Back to Basics
In the last post, we discussed what salvation means and what one must do and believe in order to be saved. Now, we will look at the process of salvation.
In Genesis 15, God promises Abraham that He would make him a great nation. Galatians 3 teaches us that, as believers, we are now the Israel of God — justified by faith. We are the spiritual seed of Abraham, having been grafted into God’s chosen people by Jesus Christ. Jews who rejected Christ were cut off from Israel and are no longer the Israel of God. However, we are all saved by one faith. In fact, Paul teaches us in Romans that the Jews and Gentiles are saved — and have always been saved — by that same faith.
Our faith comes through Jesus Christ and always has. Abraham and the other saints of the Hebrew Scriptures looked to the coming Messiah for salvation, while we as New Testament saints look to Christ as the Messiah who has already come.
The saints of old looked to the coming Messiah for salvation. Today, we look to Christ as the Messiah who has already come
The salvation process begins when we learn about the gospel call and choose to receive it. According to Wayne Grudem, the gospel call teaches us:
God promises to forgive sins and give eternal life to all those who respond to the gospel call (Acts 3:19, John 3:16). Before people can respond to the call, they must hear it and, therefore, Christians must be willing to share the Gospel with others (Romans 10:14). The gospel call is effective for all who receive it.
Regeneration is the work of God by which God imparts to us a new spiritual life (John 3:5-8). It is the new heart given to us that enables us to respond positively to God.
The Bible teaches us that conversion involves repentance and faith. Millard Ericksen argues that no one can predict or control who will accept Christ. He also reminds us that we must recognise our own sinfulness at the beginning of our salvation experience. Different people experience conversion differently, and when we receive the Holy Spirit, our new spiritual birth occurs but it is not necessarily felt.
When we receive the Holy Spirit, our new spiritual birth occurs but it is not necessarily felt
Conversion is our response to the gospel where we repent and trust Christ for salvation. Conversion involves both faith and repentance. It is more than just knowledge of Christ; it is belief and dependence upon Christ for salvation. As our knowledge about God increases, our faith in God should increase as well.
When we receive salvation, we are justified, meaning that we are counted as righteous. When we receive salvation, we live in Christ’s strength and are unified with Christ. This entails justification and receiving Christ’s strength. It also entails suffering for Christ.
Justification is being placed in the right legal standing before God. God declares us to be just in His sight because He imputes Christ’s righteousness to us (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6). God justifies us; we do not justify ourselves. He does this when we place our faith in Christ.
Adoption is an act whereby God makes us members of His family. It allows us to go directly to God and it allows us to relate to him as Father. Adoption follows conversion and is distinct from justification.
Once someone accepts Christ, he or she begins the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the act of becoming more like Christ over time. When we are saved, we are sealed with the Spirit; He comes to live in our hearts. While we are sealed, the fullness of salvation has not yet been brought about. As we are convicted of sin and righteousness, God makes us more like Christ in how we act.
Sanctification is fully realised when we receive our new bodies and no longer desire to do anything contradictory to God’s moral will. Full salvation is already ours, but the process of sanctification allows us to help others see a glimpse of God’s kingdom now. When we choose to live more within the will of the Lord, our relationship with the Lord is strengthened and grows. If we choose to live otherwise, we backslide and our relationship with God becomes strained.
Sanctification is fully realised when we no longer desire to do anything contradictory to God’s moral will
Sanctification is a process in us that makes us freer from sin and more like Christ in how we live. Justification is done once. Sanctification is an internal condition that continues throughout our lives. God has a role in sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 12:5-11) and sanctification should affect how we think, and what we do. It should affect our whole being.
As Grudem notes, there are several reasons why we should pursue sanctification.
Those who truly receive salvation will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives. Those who persevere have been born again. Those who fall away may show signs of conversion, but their conversion may not be genuine. Sometimes, believers are out of fellowship with God.
To know if you are saved, ask if you have a present trust in Christ for salvation and a relationship with God. Is there evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart? Is there a pattern of growth in your spiritual life? We do not always know the moment at which we are saved, but we know we are saved because we know if we love God.
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Death is not a punishment for believers. Unbelievers go to Hades, which is a place of punishment. Death is the result of living in a fallen world. God uses death to complete the sanctification of our souls.
We do not always know the moment at which we are saved, but we know we are saved because we know if we love God
When believers die, we may mourn, but there is hope. When unbelievers die, there is no hope of a reunion of fellowship. When believers or unbelievers die, we can call for those left behind to think about the frailty of life and to call upon the Lord for salvation.
Glorification is the final step in the process of salvation. It is in this step that believers receive their new glorified bodies. We find evidence of this in 1 Corinthians 15:12-58. Our resurrected bodies will be incorruptible and no longer subject to the effects of ageing. When we receive our glorified bodies, all of creation will be renewed as well. At the time we are resurrected, the unbelieving dead will be raised for the final judgment and cast into hell.
Salvation happens in an instant, but it is also a process that takes the rest of our lives. We are saved and we are being saved. We love God, because He first loved us. God is the author and perfecter of our salvation. He initiates our salvation and He guides us into the completion of our salvation. God makes a way and God gives us His spirit to help us grow into who He has created us to be. He created us for spiritual life in fellowship with Christ. All glory be to God.
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