Every Christian faith persuasion has its own doctrine about salvation. It is important to learn how other faiths teach that people come to individual salvation. We will give their faith persuasion because you will not be informed properly unless you understand the process in churches around you. Remember, we are all using the same Bible, and we all believe salvation comes through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Below is a simplified explanation of the salvation process. The person walking down the aisle toward the pastor to accept Christ most likely has no idea of the theological complexities of each faith denomination, and truthfully they don’t have to know anything except that are responding to the desire within themselves to be saved. At this point in their lives they probably have no idea what living for Christ means, and certainly have not formed deep theological expressions of faith.
Churches of Christ believe that individuals make their profession of faith, and that they must be baptized in order for salvation to be complete. Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists baptize infants in the trust that those babies and children will later make their decision in confirmation classes or through life decisions.
United Pentecostals believe that people are not saved unless he or she speaks in tongues, and is baptized, and, as expressed above, they also believe that the promise in Acts 2:38 means that if a person is baptized in Jesus’ name, he or she will be saved at a later time. Assemblies of God rose out of the United Pentecostal faith, believing that when a person is saved, they are sanctified, but do not have to speak in tongues in order to be saved, even though speaking in tongues is common among them.
Presbyterians follow John Calvin (1564) with one of the strangest salvation process of them all. Calvinists believe that God allows certain people to call on Him and be saved. “Calvin defines predestination as ‘God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each [person]. For … eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.’ So predestination is an act of God’s will through which God elects or chooses those whom God calls to faith and thus to eternal life, and through which God chooses those who will not receive faith. Other theologians have seen in predestination only a positive calling to eternal life. Still others have seen it as God’s foreknowledge of who would choose faith.” You can see from this statement by John Calvin that he actually says that God creates certain people to be damned to hell. What kind of God is that?
Others believe that salvation is a process and that you are not actually saved until you die. Catholics believe in a purgatory where salvation can be delayed until certain conditions are met.
Generally baptism follows a personal decision to follow Christ, or in the case of some faiths such as United Pentecost, adult baptism can be performed before salvation with the assurance that salvation will happen. They also baptize in Jesus’ name, rather than in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as most churches baptize. Some faiths believe that salvation is a two-step process, and is not complete until the person is baptized. Some faiths baptize both infants and adults. Most faiths, Baptists included, baptize very young children.
All those faiths will baptize adults after the adult has expressed a belief in Jesus Christ as savior.
Some Christian faiths believe salvation can be lost, and if a person falls from grace, that person must be saved again. Relatively few people feel the need to be saved again, so even if it is a church’s official doctrine, few practice it.
In the next post we will discuss what salvation means to Southern Baptists.