Thursday, May 30, 2013

Salvation: The already, the ongoing, the not yet

As a pastor I encounter two prominent mistakes that Christians make in regards to their salvation. The first involves the Christian who doubts his or her salvation because of the ongoing struggle with sin in their lives. The second involves the Christian who has no issues with the continued presence of sin in their lives because they consider themselves “saved.” The first error misunderstands the power of God’s grace. The second error misunderstands the purpose of God’s grace. Both errors misunderstand that our salvation involves an already, an ongoing, and a not yet aspect.

Justification: The already of our salvation. The Bible teaches us that when Christ died on the cross he made a way for our sins to be forgiven. In fact, in one sense, our sins, all our sins, past, present, and future, were forgiven on the cross. That forgiveness becomes a reality in our lives when we profess faith in Jesus Christ, so that once we become believers we can talk about having already been justified (see Romans 5:1) To be justified means that our sins are no longer counted against us. See Romans 3:24-26, 4:25, 5:1-21.

Sanctification: The ongoing work of our salvation. If justification is being saved from the consequences of our sins, then sanctification is the process of actually being saved from sinning. Sanctification occurs in the life of the believer through the work of the Holy Spirit and involves our growth in grace and holiness as we are transformed ever more into the likeness of Christ. See 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

Glorification: The not yet of our salvation. In Romans 13, Paul encourages believers to wake up from their slumber because, “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” He doesn’t mean that these believers have not been justified or that they are not being sanctified. He simple speaks of another aspect of our salvation that awaits the day when Christ returns and makes all things new, including us. This aspect is called glorification. At the resurrection we will be given new glorified bodies, and we will reign with Christ and glorify God forevermore. See Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Peter 1:3-5;

Understanding the three aspects of our salvation helps us resist the doubts that creep in as we continue to struggle with sin. This struggle does not undo our justification. Understanding the three aspects of salvation keeps us from becoming complacent about sin, for the purpose of God’s grace in our lives is to save us from sinning so that we might be transformed into the image of Christ. Even when the going gets tough, we can press on trusting that our salvation will one day be complete when we Christ comes in glory and we his followers are glorified in him.

So which is it? Are we saved? Are we being saved? Or will we be saved? How about yes to all three.

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