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Salvation Arguments

Part 2: The Salvation Arguments

from Studies in the Atonement by Dr. Robert A. Morey

aving completed our presentation of these foundational principles, we now turn to a setting forth of particular arguments which also establish our doctrine.

Argument 1: Salvation Has One Author: GodBack to top.

No one can really dispute the truth that God alone is the author of salvation in every age. Was it not God who first sought out Adam and Eve after their fall into sin (Gen. 3:1‑14)? Did He not at that time preach the Gospel to them (Gen. 3:15)? Did not God shed the first blood because of man's sin (Gen. 3:21)? Did not Noah and his family escape destruction because he "found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6:8)? Did not Jonah confess "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9)? Did not John record in John 3:16 "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his unique Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life."?

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God alone is the author of salvation regardless of the age. To say that Old Testament saints were saved by their legal obedience to the law is the same as saying that they were the author of their own salvation. No, if a sinner was saved in Old Testament times, it was by the gracious work of God and not by works of righteousness for "a person is not justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 2:16).

Argument 2: Salvation Has One Means of Reception: FaithBack to top.

How did salvation come to the Old Testament saint? Was it earned as Scofield taught? Or, was it received through faith?

In the book of Romans, it is apparent that the Apostle Paul was conscious of the accusation that his gospel was in conflict with the Old Testament Scripture and the Old Testament view of salvation.

The Pharisees thought that they were saved by their own obedience (Lk. 18:11‑14). Thus they complained that Paul's "justification by faith apart from the Law" was unscriptural. They felt that the Gospel was in basic conflict with the Old Testament. It is important to point out at this point that dispensationalism agrees with the Pharisees in their understanding of Old Testament salvation. If Scofield is right, then Paul's gospel is in direct conflict with the Old Testament. Thus Paul was "unscriptural."

Because of the Jewish opposition to the gospel, Paul is careful to quote the Old Testament Scriptures at every point to show that the Gospel is rooted in Old Testament Scripture and experience. Thus in chapter 1, he begins by mentioning the "gospel of God" to emphasize that it is not uniquely Christ's Gospel invented by Him but rather it is God the Father's Gospel as well. Then he begins his emphasis on the Old Testament basis of the Gospel by saying in verse 2,

Which He had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.

The first two verses of Romans are just a beginning of references to the Old Testament. Indeed, Paul quotes from the Old Testament more times in Romans than in any other of his epistles. Romans is Paul's demonstration that the Gospel was preached "through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures" (Rom. 1:2).

In introducing the Gospel of Christ, Paul sets forth his position in verse 16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God's power for the salvation of everyone who believes, of the Jew first and of the Greek as well.

On what grounds does the apostle say that salvation comes to us 'by faith" in verse 16? In verse 17, Paul quotes that Old Testament from Hab. 2:4,

as it is written, "The righteous will live by faith."

Thus Paul sees salvation by faith in Hab. 2:4. Old Testament saints were told in this passage by one of Gods prophets (verse 2) that the way of salvation was faith not works.

After his brief introduction, Paul launches into a full exposition of man's helpless and sinful state by nature. Man is pictured as spiritually unable to do anything for his salvation. It is important to ask, "Does Paul only picture men in his day as being sinners under God's wrath (1:18) or is he speaking of mankind in general, i.e. in every age?"

It is obvious that Paul is speaking of fallen human nature regardless of the age because he bases his teaching concerning God's judgment and man's sinfulness on Old Testament passages (Rom. 2:6; 10‑18). He concludes that man is so sinful that good works are impossible (3:10‑12). He further concludes that works could not save anyone because the Law's function was to reveal sin, not to remove it.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:19, 20)

Having demonstrated for three chapters that "all have sinned and continue to fall short of God's glory" (Rom. 3:23), Paul now turns to the Gospel as the answer to man's needs.

In the Gospel, a righteousness has been provided by the work of Jesus Christ. This righteousness comes to us by faith apart from the works of the law. This is the teaching of the Old Testament as well.

But now, apart from the Law, God's righteousness is revealed and is attested by the law and the Prophets—God's righteousness through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction. (Rom. 3:21‑22)

This righteousness is the imputed righteousness of justification which comes to us by virtue of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ.

By his grace they are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God offered as a place where atonement by Christ's blood could occur through faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because he had waited patiently to deal with sins committed in the past. He wanted to demonstrate at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the person who has the faithfulness of Jesus. (Rom. 3:24‑26).

Now Paul begins to prove that justification through faith was experienced by Old Testament saints as well as being taught by such Old Testament prophets as Habakkuk. His first proof centers on Abraham who represents all the saints who lived before the law was given. How was Abraham saved? Paul; tells us in 4:1‑5,

What, then, are we to say about Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he would have had something to boast about—though not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Now to someone who works, wages are not considered a gift but an obligation. However, to someone who does not work, but simply believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

But what about those who lived after the Law? Were they saved by the works of the Law? No, says Paul. David who lived after the Law represents all who lived after Moses. David was justified through faith alone. Thus Paul states in 4:6‑8,

Likewise, David also speaks of the blessedness of the person whom God regards as righteous apart from works:

How blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven

     and whose sins are covered!

How blessed is the person whose sins

     the Lord will never charge against him!

By quoting from the Law (4:1‑5), the Writings (4:6‑8) and the Prophets (1:17), Paul demonstrates that the entire Old Testament from beginning to end taught the same gospel as he preached, i.e. salvation comes by justification through faith alone. And in case these passages were not enough, Paul even quotes Moses in Rom. 19:5‑9 as preaching the Gospel. And he gives the gospel call to come to Christ by quoting Joel 2:32 in Rom. 10:13. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Since it is clear that Old Testament saints were justified by grace through faith, Paul assumes that they must therefore have the other elements of the application of redemption which he lists in Rom. 8:28‑30,

And we know that he works all things together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Consider Abraham as an example. Was he effectually called? Yes, in Neh. 9:7 and Acts 7:3, 4 we learn that God called Abraham out of idolatry. Was Abraham justified? Yes, in Rom. 4:1‑4 we read of his justification. Will Abraham be glorified? Yes, in Matt. 8:11 Jesus pictures Abraham with the glorified saints.

It is an unavoidable conclusion that if Abraham experienced the salvation described in Rom. 8:30, then he likewise experienced what Paul elsewhere includes in the application of redemption: regeneration, adoption, sanctification, preservation, etc.

All the elements of redemption are necessarily connected to one another. Seeing Abraham was justified, this implies regeneration to produce the justifying faith needed (John 3:3, 5) and adoption as the consequence.

We would further point out that a close study of the book of Galatians will reveal the same teaching of the Apostle Paul: Abraham was saved through believing the Gospel. Old Testament saints were justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.

Yet we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law, for no human being will be justified by the works of the law. (Gal. 2:16). In the same way, Abraham "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

You see, then, that those who have faith are Abraham's real descendants. Because the Scripture saw ahead of time that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, it announced the gospel to Abraham beforehand when it said, "Through you all nations will be blessed." Therefore, those who believe are blessed together with Abraham, the one who believed.

Certainly all who depend on the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, "A curse on everyone who does not obey everything that is written in the book of the law!" Now it is obvious that no one is justified in the sight of God by the law, because "The righteous will live by faith." But the law has nothing to do with faith. Instead, "The person who keeps the commandments will have life in them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written, "A curse on everyone who is hung on a tree!" This happened in order that the blessing promised to Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Gal. 3:6‑14).

But the Scripture has put everything under the power of sin, so that what was promised by the faithfulness of Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:22).

Or again, in Hebrews 11, we are told that the Old Testament saints lived and died through faith. Let us read the story of Moses described as the triumph in Christ.

By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was a beautiful child and were not afraid of the king's order.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh's daughter, because he preferred being mistreated with God's people to enjoying the pleasures of sin for a short time. He thought that being insulted for the sake of Christ was of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

By faith he left Egypt, without being afraid of the king's anger, and he persevered because he saw the one who is invisible.

By faith he established the Passover and the sprinkling of blood to keep the destroyer of the firstborn from touching the people.

By faith they went through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. When the Egyptians tried to do this, they were drowned. (Heb. 11:23‑29).

There is one last argument which can be advanced to demonstrate that there has been and now is only one way of salvation: faith alone. In Romans 3:28, the Apostle concludes his argument which is found verses 21‑27 by saying,

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Having stated his conclusion, he now deals with every important issue in the early church. This issue can be summarized as follows: Given the radical distinction between Jew and Gentile as manifested in the Old Testament, doesn't this imply that the Jew will have a different way of salvation distinct from a Gentile way of salvation? Doesn't the Jew‑Gentile distinction mean two different salvations as well? Maybe the Gentile, who is without the law and covenants, can be saved by faith alone. But the Jew must fulfill Mosaic righteousness as well. The Jew must have works as well as faith. Is this true?

Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

In verse 30, he states that God,

shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Justification comes to Jew and Gentile only "by" or "through" faith. This much is clear. But what we want to point out is the reason Paul advances to prove there is only one way of salvation: by faith alone. The reason is given in the first part of verse 30:

since there is only one God who will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised by that same faith.

The Apostle argues that there is only one way of salvation which is by faith on the grounds that "God is one." Here we find the Apostle arguing from the unchangeable character of God. Because God has only one nature or character which never changes, there can be only one way of salvation for all peoples. Seeing there is only one God, there can be only one way of salvation. The only way to say that there has been or is more than one way of salvation is to imply that there are more gods than one. This is impossible.

Was God "one" in the Old Testament as well as in the New? Yes. Is this one God the same God for both Testaments? Yes. Then the way of salvation by faith must be the only way of salvation in both Testaments. The Old Testament saints were saved by faith apart from the works of the law.

At this point it is crucial to emphasize that the object and character of faith has always been the same throughout all the ages even thou there has been and now are varying degrees of understanding and knowledge in saving faith.

1. The object of faith has always been the same: The Lord Jesus Christ.Back to top.

Some have mistakenly thought the faith in the Old Testament had God the Father as its object while faith in the New Testament has the Son of God as its object. But this assumption does not do justice to the Scripture or to the Lord Jesus.

We firmly believe that Jesus Christ has always been the object of saving faith throughout the centuries. Old Testament saints were saved by believing in Him.

1. Did not the Lord Jesus exist from all eternity before His incarnation (John 1:1‑18)?

2. Was it not the pre‑incarnate Christ who walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden and preached the Gospel to them (Gen. 3:1‑15)?

3. Did not the pre‑incarnate Christ appear in human form to Abraham and promise him a son (Gen. 18:13, 17‑33 of John 8:56‑58)?

4. Did not the pre‑incarnate Christ appear in human form and wrestle with Jacob and bless him (Gen. 32:24)?

5. Did not Moses meet and believe in the pre‑incarnate Christ (Ex. 3:3‑6, 14 of John 8:58; Heb. 11:24‑27)?

6. Did not David exhort all to trust in the Son of God (Psa. 2:11, 2)?

7. Is it not true that the Lord Jesus is pictured as the Savior in Psa. 22, the Shepherd in Psa. 23 and the Sovereign in Psa. 24 (John 10)?

8. Is it not true that the Jehovah of the Old Testament in many instances is the Jesus of the New?

9. Are not we explicitly told that Old Testament saints trusted in Christ and received life from Him (I Cor. 10:4)?

10. Did not Abraham hear of Christ in the Gospel message which we heard from Christ (Gal. 3:8, 16)?

11. Did not the Old Testament prophets speak about Christ “by the spirit of Christ which was in them” (I Pet. 1:11)?

12. Did not Agur in Prov. 30:4 reveal that he knew of the Son of God?

13. Does not Heb. 4:2 explicitly state that Israel heard the gospel during the wilderness wanderings but that it did not profit them “not being mixed with faith” (4:2 cf. 3:16‑19)?

The Old Testament saints believed in the pre‑incarnate Christ. No one can read such passages as Psa. 2 without coming to this conclusion.

2. The character of faith has always been the same.Back to top.

Again, some people mistakenly think that Old Testament saints were saved by looking forward to the coming of Christ as we are saved by looking back to the work of Christ. But again we cannot agree with this notion.

1. Saving faith has as it object the person of Christ who accomplished redemption. Faith does not have as its sole or chief object the work of Christ. After all, where do we ever read in the Bible “Believe that Christ died for you”? We are told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31).

2. We are not saved by looking back to the work of Christ. We are saved by looking up, believing and calling upon His name for salvation (Rom. 10: 13). Saving faith is always a personal and immediate closing with Christ or coming to Christ (Matt. 11:28).

We must conclude that Old Testament saints were not saved by looking forward to the work of Christ. They were saved by looking up in present‑tense faith to Jehovah Jesus. Here are a few of the Old Testament. invitations to faith which emphasize this truth.

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else (Isa. 45;22).

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isa 55:1).

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isa. 1:18).

Be wise now therefore, 0 ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him (Psa. 2:10‑12).

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass (Psa. 37:5).

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Prov. 3:5, 6).

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call (Joel 2:32).

3. We must make the distinction between the quality of faith and the degrees of understanding faith.

The quality of the faith of Old Testament saints was equal to or, in some cases, greater than the faith of most New Testament believers.

The faith of Old Testament believers was personal, vibrant, strong and triumphant. For this reason the New Testament writers could put forth the Old Testament saints as the Christian’s example of triumphant, conquering, and persevering faith (see Heb. 11). Some of the saints were called upon to do great works. They accomplished them through their mighty faith.

But to say that the quality of the faith of Old Testament saints was equal to or greater than faith today is not the same as saying that their faith had the same content. They knew so little compared to what we know today. They lived in the shadows of the cross. They did not understand Christ's propitiatory death (I Pet. 1:9‑12). Thus their appeal for divine forgiveness was based on God’s merciful attributes instead of the blood of Christ (Psa. 51 cf. I John 1:7‑2:2). Their faith was simply that God was merciful and He would take care of the sin problem somehow.

An illustration of the difference between the quality of faith and understanding in faith can be drawn from the present conversion experience of sinners. If you, as the reader, have seen saved by God’s grace, perhaps you can answer these questions based on your experience.

1. How much do you know today of Christ as compared with what you knew of Him at conversion?

2. Is it not true that you have grown in your understanding?

3. Do you feel that you knew so little of the riches of God in Christ Jesus when at first you believed?

4. But is it not the case with some of you, that while your understanding has increased, the quality of your faith has decreased? Your heart has grown cold even though your knowledge has increased? Do you miss the vitality, zeal, and warmth of your first love? Others of you can humbly confess that the quality of your faith has increased along with your knowledge. To Him alone belongs the glory for this singular mercy.

5. Was this not the case with Old Testament believers? We confess, "How little they knew." But we also urge, "How mightily they believed." In the words of Hebrews 11:32‑38,

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, received promises, shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped death by the sword, found strength in weakness, became powerful in battle, and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead through a resurrection. Others were brutally tortured but refused to accept release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Still others endured taunts and floggings, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, sawed in half, and killed with swords. They went around in sheepskins and goatskins. They were needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world wasn't worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.

If any doubt remains concerning the quality of the faith of Old Testament saints, we would suggest spending time in the book of Psalms. There you will find Psalms which parallel every experience in the Christian life. Your heart cannot but pray these inspired prayers and praise. You will feel one with the Psalmist in his devotions.

If you read the Psalms regularly or any portion of the Old Testament, you will have to confess, "Oh, that my faith was as strong vital and warm as theirs."

Argument 3: Salvation has only one basis: The work of Jesus Christ.Back to top.

We have already demonstrated that Old Testament saints were justified through faith apart from the works of the Law. But we must ask, "On what grounds or basis were they justified?"

The Apostle Paul answers this question in Romans 3:24‑26,

By his grace they are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God offered as a place where atonement by Christ's blood could occur through faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because he had waited patiently to deal with sins committed in the past. He wanted to demonstrate at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the person who has the faithfulness of Jesus.

Justification comes to a sinner by grace. It cannot be earned as Paul pointed this out particularly when discussing Abraham's justification in Romans 4:4, 5,

Now to someone who works, wages are not considered a gift but an obligation. However, to someone who does not work, but simply believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Elsewhere, the Apostle establishes the truth that grace and works can never be mixed together.

But if this is by grace, then it is no longer on the basis of works. Otherwise, grace would no longer be grace. (Rom. 11:6).

But on what basis is grace given to justify the ungodly? It is on the basis of "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). How and in what way the work of Christ is imputed to us has already been discussed in the chapter dealing with justification. Therefore, it is sufficient to say that the only way for sinners to be saved in any age is through the grace which flows out of the saving work of Christ.

Argument 4: Salvation has essentially one content.Back to top.

Have we not already virtually proven this proposition? Old Testament saints must necessarily receive and experience essentially the same salvation which is offered in the Gospel because of:

(1)   the unchangeable character of God

(2)   the eternity of the cross

(3)   the depravity of man

(4)   the unity of the Testaments; and because

(5)   Salvation has only one Author: God

(6)   There is only one way of salvation: faith

(7)   Salvation has only one basis: grace through Christ.

Seeing there is only one Savior, and only one way of salvation there can be but one salvation. The fact that Paul taught the Old Testament saints were justified by grace through faith on the basis of Christ's work, is sufficient grounds to see them receive the rest of the application of salvation.

But we must carefully point out that we said that Old Testament saints "essentially" possessed the same salvation. "Essentially" is not the same as "Exactly" or "Completely."

The age of the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant in many ways. Read the book of Hebrews where there is a full display of the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old. Therefore, we would naturally assume that New Covenant salvation must be superior over Old Covenant salvation. And, indeed, it is.

But, at this point, we must make the distinction between the experience of salvation itself and the believer's enjoyment of it and assurance about it. Essentially, salvation is the same in all ages. But until Christ came, there could not be a full enjoyment or assurance of one's full salvation.

The Old Testament saints did not possess the light of the New Testament. Their conscience was never at rest not knowing of the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God. That this is true is seen in Hebrews 10:1‑25 where we read,

For the law, being only a reflection of the blessings to come and not their substance, can never, by the same sacrifices repeatedly offered year after year, make those who come near perfect. Otherwise, would they not have stopped offering them, because the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer be aware of any sins? Instead, through those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year, for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said,

      "You did not want sacrifices and offerings,

but you prepared a body for me.

        In burnt offerings and sin offerings

you never took delight.

        Then I said, 'See, I have come to do your will, O God'

(in the scroll of the Book this is written about me)."

In this passage he says, "You never wanted or took delight in sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings, and sin offerings," which are offered according to the law. Then he says, "See, I have come to do your will." He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By his will we have been sanctified once for all through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ.

Day after day every priest stands and repeatedly offers the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, "he sat down at the right hand of God." Since that time, he has been waiting for his enemies to be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The Holy Spirit also assures us of this. For he said,

        "This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, declares the Lord:

      I will put my laws in their hearts

and will write them on their minds,"

and,

      "I will never again remember their sins

and their lawless deeds."

Now where there is forgiveness of these sins, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, my brothers, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the household of God, let us continue to come near with sincere hearts in full assurance of faith, because our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us continue to hold firmly to the hope that we confess without wavering, for the one who made the promise is faithful. And let us continue to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day coming nearer.

In this passage, we are told that the Old Testament saint did not have a conscience liberated from being smitten by sin because: (1) he did not know of Christ's death and (2) the need for continual animal sacrifices.

But we who live after Christ know that His sacrifice was final and efficacious (vs. 10, 12), and thus a new and living way is opened for us (v. 12) so that we may have boldness to enter into God's presence without fear through the saving work of Christ (v. 19).

Old Testament believers did not have the enjoyment and assurance of salvation which is possible for the New Testament believer. They had essentially the same salvation as we do but they could not understand, enjoy or gain much assurance from it. This is the area where the superiority of New Covenant salvation outshines Old Testament revelation.

In conclusion, salvation is one in author, means, basis, and essential content. In every age sinners have been justified by grace through faith on the basis of Christ's work. In the Old Testament as in the New Testament,

"Salvation is of the Lord."

Foundation Principles Salvation Arguments Answering Questions Knowing You Are Saved

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