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).
In the previous column, we explored three facets of salvation before time – foreknowledge, election, and predestination. While these are sovereign acts of God, they 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.
In this column, we turn our attention to facets of salvation in time, and beyond time.
Salvation in time
Calling involves both a general call as the gospel is proclaimed, and an effectual call in which those whom God foreknew, elected, and predestined are drawn to Christ, resulting in belief and repentance. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are mysteriously bound together in calling.
Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings a sinner from spiritual death to spiritual life; it often is referred to as being “born again” or “born from above.”
Justification is a legal declaration in heaven. There, Christ’s perfect righteousness is transferred to the account of believing sinners, while our sin debt is transferred to His account, so that we are acquitted before the Father’s holy bench.
Indwelling is a divine act in which the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the body of a believer in Jesus Christ. Followers of Jesus are indwelt once, and permanently.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the means by which God places new believers into the body of Christ. Thus, all Christians – whom the Holy Spirit has regenerated and indwelt – share the common bond of the Spirit as members of the universal, or invisible, church.
Sanctification is the work of God making followers of Jesus more like our Savior. It may be understood in two ways, both of which relate to holiness. First, there is positional sanctification, the state of being set apart for God. Second, there is practical sanctification, the lifelong process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus.
Adoption is the Father’s gracious act of making new Christians members of His family. Having been born again, we are adopted by the Father as His sons and daughters. And, incredibly, this makes us coheirs with Jesus, the eternal Son of God – a sharing of spiritual wealth and privilege that prompts Jesus to burst with joy, not jealousy.
Sealing is part of the gift of the Holy Spirit granted to new believers as God places His divine mark of ownership on us, thus ensuring His everlasting presence and our eternal security.
Many of these facets of salvation are applied instantaneously as one-time, non-repeatable acts of God, with benefits extending throughout our lifetimes and into eternity future. Sanctification is different in that it is both a singular act and an ongoing process that meets its apex in glorification. In any case, all eight of these works of redemption in time are permanent and irrevocable.
Salvation beyond time
Glorification is the final stage in God’s work of salvation. It is the crowning achievement of sanctification, in which Christians are fully conformed to the image of Christ. It is the perfection of the body, as well as the soul and spirit. Even more, it is the restoration of all creation to its pristine innocence.
Put another way, glorification is the means by which God fully reverses the effects of the Fall, purging sin and its stain from our lives and from the created order. It involves the return of Jesus, the future resurrection and judgment of all people, and the creation of new heavens and a new earth.
Taken together, these 12 facets of salvation reveal the wondrous scope of God’s plan to call out a people for Himself. It is biblically faithful for followers of Jesus to say we were saved (from the penalty of sin); we are being saved (from the power of sin); and we will be saved (from the presence of sin).
So, what does the Trinity have to do with all of this? We answer that question in the next column.