Survey in Basic Christianity
Appendix A
Terminology of Salvation

O.J. Gibson

1. Regeneration

The word regeneration means a birth again or to be born again. Spiritual life for every believer begins with the new birth (John 3:3-8). When God imparts divine life, God’s Holy Spirit enters the believer’s body (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Peter 1:4). This miraculous transformation is the Holy Spirit’s work (John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5), which occurs when a person hears God’s word and responds to Him by believing the truth (Romans 10:17; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:23). The new birth brings us into the family of God where God becomes our Father (1 Peter 1:3; cf. Romans 8:14-15), we become the children of God (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:26), “and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

2. Reconciliation

Man is born separated from God. Reconciliation brings together those who are separated from one another (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). By Christ’s death on the cross, God has removed the sin that was the cause of separation. When a person trusts in Jesus Christ as his Savior, he is no longer alienated from God but is at peace with God. In this verse, the idea of reconciliation is for an enemy to put down his weapons of rebellion and gain an offended King’s pardon.

3. Redemption

The word redemption means to purchase something or someone at a price freely paid (Revelation 5:9). The price paid was the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9). Redemption also means complete deliverance of the soul from sin’s penalty (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12) and the body from the grave (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14; 4:30; Philippians 3:20-21). Believers were once the slaves of sin and uncleanness (Romans 6:17-20). They were under the curse of the law’s terrible judgment (Galatians 3:13; 4:5) and in fear of impending death (Hebrews 2:15). They were subject to Satan’s power (Colossians 1:13; 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15). Now we have been made free in Christ (John 8:36) because He has paid the price with His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). The book of Ruth is the story of redemption. The redeemer must be a near kinsman, able to redeem, be willing to redeem, and free to redeem (not needing redemption himself). Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer.

4. Atonement

The word atonement is used only in the Old Testament. Its primary meaning is “to cover.” Millions of animal sacrifices were offered to God, according to His commandment. The offerings made atonement (Leviticus 5:10), which means that the innocent victim’s death covered the sin but did not take it away (Hebrews 10:4). The offerings illustrated the necessity of a blood sacrifice for sin. The Jewish Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:33-34), today called Yom Kippur, is an example of the Old Testament use of the word. The offerings continued until God found complete satisfaction in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, whose death satisfied God’s claims of justice because of our sin (Hebrews 10:12). John the Baptist publicly proclaimed Jesus to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, emphasis added). No longer would sin merely be covered; it would be removed, never to be remembered again (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25).

We do not find the word atonement in the New Testament because Jesus did not simply cover sin but put it away forever (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:26; 10:8-10, 18). Unfortunately, some Christian teachers and songwriters use the word atonement, but it does not belong in a New Testament setting. Jesus did not “cover” our sins, He took them away forever, and God reconciles us to Himself. Jesus did what the Old Testament sacrifices could not do (Colossians 1:19-22) (See also “propitiation”).

5. Justification

Justification is a divine act whereby a holy God declares that the sinner who believes in Christ is now righteous before Him and acquits him from all charges. A sinner has no merit of his own, but God justifies him “freely” by His grace (Romans 3:24). One should note that this is a declaration of God, not an experiential thing (Romans 4:4-5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:11). Justification is by God (Romans 8:33), grace (Romans 3:24), blood (Romans 5:9), power (Romans 4:24-25), and faith (Romans 5:1). Justification by works, referred to by James (James 2:14-24), demonstrates the reality of faith already possessed. This is not a justification that leads to salvation but an outward display of faith in action following salvation.

6. Imputation

The word imputation means “to reckon” or “to put to one’s account” by a judicial act of God. Adam’s sin was imputed to the human race – When Adam sinned, his sin was imputed to the entire human race. All future humans were “in Adam” (in seed form), and he acted as our representative. When Adam sinned – we sinned. And his sin was imputed to us (put to our account). His sin brought death, judgment, and condemnation to the entire human race (Romans 5:12-14, 18).

Our sins were imputed to Christ at His death – God put our sins upon Christ at the cross, not imputing our trespasses to us (2 Corinthians 5:19), but to Him (Isaiah 53:5-6, 11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). We deserved to die, but He died and paid for the sins on our account.

God’s righteousness is imputed to believers – All believers are “in Christ,” and Jesus acted as our representative on the cross. “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s righteousness is imputed to believers. Christ’s death brought the free gift of eternal life, justification, abundant grace, and the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:15-21; 8:1). This righteousness is what makes a believer acceptable in God’s presence. Paul writes, “That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).

7. Mediator

A mediator is needed to bring together two people in conflict with each other. Sin has set mankind at odds with a holy God, and we need a middle-man to bring us together. To fulfill this role, the Mediator must be both God and sinless man (otherwise, He would also be in conflict with God). Such a mediator excludes all other men. But “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5; cf. Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).

8. Propitiation

The word is related to “mercy” or “mercy seat,” which was the place where the sacrificial blood was sprinkled before God in the Old Testament sanctuary (Romans 3:24-25; Hebrews 9:5-7; 1 John 4:10). Through Christ’s work, God has become favorable toward us. Jesus satisfied the claims of justice against us, restored our relationship with God, freed us from guilt, and removed every barrier to fellowship with Him. The man who prayed the sinner’s prayer cried, “God, be merciful [propitious] to me” (Luke 18:13). The answer for everyone who prays that prayer is, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

9. Sanctification

Believers are sanctified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18). “Sanctify” means “to set apart” (1) from the defiling and sinful elements of this life and (2) to the sacred purposes of God. There are three aspects of sanctification for believers:
a. Positional Sanctification – God places all believers in Christ, and they are called saints (Colossians 1:12) and holy (Hebrews 3:1). They are now forever sanctified (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:10; Jude 1).
b. Practical Sanctification – The Holy Spirit continues a sanctifying work in believers’ lives. We are holy as far as our position is concerned, but in our practice, He calls us to “be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15-16). He says we are saints but instructs us to live in such a way “as is fitting for saints” (Ephesians 5:3-7). Practical sanctification comes as a result of committing ourselves daily to God (Romans 12:1), turning from sin (1 John 2:1), and living for God (Romans 12:2).
c. Perfect Sanctification – By God’s grace, every child of His will be perfectly sanctified in heaven. “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), and we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). We will be presented to Christ “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that [we] should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). He “is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).