THE THREE STAGES OF SALVATION
We understand that to be saved we need to come to Jesus Christ, receive Him as Savior by faith, repent of our sin, and receive from Jesus forgiveness of sin and the free gift of eternal life. However, this is not the entire message of the Bible regarding salvation. There is more …
There are actually THREE STAGES OF SALVATION, and every person in the entire world has this threefold need for salvation. Why threefold? Why are there three stages? What are these three stages? Firstly, we need to be saved in regard to YESTERDAY. Secondly, we need to be saved in regard to TODAY. And, thirdly, we need to be saved in regard to TOMORROW. In other words, we need SALVATION PAST, SALVATION PRESENT and SALVATION FUTURE.
Salvation is a definite threefold process. It begins in JUSTIFICATION, proceeds through SANCTIFICATION and ends in GLORIFICATION. We can say that WE ARE SAVED, WE ARE BEING SAVED and WE WILL BE SAVED. This is also how the Bible speaks of our salvation.
Let’s firstly look at SALVATION PAST or JUSTIFICATION.
The Bible says in Romans 5:1 that WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED THROUGH FAITH, and because of THIS, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word “JUSTIFICATION” is a LEGAL term, and means to declare NOT GUILTY. The meaning of this word can best be described by an illustration:
Suppose that a man has been charged with murder and tried and found guilty and sentenced to die. Before the hour of execution a man appears at the prison and asks to see the warden, to whom he hands an official letter. When the warden reads the letter, he sees that the president of the country has granted the condemned man a pardon. Thus the man is released from prison at once and walks out a free man. This man is not a justified man, because the GUILT OF THE CRIME still remains on him. He is simply a PARDONED CRIMINAL.
But, let us suppose that the man was really innocent and mistakenly found guilty and wrongly condemned to death. Now, before the date of execution the REAL CRIMINAL surrenders himself to the judge and produces evidence that he is the real criminal. What must the judge do? He cannot hold the first man for he is innocent and therefore the judge sets him free. The condemned man walks out of the prison a JUSTIFIED MAN because he is INNOCENT OF THE CRIME. This is the legal meaning and the scriptural meaning of the word “JUSTIFIED.”
Here is the “MYSTERY OF SALVATION”. Jesus Christ takes the PUNISHMENT and the GUILT of every one of us so that we are TOTALLY INNOCENT, as if we had never committed sin. Our past is totally wiped out as if it had never happened. Jesus says, “I did it, punish Me.” Therefore, the moment we as sinners receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior by faith, WE ARE JUSTIFIED! And the result of this is that we HAVE PEACE WITH GOD (Romans 5:1).
We also need to understand the difference between PEACE WITH GOD and the PEACE OF GOD as found in Philippians 4:7. This can best be described by an illustration:
During the Korean War many people from the North moved towards the South so that they could live in peace. At the end of the war a demarcation line between the North and the South was put in place, and the people in the South were at peace. Let us suppose that towards the end of the war, a person started walking from the North to the South, seeking peace. He would move about very carefully and secretly to avoid being captured. Let us further suppose that one night, at a certain remote place, he crossed the demarcation line without knowing it. As from that moment he was safe and in a place of peace, but he did not know it. So the next morning he continued to walk very carefully and secretly to avoid being captured. This might have continued for many days until he realized that he was actually in the South, and peace.
It is the same with God and us. The moment we receive with saving faith the Lord Jesus as personal Savior, WE HAVE PEACE WITH GOD. But it may be days, weeks, months or even years before we fully realize what had happened to us, and what Jesus has actually done for us, and so HAVE THE PEACE OF GOD which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Let’s secondly look at SALVATION PRESENT or SANCTIFICATION.
Philippians 2:12-13 reads “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
This does not mean that our good works saves us. It means that having received salvation through faith we are now to work it out. The sin of the past has been removed and we have been justified. However, the present is still here. We are still living and we face a world full of temptations and sin every day. This scripture says that we must CO-OPERATE WITH GOD in His WORK OF SANCTIFICATION to save us on a daily basis from sin.
The revelation of sin is progressive. Only when we come to Jesus do we actually realize what sin is. And as we walk with Jesus our understanding of sin becomes bigger and better. Things that we did not recognize as sin formerly, all of a sudden become sin to us. This can best be described by an illustration:
When you wake up in the morning and the twilight of the early morning sun shines in through the window, you can see a few pieces of furniture in the bedroom, but the rest remains a blur. You see the outline of the cupboard and the dressing table. As time continues and MORE LIGHT comes in, more things become visible. When the sun is fully up, you can see your hairbrush and pins on your dressing table.
When we come to Christ we are conscious of a few sinful habits. We gladly give these up. But as we grow in grace and MORE LIGHT of Jesus comes into our lives we are aware of other wrong things. Things we did five years ago we would not do today, and things we do today we would not do five years from now. It is a PROCESS of SANCTIFICATION or HOLINESS. This is working out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is SALVATION PRESENT.
Eighteen years after his conversion Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:9, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle …” Six years later he wrote in Ephesians 3:8, “ … I am less than the least of all God’s people…” and five yearslater he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, “… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” What was the matter with Paul? Had be become worse? No! He only realized more and more his own need for SANCTIFICATION. Never ever do we find Paul professing complete sanctification.
SALVATION PRESENT or SANCTIFICATION is a PROCESS as we are co-operating with God, allowing Him to WORK IN US for HIS GOOD PURPOSE.
Lastly we’ll briefly look at SALVATION FUTURE or GLORIFICATION. In Philippians 3:20-21 we read “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. “
Jesus died on the cross to save our souls from eternal death and granting us eternal life. He is coming back to complete our salvation by changing our bodies into immortal GLORIFIED BODIES to live with Him in the new, forever. Then our salvation is complete. SALVATION FUTURE, GLORIFICATION.
So we see that our SALVATION is a THREEFOLD PROCESS. It begins in JUSTIFICATION and deals with the PAST forever. It continues through SANCTIFICATION as WE DEAL WITH THE PRESENT, as we WALK DAILY WITH JESUS and ALLOW GOD TO WORK IN US. It ends in GLORIFICATION, that FUTURE day of our final salvation that we eagerly await.
My challenge to each and everyone, including myself, is to WALK THE ROAD OF SANCTIFICATION WITH JESUS, just as Paul did. To be saved and to have dealt with the past is good, but not good enough. We need to deal with the present on a daily basis. We need to allow God daily to work in us for His purpose. We need to grow in holiness as we allow more of the Light of Jesus to come into our lives. We need to continuously put behind us the things that are revealed by the Holy Spirit as wrong. We need to have JESUS CHRIST AS PERSONAL LORD and not only as personal Savior.
THIS IS MY CHALLENGE TO US ALL:
Let us live as Jesus wants us to live:
- have a goal to be like Him, a holy and sanctified life
- be humble and consider all others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3)
- be submissive unto God our Father at all times
Let us allow God to work in us and have His way in us:
- to change us according to His purpose
- to change our ways of living and doing things, to what He wants them to be
- to heal our hurts and pains and make us new
Let us be open and sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit:
- and turn from things He shows us as wrong
- make right with others when He calls us to do so
- go and do what He tells us when He tells us
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© Emil Kirstein, 2009