Most of the answers you are going to receive will be from those Christians who believe and worship within the various traditions and communities of Western Christendom. The West’s soteriological foundation is forensic and legal, and historically developed in its present form out of Anshelm’s understanding and extrapolations of certain of St. Augustine’s teachings. In short, for Anshelm, and those who followed him, the whole framework of salvation is modeled on the court of a medieval despot. The Lord is offended and the sentence for that offense if death. Only the death of another of equal dignity to the offended lord is sufficient to satisfy his justice. Forgiveness is either impossible or rejected as impropper absent that substitutionary death. If one affirms that death in place of one’s own then one is legally declared not guilty and God graciously declines to kill you and give you over to eternal torment.
In the forensic model Jesus, the God-Man, is given as that substitutionary sacrifice, and hence the Savior of all who believe.
The Eastern Church has a big problem with this western model in that boiled down to it’s bones it makes a moral monster out of God, who demands we forgive freely but is unwilling or unable to do so Himself. If there can be no forgiveness because Divine Justice must be satisfied…that creates a huge theological problem, because in this ideation God is bound by something greater than Himself…Divine Justice…which means, He is not free, and hence cannot be God in any sense we’ve been given to understand. He is not omnipotent because He must punish us with unending death whether He wants to or not. Apparently He would prefer not to, but has not choice than by the legal satisfaction of a blood debt.
Eastern Christianity rejects this whole paradigm as a gross misunderstanding of God, of Christ’s sacrifice and of the nature of both sin and salvation. In the paradigm of the ancient original Church…they way it understands the teaching of the Apostles is that man is sick unto death by sin. He is sick because sin has cut him off from his life, which if in God. His existential problem them not a lack of forgiveness…God forgives for the asking. His problem is lack of union with God, lack of connection to his life. That union is restored in Christ. His life, death, and resurrection bought all humanity back from the grave. It is why there will be a general resurrection. He is the new Adam. He is the resurrection and the life. Through baptism and confession of Him we are grafted into Him, into His Body, the Church, which functions for us something like a hospital. In the Hospital the Great Physician works to accomplish our salvation. Salvation is not being saved from the wrath of God, hell, or some similar notion. Salvation is derived from Salus/health. Salvation is a return to health. Little by little through the medicines and therapies of the Church working with our consent and cooperation we begin the process of transformation…of transfiguration into the image and likeness of Christ.
When we are baptized the mar image of God in man is cleansed and the work of our healing begun. Through faithful reception of the Holy Eucharist, through confession, through prayer, through faithfulness to Christ in the Church we become more and more like Him. The image is filled in with vibrant color and detail until by grace we have attained unto His likeness. That ancient task our forefather Adam fell so short of in ancient days. The image is given, the likeness to be attained. That has always been the great task of mankind. We are saved not because we have been declared, “not guilty” but because “we have been healed”.
Moreover we have the proof that this is the true and faithful teaching of the Church from its earliest days. Christ taught that trees bear fruit after their kind, figs from figs, thorns form thorns. If what the apostles taught of Christ is true then it should bear the same fruit from age to age until the present day…one single unbroken ontological continuity. To that end the Church presents her saints…her very best and most definitive fruit. Men and women who grew so Christlike they were transfigured like Christ on Mt. Tabor, or St. Stephen before his accusers. They live humbly, hidden, and yet are made know by the Spirit to the Church, who work apostolic caliber wonders, whose lives are radiant with Christ…men and women of whom the world is not worthy, and yet they live and are given in each age to offer prayer and give counsel to their generations. Men and women whose lives and deeds would be utterly impossible if the Church in which they live and worship and through which their faith was nourished was not all that it claimed to be.
For those interested in a more thorough critique of the Western Christian salvic paradigm, may I suggest, “The River of Fire,” by Dr. Alexandre Kalomiros.
Here is a link: The River of Fire - Kalomiros | Glory to God for All Things