1 Pet. 4:18).

The Comprehensiveness of Salvation

The comprehensiveness of salvation may be shown:

(1) By what we are saved from. This includes sin and death; guilt and estrangement; ignorance of truth; bondage to habit and vice; fear of demons, of death, of life, of God, of hell; despair of self; alienation from others; pressures of the world; a meaningless life. Paul's own testimony is almost wholly positive: salvation has brought him peace with God, access to God's favor and presence, hope of regaining the glory intended for men, endurance in suffering, steadfast character, an optimistic mind, inner motivations of divine love and power of the Spirit, ongoing experience of the risen Christ within his soul, and sustaining joy in God (Rom. 5:1 - 11). Salvation extends also to society, aiming at realizing the kingdom of God; to nature, ending its bondage to futility (Rom. 8:19 - 20); and to the universe, attaining final reconciliation of a fragmented cosmos (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20).

(2) By noting that salvation is past (Rom. 8:24; Eph. 2:5, 8; Titus 3:5 - 8); present (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor. 2:15; 6:2; 1 Pet. 1:9; 3:21); and future (Rom. 5:9 - 10; 13:11; 1 Cor. 5:5; Phil. 1:5 - 6; 2:12; 1 Thess. 5:8; Heb. 1:14; 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:2). That is, salvation includes that which is given, freely and finally, by God's grace (forgiveness, called in one epistle justification, friendship; or reconciliation, atonement, sonship, and new birth); that which is continually imparted (santification, growing emancipation from all evil, growing enrichment in all good, the enjoyment of eternal life, experience of the Spirit's power, liberty, joy, advancing maturity in conformity to Christ); and that still to be attained (redemption of the body, perfect Christlikeness, final glory).

(3) By distinguishing salvation's various aspects: religious (acceptance with God, forgiveness, reconciliation, sonship, reception of the Spirit, immortality); emotional (strong assurance, peace, courage, hopefulness, joy); practical (prayer, guidance, discipline, dedication, service); ethical (new moral dynamic for new moral aims, freedom, victory); personal (new thoughts, convictions, horizons, motives, satisfactions, selffulfillment); social (new sense of community with Christians, of compassion toward all, overriding impulse to love as Jesus has loved).

Salvation in the NT

Distinctive approaches underline the richness of the concept. Jesus presupposed the universal sin and need of men, originating in rebelliousness (Matt. 7:23; 13:41; 24:12 "lawless"; 21:28 - 29), and causing "sickness" of soul (Mark 2:17), which lies deep within personality, defiling from within (Matt. 7:15 - 16; 12:35; cf. 5:21 - 22, 27 - 28; 15:19 - 20; 23:25), and leaving men in debt to God for unpaid duty (6:12; 18:23 - 24). He therefore called all to repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32; 13:3, 5; 15:10), to a change of outlook and life style that enthrones God (Luke 8:2; 19:9 (John 8:11); Matt. 9:9; etc.), urged daily prayer for forgiveness, himself offered forgiveness (Mark 2:5), and commended humble penitence as the only acceptable basis upon which to approach God (Luke 18:9 - 10).

In Jesus' openness and friendship toward sinners, the loving welcome of God found perfect expression. Nothing was needed to win back God's favor. It waited eagerly for man's return (Luke 15:11 - 24). The one indispensable preliminary was the change in man from rebelliousness to childlike trust and willingness to obey. That shown, there followed life under God's rule, described as feasting, marriage, wine, finding treasure, joy, peace, all the freedom and privilege of sonship within the divine family in the Father's world.

Peter also called to repentance (Acts 2:38), promising forgiveness and the Spirit to whoever called upon the Lord. Salvation was especially from past misdeeds and for conformity to a perverse generation (vss. 23 - 40); and with a purpose, inheritance, and glory still to be revealed (1 Pet. 1:3 - 5; etc.).

In John's thought salvation is from death and judgment. He restates its meaning in terms of life, rich and eternal (thirty six times in Gospel, thirteen in 1 John), God's gift in and with Christ, beginning in total renewal ("new birth"); illumined by truth ("knowledge," "light"); and experienced as love (John 3:5 - 16; 5:24; 12:25; 1 John 4:7 - 11; 5:11).

Paul saw his own failure to attain legal righteousness reflected in all men and due to the overmastering power ("rule") of sin, which brought with it death. Salvation is therefore, first, acquital, despite just condemnation, on the ground of Christ's expiation of sin (Rom. 3:21 - 22); and second, deliverance by the invasive power of the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of the risen Christ. The faith which accepts and assents to Christ's death on our behalf also unites us to him so closely that with him we die to sin and rise to new life (Rom. 6:1 - 2). The results are freedom from sin's power (vss. 7, 18; 8:2); exultation in the power of the indwelling Spirit and assurance of sonship (ch. 8); increasing conformity to Christ. By the same process death is overcome, and believers are prepared for life everlasting (6:13, 22 - 23; 8:11).

Further Development

It is evident, even from this brief outline, that need would arise for endless analysis, comparison, systematization, and restatement in contemporary terms of all that salvation means to Christian faith. This is the task of soteriology, the doctrine of soteria, salvation. How far, for example, did the mystery religions of the first century influence the Christian hope derived from Judaism? They offered salvation, as "all the blessings it is possible to desire," and above all else, immortality. Before becoming absorbed in Christology, patristic reflection probed especially the meaning of the ransom Christ had paid for man's salvation and freedom.

Later, the Eastern Church traced the effect of Adam's fall chiefly in man's mortality, and saw salvation as especially the gift of eternal life through the risen Christ. The Western Church traced the effect of Adam's fall chiefly in the inherited guilt (Ambrose) and corruption (Augustine) of the race, and saw salvation as especially the gift of grace through Christ's death. Divine grace alone could cancel guilt and deliver from corruption.

Anselm and Abelard explored further the relation of man's salvation to the cross of Jesus as satisfaction for sin, or redeeming example of love; Luther, its relation to man's receiving faith; Calvin, its relation to God's sovereign will. Roman Catholic thought has emphasized the objective sphere of salvation within a sacramental church; and Protestantism, the subjective experience of salvation within the individual soul. Modern reflection tends to concentrate on the psychological process and ethical results of salvation, emphasizing the need to "save" society.

R E O White

(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

L H Marshall, Challenge of NT Ethics; H R Mackintosh, Christian Experience of Forgiveness; V Taylor, Forgiveness and Reconciliation; E Kevan, Salvation; U Simon, Theology of Salvation.


Soteriological Ordering

Advanced Information

There are four major ways of ordering the soteriological elements of God's eternal decree.

Arminianism Supralapsarianism Infralapsarianism Amyraldianism
  1. Create
  2. Permit Fall
  3. Provide salvation for all
  4. Call all to salvation
  5. Elect those who believe
  1. Elect some, reprobate rest
  2. Create
  3. Permit Fall
  4. Provide salvation for elect
  5. Call elect to salvation
  1. Create
  2. Permit Fall
  3. Elect some, pass over the rest
  4. Provide salvation for elect
  5. Call elect to salvation
  1. Create
  2. Permit Fall
  3. Provide salvation sufficient for all
  4. Elect some, pass over rest
  5. Call elect to salvation

The distinction between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism has to do with the logical order of God's eternal decrees, not the timing of election. Neither side suggests that the elect were chosen after Adam sinned. God made His choice before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), long before Adam sinned. Both infras and supras (and even many Arminians) agree on this.

SUPRALAPSARIANISM is the view that God, contemplating man as yet unfallen, chose some to receive eternal life and rejected all others. So a supralapsarian would say that the reprobate (non-elect) vessels of wrath fitted for destruction (Rom. 9:22) were first ordained to that role, and then the means by which they fell into sin was ordained. In other words, supralapsarianism suggests that God's decree of election logically preceded His decree to permit Adam's fall, so that their damnation is first of all an act of divine sovereignty, and only secondarily an act of divine justice.

Supralapsarianism is sometimes mistakenly equated with "double predestination." The term "double predestination" itself is often used in a misleading and ambiguous fashion. Some use it to mean nothing more than the view that the eternal destiny of both elect and reprobate is settled by the eternal decree of God. In that sense of the term, all genuine Calvinists hold to "double predestination" and the fact that the destiny of the reprobate is eternally settled is clearly a biblical doctrine (cf. 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:22; Jude 4). But more often, the expression "double predestination" is employed as a pejorative term to describe the view of those who suggest that God is as active in keeping the reprobate out of heaven as He is in getting the elect in. (There's an even more sinister form of "double predestination," which suggests that God is as active in making the reprobate evil as He is in making the elect holy.)

This view (that God is as active in reprobating the non-elect as He is in redeeming the elect) is more properly labeled "equal ultimacy" (cf. R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God, 142). It is actually a form of hyper-Calvinism and has nothing to do with true, historic Calvinism. Though all who hold such a view would also hold to the supralapsarian scheme, the view itself is not a necessary ramification of supralapsarianism.

Supralapsarianism is also sometimes wrongly equated with hyper-Calvinism. All hyper-Calvinists are supralapsarians, though not all supras are hyper-Calvinists.

Supralapsarianism is sometimes called "high" Calvinism, and its most extreme adherents tend to reject the notion that God has any degree of sincere goodwill or meaningful compassion toward the non-elect. Historically, a minority of Calvinists have held this view.

But Boettner's comment that "there is not more than one Calvinist in a hundred that holds the supralapsarian view," is no doubt an exaggeration. And in the past decade or so, the supralapsarian view seems to have gained popularity.

INFRALAPSARIANISM (also known sometimes as "sublapsarianism") suggests that God's decree to permit the fall logically preceded His decree of election. So when God chose the elect and passed over the non-elect, He was contemplating them all as fallen creatures.

Those are the two major Calvinistic views. Under the supralapsarian scheme, God first rejects the reprobate out of His sovereign good pleasure; then He ordains the means of their damnation through the fall. In the infralapsarian order, the non-elect are first seen as fallen individuals, and they are damned solely because of their own sin. Infralapsarians tend to emphasize God's "passing over" the non-elect (preterition) in His decree of election.

Robert Reymond, himself a supralapsarian, proposes the following refinement of the supralapsarian view: (See Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 489).

Reymond's Modified
  1. Elect some sinful men, reprobate rest
  2. Apply redemptive benefits to the elect
  3. Provide salvation for elect
  4. Permit Fall
  5. Create

Notice that in addition to reording the decrees, Reymond's view deliberately stresses that in the decree of election and reprobation, God is contemplating men as sinners. Reymond writes, "In this scheme, unlike the former [the classic supra- order], God is represented as discriminating among men viewed as sinners and not among men viewed simply as men." Reymond's refinement avoids the criticism most commonly leveled against supralapsarianism, that the supralapsarian has God damning men to perdition before He even contemplates them as sinners. But Reymond's view also leaves unanswered the question of how and why God would regard all men as sinners even before it was determined that the human race would fall. (Some might even argue that Reymond's refinements result in a position that, as far as the key distinction is concerned, is implicitly infralapsarian.)

All the major Reformed Creeds are either explicitly infralapsarian, or else they carefully avoid language that favors either view. No major creed takes the supralapsarian position. (This whole issue was hotly debated throughout the Westminster Assembly. William Twisse, an ardent supralapsarian and chairman of the Assembly, ably defended his view. But the Assembly opted for language that clearly favors the infra position, yet without condemning supralapsarianism.)

"Bavinck has pointed out that the supralapsarian presentation 'has not been incorporated in a single Reformed Confession' but that the infra position has received an official place in the Confessions of the churches" (Berkouwer, Divine Election, 259).

Louis Berkhof's discussion of the two views (in his Systematic Theology) is helpful, though he seems to favor supralapsarianism. I take the Infra view, as did Turretin, most of the Princeton theologians, and most of the leading Westminster Seminary men (e.g., John Murray). These issues were at the heart of the "common grace" controversy in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Herman Hoeksema and those who followed him took such a rigid supralapsarian position that they ultimately denied the very concept of common grace.

Finally, see the chart (above), which compares these two views with Amyraldism (a kind of four-point Calvinism) and Arminianism. My notes on each view (below) identify some of the major advocates of each view.

Notes on the Order of the Decrees


Beza, who held this view, often is credited with formulating the supralapsarian position, but he did not. Other historic supras include Gomarus, Twisse, Perkins, Voetus, Witsius, and Comrie. Louis Berkhof sees value in both views, but seems to lean slightly toward supralapsarianism. Karl Barth felt supralapsarianism was more nearly correct than infralapsarianism. Robert Reymond's Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith takes the supralapsarian view and includes a lengthy defense of supralapsarianism. Turretin says supralapsarianism is "harsher and less suitable" than infralapsarianism. He believes it "does not appear to agree sufficiently with [God's] unspeakable goodness". Herman Hoeksema and the entire leadership of the Protestant Reformed Churches (including Homer Hoeksema, Herman Hanko, and David Engelsma) are determined supralapsarians, often arguing both implicitly and explicitly that supralapsarianism is the only logically consistent scheme. This presumption clearly contributes to the PRC's rejection of common grace. In fact, the same arguments used in favor of Supralapsarianism have been employed against common grace. So supralapsarianism may have in it a tendency that is hostile to the idea of common grace. (It is a fact that virtually all who deny "common grace" are supralapsarians.) Supralapsarianism also necessitates the harshest sort of "double predestination." It is hard to find exponents of supralapsarianism among the major systematic theologians. R. A. Webb says supralapsarianism is "abhorrent to metaphysics, to ethics, and to the scriptures. It is propounded in no Calvinistic creed and can be charged only upon some extremists." (Christian Salvation, 16). [Webb is a 19th-cent. southern Presbyterian.]


This view is also called "sublapsarianism." John Calvin said some things that seem to indicate he would have been in sympathy with this view, though the debate did not occur in his lifetime (see Calvin's Calvinism, trans. by Henry Cole, 89ff; also William Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, 364ff). W G T Shedd, Charles Hodge, L Boettner, and Anthony Hoekema held this view. Both R L Dabney and William Cunningham lean decidedly to this view but resist arguing the point. They believe the whole debate goes beyond scripture and is therefore unnecessary. Dabney, for example, says "This is a question which ought never to have been raised" (Systematic Theology, 233). Twisse, the supralapsarian, virtually agreed with this. He called the difference "merely apex logicus, a point of logic. And were it not a mere madness to make a breach of unity or charity in the church merely upon a point of logic?" (cited in Cunningham, The Reformers, 363). G.C. Berkouwer also agrees: "We face here a controversy which owes its existence to a tresspassing of the boundaries set by revelation." Berkouwer wonders aloud whether we are "obeying the teaching of Scripture if we refuse to make a choice here" (Divine Election, 254-55). Thornwell does not agree that the issue is moot. He says the issue "involves something more than a question of logical method. It is really a question of the highest moral significance. . . . Conviction and hanging are parts of the same process, but it is something more than a question of arrangement whether a man shall be hung before he is convicted" (Collected Writings, 2:20). Thornwell is vehemently infralapsarian. Infralapsarianism was affirmed by the synod of Dordt but only implied in the Westminster standards. Twisse, a supralapsarian, was the first president of the Westminster Assembly, which evidently decided the wisest course was to ignore the controversy altogether (though Westminster's bias was arguably infralapsarian) . The Westminster Confession, therefore, along with most of the Reformed Creeds, implicitly affirmed what the Synod of Utrecht (1905) would later explicitly declare: "That our confessions, certainly with respect to the doctrine of election, follow the infralapsarian presentation, [but] this does not at all imply an exclusion or condemnation of the supralapsarian presentation."


Amyraldism is the preferred spelling, not Amyraldianism).

Amyraldism is the doctrine formulated by Moise Amyraut, a French theologian from the Saumur school. (This same school spawned another aggravating deviation from Reformed orthodoxy: Placaeus' view involving the mediate imputation of Adam's guilt). By making the decree to atone for sin logically antecedent to the decree of election, Amyraut could view the atonement as hypothetically universal, but efficacious for the elect alone. Therefore the view is sometimes called "hypothetical universalism." Puritan Richard Baxter embraced this view, or one very nearly like it. He seems to have been the only major Puritan leader who was not a thoroughgoing Calvinist. Some would dispute whether Baxter was a true Amyraldian. (See, e.g. George Smeaton, The Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991 reprint], Appendix, 542.) But Baxter seemed to regard himself as Amyraldian. This is a sophisticated way of formulating "four-point Calvinism," while still accounting for an eternal decree of election. But Amyraldism probably should not be equated with all brands of so-called "four-point Calvinism." In my own experience, most self-styled four-pointers are unable to articulate any coherent explanation of how the atonement can be universal but election unconditional. So I wouldn't glorify their position by labeling it Amyraldism. (Would that they were as committed to the doctrine of divine sovereignty as Moise Amyraut! Most who call themselves four-pointers are actually crypto-Arminians.) A H Strong held this view (Systematic Theology, 778). He called it (incorrectly) "sublapsarianism." Henry Thiessen, evidently following Strong, also mislabeled this view "sublapsarianism" (and contrasted it with "infralapsarianism") in the original edition of his Lectures in Systematic Theology (343). His discussion in this edition is very confusing and patently wrong at points. In later editions of his book this section was completely rewritten.


Henry Thiessen argued for essentially this view in the original edition of his Systematic Theology. The revised edition no longer explicitly defends this order of the decrees, but Thiessen's fundamental Arminianism is still clearly evident. Most Arminian theologians decline to deal with God's eternal decree, and extreme Arminians even deny the very concept of an eternal decree. Those who acknowledge the divine decree, however, must end up making election contingent upon the believer's response to the call of the gospel. Indeed, this is the whole gist of Arminianism.

P R Johnson


Catholic Information

(Greek soteria; Hebrew yeshu'ah).

Salvation has in Scriptural language the general meaning of liberation from straitened circumstances or from other evils, and of a translation into a state of freedom and security (1 Samuel 11:13; 14:45; 2 Samuel 23:10; 2 Kings 13:17). At times it expresses God's help against Israel's enemies, at other times, the Divine blessing bestowed on the produce of the soil (Isaiah 45:8). As sin is the greatest evil, being the root and source of all evil, Sacred Scripture uses the word "salvation" mainly in the sense of liberation of the human race or of individual man from sin and its consequences. We shall first consider the salvation of the human race, and then salvation as it is verified in the individual man.


We need not dwell upon the possibility of the salvation of mankind or upon its appropriateness. Nor need we remind the reader that after God had freely determined to save the human race, He might have done so by pardoning man's sins without having recourse to the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Still, the Incarnation of the Word was the most fitting means for the salvation of man, and was even necessary, in case God claimed full satisfaction for the injury done to him by sin (see INCARNATION). Though the office of Saviour is really one, it is virtually multiple: there must be an atonement for sin and damnation, an establishment of the truth so as to overcome human ignorance and error, a perennial source of spiritual strength aiding man in his struggle against darkness and concupiscence. There can be no doubt that Jesus Christ really fulfilled these three functions, that He therefore really saved mankind from sin and its consequences. As teacher He established the reign of truth; as king He supplied strength to His subjects; as priest He stood between heaven and earth, reconciling sinful man with his angry God.

A. Christ as Teacher

Prophets had foretold Christ as a teacher of Divine truth: "Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 55:4). Christ himself claims the title of teacher repeatedly during the course of His public life: "You can call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am" (John 13:13; cf. Matthew 23:10; John 3:31). The Gospels inform us that nearly the whole of Christ's public life was devoted to teaching (see JESUS CHRIST). There can be no doubt as to the supereminence of Christ's teaching; even as man, He is an eyewitness to all He reveals; His truthfulness is God's own veracity; His authority is Divine; His words are the utterance of a Divine person; He can internally illumine and move the minds of His hearers; He is the eternal and infinite wisdom of God Incarnate Who cannot deceive and cannot be deceived.

B. Christ as King

The royal character of Christ was foretold by the Prophets, announced by the angels, claimed by Christ Himself (Psalm 2:6; Isaiah 9:6-7; Ezekiel 34:23; Jeremiah 23:3-5; Luke 1:32-33; John 18:37). His royal functions are the foundation, the expansion and the final consummation of the kingdom of God among men. The first and last of these acts are personal and visible acts of the king, but the intermediate function is carried out either invisibly, or by Christ's visible agents. The practical working of the kingly office of Christ is described in the treatises on the sources of revelation; on grace, on the Church, on the sacraments, and on the last things.

C. Christ as Priest

The ordinary priest, is made God's own by an accidental unction, Christ is constituted God's own Son by the substantial unction with the Divine nature; the ordinary priest is made holy, though not impeccable, by his consecration, while Christ is separated from all sin and sinners by the hypostatic union; the ordinary priest draws nigh unto God in a very imperfect manner, but Christ is seated at the right hand of the power of God. The Levitical priesthood was temporal, earthly, and carnal in its origin, in its relations to God, in its working, in its power; Christ's priesthood is eternal, heavenly, and spiritual. The victims offered by the ancient priests were either lifeless things or, at best, irrational animals distinct from the person of the offerer; Christ offers a victim included in the person of the offerer. His living human flesh, animated by His rational soul, a real and worthy substitute for mankind, on whose behalf Christ offers the sacrifice. The Aaronic priest inflicted an irreparable death on the victim which his sacrificial intention changed into a religious rite or symbol; in Christ's sacrifice the immutation of the victim is brought about by an internal act of His will (John 10:17), and the victim's death is the source of a new life to himself and to mankind. Besides, Christ's sacrifice, being that of a Divine person, carries its own acceptance with it; it is as much of a gift of God to man, as a sacrifice of man to God.

Hence follows the perfection of the salvation wrought by Christ for mankind. On His part Christ offered to God a satisfaction for man's sin not only sufficient but superabundant (Romans 5:15-20); on God's part supposing, what is contained in the very idea of man's redemption through Christ, that God agreed to accept the work of the Redeemer for the sins of man, He was bound by His promise and His justice to grant the remission of sin to the extent and in the manner intended by Christ. In this way our salvation has won back for us the essential prerogative of the state of original justice, i.e., sanctifying grace while it will restore the minor prerogatives of the Resurrection. At the same time, it does not at once blot out individual sin, but only procures the means thereto, and these means are not restricted only to the predestined or to the faithful, but extend to all men (1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:1-4). Moreover salvation makes us coheirs of Christ (Romans 8:14-17), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; cf. Exodus 19:6), sons of God, temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16), and other Christs--Christianus alter Christus; it perfects the angelical orders, raises the dignity of the material world, and restores all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). By our salvation all things are ours, we are Christ's, and Christ is God's (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).


The Council of Trent describes the process of salvation from sin in the case of an adult with great minuteness (Sess. VI, v-vi).

It begins with the grace of God which touches a sinner's heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the love and mercy of God. Man may receive or reject this inspiration of God, he may turn to God or remain in sin. Grace does not constrain man's free will.

Thus assisted the sinner is disposed for salvation from sin; he believes in the revelation and promises of God, he fears God's justice, hopes in his mercy, trusts that God will be merciful to him for Christ's sake, begins to love God as the source of all justice, hates and detests his sins.

This disposition is followed by justification itself, which consists not in the mere remission of sins, but in the sanctification and renewal of the inner man by the voluntary reception of God's grace and gifts, whence a man becomes just instead of unjust, a friend instead of a foe and so an heir according to hope of eternal life. This change happens either by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance according to the condition of the respective subject laden with sin. The Council further indicates the causes of this change. By the merit of the Most Holy Passion through the Holy Spirit, the charity of God is shed abroad in the hearts of those who are justified.

Against the heretical tenets of various times and sects we must hold

that the initial grace is truly gratuitous and supernatural;

that the human will remains free under the influence of this grace;

that man really cooperates in his personal salvation from sin;

that by justification man is really made just, and not merely declared or reputed so;

that justification and sanctification are only two aspects of the same thing, and not ontologically and chronologically distinct realities;

that justification excludes all mortal sin from the soul, so that the just man is no way liable to the sentence of death at God's judgment-seat.

Other points involved in the foregoing process of personal salvation from sin are matters of discussion among Catholic theologians; such are, for instance,

the precise nature of initial grace,

the manner in which grace and free will work together,

the precise nature of the fear and the love disposing the sinner for justification,

the manner in which sacraments cause sanctifying grace.

But these questions are treated in other articles dealing ex professo with the respective subjects. The same is true of final perseverance without which personal salvation from sin is not permanently secured.

What has been said applies to the salvation of adults; children and those permanently deprived of their use of reason are saved by the Sacrament of Baptism.

Publication information Written by A.J. Maas. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Orthodox Church Information

Salvation is the goal of Christianity, and the purpose of the Church. The theology of salvation is called Soteriology. Orthodox Christianity strongly believes that God became man, so that man may become like God. This concept of theosis, rejects that salvation is a positive result to a legalistic dilemma, but is instead a healing process. Orthodoxy views our inclination to sin as a symptom of a malady that needs treatment, not just a transgression that requires retribution. One of the distinctive characteristics of Orthodox Christian thinking is that it sees the Gospel message not as law, but as relationship. It speaks of the mystery of the Holy Trinity in terms of the relationship of love that exists among them. To join in that love is the work that will lead to salvation.

Salvation history

God created man in his own image and likeness

Man, according to the scriptures, is created in the "likeness" and "image" of God (Gen 1:26-27).

To be like God, through the gift of God, is the essence of man's being and life. In the scriptures it says that God breathed into man, the "breath (or spirit) of life" (Gen 2:7). This teaching has given rise to the understanding in the Orthodox Church that man cannot be truly human, truly himself, without the Spirit of God.

The image of God signifies man's free will, his reason, his sense of moral responsibility, everything, which marks man out from the animal creation and makes him a person. But the image means more than that. It means that we are God's 'offspring' (Acts 27:28), his kin; it means that between us and him there is a point of contact, an essential similarity. The gulf between creature and Creator is not impassable, for because we are in God's image we can know God and have communion with him.

Fall of man

The story of creation, and specifically of Adam and Eve, tells of the goodness of all things that exist, and the superiority of man over other beings. It shows how the origin of evil does not lie in God but in his most perfect creature whose free act of sin brought wickedness and death to the world, how man lost the "likeness" of God, his response to God's love.

The Church teaches that when we do not respond to God's love, we are diminished as human beings. The act of faith that he asks of us is not so very different from the faith and trust we place in those people who surround us. When we do not respond to the love given us by the people who love us, we become shallow and hardened individuals.


Since man still was of God's image, the search for meaning was as critical for human existence as are air and water. Creation itself, as the handiwork of God pointed to him. Yet, before the coming of Christ, the meaning of the world and our place in it remained difficult to understand. People created stories to help themselves explain the great mystery of their own existence, the world around them, and the one who was responsible for bringing them into being. Yet, knowledge of the true God eluded them. The Holy Scriptures speak of this lack of knowledge as darkness. So God sent messengers to speak for him, holy men and women through whom he worked wonders, prophets to announce the coming salvation. Finally, God sent his own Son, Jesus Christ. When he came, the very one who had created the world was now clearly made known to the world, giving light to those who had been sitting in darkness.


But because man fell, the Incarnation is not only an act of love but an act of salvation. Jesus Christ, by uniting man and God in his own person, reopened for man the path to union with God. In his own person Christ showed what the true 'likeness of God' is, and through his redeeming and victorious sacrifice he set that likeness once again within man's reach. Christ, the Second Adam, came to earth and reversed the effects of the first Adam's disobedience.

The Church

Salvation means that the world is not an end in and of itself. It is a reality that points to the larger reality of God's love for us and all that surrounds us. The world, time, history, our very lives are "an epiphany of God, a means of his revelation, presence and power."

God did not abandon his people after Christ's ascension into heaven. His Church, starting on Pentecost, is still with us today.

Final Judgment

Christ will judge all people exclusively on the basis of how they have served him by serving each other, the least of the brethren. This will show how each person loved God and each other. The love for God and the love for man, becoming one and the same love. It is accomplished in Christ and is Christ. To love with this love is to love with the love of Christ and to fulfill his "new commandment" to "love one another even as I have loved you." (John 13:34-35, 15:12) In this is the whole of spiritual life. In this, and this alone, man will be finally judged. It is the crown of all virtue and prayer, the ultimate and most perfect fruit of God's Spirit in man.

The final coming of Christ will be the judgment of all men. His very presence will be the judgment. For those who love the Lord, his presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death.

May they all be one

'May they all be one,' Christ prayed at the Last Supper; "As Thou, Father, art in me and I in Thee, so also may they be in us" (John 17:21). Just as the three persons of the Trinity 'dwell' in one another in an unceasing movement of love, so man, made in the image of the Trinity, is called to 'dwell' in the Trinitarian God.

Outside the Church there is no salvation

Saint Cyprian wrote, 'A man cannot have God as his Father if he does not have the Church as his Mother'. God is salvation, and God's saving power is mediated to man in His Body, the Church. This stated the other way around by Georges Florovsky: 'Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church'.

The Church is the unity of those united with the Trinity. The One Church united as the three persons of Trinity are united. If one in the Church makes proper use of this Church, for communion with God, then he will become 'like' God, he will acquire the divine likeness; in the words of John Damascene, he will be 'assimilated to God through virtue.' To acquire the likeness is to be deified, it is to become a 'god by grace,' [not by nature or essence].

Also, see:

Arising of Jesus

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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