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Three Phases of Salvation

       Once a person is born again, he is saved from the penalty of sin (Rom. 8:1; Eph. 2:5, 8), the power of sin (Rom. 6:11-14), and will ultimately be saved from the presence of sin when God takes him to heaven and gives him a new body like the body of Jesus (Phil. 3:20-21).  This truth is related to the three phases of salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification

       Justification is the instantaneous act of God whereby He forgives the sinner of all sins—past, present and future—and declares him perfectly righteous in His sight.  Justification is predicated on “the gift of righteousness” that God freely imputes to the believer at the moment of salvation (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9).  Justification before a holy God is possible solely on the grounds that Christ has borne every sin committed by the sinner (Heb. 10:10-14; 1 Pet. 3:18), and as an act of pure grace freely imputes His perfect righteousness to him (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; 1 John 2:2).  Justification is always by grace and never by works, as the sinner is, “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). 

       Sanctification is the process whereby the believer moves from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity over time as he learns God’s Word and makes good choices to live God’s will (Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).  The Christian who advances to spiritual maturity does so only in the power of the Holy Spirit and on the basis of God’s Word daily learned and applied (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).  Sanctification is never instantaneous but is ongoing until the Christian leaves this world and goes to heaven. 

       Glorification is the final phase of the believer’s salvation experience and occurs when he leaves this world, either by death or by rapture, and enters into the presence of God in heaven (Rom. 8:17-18).  The Christian never achieves sinless perfection until he is glorified in heaven, at which time his sin nature is removed and he is given a perfect body (Phil. 3:20-21).  Regarding these biblical truths, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer has written:

Much of the whole divine undertaking in salvation is accomplished in the saved one at the moment he exercises saving faith. So, also, some portions of this work are in the form of a process of transformation after the first work is wholly accomplished. And, again, there is a phase of the divine undertaking which is revealed as consummating the whole work of God at the moment of its completion. This last aspect of salvation is wholly future. Salvation, then, in the present dispensation, may be considered in three tenses as it is revealed in the Scriptures: the past, or that part of the work which already is wholly accomplished in and for the one who has believed; the present, or that which is now being accomplished in and for the one who has believed; and the future, or that which will be accomplished to complete the work of God in and for the one who has believed.[1]

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Salvation (Philadelphia, PA: Sunday School Times Company, 1922), 2-3.

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