The Process of Salvation
Here is a brief simple run down of the process of salvation from a Reformed perspective that I wrote up for someone who asked. Discuss amongst yourselves.
1.Election: Before they had done anything good or bad, apart any foreseen merit or goodness inherent in them, the Father chose his people in the Son, through the Son, and for the Son in accordance with his own will and purposes.
2. Regeneration: God alone, through the Holy Spirit gives new birth to elect sinners. There is nothing sinner does to deserve, prepare for or merit regeneration in any way. Nor can he cooperate with it anymore than a baby cooperates in his conception.
3.The Call: God draws the regenerate sinner to himself—putting down the willed suppression and hatred for God that characterize the sinful nature, freeing the heart to love what is good, evoking a desire for the truth through the word of Christ, preached, read, or taught.
4. Justification: The sinner, by grace alone, comes to a right knowledge of Jesus’ person and work, he assents to the truthfulness of what he knows, and finally repents and trusts in the merits and work of Christ alone for his salvation and commits to follow Jesus as his Lord. This is “faith”. It is not blind belief in a possible outcome. It is not mere cognitive assent to various theological propositions. Faith is knowledge, assent, and surrender. All three components are necessary. This “faith” is the sole instrument through which the Father credits or imputes the righteousness of Christ to the sinner and removes the eternal consequences of his sins—punishing them justly through the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Son. The sinner is Justified by grace alone, through the instrument of faith alone, because of Christ alone.
5. Sanctification: And yet, justification is not the sum of salvation. At the point of justification the sinner is no longer under the sentence of hell. He has been rescued from eternal torment and is assured, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (which he cannot damage or destroy) imputed to him, life forever with Christ beginning in the present, continuing spiritually after death, and fully at the Resurrection in the Kingdom of God. Yet sin still exercises a powerful role in his life despite his justification. When the sinner comes to justifying faith, God the Holy Spirit immediately indwells him, makes a permanent home in his heart, and begins the process of renovaton or sanctification.
Sanctification is a cooperative process. The sinner is a new creation, his will is no longer in bondage to sin. God works in him and continues to transform the will, heart, mind, directly, but the justified sinner can truly participate in this process. He can will and do what God calls him to will and do. Of course, nothing is done through naked effort. Grace proceeds and empowers everything. And that is true with regard to the justified sinner’s cooperation as well. The grace of God provides the strength necessary to fight against sin and to live an increasingly godly life. That grace is conveyed through various means: scripture, prayer, preaching, the sacraments, the fellowship of the church and many others.
A justified sinner will necessarily bear fruits in keeping with his new nature and status. Someone who walks the sawdust trail in a fit of emotion but then returns to his former life unchanged cannot claim to be in Christ. Sanctification necessarily flows from justification. True faith necessarily leads to transformation. It will not look the same for everyone, since as CS Lewis noted, we all start off in very different places, but sanctification is a necessary result of Justification.
6. Glorification: Sanctification will not be completed during the sinner’s life. Christians will continue to fall and fail but never fall completely or fail finally. And yet because the eternal destiny of the sinner is grounded in the imputed rather than infused righteousness of Christ and because all of his sins were imputed to Christ at the moment of Justification, there is no need for purgatory to work off or bear the penalty for remaining sins after death. When a Christian dies, the “old nature” is immediately mortified and he, like Lazarus, is carried immediately to Abraham’s side, into the spiritual presence of Christ until the moment when God reunifies body and soul at the Resurrection.
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