“It may be that the Deity can forgive sins, but I do not see how.” – Plato
In Romans 8 we have what is commonly known as the golden chain of salvation. It goes from eternity past (foreknew, predestined) to eternity future (glorification) and includes the point in between where we become aware of our salvation (justification). Romans 8:29-30 reads:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
This golden chain also speaks of the three tenses of our salvation: past, present and future. In essence, “I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved” all accurately and Scripturally describe salvation, or the phrase “you are saved” found in 1 Corinthians 15:2. Let me explain.
Justification – Free from the Penalty of Sin
In the past, God saved us from the condemnation of sin, or the penalty of sin. He did this on the cross and it is appropriated to us at the moment of our conversion— when we believe, in faith, the words of God regarding the Gospel and our faith was “accounted (or, reckoned, imputed) to him (and us) for righteousness” (Rom. 4:22). This is called justification. It’s defined as a legal act whereby God views our sins as forgiven in Christ and then views Christ’s righteousness as now belonging to, or imputed to, us. It is the point in the golden chain when God “declares us to be righteous” in His sight (Rom. 5:9; Gal. 3:24).
Justification separates us from the penalty of sin and it is the time when we first become aware, personally and experientially, of our salvation. We know something has changed in us, some sort of “new birth” has taken place (John 3:3), our old man has died and the new man is now alive and we are now dead to sin but alive to Christ (Rom. 6:11). For us, this is where our salvation begins. This is when we say, “I have been saved”— it is the time when my sins were forgiven by the blood of Christ. This is the past tense of our salvation.
Sanctification – Free from the Power of Sin
The present, active tense of our salvation is called sanctification. It’s in this phase or tense when we are separated from the power of sin that previously ruled over our lives and we are in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). It’s the “I am being saved” aspect of our salvation. It’s when we desire to walk like Him (1 John 2:6), to think like Him (1 Cor. 2:16), and to live like Him (Gal. 2:20). It’s the maturing process of our salvation when we learn, often gradually and by trial and error, to put off the old man in practice and continually put on the new man and grow in our likeness to our Lord (Eph. 4:22-24).
Sanctification can be defined as a separation unto God, and is the same Greek word, hagios, as holiness. So we are separated unto God in holiness, to reflect His nature and to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16). It has an eternal component to it whereby we are eternally and positionally separated unto God, once and for all, by the blood of Jesus Christ at salvation (1 Cor. 1:30). But it also involves the practical, day by day, experience of separation unto God by obedience to the Word of God and faithfulness to the commands of Christ while we wait for the Lord’s return. In essence, through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit the Believer, through trials and hardships, temptations and testings, or the everyday ups and downs of life, is transformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and free from the power of sin. Thus sanctification is the present, on-going, real-time, current aspect of salvation for the Believer.
Glorification – Free from the Presence of Sin
In the future, in the “I will be saved” phase of salvation, the Believer will be forever freed from the presence of sin. Forever freed. This final removal of the presence of sin in the lives of all Believers is called glorification and will take place at the Lord’s coming when His glory and honor and praise and majesty and holiness— literally all His wonderful characteristics and attributes, will be realized in each Believer (Rom. 5:7).
According to Philippians 3:20-21, our true citizenship is in heaven with our Lord and when He returns He will “transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
How do We Live in the Past, Present and Future?
So how are we to live knowing our salvation as revealed in the past, present and future? How are we to spend our days serving our King knowing what glory awaits us with the Lord? Consider and reflect on the words of John, the Apostle Jesus loved (John 13:23), as he answers this very question:
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).
We are to purify ourselves, just as Christ is pure. We are to be holy, just as Christ is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We are to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Gal. 5:16) as we take every thought captive in obedience to Him (2 Cor. 10:5). We are, in other words, “once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). And how do we do that? By striving to discover what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10) and what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17)— and then obediently following, without looking back (Luke 9:62).
Amen and amen.
Come Lord Jesus.