On Salvation and Sanctification
Central Baptist Theological Seminary Faculty
The faculty of Central Baptist Theological Seminary affirms that salvation is found only in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by virtue of His unique personhood, sacrificial death, and subsequent resurrection is the only one who possesses authority to save. The salvation of any soul is an assertion of Christ’s authority or lordship over sin and death. Therefore, we hold that the acceptance of Jesus as Savior implies the acceptance of His authority as Lord. No person can turn to Jesus as Savior while denying Him as Lord. The rejection of Christ as either Lord or Savior is wholly incommensurate with saving faith.
At the same time, we recognize that implicit truth is not always explicitly recognized. Sinners who turn to Christ for salvation do vary in the extent to which they overtly and explicitly recognize His lordship. Certainly no believers immediately understand all the implications of their acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord. As believers advance in this understanding, the lordship of Christ must be increasingly worked out in their individual lives. We all believe that repentance is a necessary component of saving faith. The intellect, the will, and ordinate affections are integrally related to true repentance and saving faith. Therefore, we find intolerable those approaches to evangelism which minimize any of the three, for example: easy-believism, pragmatism, and revivalism. We also reject any understanding of repentance that makes salvation a reward for virtues that people might produce in their own character or conduct.
We affirm that salvation is the work of God wholly and completely. Humans contribute nothing to the process and can only believe as they receive the grace of God to do so. Apart from that grace, humans cannot believe because they are thoroughly sinful. People are naturally at enmity with God and resist Him at every turn. Therefore God, for reasons completely of His own determination, chooses and draws those whom He saves.
Since God commands all people everywhere to repent, we all believe that the offer of the gospel should be extended to all. Some of us believe that Christ has provided the benefits of salvation for all people, while others believe these benefits may have been secured only for those whom God intends to save. Also, some of us believe that God selected individuals for salvation without condition in eternity past, while others understand God’s choice as either corporate or conditioned on His eternal prescience. Each of these views admits a gracious working by God in those who ultimately respond to the gospel in faith. This gracious work is different in character than any work performed by God in the hearts of those who ultimately reject Christ.
We believe that regeneration establishes permanent membership in the family of God. Some of us believe that regeneration is also the work of God that makes human faith possible, while others of us (not denying that such a work must occur) affirm that regeneration is the result of saving faith. For the regenerate, ultimate denial of the faith is not possible. The regenerate, therefore, will maintain their profession of faith in Christ alone without exception and without end.
We all believe that new life is imparted to every believer at regeneration. Sharing in the life of Christ is intrinsic to the Christian experience. Every believer, therefore, will manifest outwardly this new life in Christ to some extent. The absence of any visible manifestation of new life indicates the absence of regeneration and, hence, the absence of saving faith.
We all affirm that God works over time to conform each believer to the image of His Son. We deny that this transformation will ever produce perfect conformity during the believer’s earthly life. We hold a variety of understandings about the immediacy of the visible manifestations of new life, the extent to which this life must be evidenced, and the degree to which lapses in visible growth might occur. We likewise hold various understandings as to whether post-conversion decisions of dedication or surrender are necessary mechanisms by which spiritual growth is initiated, advanced, or sustained.
We all affirm that believers can and do sin. Sinning believers need confession (which entails repentance), forgiveness, and a restoration of broken fellowship with God. We agree that a professing believer may be carnal, but we give different answers to the question of whether a believer can live in an extended state of carnality. We agree that God can and does discipline sinning believers up to, and sometimes including, physical death.