I won't do this topic justice in a short blog. But this has been on my mind a lot. How are we saved from our sins? All Christians will affirm that we are saved by trusting in Christ.
Is this a process or a one-time faith transaction? I would say both. Before I am labeled a Protestant heretic let me explain what I mean.
The key to rightly understanding salvation is to understand the difference between justification and sanctification.
Here is my understanding- with the help from theologians- of the difference:
Justification is an act of God's free grace where He pardons all of our sins. He accepts us as righteous in His sight only because of the sinless perfect sacrifice of His Son- Jesus. This can only be received by faith. No amount of good works can make us justified in God's sight. It is the great exchange: our sinfulness for Christ's righteousness. Justification is the work of God the Son in saving us.Sanctification is the work of God the Holy Spirit in perfecting us to the image of His Son. This will never happen fully on this earth. But sanctification is a process whereby we are being made holy. We are dying to sin and living to righteousness more and more as time goes by.
1. Justification works for us; sanctification works in us.
2. Justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the stain of sin.
3. Justification transfers to us the righteousness of Christ; sanctification works in us the righteousness of Christ.4. Justification is a one-time transaction; sanctification is a process.
For me, I have always been troubled by the teaching that salvation is walking an aisle to receive Christ, saying a prayer or doing a deal. It did not square with the reality that many who repent of sin in an emotional state show no signs of a changed life afterwards.
Many verses seemed to contradict the idea that once you say a prayer who are forever eternally secure despite contrary evidence from the life you live.
I never was comfortable with a more Catholic understanding of salvation either. I knew good works were important, but how could we ever be good enough? The best of lives are still miserably sinful when compared to the standard of Christ.
For me, understanding a balanced view that salvation is a conversion event and process makes more sense. I never want to take anything away from the work of God. I believe this is 100% God's work and never rests on me.
The greek word for faith- pistis- gives a connotation of continuing faith. In other words, we are not saved only by a one time faith but a continuing faith in the promises of God. This makes sense of many biblical passages including Colossians 1:21-23:
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
How are we saved?
1. God the Father adopts us
2. God the Son justifies us
3. God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us
All the work of God by faith alone. But our faith must be continual in His promises.
For His Glory,