The process of salvation includes three participants: God, man, and Jesus Christ. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Salvation is a matter between the one God in His holiness and love, and the one human race in its sin. It is accomplished through the one, wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Three factors, related to the three participants in salvation, are God's grace, Christ's death, and man's faith. God's grace is the origin of salvation; Christ's death is the basis of salvation; man's faith is the condition of salvation. Accordingly, the Bible teaches that man is saved by God's grace (Eph. 2:8), by Christ's blood (Rev. 5:9), and by man's faith (Acts 16:31).


I. Origin of Salvation

Salvation originates in God's grace. Planned by His wisdom, prompted by His love, and performed through His power, salvation begins in the heart of God. Sinners do not deserve to be saved; they cannot merit salvation. Salvation is a gift of God. Human religions are characterized by man's search for God; the true Christian religion is revealed as God's search for man.

II. Basis of Salvation

Christ's sacrificial death is the basis of salvation. Through the infinite value of His sacrifice, Jesus paid sin's penalty. His death removed the barrier created by man's sin in its relation to God's holiness. It provided a basis whereby God could bestow His blessings of grace upon sinners without violating His own nature of holiness and justice. Jesus is the only Saviour; there is no other way to God. If man is to be saved, he must be saved on the basis of Christ's sacrifice. Apart from His death, there can be no salvation.

III. Condition of Salvation

Man's acceptance of salvation through faith is the condition upon which salvation is bestowed. Salvation can become a reality only when the sinner meets God's requirements. God has provided salvation; man must accept salvation through conversion. Man's acceptance is the condition or instrumental cause of salvation. Man has the responsibility; God receives the glory. Conversion, including repentance, faith, and baptism, is neither the origin nor the basis of salvation. Conversion is not the meritorious basis of salvation; it is the means whereby man accepts God's saving gift.

IV. Conversion Involves Decision

Salvation is dependent upon man's decision to accept God's loving gift. Created in God's image, man has ability to choose; he has been entrusted with power to make decisions. Man's power of decision is one of three elements of personality: intellect, sensibilities, and will. These are three functions of man's mind. Intellect is the mind's ability to know; sensibilities is the mind's ability to feel; will is the mind's ability to choose and act. The power of decision, therefore, is a function of man's will.

Man's will is the controlling element of his personality. His will is the spring of all actions, the governing power of moral nature. Intellect provides the target, sensibilities pull the trigger, but it is the will which shoots the arrow. Man's will is of major importance in conversion.

Christian life begins with a decision. The Lost Son decided, "I will arise and go to my father" (Luke 15:18). Rebecca, consenting to marriage with Isaac, announced, "I will go" (Gen. 24:58). Saul of Tarsus asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). In conversion, the sinner voluntarily surrenders his will to the will of God. He chooses God's choice. He says "yes" to God for eternity.

Man's choice of God's saving gift must be voluntary. Christ stands at the heart's door and knocks, but the locked door can be opened only from within. The sinner must lift the latch and open the door, or the door is never opened. Through infinite love, God inspires the sinner to open the door, to tear down the barricade, and to lift the black iron curtain so that salvation can become a reality in his life.

V. Three Elements of Conversion

The three elements of conversion are repentance, faith, and baptism. They are essential to salvation. Conversion, of course, is not the basis of salvation; it is the condition of salvation. Man cannot earn salvation. Repentance, faith, and baptism do not accumulate merit so that God is obligated to give salvation as payment of a debt. Man cannot experience salvation apart from conversion, but the three elements of conversion in themselves do not save man. Jesus is Saviour; His sacrificial death provides the merit and basis of salvation. Repentance, faith, and baptism are essential conditions for salvation. They are required for salvation because they place the sinner in the proper position so that Jesus can perform His saving work. An illustration of this truth is that a diseased man's visit to a doctor's office may be required for restored health, but it is not the visit itself, it is the doctor who performs the cure.

Repentance, faith, and baptism are closely related. In the Bible, when one element of conversion is mentioned, the other two are included or implied in the context.

Hebrews 6:1, 2







Mark 1:15







Acts 20:21







Mark 16:16







Acts 2:38







Acts 16:31, 33


Washed Stripes





Repentance is turning away from sin; faith is turning toward Christ; baptism is entering into Christ. In one sense, repentance is negative and faith is positive. In repentance, one gets rid of sin; in faith, he receives Christ. In repentance, he says no to the world; in faith, he says yes to Christ. In repentance, one is "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20); in baptism, he is "buried with Christ" (Rom. 6:4) ; through faith, he is "risen with Christ" (Col. 2:12).


VI. Complete Conversion

The sinner's conversion from sin to righteousness and from self to Christ must be complete. It must involve his total life. If repentance and faith are genuine, they will involve all three elements of personality: intellect, sensibilities, and will. Conversion involves a change of thinking, a change of feeling, and a change of purpose in the sinner's life. The relation of repentance and faith to the three elements of personality is pictured in the following chart.




















Trust, Surrender

1. Complete Repentance. True repentance includes recognition of sin, regret for sin, and renunciation of sin. Recognition of sin is related to man's intellect; regret for sin is related to his sensibilities or feelings; renunciation of sin is related to his will or power of decision. Complete repentance, therefore, affects the sinner's total life. The real heart or essence of repentance is renunciation of sin and amendment of life. It is a matter of the will. Recognition of personal sin and heart sorrow for sin do not constitute true repentance unless they lead to the renunciation of sin.

2. Complete Faith. True faith includes belief, confidence, and trust and surrender. Like repentance, faith is related to the three elements of man's personality. Belief is related to man's intellect; confidence is related to man's sensibilities; trust and surrender are related to man's will. Having true faith, the Christian will believe in God, Jesus, and essential truths of the Bible; he will have complete confidence in God and Jesus; he will surrender himself to Christ as Lord and will trust in Christ as Saviour. Belief and confidence must precede trust and surrender. Faith is based upon facts. Alone, however, belief and confidence do not constitute true faith. True faith results in trust and surrender. One might know all facts about Christ and salvation, and he might have complete confidence in Christ's ability to save, but he would not experience that salvation unless he personally went to Christ and surrendered himself entirely into His hands.

VII. Baptism

Baptism is that outward act whereby the believer reveals his obedience to Christ and his desire to enter into the benefits of salvation made possible by Christ's sacrifice. Like repentance and faith, baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21) because it brings us into the required position so that Jesus can save us.

Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water. It symbolizes his belief that Christ has died for his sins, was buried, and rose again. It indicates that the believer has entered into a personal, vital relationship with Christ, and that he has appropriated to himself the benefits of Christ's sacrificial death. Baptism is that symbolic rite wherein the believer pictures the fact that his old life has been counted as dead and buried, and that he has risen to newness of life in Christ. 


(Adapted from Systematic Theology, by Alva Huffer, published by Church of God General Conference, Oregon, Illinois 61061, U.S.A.)

© Church of God General Conference. This lesson may be reproduced without change for non-commercial purposes without prior permission.