The fact is that the great majority of professing Christians fail to see that “salvation” is one of the most comprehensive terms in all the Scriptures, including predestination, regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. -A.W. Pink
I was saved in December of 2001. When I say that, I mean that I believed the gospel that was preached to me, and I experienced the peace that comes with God’s forgiveness through Christ.
Theologically, that same sentence “I was saved in December of 2001″ means a few things. 1. It means I was regenerated – God instantaneously brought me from spiritual deadness into spiritual life. 2. It means I repented and believed the gospel – I turned away from my sin, and trusted Christ as my Savior. 3. It means I was justified – God declared me legally to be not guilty, once and for all, and imputed to me the righteousness of Christ. 4. It means I was adopted – God ceased to regard me as an enemy sinner, and brought me into His family as one of his beloved sons.
Here we see how the word “saved” acts as an umbrella for a much larger array of soteriological truths.
How the Bible uses the word salvation
The Bible uses the words “save”, “saved”, and “salvation” in a huge variety of ways. The exodus from Egypt was the salvation of Israel (Exodus 14:13), God saved David from his various enemies (Psalm 18:3), and God was constantly saving His people from the kingdoms of the earth (Isaiah 37:20). God is in the business of saving, and the new testament, as the fullest revelation of God’s redemption, explodes the word salvation into many rich and diverse meanings.
Justification is Salvation
Justification is one of the most important doctrines in the Christian faith. It is a one-time legal declaration by God that our sins are forgiven and that we are righteous by way of Christ’s perfect obedience credited to our account.
The Bible speaks of this justification as “salvation”:
“And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”” –Luke 7:50
“For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” –Romans 10:10
“And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” –Acts 16:31
Sanctification is Salvation
Sanctification means to be set apart for holy use, and the way God sets believers apart is to conform us to the image of Christ. We are active in our sanctification as the Spirit of God simultaneously works in us. Unlike justification, sanctification is progressive, meaning it happens over the course of time (the rest of a believer’s life), and we are never fully sanctified in this life.
The Bible speaks of this sanctification as “salvation”:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.” –1 Corinthians 15:1-2
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” –Philippians 2:12-13
Glorification is Salvation
Glorification is the ultimate hope for a Christian. When all of human history has come to an end, there will be a resurrection. God’s people will receive new bodies and will be completely sanctified from sin. This, again, will happen in an instant.
The Bible speaks of this glorification as “salvation”.
“who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” –1 Peter 1:5
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” –Romans 13:11
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” –Romans 5:9
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” –Matthew 24:13
Here, we can see that the term salvation is used in the new testament to describe the broad scope of God’s work in our lives. We’re saved, in the sense that we have been justified once and for all. We’re being saved, in the sense that God is conforming us to Christ and removing indwelling sin through our active sanctification. And we will be saved in the sense that God will one day completely remove sin from us and give us glorified bodies equipped to worship Him perfectly.
So, while sanctification is not in any way part of justification, it can be said that sanctification is part of salvation. Justification, sanctification, and glorification all fall under the umbrella of the term salvation, while each remains distinguished to describe their own unique aspect of salvation.
A.W. Pink, in his treatise, A Fourfold Salvation, points out the tendency to ignore the breadth of salvation in scripture:
“So many today ignore these distinctions, jumbling them together. Some contend for one and some argue against the other two; and vice versa. Some insist they are already saved, and deny that they are now being saved. Some declare that salvation is entirely future, and deny that it is in any sense already accomplished. Both are wrong. The fact is that the great majority of professing Christians fail to see that “salvation” is one of the most comprehensive terms in all the Scriptures, including predestination, regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. They have far too cramped an idea of the meaning and scope of the word “salvation” (as it is used in the Scriptures), narrowing its range too much, generally confining their thoughts to but a simple phase. They suppose “salvation” means no more than the new birth or the forgiveness of sins. Were one to tell them that salvation is a protracted process, they would view him with suspicion; and if he affirmed that salvation is something awaiting us in the future, they would at once dub him a heretic. Yet they would be the ones to err.”
The Order of Salvation
The Ordo Solutis [Latin for order of salvation] is a doctrinal tool used for centuries by theologians as an attempt to put the events of salvation, the benefits won for us by Christ, in a logical order. Here is one understanding of the order of the steps of salvation in Calvinism:
- Conversion (faith and repentance)
Each step in this order is distinct from the others. Every part is another wonderful work that God is graciously working in the salvation of his people. Each step could be refered to individually as a step in salvation or simply as salvation, and all of the steps together can be refered to as the whole of salvation.
There is no problem, Biblically or historically with saying “glorification is our future salvation”, or “sanctification is a part of salvation”. A problem would only arise if someone were to confuse the particular doctrines with one another. No protestant Christian would ever say “the new birth is progressive”, or “sanctification is part of justification”. That would be to misunderstand the particular doctrines, and to lose the gospel altogether.
Though it is natural, and biblical, for us to refer to our experiential beginning of salvation as “being saved”, we should be careful not to narrow the use of the word and negate the larger scope of God’s glorious salvation.