Salvation an Umbrella Term?

11 07 2012

A post from my friend and brother in Christ, Nathan Nalley (@NathanNalley on twitter)…

Soteriology is a big word for the study of salvation. Within soteriology we find everything related to the salvation of our souls: Redemption, Atonement, Adoption, Conversion, Regeneration and so on. Growing up, I thought being saved, being converted, being born again, being adopted into God’s family and being justified were all synonyms. I thought they all meant the same thing!

It came as a shock when I found out that these terms each spoke about a different aspect of salvation. “Being Saved” was the most common term, but people said it to mean that they “got saved” in the past whether it was last night or 30 years ago. Or they would say to their friends/family, you need to “get saved”, meaning that whoever they were talking to needed to become a Christian. I don’t expect to be exhaustive in my treatment of salvation in a blog post, but hopefully I can be helpful to our church.

I want to speak of Justification, Sanctification and Glorification. There are many simple ways to say what they mean, but here is a table to explain them.

Justification Sanctification Glorification
Being declared “Righteous” Being made Righteous Being Righteous
Happens in a moment Happens in a lifetime Happens upon death
Past event for Christians Present life of a Christian Life after death for a Christian
Romans 3:20-28 Romans 6:11-19,  Phil. 1:6, 2 Cor. 3:18, 1 John 3:9 1 Cor. 15:51-52

Justification happens when we are converted. When we turn from our sins and trust Christ as our only claim to God. At that moment we are declared righteous (even though we are not actually righteous!) and have Christ as our advocate in heaven. No matter what happens from this point on I am accepted by God solely on the basis of the finished work of Christ. If I were to commit the grossest sin imaginable I would still be right with God because He is not looking at my actions anyway. He is looking at the finished work of Christ. NOTHING ELSE!!! We do not have to lift a finger to get to heaven because God has given us the perfection of the Son. This gives understanding to several difficult Bible passages like Matthew 5:20 and 5:48.

Sanctification happens throughout the Christian life after conversion. Justification was all of God but in sanctification we cooperate with God. We are striving to please Him. Does our salvation depend on our sanctification? Kind of, here’s what I mean. Sanctification is the guaranteed next step of salvation. It will follow justification 99.9% of the time. The only time it doesn’t is like the case of the thief on the cross where the person dies right after they were justified. If a man continues to live after he is “saved” then the next part of salvation WILL occur. So does our salvation depend on it? Your sanctification does not earn heaven. However, your sanctification proves that you were justified. Like we said, at the point of justification, God stops looking at your righteousness and looks at Christ. But, if there is no evidence of sanctification in your life, there is no proof that justification ever took place. Salvation is not earned, but it can be proved through sanctification. In a clear short statement: If you are justified, you are being sanctified. If you are not being sanctified, you were never justified.

The problem is, many church attenders claim that they are justified based on an experience that they had and not based on the sanctification that is currently going on within them. The Bible never tells us that we can know we are Christians based on a personal experience we had in the past. What does it say? You will know them by their fruits; Your life is marked by godliness instead of sin (Matthew 7, 1 John 3:9).

Glorification does not occur until this life is over and we pass into God’s heavenly kingdom. It is when sin is finally and completely finished. This is when we become righteous. This will be the final proof of justification. Without a justification and a sanctification, glorification won’t happen. Heaven will not be a reality to anyone who has not believed in Christ as their only source of righteousness and has crowned Him King of their life in an effort to live under His authority.

I hope I was able to give a little bit of clarity with these words and [hope churches will] embrace this biblical view of salvation.

– Nathan Nalley

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