In many ways, The Baptist Faith and Message progresses along a natural presentation of the gospel. We learn from Scripture that God has created us, but we have all rebelled against Him, and we thus earn His eternal condemnation. The good news is that God graciously saves people from sin, which is the subject of Article IV of Friendship’s statement of faith. “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.”
Salvation as Redemption
The Baptist Faith and Message first describes salvation in terms of redemption. To redeem something is to buy it back. The price of redemption is a ransom. In contemporary culture, we are most familiar with redemption and ransom payments in hostage situations. But Jesus spoke of His own death as “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). As a ransom, Jesus died to pay the price we owed to God for our sin. He took God’s wrath in our place. As Isaiah had prophesied, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him; He has put him to grief,” and Jesus’s death was “an offering for guilt” (Isa 53:10). We have “redemption … in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). And Jesus, who offered Himself as the God-man, gives us “an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). Salvation as redemption, then, encompasses all aspects of salvation that we experience from conversion to eternity: “regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.” (Each of these aspects of salvation will be the subject of future blog posts.)
The Baptist Faith and Message rightly affirms that salvation is “redemption of the whole man.” Jesus died not only to save our souls but also to save our bodies. Salvation will ultimately and perfectly be experienced in the new heavens and new earth, where we Christians will have new, resurrection bodies, like Jesus’s own resurrection body (1 John 3:2). Our statement of faith thus stands in solidarity with the church throughout history. Early church theologians Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Gregory of Nazianzus all taught, “Only that which is assumed is redeemed [or healed].” Since Jesus was fully man, as well as fully God, we ourselves are wholly redeemed in salvation.
Salvation Offered to All
The Baptist Faith and Message also rightly says that salvation should be “offered freely to all.” The Gospel of Matthew concludes,
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
We call this text the Great Commission, and the commission truly is great in its scope. Jesus tells His disciples to “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus is the Redeemer not only of Israel but also of people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). Earlier in Matthew, Jesus had taught that gospel preachers should be indiscriminate with regard to the people whom they evangelize (Matt 13:1-9, 18-23). Even if people will reject the gospel immediately or fall away later (whether in a time of persecution or of prosperity), Christians should tell the good news of Jesus to everyone.
Paul develops this theology of the universal offer of salvation in his magnum opus, Romans. The main point of Romans is that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). The good news of the gospel is that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” (Rom 10:13), as they confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead (Rom 10:9-10). But those who call on Him must believe in Him, and to believe in Him they must hear of Him, and to hear of Him someone must preach Him to them (Rom 10:14). Paul’s own ambition was “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” (Rom 15:20). So it is vital for us Christians to tell the gospel to everyone we can.
For someone to experience the redemption of salvation, though, he must “accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.” Jesus’s death on the cross is the only basis on which anyone is saved. He obtained eternal redemption for believers by His own blood (Acts 20:28; Eph 1:7). Jesus’s atoning death was not potential but actual. He accomplished redemption at the cross, and that redemption is applied without distinction to everyone who believes.
The universal offer of the gospel, then, is based on an exclusive claim: Christ alone gives salvation. He claimed as much in His life (John 10:25–28; 14:6). Peter confessed this truth, as well (Acts 4:8–12). Christ alone saves, but those He saves, He saves eternally.
Salvation truly is the redemption of the whole man. We are wholly redeemed because Jesus the God-Man offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sin on the cross. By His own blood, He redeemed believers from their sin. All who trust in Jesus for salvation are indeed saved by Him. So we Christians are to proclaim this exclusive salvation to everyone we possibly can. We have no way of knowing who will believe and who will reject the gospel. We have no way of knowing if someone after rejecting the gospel for years will later believe in Christ for salvation, possibly even after we have died! We joyfully hold all these biblical truths together. Praise God for the grace He has shown us in saving us from our sins! We’ll continue considering His saving grace over the next many blog posts.