The story is told of a Christian missionary who traveled deep into the heart of a distant land where the gospel message had never been shared. The missionary labored for years learning the language and adapting to the culture.
At long last, he was able to clearly communicate the story of Jesus. Many of the once animistic people eagerly became Christians.
But not their chief. He listened intently and weighed the missionary’s every word. Finally, he asked, “Would I go to this place called hell if I never heard about Jesus?”
“Well, no,” the missionary replied.
“Then why,” said the chief, “did you come?”
The story illustrates an issue that has perplexed us for centuries. If faith comes by hearing, as the apostle Paul makes clear (Rom. 10:17), then what about those who have never heard of Jesus?
This is the 10th in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Sanctification is the work of God making Christians more like Jesus.
As Millard Erickson puts it, “Sanctification is a process by which one’s moral condition is brought into conformity with one’s legal status before God. It is a continuation of what was begun in regeneration, when a newness of life was conferred upon and instilled within the believer. In particular, sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s applying to the life of the believer the work done by Jesus Christ.”
Sanctification may be understood in two ways. First, there is positional sanctification, the state of being separate, set apart from the common, and dedicated to a higher purpose.
The Hebrew word qados literally means “separate” and is used to designate particular places (like the Holy of Holies), objects (such as Aaron’s garments and the Sabbath Day), and persons (especially priests and Levites).
Positional sanctification finds its place in the New Testament as a work of God occurring at the beginning of conversion. John Frame, who prefers the term definitive sanctification, calls this “a once-for-all event … that transfers us from the sphere of sin to the sphere of God’s holiness, from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God. It is at this point that each of us joins the people of God.”
This is the ninth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the means by which God places new believers into the body of Christ. As the Holy Spirit regenerates and indwells our human spirits, bringing us new life and ensuring our everlasting fellowship with God, the Spirit also immerses us into the universal church.
New believers share the common bond of the indwelling Spirit with every other person who has been born of the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). All followers of Jesus are given “one Spirit to drink” (1 Cor. 12:13), regardless of our denominational affiliation, language, nationality, ethnicity, or culture. We truly are the recipients of “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5).
This is the eighth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Followers of Jesus take comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit indwells us. That is, the third person of the Godhead has taken up permanent residence in our human spirits, from which He engages in the lifelong ministry of conforming us to the image of Christ.
While regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings sinners from spiritual death to spiritual life, indwelling is the continuous presence of the Spirit in the temples of believers’ bodies.
Without the Spirit’s continuous abiding in our hearts, we have no assurance of salvation, no soothing balm in times of trouble, no unbroken protection against the Devil’s false claims of ownership, no spiritual growth, and no means by which both the Father and Jesus keep their promise to abide in us forever.
It may be rightly said that the Spirit’s occupancy in our hearts is purchased, not rented. We are bought with a price – the redemptive work of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23) – and we belong to the One who has promised that the Spirit abides with us forever (John 14:16).
This is the seventh in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
In justification, God declares us righteous. In sanctification and glorification, which we explore in future columns, He makes us so. These interlocking works of God ensure that followers of Jesus are fully conformed to the image of Christ.
The Greek noun dikaiosis, or justification, describes the act of God declaring sinners righteous on the basis of the finished work of Christ. Believing sinners are acquitted – freed of all guilt – as their sins are transferred to the account of Christ and exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.
Theologians often refer to justification as forensic, which means “having to do with legal proceedings.” This legal declaration does not change our internal character. A judge does not make defendants guilty or innocent; he simply declares them to be one or the other.
Regeneration, indwelling, and sanctification are ways God works salvation inus, making us spiritually alive, taking up permanent residence in our spirits, and conforming us to the image of Christ. But justification occurs outsideof us. Put another way, the location of justification is heaven, where God declares believing sinners in right standing before Him.