Where Grace Abounds

Blog December 20, 2023

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:18-21 ESV).

The 2017–18 Global Church Member Survey shows that there is a distinct tendency for certain geo-cultural regions to believe more strongly that we must perfect ourselves before we can be saved. This correlation can be linked to areas where basic human needs are not being met, including limited economic opportunities, limited access to education, higher rates of crime and violence, and poor health. These areas include much of Africa, South America, the South Pacific, and, to some extent, parts of the former Soviet Union.

The survey asked several questions relating to members’ understanding of salvation. When asked whether they agreed with the statement “I am saved the moment I believe and accept what Jesus has done for me,” 90% of members worldwide agreed. Only 4.6% disagreed, while 5.4% were unsure.

When the data was cross-tabulated by Division, church members’ agreement to one or another degree was overwhelming with the lowest combined agreement (75%) in the Southern Asia Division, followed by the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (79%).

However, when asked more specific questions about what is necessary for salvation, answers varied more sharply.

When asked whether they agree that “Every person is born with tendencies toward evil,” 21.6% of members disagreed, indicating that they believed that it was possible to overcome sin without Christ’s sacrifice.

The highest rates of disagreement, ranging between 23% and 30%, were found in the three African Divisions, the South American Division, the Southern Pacific Division, and the Southern Asia-Pacific Division.

Responses to the statement “I will not get to heaven unless I obey God’s law perfectly” indicated that nearly 65% of members worldwide agreed that they must achieve perfection before they could be saved.

The Divisions rating above the worldwide average (with the highest level of agreement being 85.3%) again included the three African Divisions and the South American Division, as well as the Southern Asia Division, and the Euro-Asia Division.

While 61.1% of worldwide members agreed with the statement “If I am to be saved, I need to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church,”

the three African Divisions, the Southern Pacific Division, and the Southern Asia-Pacific Division responded the most affirmatively, with 67.3%–85.6% agreeing that their salvation depended on being baptized Seventh-day Adventists.

Finally, the same trend is reflected in the responses to the statement “Following the health message ensures my salvation.” While the worldwide responses agreeing to the statement averaged 47.2%,

the agree/strongly agree responses from the three African Divisions, the Southern Asia Division, the Southern Pacific Division, and the Southern Asia-Pacific Division ranged from 58.4% to 77.2%.

While the great majority of members around the world agreed that all we need for salvation is to accept the gift that God offers us in Jesus Christ, members in certain parts of the world, especially in areas where basic needs are not being met, felt that there are actions that need to be taken in order to achieve God’s grace. The GCMS shows some fundamental misunderstandings in the church doctrines about salvation, and church leaders in these areas are taking note of these findings, making greater efforts to show members that salvation comes by faith alone, not by perfect living.

The data shows that cultural and geo-political backgrounds have an impact on the understanding of the belief in salvation. However, we also need to consider other historical factors that may have played a role in how members understood the message of salvation. For example, how was the Adventist message presented by the pioneers to the new converts? Who were the first evangelists who brought the message to them? How did existing congregations embrace the message? Were they able to accept it wholeheartedly and grow spiritually?

For more research findings on the topic of salvation, please read our previously published blogs:


Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.

Published by ASTR on 12/20/2023.



  • Petr Činčala, “Through Christ Alone? Adventists’ Beliefs About Salvation,” Presentation at Adventist Human-Subject Researchers Association Conference, Adventist University of Africa, 2023.
  • 2017-18 Global Church Member Survey, Cross Tabulation by Division