“Salvation” means to be saved or rescued. Each religion offers its own system of salvation and is primarily concerned with answering the question, “What is wrong with us and how can we be fixed?” The Bible alone tells us the truth about salvation. It says our problem is sin and only God can save us.
Before We Get Started
There are two clarifications that need to be made about salvation:
- It is a work of God. Whereas other religions say we are saved by what we do, the Bible says we are saved by what God does for us. He does expect us to respond in faith and obedience to His saving work*, but salvation is His work from start to finish. Paul reminds us that it is “not from ourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
- It is a process. We try to pinpoint salvation to a single moment, but it is a process that spans all of history and includes several steps. Paul summarizes it nicely when he says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined…and those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).
Here are the four basic steps God takes to save us:
“Predestination” means to choose beforehand. Long ago, God chose those whom He wanted and decided to save them. Paul says, “For God chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world…in love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Some struggle to think that God chooses to save us and not others, but this is what the Bible says.
“Justification” is a legal term that means to declare someone, “Not guilty!” Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so God could declare us not guilty. Paul says, “Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). He also says God sacrificed Jesus “to demonstrate his justice…so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
“Sanctification” means to cleanse or purify. After God saves us, He purges us of our sin. Paul lists the wicked who will not inherit His kingdom and reminds us, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified…by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). This cleansing is accomplished by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).
“Glorification” means to treat someone or something with honor. God will raise us from the dead at Jesus’ return and give us new bodies immune to the corruption of sin, sickness, and death. Paul says that although the body “is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory” (1 Corinthians 15:43). He also says Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
*For more about the faithful and obedient response God requires, click here
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