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A PROCESS

Salvation is much more than a mere theological construct; it is a dynamic process that involves all of creation. It is the act of God, with act understood not as a unitary or isolated event but as a progression that is moving toward an eschatological conclusion. Salvation is guided by determinism, characterized by purpose, and has a telos that is identical to eternity. Salvation is the process of God.

Summarily, the process can be spoken of as past, present, and future: past – justification, which is salvation from the penalty of sin; present – sanctification, which is salvation from the power of sin; and future – glorification, which is salvation from the presence of sin.

While this systematization is accurate exegetically, it is not exhaustive, meaning that it is not comprehensive in its presentation. There are numerous Biblical concepts that are vital to the process of salvation that are not specified in this simple organization; however, the outline does provide a structure for understanding something of the soteriological flow in Scripture. All of the other concepts can be related to this broad framework, and some of the concepts extend throughout the process of salvation. For instance, during the earthly life there is never a time when the believer does not require repentance and is not repenting before God; likewise, the display of faith before God is constant, and surely continues even into eternity, though in that state one has been confirmed in faith.

Past – It is proper to affirm that the believer has been saved. Paul state that “by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:5, 8); the verb is sesōsmenoi, a perfect passive participle from sōsō. Past salvation speaks of the initial work of God in the life of the sinner, which includes God’s call through the Gospel, regeneration of the spiritually dead individual by the Holy Spirit, and the resulting repentance and faith exercised by the individual. Additionally, the believer is forgiven, reconciled, and adopted into the family of God. This aspect of the process, as well as the entire process, is predicated on the Person and Work of Christ, by which salvation is secured for God’s people. (See: Acts 16:31; II Cor. 6:2; Col. 1:14; II Tim. 1:9; Tit. 2:11-12; 3:5)

Present – It is also correct to affirm that the believer is being saved. Though salvation is secured it must be experienced; and the experience is the life of the believer from the point of his conscious identification with Christ until death or the day of the Lord. The present aspect of salvation is the process whereby the believer struggles to behave like the one he has come to be: practice must manifest position. To the Philippians Paul writes: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” that is, the believer is to become what he is; Paul adds: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Earlier Paul assures them that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). (See: Acts 2:47; Rom. 8:13; I Cor. 1:18; 15:2; II Cor. 2:15)

Future – The Christian affirms that the one who has been saved and is being saved will ultimately and finally be saved. Paul writes to the Romans: “Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11). Even though the believer’s eternity is secure, the believer is still not ready for eternity: he is neither fully sanctified nor is he glorified. That is ahead; the process of salvation for the believer is headed for a culmination, a time when all things will be made new. (See: Rom. 5:9-10; 8:23; I Cor. 3:15; I Thess. 5:18; Tit. 2:12-13; I Pet. 1:5; I Jo. 3:1-3)

The process of salvation is an eternal process. By this affirmation is meant that salvation has eternally been in the mind of God. The threefold process—justification, sanctification, and glorification—as formulated by Theology, is guided and brought to fruition by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see: Trinity in Salvation). This salvation was the determination of the Trinity in eternity before it became actuality for man in time. From its initiation to its conclusion salvation is of God, extending from God in eternity into time with its accomplishment and application to man, and then taking man from time into eternity to be in the presence of God. Involved in the process of salvation is God and man, and eternity and time.

The Christian understanding of salvation involves the whole man (see: An Intricate Unity).  Whatever the divisions of man, and all of the following are specified in Scripture—body; body and soul; body, soul, and spirit; body, soul, spirit, and mind; body, soul, spirit, mind, and understanding; body, soul, spirit, mind, understanding, and heart; or body, soul, spirit, mind, understanding, heart, and strength—the point is that the whole man is saved. The complete salvation of God is for the complete man.


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