The word “saved” has become a Christian catchphrase which generates much controversy. Modern skeptics have often expressed scorn towards it. I think of the 2004 Macaulay Culkin film which bears the word as its main title. Some believers have even shied away from using the term. Being “saved” seems like a worn-out cliche belonging to a bygone era of flamboyant evangelists and religious judgmentalism. Despite its baggage, the word is an important one. When asked how to be delivered from sin and death, the apostles proclaimed, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved!” (Acts 16:31). In order to experience real life, one must be saved. The problem is that we sometimes don’t understand what all is involved with the act. Consider what I would call the “three phases of salvation.”
starts with the experience of being born-again (John 3:3). When one trusts in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ to provide forgiveness of sin, he or she is made a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). A new spiritual nature is granted (Galatians 3:2), and a home in everlasting paradise is guaranteed (John 14:1-3). All of this occurs in an instant (Luke 19:9). It is a one-time occurrence by which God accomplishes an instantaneous spiritual change. His work is based on His grace (2 Timothy 1:9), and it comes to man and woman through faith (Romans 5:1). The Bible says, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). By His divine design, God saves people so that He might get the glory He desires and deserves!
is the second phase of God’s redemptive work. After we are saved, we enter into a life-long process of growing more and more into what God wants us to be. The moment of conversion does not produce a complete change of character. Sure, old things are done away with, and the saved person becomes new (2 Corinthians 5:17), but a struggle with sin still exists. Old habits and hangups hang around. There is no perfection until the resurrection, so believers have to work on becoming more like Jesus. This process is called “sanctification.” It is a gradual, incremental, and progressive work of growth. It is a transformational journey whereby we are set apart for God’s holy usage. The Bible says, “For this is God’s will, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Such a work of change occurs as we walk with God and allow Him to change us from the inside out (2 Corinthians 3:18).
is the final phase in God’s work of redemption. Salvation isn’t fully complete until this act occurs. Paul said, “And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:30). Glorification involves the complete removal of sin, and a complete transformation of character. It will occur at the end of time, when believers are transformed into the likeness of the resurrected Jesus (1 John 3:2). With glorification the propensity to sin, and all of the accompanying consequences of sin, will be forever eradicated from the human condition. We eagerly await the day of glorification!
Dr. Patrick Latham