A friend of mine, Tyler Williamson, recently contacted me with a fantastic question about the role of the Holy Spirit leading people to salvation. In my experience, I have discovered that many others have similar questions. So, with his permission, I thought I’d share our informal internet conversation.
Now certainly the Holy Spirit’s role of in salvation is a huge topic; but given the context of his question, my response more narrowly addressed the Holy Spirit’s work in what is called effectual calling and briefly touched on the Spirit’s related work of regeneration. (If the answer I provide is not as direct as you may like, please bear in mind that this was an informal conversation.)
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Christian Tyler Williamson: The Holy Spirit–integral to the relationship of the believer with Christ. Many people talk of free will; many people talk of predestination. What do you believe is the role of the Holy Spirit in the salvation process? Detailed (as you typically are) would be great.
Me: The Bible speaks much of the Holy Spirit’s work of drawing individuals to faith in Christ. This is what theologians call the doctrine of “calling.”
An Introductory Biblical Theology of Regeneration as it Pertains to a Proper Understanding of Inaugurated Eschatology
In contrast to systematic theology, a discipline that tackles doctrines in a neat, organized, systematic, and generally atemporal fashion, Biblical theology seeks to examine Biblical themes through the lens of progressive revelation, that is, in light of scripture’s metanarrative or unfolding plotline. Biblically theology deliberately makes temporal sequence (time development) and Scripture’s broad storyline the grid through which theology, doctrines, and themes are studied and investigated.
The following post will seek to provide an introduction to a Biblical theology on regeneration as it pertains to a proper understanding of inaugurated (already initiated) eschatology (pertaining to “last things”).
If that sounds confusing, that’s okay; it’ll all makes sense in just a bit.
In contemporary Christianity it is very common to hear that someone “got saved” or to have someone tell you that they were “saved” at such and such a time. But beyond that, the concept of “salvation” remains dormant. I believe this stems from a misunderstanding of salvation, that is, salvation in its entirety.
Now, it is true that many believers can point back to a specific moment of turning from sin towards initial trust in Christ for salvation. In theology we call this moment conversion and it is also the moment we are regenerated (given spiritual birth and life) and justified (counted as righteous before God). In this sense, then, we can rightly say that we were saved upon our conversion. But the idea of “salvation” is Biblically and theologically much more comprehensive than just that one precise moment.
Before I can present to you my eight cautions for teaching people to pray a prayer to be saved, we must first set the basis of how one is actually saved.
In Ephesians 2:8 Paul states that one is saved by grace (God’s unmerited favor) through faith (belief, trust). The question is, faith in what? One must believe the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul states that the Gospel, the good news, is “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (v. 3-4). In other words, one is saved by grace through truly believing that Christ died for His sins, was buried, and literally rose to life on the third day.
Now that we have formed a rather summary basis of how scripture states one is saved, let’s take a look at eight reasons why we shouldn’t teach people to pray a prayer to be saved.