Afterlife and Salvation
Written by: David Buschart
The basic contours of the predominant Baptist view of salvation and the afterlife are consistent with that of many Protestant Christian traditions, particularly non-sacramental traditions. In sum, Baptists believe that because of their sinful state, all human beings stand in need of salvation, and God's gracious provision for this consists in the life and work of Jesus Christ. People who do not trust in Christ will enter into eternal condemnation; people who trust in Christ for salvation will enter into the loving presence of God for all eternity.
There is some diversity of views among Baptists regarding the details of the "fallen" state of human beings and its implications for the precise process of salvation. All agree that humanity was originally created good, but that the human race has fallen into a state of sinful corruption. Some (Arminian-oriented) Baptists believe more strongly in freedom of will in choosing to believe in Jesus; others (Calvinist-oriented) believe that the fall corrupted the human capacity to choose faith and must receive faith as a gift of God. Baptists agree and emphasize, however, that, whatever the details of the process, individual persons must place trusting faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
This is one of the points at which the non-sacramental character of the Baptist tradition is highlighted, and that locates Baptists within a cluster of Christian traditions sometimes referred to as the "Believers' Church" traditions. (Other Believers' Church traditions include, for example, Mennonites, Brethren, and denominations like the Evangelical Free Church of America.) As this "Believers'" label suggests, these are traditions that emphasize the importance--indeed, the necessity--of conscious personal belief and faith on the part of individual persons.
According to this view, salvation is not received via (supposed) sacraments (most notably, baptism), but rather is the result of individual persons knowingly, intentionally entrusting themselves to Jesus Christ for salvation. This comes about as a result of reading or hearing the biblical message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (referred to in sum as "the Gospel" or "the Good News"), combined with the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the truth of this message to bear upon the mind, heart, and will of the individual. (For some oft-cited passages on this process, see Romans 3:22-26; 10:9-15; and 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.)
The response that leads to salvation is a response of repentance and faith (thus, sometimes referred to as "saving faith"). Repentance entails recognizing that one is a sinner, and thereby in need of the salvation that only God in Christ can provide. Faith entails entrusting one's salvation to the person and work of Jesus Christ, hence, synonymous with phrases such as "personal faith in Jesus" or "believing in Jesus." Again, Arminian Baptists and Calvinist Baptists differ in their understandings of the precise process and sequence by which this takes place, but they share the belief that this repentant faith is necessary for salvation.