Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. How we are saved from our sins so that we can have a relationship with a holy God is an important matter to understand. This doctrine has caused many a debate down through the years, including the order of events in salvation. There is also the debate of who does what in salvation. What does the Bible teach about salvation?
We know from Ephesians (and other Bible passages) that we are saved by faith and not by works. Nothing that we have done or could ever do is enough to merit our salvation. Yet because of our sin, we cannot have a relationship with a holy God. God provided a way for us to be saved by sending His own Son, Jesus Christ, as a human to live a perfect life and to die in our place, taking on the penalty of our sins to himself. When we acknowledge our sin, repenting and turning in faith to Jesus as our only Savior, God grants us salvation. One of the theological terms used for this is justification – which means that God declares us righteous. Though in reality we still sin, Jesus paid the penalty for that sin and His righteousness is credited to us so that we can have a relationship with a holy God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Other aspects in the theology of salvation include regeneration, which is the Holy Spirit awakening us to the realization that we are sinful and need Jesus to save us. Upon salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells us, which Ephesians 1 tells us is a seal to guarantee our salvation. While justification, being declared righteous by God and granted eternal life through Jesus Christ, is a one time thing, our salvation then is worked out through what is called sanctification. God doesn’t just leave us as we are when we get saved. Rather He works in us through His Word and the Holy Spirit to make us holy, sanctifying or setting us apart as His children. While salvation is not by works, it is evidenced through the works that result afterwards in our lives as we grow to become more like Christ.