This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).
Stated simply, salvation is God’s remedy for the sin that has ruined everything and alienated everyone from Him. The Lord reveals this remedy as soon as Adam and Eve rebel against Him.
God promises a future Redeemer who crushes the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). Then, He provides additional promises throughout the Old Testament, granting us more than four hundred prophecies, appearances, or foreshadowings of the Messiah, a King who comes as a virgin-born child in Bethlehem.
This child, Jesus of Nazareth, bursts onto the scene at just the right time (Gal. 4:4). He lives a sinless life and dies on a Roman cross, taking upon Himself our sins and paying the penalty of death for them (2 Cor. 5:21). Then, He rises physically from the dead on the third day, conquering Satan, sin, and death, and freely offering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life by grace through faith in Him. Before ascending into heaven, He promises to return one day to fulfill all things – that is, to complete His work of salvation and to set everything right (Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; John 14:1-3).
For followers of Jesus, salvation is experienced as an everlasting, unbreakable relationship with Him. It has both temporal and eternal benefits. Consider, for example, that we are foreknown, elected, and predestined in eternity past. Put another way, we are saved before time began.
Other elements of salvation are experienced personally within our lifetimes as God calls us to Himself; regenerates us, or makes us spiritually alive; justifies us, or declares us in right standing before Him; indwellsus, or takes up permanent residence in our human spirits; baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, or places us positionally into the church; sanctifies us, or sets us apart and begins the process of making us more like Christ; adopts us into His family; and seals us, or places His mark of ownership on us.
One day, the final act of salvation is completed in glorification. We are physically resurrected and given incorruptible bodies similar to the resurrected body of our Savior.
We have just mentioned 12 Bible terms that describe God’s work of redemption. While there are other terms – redemption, conversion, propitiation, and reconciliation, to name a few – these 12 terms illustrate as simply as possible God’s glorious plan of salvation, woven as a divine tapestry, spanning time and eternity. These are not 12 separate works that God cobbles together. Rather, they are elements of a unified whole.
Put another way, we may imagine God’s work of salvation as a perfectly sculpted diamond, with its many facets illuminating, in unique ways, the glorious beauty of God’s redemptive work. While no mere image does justice to the splendor of salvation, perhaps the thought of a diamond helps us see that salvation is one, singular, multi-faceted work of God that stretches from eternity past to eternity future. As such, those who by faith are “in Christ” may be assured that He completes the good work He started in us long ago (Phil. 1:6).
Let’s take a moment to explore these 12 facets of salvation.
Salvation before time
Foreknowledge means more than knowing facts beforehand; it means our omniscient God always has known believers and has reckoned us predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). This encompasses the unsearchable depths of God’s sovereignty and the certainty of a human response in faith to the gospel message.
Election is God’s choice of certain individuals to salvation before the foundation of the world. The Reformed (Calvinist) position on election is that it is unconditional; that is, God selected specific persons for everlasting life based solely on His divine will and good pleasure, not on foreseen faith. The non-Reformed (Arminian) view is that election is conditional; in other words, God selected specific persons for salvation based on foreseeing that they would respond in belief and repentance to the gospel message.
Predestination is God’s plan from eternity past to complete the work of redemption in every saint, fully conforming us to the image of His Son. Predestination cannot be separated from His other works of redemption before time, in time, or beyond time. From a human standpoint, God’s predestination from the farthest reaches of eternity invades time, applies to us, and continues out into eternity future in glorification.
These three facets of salvation before time – foreknowledge, election, and predestination – cannot be divorced from human responsibility. God’s sovereignty, and the endowed right of people to make decisions for which we are held accountable, are parallel biblical truths. Where they intersect in the mind of God is a wondrous mystery to His creatures.
Next: Salvation in time, and beyond time