Soteriology (Study of Salvation)
Soteriology is the study of the religious doctrines of salvation. As it relates to Christianity, which is what we're discussing, there is some diversity of beliefs. For example, in the Reformed tradition, we play no part in our salvation. They believe God chose some people to go to heaven and most people were chosen to go to hell and there's nothing we can do about it. Personally I believe with most Protestants that we have free will and that we do play a part in our salvation, though God gets all the glory and the faith we exercise ultimately comes from Him. I believe this is clear in the Bible. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, believes you are saved by works and joining their church. They have seven sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders). According to them, these seven were "all instituted by Jesus Christ" and anyone who says different is "anathema" (cursed or damned). I am therefore cursed or damned by the Catholic Church because I believe, as does the true Church, that Jesus didn't require any of these works for salvation, and He only commanded Baptism and Eucharist/Communion. The thief who believed on the cross was never baptized and never had communion, yet Christ said he would go to heaven. Confirmation is purely a Catholic tradition as it is dedicating the person to the Catholic Church. It is therefore not in the Bible and Jesus never dedicated people to any church. Penance (confessing to a priest) is not in the Bible and we are told instead to confess to Jesus Christ who is the only one who can forgive our sins. We are also told in one verse (James 5:16) to confess our sins to each other when the elders of the church are praying and anointing you with oil to be healed (James 5:13-18) but this isn't to be a ritual, alone in a confessional with a priest, etc. Anointing of the sick is a good practice for genuine Christians but it clearly isn't required for salvation in the Bible. Matrimony is clearly not required in the Bible and Paul, in fact, wished the unmarried and widows remained unmarried as he was (1 Corinthians 7:8). Finally, "Holy Orders" (ordination to the various levels of the deaconate and priesthood) are Catholic and the Bible clearly does not require everyone to be a deacon or priest to be saved. The Roman Catholic Church has numerous beliefs which contradict what the Bible says, so I do not consider them a Christian Church. You can get more information on the Roman Catholic Church by doing an Internet search or there are numerous books on this in Christian bookstores.
Soteriology gets a lot more involved that this and unfortunately some people get too focussed on how exactly someone is saved rather than focussing on getting people saved and making disciples. For example, the Reformed minority that believes God chooses and we have no choice often know all the verses they use to support their theology, but they often let that cause division and even get hostile if you disagree and try to show them otherwise.
I believe we need to stay focussed on evangelism and making disciples. As we sow the seed of the Word of God and do our part, others in the body of Christ will do their part, and God will do His part. If the seed takes root, we will naturally see fruit, or the by-products of genuine conversion. I believe once a person is genuinely converted, the Holy Spirit seals them and even though there may be times of backsliding, the Holy Spirit won't leave them. However, if someone appears to have fruit but then leaves the faith, they may have never been genuinely converted and were just a false convert. Ray Comfort has an audio teaching on "True and False Conversion" which you can listen to at http://www.livingwaters.com/audio/way-of-the-master/true-and-false-conversion. I also recommend you listen to "Hell's Best Kept Secret" at http://www.livingwaters.com/audio/way-of-the-master/hells-best-kept-secret.
© Todd Tyszka
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