I stood there almost lifeless from the aftershock of what I had just heard. I was recently at an FCA gathering of students at a local high school and heard the speaker say, “Everyone bow your heads, close your eyes, and repeat this prayer after me. Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner. I know that You say if I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart, then I will be saved. I do. Thank you for saving me. Amen.” Then the speaker asked everyone who said the prayer to tell the youth leaders in the group that they just committed their life to Christ. WHAT?! No one knew what this guy was going to pray. I even heard youth pastors repeating the prayer! Is this real salvation? Is this all God expects? Is it just this easy? I’m still shocked!
Along with that one which I’d call “easy believism,” there are more false views of salvation. First, “Liberalism” would say that salvation is simply “good people living better lives.” Second, Islam would say that salvation is faith in Allah including the faithful Muslim’s works, life, and even death for the cause of Islam. Third, Catholicism would say that salvation is good works through Christ and His church. They don’t just believe in good works but that a “Christian” must follow the seven sacraments through the church to be saved in Christ.
With all of these different views of salvation out there (and oh so many more), we need to take a good, hard look at Scripture to see what biblical salvation is. So here is our one-stop attempt to look at the doctrine of Salvation. To contrast the 3 false views of salvation, let’s talk about 3 true aspects of salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification (1 Cor 15).
When a sinner literally repents of sin, trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and calls on Him to be the Lord of their life, God says that they are immediately justified in Christ. To be justified means to be declared righteous. That means a Christian isn’t only forgiven of their sin, but they are also given the righteousness of Jesus. Jesus’ righteous living before His death is equally important for our faith! What about the people in the OT? God said that Abraham believed Him and so he was credited as righteous (Gen 15:6). OT saints were justified in Christ just as we are. They were believing in the OT promises of God that were designed to bring Jesus into the world and to make Him the heir of all the inheritance of Israel. Can people today simply look at the stars and believe in God to be saved? Of course not! Abraham was believing in the promises that God had revealed so far. Today, all of the promises of God have been fully revealed in Christ; therefore, we must fully believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation. Justification means that we are saved in Christ. It is a past tense of salvation (Rom 5:1).
Sanctification means that we are presently being saved in Christ by being made holy in Him. There is a sense in which we are immediately sanctified (made holy) in Christ at salvation because He is holy, but there is another sense in which we are progressively being sanctified throughout our lives while we become more like Christ (1 Cor 1:2, Col 3:10). The sanctification aspect of salvation means that it doesn’t stop when we are justified, but we are continually being saved through the gospel as we live a life of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus. It’s ongoing.
Glorification means that we will be finally and fully saved in the future. This is in a future tense. In other words, if we have been saved (justified), and if we are being saved (sanctified), then we will be saved (glorified). This doesn’t mean we can lose our salvation, but this means that all Christians WILL go through this process by the power of the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9, 30). Imagine the day when all who have believed and lived for Christ will be finally saved. Here we need to see that salvation isn’t only about souls being “saved to heaven,” but God is reclaiming and renewing the entire universe and bringing it to Jesus’ feet to rule over for all of creation. Salvation is God’s grand scheme of turning back Satan’s curse, reclaiming His original order in Genesis 1, and putting the New Adam (Jesus) in His rightful ruling position over it all. My prayer is that we know and help others to know THIS salvation is all about Jesus!