Salvation: Past, Present and Future
Question: I read in 1 Corinthians 1:18: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." I was interested in the tense used here - "are being." What do you think it means? I've always thought being saved was a specific event, not a continuous process. (Written by a Protestant).
Answer: There are three aspects to salvation - past, present and future.
Christian are already saved, past tense: "by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:5,8). The believer is already justified by faith, i.e., declared righteous by God on account of Christ. Thus the apostle Paul speaks of justification as something that has already occurred for the believer: "Therefore, having been justified by faith...much more then, having now been justified by His blood..." (Romans 5:1,9). He cannot be more or less justified, for His legal standing before God depends on the perfect righteousness and sacrifice of Christ. In this sense salvation is a specific, past event, and therefore the Christian can be assured that he is accepted by God.
There is also a present aspect of salvation - called "sanctification" in Christian theology. Having been born again, the believer grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ to become more and more like Him. He was freed from condemnation (justification) and is now being freed from the practice of sin and is being taught how to live righteously. This is a life-long process and the Scriptures greatly emphasize this aspect of salvation:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14).
There is a third and future aspect of salvation. When the final judgement comes, the wrath of God will be poured upon sinful humanity. Yet we who believe shall be saved from the wrath to come. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood (that's the past aspect of salvation), we shall be saved from wrath through Him (that's future)" (Romans 5:9). Glorification is the climax of our salvation and it has not happened yet. We shall be freed from our mortal body and God will give His children an immortal and glorified body. "...we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope..." (Romans 8:23,24).
Am I saved? Yes, I have been saved from the guilt of sin. I am being saved from the power of sin in my life. And I will be saved from wrath and from the presence of sin when Christ returns and takes me home.
© Dr Joseph Mizzi