This is a review of the book titled “From Death to Life: How Salvation Works” by Pastor Allen S. Nelson IV. I do not know what possessed me to take this on or how I convinced myself that I was skilled enough to write a review, but here we are. As I began to read this book I quickly realized that I might have bitten off way more than I can chew. For a book that is only 200 pages long, it is packed full of many truths regarding Soteriology. I’ll attempt to give this well-written book the review that it deserves.
Soteriology is the study of salvation and in this book Pastor Nelson suggests that a major reason for some of the problems today is due to a lack of understanding salvation. Because of this, many churches are filled with false converts who believe themselves to be true Christians. Pastor Nelson assumes “over 75% of the population claim to be Christians”, at least in the ‘Bible Belt’ of the U.S. [pg. 8]. The source behind these nominal Christians is that the majority of churches are primarily numbers driven and they’re using all types of enticing methods to “make Christianity relevant [pg. 9].”
The mission to share the truth of the Gospel and lead them to Christ, properly and honestly, has taken a backseat to getting people in the church and on ‘the list’. This all goes back to the false concepts surrounding how salvation works. After setting the scene for the importance of understanding soteriology, Pastor Nelson spends most of the book diving into how salvation works. He breaks it down into five main points, and offers the efforts necessary by both God and people during the process. He does this masterfully while holding to the traditional reformed view, being certain to point out mankind’s limitations, due to the Fall. “God is totally sovereign over salvation, and we are totally responsible [pg. 82].”
The first main point is the sharing of the good news in light of the bad news. The Gospel is more fully realized when it is given with a backdrop of the bad news. Paul, in the early chapters of Romans, does that very thing as he paints for us what seems a very hopeless situation for mankind. We are all sinners and as Pastor Nelson states “Because God is good, He has a holy and righteous hatred toward sin [pg. 29]” Yet the next two words, which Pastor Nelson mentions several times, give us great comfort, “But God…” (Ephesians 2:4, Romans 5:8) “…In His infinite wisdom, He devised a plan in eternity past that would uphold His justice while also displaying His grace [pg. 31].” This is good news indeed!
The next main point is the change in the condition of the heart, from stone to flesh. This is an incredibly important step in salvation, as it is the beginning of one moving from death to life. The hearing of the Gospel, through the working of the Holy Spirit, has a profound affect on the new believer. Without this change of heart, brought about by God, there is no proper response to the Gospel other than total rejection [pg. 52]. This is the point where God draws one to Him, convicting them of their sin, and their need for Christ. This “is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. It is a literal change of heart [pg. 53].
The third main point is the proper response to the Gospel. This section delicately handles the responsibilities of men as they respond with fresh eyes and a new heart. That is the exercising of ones faith in coming to Christ and the repentance of sin. Ordinarily, on our own accord, we wouldn’t truly submit to Christ or admit and repent of our sins. Yet for those who have been made spiritually alive, “God [has given them] the will to turn to Him [pg. 82]” and a “true desire expressed to God to be forgiven of sins and live under the Lordship of Christ [pg. 83].”
The next main point is an exchange that makes the sinner justified before God. At the moment when one’s heart is changed and one comes to Christ in faith they are justified. Justification “is a legal declaration by which God credits the sinner with all the perfect work Jesus did [pg. 92]…”. So it is not enough that “we are saved by God, through faith alone, in Christ alone [pg. 75]…”, but we are also made righteous (a righteousness not our own) in order to meet “The requirement to stand before a Holy God [pg. 93]…” Otherwise, we’d fail by way of our own sin stained deeds.
The final main point is the life long process where one who is in Christ grows in Him. This is known as sanctification, and it is the work of the Spirit to move us closer to being Christlike as we are convicted to do as the Bible commands and bear fruit. “When someone says they love Jesus, we have a biblical expectation that their actions will match their profession over time [pg. 117].” That is to say that a Christian’s lifestyle should reflect, albeit imperfectly, one who has been changed by the life altering power of God. “None of us will ever come anywhere close to perfection [pg. 118]” and yet we’ll not be as we were before, living in unrepentant sin.
Pastor Nelson spends the last couple chapters formulating a conclusion of the book. He expresses the importance of properly sharing the gospel, urging one to come to Christ but not in a way that pressures a false conversion, and to be certain of ones own salvation by the changes in affections, actions, and attitudes. How salvation works is an important doctrine for the Christian believer. Having an accurate understanding influences ones worship and, as Pastor Nelson puts it, having “a biblical understanding of how salvation works helps us persevere in proclaiming the good news [pg. 146].”
Pastor Nelson has given a fair and accurate treatment to the concepts of soteriology. This book reads fast and is easy to understand. I also found that this book is absolutely necessary in our day. When more and more church leaders are devising ways to ‘reach the lost’, this book urges us to go back to the basics, to rightly profess the truth, and to trust God to bring His people unto Him. If we did “we would see dramatic changes in the church today [pg. 5]…” I highly recommend this book for the new and seasoned Christian alike.