The Bible reveals "the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 3:15). That foundational understanding of salvation is merely the beginning; believers are expected to grow in their understanding of salvation. "Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (I Peter 2:2).
Salvation is simple. The simplest explanations include "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13) and "You must be born again" (John 3:7). A child can understand and accept the gift of salvation.
On the other hand, salvation is too complex for any man to completely comprehend. Salvation has many amazing components that happen without a believer's even realizing they are occurring. Apart from God's planning of and providing for salvation, the actual process of salvation for each individual is distributed over what humans would define as three different points of time.
Terms like justification, redemption, and reconciliation describe salvation in the past, at the moment a person accepted Christ. These components have to do with God's taking a wicked, condemned person and declaring him righteous and redeemed.
· "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7-8).· "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive" (Ephesians 2:4-5).
· "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13).
· "That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Glorification refers to the future aspect of salvation, when Christians are taken to heaven. Wonderfully, Christians who are currently oppressed by a sinful world and a sinful flesh will someday experience the ultimate abolition of sin.
· "Having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23).· "Knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed" (Romans 13:11).
· "It has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is" (I John 3:2).
· "Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. . . . We will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, . . . and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Corinthians 15:49-53).
A believer's increasing knowledge of salvation's past and future aspects provides a richer and fuller realization of what has happened and what will happen, thus prompting an increased appreciation for one's salvation. This appreciation is important, but I believe the most important growth regarding salvation involves the present aspect.
Beyond appreciation, sanctification involves application. The gradual, daily process of becoming more like the Savior happens as a believer learns previously unknown truth about the outworking of his salvation. Many of the epistles open with chapters about redemption and justification, but the later chapters are filled with truth about how that salvation should impact the daily life. It is in learning and following these instructions that a believer grows in his salvation.
In fact, it was ignorance that caused past ungodly behavior, and it is increasing knowledge that will produce future godly behavior. "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior" (I Peter 1:15).
· "For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light, . . . trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8-10).· "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come" (II Corinthians 5:17).
· "So as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles" (I Peter 4:3).
· "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
· "So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work" (Colossians 1:10).
· "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident . . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:17-23).
Growth in salvation is expected. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Hebrews 5:14). Any believer who remains in the same position as when he was saved or who has reached a level of stagnation is missing God's very important expectation that he grow in his knowledge of salvation, not just in knowing about it but in displaying it practically.