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,