A few months ago, I wrote an article on the objective aspects of salvation. There, I primarily focused on redemptive history and the accomplishments of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Now, we move to the doctrine of salvation as applied to individual believers. This is what is usually meant when one says “salvation.” All the subjective aspects of salvation hinge on one doctrine: union with Christ. It is through this wondrous union that we receive all the benefits of redemption. But these benefits must be viewed as results of the ultimate benefit of salvation; that is Christ himself.
The phrase “in Christ” along with its variants is used 79 times in the New Testament by Paul. Christians, those who are born of God, are indeed “in Christ.” This is the lens by which we should view ourselves before any other. When the Father looks at you or me, he sees the perfection of Christ in our stead. In Christ, we are adopted as sons and daughters of the Father, no longer far off but loved as children. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Likewise, we are also given new life in Christ. This is commonly referred to as being “born again” or regeneration. Through faith in Christ, we become new creations in Christ Jesus.
The three overarching events of salvation are justification, sanctification, and glorification; essentially we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. Justification is God’s act of declaring a person to be righteous. Not that the individual becomes righteous himself but that the righteousness of Christ is accredited to the account of that person. This is an important distinction because if a person were made righteous then that righteous status could be lost through sinning. But the one who is in Christ is considered to have the righteousness of Christ as their own. Think of it as courtroom language. Our only plea before a Holy God is Christ’s righteousness. Galatians 3:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” It is through faith in Christ alone that one is made right with God.
Now, we move to sanctification. To be sanctified is to be made holy. All believers are indeed sanctified at our conversion, but sanctification is also the lifelong process of being made like Christ. When we are saved, we do not instantly become sin-free. The Christian life is one of battling sin; putting off the old man and putting on the new. This is God’s purpose for us. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:28-29). Sanctification is a lifelong process. We all have our ups and downs. And unlike our initial conversion (justification), sanctification includes our working with God to be more like Christ, but we can rest assured that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6).
Finally, we have glorification, the completion of our salvation. This is what we are all waiting for! The day when we will see Jesus face to face, be given a new resurrection body like his (1 Cor. 15), and live in unceasing harmony with our God. Those who are in Christ, who are clothed in his righteousness, will be saved from eternal punishment in hell and be reconciled to God. All to the praise of His glory!
Soli Deo Gloria,
While we don't know the exact circumstances David faced, we know that no matter what it was, he had the right reaction: to cry out to God for help! Whether it's doubt, temptation to sin, or a difficult circumstance, when we cry out to God, we say, “God, I am not God, You are God! I am weak, feeble, limited in knowledge and strength, but You are the Almighty!” In fact, that is the Hebrew word for “God” used here in verse 1: “El” means “God Almighty”. The image here is like a sheep running under the care of its shepherd, just as we run to Christ our Great Shepherd.
“I say to the LORD”--to Yahweh, the Great “I Am”, the Faithful and covenant-keeping One--that “You are my Lord”--my Adonai, my master, my Sovereign King. David begins the heart of his prayer by calling on God by His name. In Exodus 3, God reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, and for the first time in history, He shares His name with man: “I am that I am” or “Yahweh”. That name is tied to the image that Moses saw: a burning bush that was not consumed or even singed by the fire that rested on it. The fire, which represented God, was self-sufficient, it did not need to use the energy from the bush as fuel for itself; its source of strength came from itself! So it is with God. He does not need us in order to accomplish His work, He is sufficiently strong, sufficiently joyful, and sufficiently able in Himself! And yet that same self-sufficient God loves His people and is pleased to save them. Even more than that, He is pleased to remain faithful to His covenant promises to them, no matter how much they doubt, complain, or even rebel against Him! This is the God that David needs--and that we need--the Faithful, Self-Sufficient God.
After David has called to his mind the character of God, he says “This God is my Master!”, the One whom I give total control over my life. I give Him total control over my circumstances, my attitude, my thoughts, my desires, and all the results of my life. He is my Master and I am His slave. Because He has shown Himself as the Faithful One and because He alone is self-sufficient, holy, and good, I know that He alone is the fountain of all that is good in my life! “I have no good apart from You, my God.” Jesus says something similar to us in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in Me and you will bear much fruit, but apart from Me you can do nothing.” Abide in Christ, for He is the Almighty, Loving Shepherd, Self-Sufficient King of All who has risen from the grave to bring us life, joy, and salvation!
Grace and Peace,