It is important to realise that all humanity are sinners and are under the judgment of God. God in sovereign freedom treats some sinners as they deserve…but He selects others to be “vessels of mercy”, receiving the “riches of His glory” (Romans 9:23). This discrimination involves no injustice, for the Creator owes mercy to none and has a right to do as He pleases with His rebellious creatures (Romans 9:14-21). The wonder is not that He withholds mercy from some, but that He should be gracious to any.
The purpose of the Bible’s teaching on election and predestination is to lead pardoned sinners to worship God for the grace they have experienced. They come to see, in unmistakable terms, that salvation is all of God and not at all of themselves. They also come to see that since they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, their election is eternal and therefore certain. This inspires devotion and love to Christ in gratitude for God’s unfathomable love.
The popular misconception of election and predestination as the arbitrary acts of a capricious tyrant is totally foreign and unfair to Scripture. The attitude often expressed by unbelievers is that if they’re not, there’s no use in their trying. In either case, they reason, they needn’t be concerned. This is a tragic misconception. No one in hell will be able to tell God, “I wanted to be saved, but my name was on the wrong list.”
Election and predestination are always to salvation and its blessings, never to judgment. It is true that no one believes on the Saviour unless God the Holy Spirit convicts him, but it is also true that those who do not trust Christ choose not to believe. God never refuses to save anyone who wants salvation.
Throughout Church History, honest differences of opinion have arisen about these complex and not fully explainable doctrines. Each believer should be persuaded in his or her mind about them, and should show a charitable spirit towards those who differ from him.
The experience of salvation, in relation to the divine and human factors, includes some ambiguities. The results of salvation, however, are very clear. There are three phases of salvation: past, present, and future. That we have been saved, that we are being saved, and we shall be saved are all true statements. Each refers to a particular aspect of salvation.
As Christians, we understand that to be saved we need to come to Christ, repent of our sins and receive Him as Lord and Saviour of our life. We define salvation as a process by which an unsaved sinner separated from God by sin and destined for hell, is redeemed from hell, reunited with God and destined for heaven. This threefold process of salvation begins in justification, proceeds through sanctification and ends in glorification.
Justification is the judicial act of God whereby He forgives the sinner of all his sins – past, present and future – and declares him righteous in His eyes and free from guilt and punishment. It is an immediate and instantaneous act of God upon the sinner’s confession and his acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Romans 10:9).
One of the modern errors of today is to identify justification with pardon. Justification is more than just pardon; to justify means to declare righteous. When God justifies the sinner, He does not acquit him of his sins. Instead, God restores him back to a state of innocence.
It’s also important to note that the sinner is not made righteous but declared righteous and justified by God the Father based on the works and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sinner puts on the righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Henceforth, God sees the sinner righteous and perfect in the righteousness of Christ. The sinner is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works (Romans 5:1; Romans 3:28). Perhaps you’ve heard somebody referred to salvation as a continuous process in the life of a believer and not just a one-shot deal. That’s true because of sanctification – the second phase of salvation.
The basic meaning of sanctification is “separation” or “to be set apart.” In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means to be set apart: 1) by God 2) for God 3) from sin 4) unto a holy life and 5) to be made more holy through conforming to the image of His Son Jesus (Romans 8:29).
Sanctification is a process. It is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life (2 Thessalonians 2:13), beginning with justification and continuing throughout life, whereby the believer moves from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity over time as he learns God’s Word (2 Peter 2:2) and chooses to live under God’s will. In short, sanctification means spiritual growth (2 Peter 3:18).
We have to reiterate that good works cannot save us. What does Paul mean when he says in Philippians 2:12-13 that “we must work out our salvation…?” To “work out” means to bring to completion or to accomplish. We need to work out our salvation because though our past sins have been removed and we have been justified, the present is still here. We are still living and every day we face a world full of sin and temptations.
Paul goes on to say in Philippians 3:13-14 that he’s not perfect but he presses on to achieve all the purposes for which Christ has saved him. This should be our goal as believers in Christ. To keep pressing on until the day we will meet face to face with the Lord. But until then let us retain a sanctified walk by living a life of implicit obedience to God, (if we fail, we immediately confess it to God and He will restore us), resisting the devil and by faithful regular Bible reading, prayer, witnessing and living for others. Sanctification is not instantaneous but is ongoing until the believer leaves this world and goes to heaven.
Glorification is the final phase of the saved sinner’s salvation experience wherein he leaves this world, either by death or by rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), and is reunited with the Lord Jesus in heaven. The believer never achieves sinless perfection until he is glorified in heaven; his sin nature removed and is given a perfect glorified body. Philippians 3:20-21 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven from which we wait for our Saviour to transform our lowly body to be conformed to His glorious body…” Jesus died on the cross to save us from eternal death and to grant us eternal life. He will come again to complete our salvation by transforming our bodies into immortal glorified bodies to live with Him for all eternity.
I challenge each one of us to maintain a sanctified walk with Jesus, just as the apostle Paul did. Let us deal with the present and allow God daily to work in us for His purpose and glory. Let us grow in holiness by completely submitting to the lordship of Jesus in every area of our lives and continuously leave past behind all the things that are not right in the sight of God.
Let us live as Jesus wants us to live, allow Him to work in us, have His way in us and let us be always open and sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
BY Rev. Eric D. Maefonea