The Doctrine of Salvation


The theological term “Soteriology” is taken from the Greek verb soter, meaning “to save.”  It is the doctrine of salvation.  Having already examined the atonement, we want now to examine the application of the benefits of that atonement.


The Atonement was accomplished on the Cross

The benefits of the Atonement are applied at Conversion





The ordo salutis is merely a Latin term that speaks of the order of salvation.  It seeks to determine the logical cause and effect progress that brings about salvation.  There is not a single passage of Scripture that lays out every act and process of this order of salvation.  However, an examination of several key passages will give us insight into such an order of the application of some of those aspects of salvation.


1.         The Beginnings of a Framework.


A basic framework of this cause and effect relationship in the order of salvation is presented by Paul in his epistle to the Romans.


            29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30).


There is a definite progression of the different aspects of salvation that are presented in this passage.











Foreknowledge and predestination speak of God’s eternal purposes while the remaining aspects point to His temporal purposes.  This order begins with God’s eternal purpose—with His foreknowing us.  This is not to say that there was a time when God had not decided whether or not to save us.  Rather, it means that God’s predestination springs out of His foreknowledge.  He has determined to know us and to love us and therefore He determined to save us.


By contrast to this eternal purpose that looks back to the time before creation, our calling and our justification look to the time of our conversion when we came to Christ in faith and became Christians.  Finally, our glorification looks to the climax of God’s purpose when we are completely set apart to Himself.


2.         The Position of Faith in the Ordo Salutis.


Where does faith fit into this framework?  It obviously comes after foreknowledge and predestination.  It is also obvious that it comes prior to glorification.  We can also determine where it comes in relation to justification.


...knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:16a).


This passage demonstrates that faith precedes justification in its logical order.  This is not to say that they do not take place simultaneously, but that one takes place as the logical basis of the other.  Furthermore, it is obvious from the Scriptures that the reason men believe is because they have first been called.


            No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44).


This means we can further chart these aspects of the ordo salutis out like this:







3.         Faith and Regeneration.


When we speak of regeneration, we are referring to the new birth that takes place when a person is made spiritually alive and receives a spiritual renewal.  Which comes first, faith or regeneration?


The Arminian position is that regeneration comes on the basis of faith.  He teaches that man uses his own free will to believe and then he is regenerated as a result of that belief.  The Reformed view, by contrast, is that God regenerates a man and then out of his new life comes faith.


Arminian View

Reformed View

Regeneration comes as a result of a person believing the Gospel.

Regeneration takes place as a work of God and, as a result of this new life, the person believes the Gospel.


What do the Scriptures say regarding this issue?  It says that whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (1 John 5:1a).  At first glance, this passage would seem to support the Arminian view.  However, the phrase translated “is born of God” is in the perfect tense in the Greek text.  This tense indicates an action that took place in the past and which has continuing results.  We would therefore translate it as follows:


            Whoever believes in the present that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God in the past with the result that they have this life.


This places regeneration prior to faith and repentance.  Another evidence for this is the fact that the natural man is not able to receive the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).  A man needs to be spiritually wakened in order to hear and understand the Gospel.






As light cannot restore sight to a blind man, so even the light of the Gospel cannot restore life to one who is unregenerate.  It takes the life producing work of the Holy Spirit to bring life where there is no life.  That is not to say that the Gospel is unimportant to this process.  To the contrary, without the light of the Gospel, there is nothing to see.


God’s effectual calling


Regeneration (New Birth)


Repentance and Faith


Imputation of Jesus Christ’s righteousness to us














  • Positionally

  • Progressively

  • Ultimately







In his book Waking the Dead, John Eldridge reminds us that we are enchanted with stories of transformation.

           Beauty’s love turns the beast into a handsome prince.

           Pinocchio becomes a boy.

           The Ugly Duckling becomes a swan.

           Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi Warrior.

           Strider becomes King Aragorn.

           Neo becomes the One.


These speak to our heart because we long to be more than we can be.  We long to be born again.  It has become very popular in certain circles to speak of being “born again.”  What exactly does this mean?


The new birth is the bringing forth of a new and divinely created life into the soul of the believer.  When we speak of “generating” something, we refer to bringing life to that thing.  Therefore “regeneration” speaks of the bringing of life to that which had previously been dead.


1.         The Need for the New Birth.


The very fact of regeneration presupposes a spiritual death.  I have spent a lot of years in the Fire Rescue profession.  And there is one important rule which I learned.  You do not bring someone back to life unless they are first dead.


You were born as a son or a daughter of Adam.  This was an existence of spiritual death.  The only way of escape was to bring new life to that dead existence.


God does not save you by cleaning up your old life.  Instead He declares you to be legally dead.  And then He starts over.


            Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7).


There is an identification truth here.  When Christ died on the cross, you were legally considered to have died with Him.  When He was buried and the tomb was sealed with the stone, you were reckoned to be in the grave with Him.  And when He arose from the grave, you were declared to have risen with Him into a new life.


This is why Peter says that our new birth is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

            Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3).


The new birth brings about a living hope.  That is a quality we need.  Everyone needs hope.  I was talking recently to a man whose son had been in a coma.  It was uncertain whether the boy would live or die.  One of the nurses came in and told him, “I don’t want to give you any hope.”  She meant well but, at this point in the process, he needed to hope.  The good news is that his hope was not without foundation, for his son soon awakened and was restored to health.


If you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, then you have been born again to a living hope.  It is a hope of life that is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus.  He rose from the dead and He gives to you a similar resurrection, raising you out of your former manner of living to live your life in a new realm of existence.


2.         The Source of the New Birth.


            12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13).


Notice that all men are not called the children of God.  Only those who have come to Christ in faith have the authority to be called children of God.  Some people are children of another father.  Some people are the children of Satan (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10).


This tells me something about Christianity.  It tells me that Christianity is not simply another religion.  Christianity involves a relationship.  When we tell someone about Jesus, we are offering them entrance into the family of God.


This passage tells us that the source of this new birth is not man’s free will.  Man cannot will himself to be born again any more than a baby can conceive himself and be born.  The source of the new birth is the will of God.


3.         The Cause of the New Birth.


            In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:18).


The new birth is brought about by the exercise of God’s will.  That is quite different from the way in which we normally think.  We normally speak of believing the gospel and then, as a result of that faith, you enter into new life and are born again.  But James tells us that it is an exercise of God’s will that brings our new life.


What is true of the spiritual world is illustrated in natural birth.  You don’t get yourself born by something you do.  Your natural birth is due to the actions of your parents.  These actions are not initiated by you.  It is through the exercise of their will and their actions that you are brought forth.


In the same way, your spiritual birth begins, not with your decision or your faith, but with the will of God.  It is the exercise of His will that causes you to experience new life.  A result of that new life is faith.


Conception is not outwardly obvious.  That is why people take a pregnancy test.  The test tells you if there is life.  That life will eventually lead to growth and, it time, a birth will take place.  What is true in the natural realm is also true in the spiritual realm.  The new life imparted by God will eventually lead to faith and to spiritual growth.


4.         The Means of the New Birth.


            For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Peter 1:23).


The means by which the new birth is imparted to man is through the instrumentality of the gospel.  Although regeneration is the work of God, that work does not take place apart from the gospel.  Paul said that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).


5.         The Dynamic of the New Birth.


Jesus taught on the subject of the new birth during a midnight conversation He had with a man named Nicodemus.  It must have been an interesting conversation.  On the one hand was a Galilean carpenter-turned-rabbi.  On the other was a recognized religious leader of the Jewish religion.


            3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

            4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?”

            5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).


When Jesus speaks of the new birth, we should understand that the Greek can be understood in one of two ways.  It is an example of a homonym.  There is a word here that has two possible meanings.  Usually, you can tell a homonym from the context, but in this case, either meaning makes sense.  The phrase “born again” can mean one of two things:


           Born again.

           Born from above.


Which meaning is intended here?  Is Jesus speaking of being born again or is He speaking of being born from above.  I am not certain.  Either one is doctrinally accurate.  Either one fits the context of this verse.



There is another possibility.  It is that this is worded in such a way that we are to understand BOTH being in view.  There are times when we speak in such a way as to intentionally give a double meaning to our words.


Jesus continues to explain the contrast between the physical birth of which Nicodemus has spoken and the new birth that is of the Spirit.  In effect, He says that each gives birth after its own kind.  This is not a new concept to Nicodemus.  The first chapter of Genesis repeats again and again how things are created to produce after their own kind.


            And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed  AFTER THEIR KIND, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, AFTER THEIR KIND; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:12).


            And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed AFTER THEIR KIND, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21).


            And God made the beasts of the earth AFTER THEIR KIND, and the cattle AFTER THEIR KIND, and everything that creeps on the ground AFTER ITS KIND; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25).


Even when it came time for Adam and Eve to bear children, we read that this same principle continued to be in effect.


            When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. (Genesis 5:3).


Adam and Eve were created in the image of God.  They were designed to be like God.  That does not mean God has two arms and two legs or that He is merely a glorified man.  It does mean that man has been created to be God’s representative on planet earth and that he has been invested with a stewardship over the planet.  Man has been given to assume the role of rulership over the world.  There is a sense in which he stands in the role of being God to the world.


Furthermore, God is described in the Bible as having personality, emotions, intellect and will.  The fact that we share in those might reflect other ways and means in which we are also in the image of God.  That pattern was distorted when Adam sinned.  Sin affected every part of his life.  His personality became self-centered.  His emotions became subject to sin.  His intellect became clouded.  His will fell under the bondage of the flesh.


This same distortion of God’s image has been passed on to Adam’s descendants.  Adam’s children were not made in the image and likeness of God.  They were born in Adam’s own image and likeness.  They were polluted by the effects of sin in the same way that Adam reflected this polluted image.  His descendants gave rise to a fallen race.


God is the Perfect Image


Adam made in God’s Image


Adam sinned


Adam’s children born in his sinful image


It took the work of a second Adam to restore us to the image and likeness of God.  Just as the condemnation had come upon all the world through the sin of a single man, so also through the obedience of a single man has come salvation to all.


            45 So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.

            47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).


The first Adam was given life and became a living soul.  The last Adam gave life to the world by laying down His own life.  The first Adam sinned by eating of the fruit of the tree.   The last Adam obeyed by dying upon the tree.  The first Adam brought condemnation and death to all who bore his image and likeness.  The last Adam brings justification and life to all who enter into union with Him.  It is through Jesus Christ that man is able to return to the place of a true and even better pattern of the image of God.


6.         An Illustration of the New Birth.


            The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).


Jesus brings out an illustration of the new birth in John 3:8.  He uses the example of the wind.  It is not only a fitting example, but it is also a play on words as the term for “wind” and the term for “spirit” are identical in both Greek and Hebrew.  Why does Jesus use this play on words?  I think it is because He wants to make a comparison.  He wants to paint a picture of the work of the Spirit and He does this by picturing the work of the wind.


Try to look at the wind.  You cannot see it.  You do not know from where it comes.  You do not know where it is going.  But you believe it is there.  Why?  Because you see how it affects the physical world around you.  You see the leaves swirl.  You see sailboats move across a churning sea.  You see these evidences of the wind and they convince you that the wind is at work.


That is what the new birth is like.  You cannot see it.  You do not know from where it comes.  But you can believe it is there when you see how it affects those who have partaken of it.


I have had the opportunity to pilot both a motorboat as well as a sailboat.  Piloting a motorboat is easy.  You just start the motor and point the boat in the direction you wish to go and you go there.  A sailboat is different.  It does not carry its own power.  It relies on the wind.  When the wind blows, the sailboat goes.  If the wind does not blow, the sailboat does not move.  The pilot’s task is not to generate more wind; it is only to do what is necessary to catch the wind and to be moved by the wind.


The spiritual life is like that.  We cannot turn it on and off.  But we can allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit when it does blow.


Moses could not produce a burning bush, but when he was confronted by that manifested presence of God, he was able to allow it to change him.  How about you?  Has the Spirit of God been at work in your life?  Are you different today because of the blowing of God’s Spirit in your life?  If it is not, then don’t try to fake it.  You will be like the little boy who spreads his sails and then blows to make the sound of wind.  Don’t settle for cheap sound effects.  Spread the sails of your faith and then look for the Lord to move you with His Spirit.





A problem has arisen in the recent understanding of repentance.  One reason for this problem is that Bible scholars have attempted to adopt a thoroughly Greek idea of repentance instead of finding the foundation for their doctrine in the Old Testament Scriptures.  I am not merely arguing over the difference between Covenant Theology versus Dispensationalism, but rather the fact that all of the writers of both the Old and the New Testaments wrote from a Jewish perspective.


1.         Repentance in the Old Testament.


Repentance was a common theme in the Old Testament.  There were two basic Hebrew words that were associated with the idea of repentance.


           Nacham is the most common word for repentance.  It reflects the idea of sorrow and often includes with it a change of purpose.  The origin of the word seems to reflect the idea of “breathing deeply.”  This word can also be used of the comfort that takes place as a result of repentance.  Genesis 5:29 uses this term to speak of how Noah would give “comfort” or “rest” from the toil of the cursed ground.


           Shuv is a more general word—it is the twelfth most used verb in the entire Old Testament (over 1050 times).  It means “to turn” or “return.”  It conveys the idea that you were going in one direction and you turned so that you headed in the opposite direction.  There are over a hundred instances where it carries the idea of repentance (1 Kings 8:47; Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30).


One of the classic references to repentance in the Old Testament is found in the prophet Joel.


            12 "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning; 13 And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil. 14 Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him, Even a grain offering and a libation For the LORD your God? (Joel 2:12-14).


It will be observed that both these words are used both of sinners who repent of their sins as well as of God relenting of the calamity He had promised.  As it refers to men, the concept of repentance sees man who has run from the presence of God pausing in his headlong flight and returning to the presence of the Lord.


2.         Greek words for Repentance.


There are two primary Greek words used in the New Testament to speak of repentance.  They correspond to the two Hebrew terms that we have just seen.



The Greek word epistrepho comes from a compound made up of the joining of the word epi (“upon”) and strepho (“to turn”).  It is used to describe the process of conversion.


Classical Greek used the word in a general sense of a change of mind, heart, or direction, including times when a person repented of doing something good to turn to a path of evil.

The Greek word metanoeo is a compound of two Greek words.

           Meta is the preposition “with” or “after”

           Noeo is the word for “mind.”


This origin has caused some to think that repentance in the New Testament is only a change of mind and nothing more, but that would be an inaccurate use of the language.  Compound words are often more that the sum of their roots and metanoeo as used in the New Testament involves more than a mere change of mind.



Luke twice uses the parallelism, “Repent and turn” (Acts 3:19; 26:20).  This parallelism is also found in the Old Testament LXX (Isaiah 46:8; Jeremiah 4:28; Joel 2:14; 3:9).


Faith and repentance are essentially two sides of the same coin.  Repentance focuses upon that from which you TURN AWAY; faith focuses upon that TO WHICH YOU TURN.


3.         John the Baptist Preaches Repentance.


            Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2).


John’s command to repent was linked to his announcement that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  We must remember that John is announcing something that was promised from the Old Testament and therefore his command to repent is given from an Old Testament context.  The repentance he demands is no mere change of mind, but demands a resulting change of life.  This is made clear in Luke’s account of John’s preaching.


            “Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance...” (Luke 3:8a).


When questioned as to what form such fruit in keeping with repentance ought to be, John painted a very vivid picture.


            11 And he would answer and say to them, “Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise.” 12 And some tax‑gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:11-14).


John’s focus was not merely upon a repentance that remained theoretical, but upon one which produced a changed life.  As such, his baptism came to be referred to as a “baptism of repentance” (Acts 13:24; 19:4).

4.         Jesus Preaches Repentance.


All three of the Synoptic Gospels characterize the general preaching of Jesus as one of repentance (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32).  The gospel of John is distinct in that it does not use the word “repent.”  In its place is the word “believe.”  This underscores an important point.  It is that faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin.


5.         Repentance in the Preaching of the Church.


From the very first sermon at Pentecost, the preaching of the early church was one of repentance.


           Peter called for repentance and baptism, both in public sermons (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31) as well as in private rebukes (Acts 8:22).


           Paul declares repentance to be the program of God for all men of this age (Acts 11:16; 17:30; 20:21).  He describes this repentance in terms of turning to God and performing deeds appropriate to repentance (Acts 26:20).


           Repentance is directly related to and brought about through the agency of godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).


6.         Elements of Repentance.


In his Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof lists three elements of repentance.


           An intellectual element.  Repentance involves a change of thinking, a recognition of the guilt of personal sin.


           An emotional element.  We have already seen that a proper sorrow for our sins leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  In the same vein, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).


           A volitional element.  This is a change of purpose and direction as the sinner turns from his sin and directs himself to trust in and follow the Lord (Acts 2:38, Revelation 2:5).


7.         Repentance is Granted by God.


In 2 Timothy 2:25, Paul speaks of those who are in opposition to the truth and say that “perhaps God may GRANT THEM repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”  The implication is that repentance is not something the pagan initiates in his own life.  It is a work of God within him.


In a similar way, the Psalmist prays, “O God, restore us” (Psalm 80:3).  This pleas, found three times in this chapter (verses 7 and 19), uses the Hebrew word shuv, asking God to turn His people to Himself (see also Jeremiah 31:18 and Lamentations 5:21).


The first church council in Jerusalem alluded to the fact that “God GRANTED to the Gentiles also the full repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).


8.         Repentance and Judgment.


Most of the references to repentance are seen in a context of coming judgment.  In addition to the passages already noted, we should add Revelation 2:5, 10, 21-22; 3:3, 19.  Yet Paul points out that the kindness of God leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4).





Repentance tends to focus upon that from which man turns as he departs from the realm of his sin and rebellion.  The counterpart to repentance is faith.  It pictures man turning toward God and relying upon Him.




Focus on the negative.

Focus on the Positive.

Turning away from sin and rebellion.

Turns to God and trusts in Him.


1.         What is Faith?


Faith is made up of four necessary elements.  All of them must be present for it to be that kind of faith that saves.




The element of cognition means that faith involves a certain amount of knowledge.  The Scriptures speak of repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25).  It is popular today for people in our Postmodern culture to say, “It is not important in what you believe, as long as you have faith.”  It is a foolish statement.  You would not think much of a surgeon who said, “It is not important where you cut, as long as you cut.”  When one makes such a statement, he is really saying there is nothing in which we can believe.  Belief is seen merely as an escape to keep from going insane.  It is hoping when there is no hope.  Real faith is not like that.  The apostle John speaks of the evidence of an eye witness testimony to the cross experience of Jesus.




This is the element of assent.  There are many people who know the facts of the Bible, but who do not necessarily believe that they are true.  The first element deals with the enlightenment of the truth.  The second element deals with convincing men of that truth.


Yet this is not the full scope of faith.  Herod Agrippa was convinced of the truthfulness of the prophets without believing in the one whom they foretold (Acts 26:27).




Real faith is more than a mere knowledge and a mental assent.  James reminds us that the demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19).  The Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah believed that He really existed and that He was a miracle worker.  They even made the effort to come and to see Him.  Yet they were not real believers.  They only wanted Him to set up a welfare state where they could get free bread and fish.


Saving faith is rooted in a person.  It is the belief that sees Jesus as the only hope of life and then relies upon Him and submits to Him.




When we trust in Christ, we also entrust our entire future to Him, committing ourselves into His hands.  This is the issue of Lordship.  There are some who would claim that trusting in Jesus without any commitment to Him as Lord of our lives and One to be obeyed is sufficient for salvation.  What they are saying is that you can hate Jesus, declare yourself His mortal enemy, yet pray to Him and order Him to save you quite apart from any desire to have your life changed by Him and He will be obligated to do so.  Jesus made no such claim.  He called men to follow Him without reservation.


            23 And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  24 For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26).


Does this mean we obtain salvation through our own efforts?  Not at all.  It does mean that the process of salvation changes the life of the believer.


2.         Roman Catholic Versus Reformed Views of Faith.


Roman Catholic View

Reformed View

Faith consists of a mere assent to the doctrines of the church.

Faith involves a commitment to Christ and a reliance upon Him.

Fides Informis—Assent to the doctrines of the church.

Fides Formata—it includes love as a formative principle.

Faith does not require knowledge.  One is a believer if he is ready to accept the doctrines of the church, regardless of whether he knows what they are.

Knowledge of certain key propositional truths is an essential part of faith.


3.         From where does Faith come?


We must begin by understanding that our experience is not in itself adequate to tell us from where faith comes.  This is because we do not have the total picture.  We cannot see our lives and our experiences and our decisions from God’s point of view except as we read the Scriptures.


           The condition of unsaved man.


The apostle Paul presents a vivid picture of man as he exists without God.  It shows the way in which man naturally uses his free will.


10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;

11 There is none who understands,

There is none who seeks for God;

12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;

There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12).


The unsaved man has no desire for God.  He has turned his back on God and has run away from God.  He cannot understand God and he does not want to understand God.


            But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14).


The unbeliever is described as a “natural man.”  The phrase in the Greek text is literally, “the soulish man.”  When the natural man is confronted with the things of the Spirit of God, he does not accept them.  He does not believe the gospel.  The gospel makes no sense to him.  It seems nonsensical.  He cannot understand how the death of a man on a cross in a little country in the Middle East could affect the destiny of all men.


It is impossible for the natural man—the unsaved man—to understand the things of God.  Just as the physically blind man cannot see the sun, so also the spiritually blind man cannot see the Son.


           The need for an effectual call.


When we speak of an “effectual call,” we must distinguish this from a general call.  The general call of God is that call for all men to repent.  Matthew 22:14 says that “many are called, but few are chosen.”  An effectual call is a call that necessarily produces an effect.  It is an inward call that answers the outward call.


In a context where He was facing the rejection at both the hands of the Jews as well as from some of His own disciples, Jesus spoke of the need for an effectual calling.


            “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who send Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.  45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:44‑45).


With these words, Jesus is explaining the phenomenon of unbelief.  The reason some men do not believe is because it is impossible for any man to believe unless the Lord draws him to Christ.  Why is this?  Why is it that men will not come to God. on their own initiative?  Why will they not come unless God draws them?  It is because man’s will has ben corrupted by sin.  It has been said that the man who chokes on the doctrine of election has not yet swallowed his own total depravity.


As a sinner, man is helpless to even turn to God for help.  Water cannot flow uphill.  Neither is it possible for the natural man to act contrary to his nature.  It is God who must turn man so that he will seek a cure.  Therefore, it is only when a man is drawn by God that he will come to Jesus to be saved.


           Explicit statements of faith as a gift.


There are not a lot of passages that explicitly teach that faith is a gift of God and I'm not sure that any do clearly, but here are some to consider:


            Lydia... was listening... and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).


   God has allotted to each, a measure of faith (Romans 12:3b).


            For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit... to another faith by the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-9).


            For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, (Philippians 1:29).


            "Simon Peter... to those who HAVE RECEIVED a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1).


The words “have received” in this last passage are translated from the Greek lachousin, the aorist participle of lagchano and carries the idea of receiving an allotted portion (indeed, it usually has the idea that lots were cast in order for the privilege to be granted; Luke 1:9; John 19:24; Acts 1:17).  In the same vein, Jesus said...


            "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me..."(John 6:37).


The reason that there is response to Jesus is because the Father gives those people to Jesus. 


            "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who send Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.'  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.'" (John 6:44‑45).


The reason that men come to Christ (and that is just another way of saying that this is the reason they believe in Him) is because the Father draws those men and teaches them.  It is only those who have been given this internal teaching who come (See also verse 64‑65 where Jesus uses this to explain why Judas did NOT believe).


Does this happen apart from the offer of the gospel and faith?  By no means!  The invitation to come and believe is seen in the same passage and sometimes in the same verse.                                             


           Faith and Salvation:  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).


Salvation comes through faith.  Faith is never looked upon as a cause of your salvation.  Rather, it is the instrument through which you receive your salvation.  Faith is an instrument.  In the same way a fork is utilized to bring food to my mouth, so the Lord uses faith to bring salvation.





            And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

            “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax‑gatherer. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax‑gatherer. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax‑gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” (Luke 18:9‑13).


Two men.  Both are Jewish.  Both are descendants of Abraham.  Both have come to the temple to pray.  The first is a Pharisee.  He is a religious man.  He holds to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures.  As a member of the sect of the Pharisees, he has dedicated his life to the keeping of the Law of God.  He reads the Law daily.  He prays several times a day.  He gives his tithe to the Temple.  He is respectable in the eyes of the religious hierarchy.  Everyone agrees that he is a good man.


Standing nearby is the other man.  This man is a tax‑gatherer.  He has gone to the Roman officials and has purchased a franchise from the Roman Empire to collect taxes from the subjugated people on behalf of Rome.  He is required to turn over a specified amount of money to the Romans, and anything over this amount he is permitted to keep for himself.  Therefore, he makes his profit by deliberately overcharging people on their taxes.  He has betrayed his countrymen to become a thief for the Romans.  He is a Benedict Arnold.  He has sold out to the Romans for money.  No one will have anything to do with him.  He holds the same social caste as a prostitute.


Each of these men comes to the Temple.  Each of them pray.  I think that I can even say that each of them was sincere in his prayer.  Now I want you to notice what Jesus said about these two men and the results of their prayers...


            “I tell you, this man went does to his house JUSTIFIED rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:14).


Both of these men were sinners when they came into the Temple, although one was much more obvious in his sinning.  But one of these men went out of the Temple different than the other.  The Tax‑collector was JUSTIFIED.


1.         Justification Defined.


What does it mean to be “justified”?  The most common definition which I have heard is that it makes me “just‑as‑if‑I’d never sinned.”  This contains a certain amount of truth, but it is inadequate.


The word “justify” is taken from the Greek root word for “righteous.”  This gives us a clue as to its meaning.  It has to do with righteousness.  It describes the act of declaring that a person or thing is righteous.


Now this it important.  The act of justification does not MAKE a person righteous.  It is merely a declaration that he IS righteous.  This is seen in the fact that it is used to describe the righteousness of God...


            And when all the people and the tax‑gatherers heard this, they ACKNOWLEDGED GOD'S JUSTICE, having been baptized with the baptism of John. (Luke 7:29).


This phrase should literally be translated, “They JUSTIFIED God.”  This tells us something of the meaning of justification.  They were not doing anything to make God more righteous than He already was.  They were merely declaring that God was righteous.


This concept of JUSTIFICATION was commonly used as a legal term in which a court of law might officially declare that a man was righteous ‑ that he had not broken the law.  This is different from being pardoned.  A man who had been pardoned might be released, even though he were a guilty criminal worthy of death.  However, a man who was justified was being declared innocent of any wrong‑doing.


Now we come back to the case of the tax‑gatherer in Luke 18:14.  This man was a guilty sinner.  He was one who had freely admitted his guilt.  And yet, he had not merely been pardoned.  Jesus said that this man went away JUSTIFIED.  This man was declared to be righteous.


Does this mean that he had not really sinned?  Does it mean that his sins were not all that bad and that they could be overlooked?  Does it mean that the man stopped sinning?


There are crucial questions here that go far beyond this one man.  WE have been justified.  God has declared us to be righteous.  But how can God declare a man to be righteous when that man is really a guilty sinner?  The answer can only be found in the imputation of righteousness.


2.         The Imputation of Righteousness.


            He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).


In this single verse, Paul pictures two different aspects of the work of Christ on our behalf.


           The Imputation of our sins upon Christ.


Jesus became sin on our behalf.  This does not mean that He actually became a sinner or that He began to sin.  He has lived through all eternity without sin and He will always be perfect in His righteous character.


How did He become sin on our behalf?  What really happened on the cross?  Our sins were put to His account.  He was credited with our sins.  While He was on the cross, God the Father treated Him as though He were a guilty sinner.

Jesus was judged in our place.  The wrath of God was poured out on Him.  In the midst of this condemnation, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”


The sinless Son of God was judged as though He had committed all of the sins which have ever taken place throughout the entire history of mankind.  He was judged in our place.  Our sins were imputed or credited to Him.  But this is not all.


           The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness Toward Us.


Just as our sins were put to His account while He was on the cross, so in the same way, the righteousness of Christ is put to our account when we believe in Him.  We are credited with the righteousness of Christ.  We are reckoned to be righteous.  On this basis, we are justified — declared to be righteous.  And for all eternity, God will treat us as though we were as righteous as Jesus Christ.


Now, this does not mean that I actually BECOME righteous when I believe in Christ.  If that were true, then no believer would ever sin and this just is not the case.  Rather, I am legally credited with the righteousness of Christ so that I can be legally declared to be righteous.


3.         The Significance of Justification.


What is the significance of this imputation of Christ's righteousness to our account?  Is it merely another doctrine to be tucked into our spiritual notebooks and quietly forgotten?  Or does it have some practical value on how I can live my life for today?


If I have been declared by God to be righteous, then God is now free to bless me with every spiritual blessing.  You see, God can never act in a way that is contrary to His own character.  He could never say, “I know that man has sinned and is deserving of eternal condemnation, but I want  to be a God of love and so I'm going to ignore man's sinful condition and give him eternal life anyway.”


For God to accept sinful man as he is and to fellowship with him in this condition would be for God to accept and to fellowship with SIN.  It would make God a sinner.  It is for this reason that God formed a plan which would save man and at the same time would satisfy the righteousness of God.


4.         The Necessity of Imputation.


            But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested. (Romans 3:21a).


With these words, Paul introduces the doctrine of justification by faith.  Rather than being contrary to God's righteous character, the doctrine of justification actually emphasizes the righteousness of God.  This principle is seen most vividly when we examine the necessity of an imputation of righteousness.


           God is infinite.  He is without beginning or end, both in the realm of time and space as well as in the perfection of His holy character.


           God's righteousness is infinite.  Just as all of the other attributes of God are infinite, so also is His righteousness infinite.  This means that we cannot think of His grace as overpowering His righteousness.  All of His attributes are equally infinity.


           Anything less than God's righteousness is separated from that righteousness by an infinite gulf.  This is the very nature of anything that is infinite.  It is always infinitely apart from the non‑infinite.  There can be no such thing as that which is "almost infinite."


           Therefore, the righteousness that God demands must always be an infinite righteousness, since anything less is not true righteousness by His standards.  We have a tendency to look at one another in terms of different levels of relative righteousness.


To say, "I'm not as bad as he is," doesn't mean that we are righteous in God's eyes.  To the contrary, God says that "all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Isaiah 64:6).


           Sin is contrary to God's righteousness.  This is obvious when we consider what sin is.  The Westminster Confession defines sin as "any want of conformity unto or transgression of the Law of God."  Sin in the Biblical sense can only be defined as that which is in violation of God's ultimate standard ‑ His own righteousness.


Paul made this very clear when he pronounced that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).


           Therefore, sin is infinite in demerit.  There is an infinite gulf fixed between the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of men.


Man's relative righteousness could never bridge that gulf, for even a single sin would be enough to establish it forever (and we have committed a lot more than a single sin).  But that is not all.  Because sin is infinite in demerit, it demands an infinite punishment against the sinner.


This is why I believe that Hell will be eternal.  A man could not be sent to Hell and then have his sentence completed after a certain number of years, now to be allowed into the presence of God.  A single sin would be enough to condemn one for all time and eternity.


It is not until you understand the awfulness of sin and its consequences that you can begin to appreciate the magnificent gift of God.


           The righteousness that God credits to the believer's account is an infinite righteousness.


We have been credited with the righteousness of Christ.  He is infinitely righteous.  He has not merely imputed a portion of His righteousness to our account.  Rather, the very nature of His character of complete righteousness has been credited to us.  We are regarded by God as having the very righteousness of Christ.


We can sum this concept up in three short sentences:  God IS righteous.  God DEMANDS righteousness.  God freely PROVIDES what He demands.


5.         Objections to the Doctrine of Justification by Faith.


Several objections have been raised against the Reformed teaching that justification takes place by faith in Christ alone and apart from any works.


           It is argued that it encourages sinful living.


Paul himself responded to this objection in his epistle to the Romans when he said, And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come "? Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8).


The fact that Paul perceived such an objection indicates that we are correct in  our understanding of the doctrine of justification.  Indeed, a correct teaching of justification by faith will necessarily give rise to the question of license to live sinfully.


Paul meets this objection with the teaching that we have been united with Christ and are therefore obligated to see ourselves as dead to sin (Romans 6:1-4).  He says to us, “I have declared you to be righteous; now go and live that righteous life.”


           It is argued that justification by faith is contradicted by James.


The Council of Trent argued that James 2:14-26 contradicts the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone when it speaks of the importance of works.


            What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14).


There are two rhetorical questions presented in this verse.  A rhetorical question is one in which the answer is assumed because it is obvious.


The first rhetorical question deals with the man who claims to have faith, but has no works in his life that accompany the attested faith.  It is not that he is insincere in his faith.  He really might believe.  But there is nothing in his life to indicate he has truly come to trust in Jesus.  There has been no change in his life.  He continues to have no works in his life.


The question is asked, “What use is this kind of faith?  The man was once an unbeliever and he lived his life in sin.  He now claims to be a believer and he still lives his life in sin.  There has been no change.  The answer to the question is obvious.  It has produced no effect.  Such a faith is of no use at all.


This brings us to the second question.  Can this kind of faith save a man?  Of what kind of faith are we speaking?  It is the kind of faith that produces no change in the life of the believer.  The answer is very obvious.  This kind of faith cannot save anyone.


When I was a young Christian, I studied under an evangelist who taught that this question could be answered in the affirmative—that this kind of faith could save. [1]  However, the Greek text makes it very clear that the question expects a negative answer.  The kind of faith that does not manifest itself in works cannot save anyone.  This is clarified in the ensuing verses.


            Even so faith, if it has no work, is dead, being by itself. (James 2:17).


There is one kind of faith the results in a changed life.  It is a supernatural faith.  It is a faith that God Himself beings about in the life of the one in whom He does His saving work.  It is the faith that comes when God enlightens the heart of a man who has formerly lived in darkness.  It is the faith of one who has been born again.  This is the only kind of faith that saves.


            21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24).


Both Paul and James use the example of Abraham to illustrate faith (Romans 4:1-5).  Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation.  There is also a sense in which he is the father of the church — we are his children when we believe in the God in whom he believed.


Abraham was justified by faith when he believed the promise of God (Genesis 15:6).  He was also justified by works when he offered Isaac upon the altar (Genesis 22).  Which of these events took place first?  The former took place over twenty years before the latter.


Do you see the difference?  Paul deals with justification in the sight of God.  James deals with the outward and physical demonstration and outworking of that justification.




Looks at the issue of justification by faith as it impacts our standing before God.

Looks at the issue of justification by works in the sight of men


           It is argued that the final judgment is on the basis of works.


There are a number of Scriptures that point out that the final judgment will be on the basis of works.  It is our works that shall be judged (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Matthew 16:27; 25:31-46; John 5:29; Romans 2:5-10; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-9; 1 Peter 1:17).


Why are we judged by our works?  Because the good works that we do are an evidence of the Holy Spirit working within us (Philippians 2:13).  Only the Christian can manifest those kinds of works.  And yet, we are not justified by those works in the sight of God, but the works come as a result and as an evidence of that justification.


           It is argued that the need for seeking God’s forgiveness is negated.


This is the result of failing to distinguish between the wrath of God against the ungodly versus He fatherly displeasure toward His children who have sinned.  Hebrews 12:5-8 speaks of the discipline of sons and this stands in contrast to God’s judgment of those who are apart from Him.


Justification deals with the actions of a judge against one who is a rebellious law-breaker.  Discipline deals with the actions of a loving father toward his children.





            13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).


The word “sanctification” simply means “to make holy.”  The words “sanctify” and “holy” and “saint” all describe the same thing.  While we have these as separate words in our English language, both the Greek and Hebrew all translates this with a single root word.


The greatest picture of holiness is that which is presented by the prophet Isaiah.  At the beginning of his ministry, this prophet came face to face with the holiness of God.


            In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3).


Isaiah was given a rare vision.  It was a vision of heaven itself and of the Lord and His glory and His angels.  There was a great deal of things that could have been said to describe the character of God.  The angels could have pointed to His great power.  Or they could have focused upon His wisdom and His knowledge.  They could have praised His grace and His lovingkindness.  But instead, they focus upon His holiness.


“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts!


The royal announcement of the holiness of God is too much for Isaiah.  He cannot help but to contrast the holiness of God with His own lack of holiness.  Rather than singing with the angels, he finds himself woefully inadequate to speak of the holiness of God.


            Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5).


Coming face to face with the holiness of God will always have this effect.  Peter did exactly the same thing when he was first confronted with the reality of the power of Jesus.


You remember the story.  Jesus told Peter to let out the fishing nets.  Peter had already spent the entire night fishing and had nothing to show for it, but he nevertheless followed the instructions of Jesus.  The result was a huge catch of fish.  But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).


1.         Sanctification in the Old Testament.


The Old Testament Hebrew uses the word kadash to refer to the idea of sanctification.


            Then God blessed the seventh day and SANCTIFIED it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:3).


            “And I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be CONSECRATED by My glory.  44  And I will CONSECRATE the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also CONSECRATE Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me.” (Exodus 29:43-44).


            Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I CONSECRATED you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nation.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5).


In each of these cases, the principle of sanctification is seen to refer to something that has been set apart from its normal usage for a special and exclusive purpose.


2.         Sanctification in the New Testament.


There are several terms which are taken from the same Greek root word found in the New Testament:  Holy, saint and sanctify.


     1.    Hagios - “Holy; a sanctified one (saint).”

     2.    Hagiazo - “To Sanctify or make holy.”


The root word hagios literally means, “to set apart for a special purpose.”  Sanctification is the work of God in which He sets a believer apart, washing him from his sin and making him into the character of Christ.  The Greeks used  hagios to describe that which had been set apart and consecrated to the gods.  It was used this way of temples, altars, offerings, and even of people.  Hagios could also be used to describe an offering that would be given at a temple.  Money that was given would now be set apart for the use of the priesthood of that temple.


When we speak of the holiness of God, we are looking at His transcendence and the fact that He is other than the rest of His creation.  This sense of “otherness” is His holiness.  But there is also a sense in which we are also set apart from creation.  We are a called-out people who have been separated out in order to be a people of God’s own possession.  In this sense, there is both a negative as well as a positive aspect of sanctification.


Negative aspect of Sanctification

Positive aspect of Sanctification

We have been set apart from the world and from sin and from the dominion of Satan.

We have been set apart to God and to His good works and to righteousness and purity.


Our sanctification can be seen on three different planes: a positional standing, a progressive experience, and a future culmination.        


3.         Positional Sanctification.


When Paul gave his defense before Agrippa, he made reference to those who have been sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18).  Those who have come to faith in Christ are said to have been sanctified.  The universality of this position for those who are in Christ is seen in the words of Paul to the Corinthians.


            Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:1-2).


Note that the words “saints” is merely the noun form of the word “sanctified.”  It points to those who have been “saint-I-fied.”  When we read through this epistle, we learn some things about the Corinthian believers.  They had broken up the church over petty disputes.  They had allowed immorality to come into the church.  They were hauling each other into court and suing each other.  They were dishonoring the Lord’s Table.  There were even some who were denying the resurrection of the dead.  And yet, in spite of all these things, Paul calls them “saints” and says they have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.


Their identity was no longer rooted in their sinful condition.  They had been given a new identity.  They were now in Christ and that position was the source of their new identity.


There is an important implication to this truth.  It means my identity is no longer rooted in my performance.  Why is this important?  Because my performance will always fall short of what it ought to be.  I am a sinner and I am going to go on being a sinner as long as I am in this life.  My performance as a Christian will always fall short of what it ought to be.  What will this do to my self-esteem?  If my focus is on my performance, it will drive me to frustration and then I will end up doing one of two things.


I could give up.  If I honestly try to build my life on the basis of my performance, I will quickly come to the place where I am defeated.  That might be for the best.  God often brings us to the place where we are defeated, because only then can we see that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).


Or I might try to fake it.  There are many Christians who hide behind a mask of pseudo spirituality.  The New Testament has a word for this.  It is called a hupokrites.  This described the Greek actor who held a mask in front of his face as he played a part in the theater.  It is from this word that we derive our term “hypocrite.”


Churches today are full of people who are hiding behind a mask of good works and church attendance, seeking to satisfy their self esteem by impressing other people.  The reason for this is that we tend to build our self esteem on the basis of what we think other people think about us.  What we need to focus on is what God thinks about us.  God sees us with a new identity.  He has an image of us that is exactly the same as the image of Jesus Christ.

            16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).


We are called to see ourselves in the way God sees us.  God sees beyond the physical.  He sees those things that are eternal.  How can we see into those eternal areas?  We see through the eyes of faith.  We see by reading what God says in His word and by believing it.


4.         Progressive Sanctification.


            For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).


The Greek text is quite revealing in this passage.  The word “sanctified” appears in the present tense and thus refers to “those who are being sanctified.”  While it is true that you were completely and totally set apart in an eternal sense when you believed in Christ, there is another sense in which you are experiencing a setting apart of yourself on a day by day basis.  This is called growth.


The Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith gives this definition of sanctification.


            Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. (Shorter Catechism 35).


Progressive sanctification can best be understood as we contrast it to God’s work in justification and regeneration.


Before we look at the differences between sanctification versus justification, we ought first to see the similarities between these two.


           Both come from the grace of God.

           Both are a part of the work of salvation that God provides.

           Both are to be found in all the converted.  There is no such thing as a person who has been justified who has not also been sanctified.

           Both begin at the same time.

           Both are necessary to salvation.




Justification is the reckoning and counting of a man to be righteous on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Sanctification is the making of a man to be inwardly righteous.

The righteousness of justification is an imputed righteousness received by faith and is not our own.

The righteousness of sanctification is an imparted righteousness brought about in us by the Holy Spirit.

Justification is an absolute

Sanctification in the progressive sense is relative and in part.

Speaks of a work done for you.

Speaks of a work done in you.

You are declared righteous on the basis of the merits of Jesus Christ.

You are set apart for God’s special use by the work of the Holy Spirit.


Both justification and sanctification...

           Come to the believer through faith (Galatians 2:16; Acts 26:18).

           Are on the basis of the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 10:29; 13:12).



Regeneration is sanctification begun.  Sanctification is regeneration unfolding.  In both cases, these involve a work of God.


            For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6).


It is God who does the work of sanctification.  He began the good work in you and He will continue it until the day of Christ Jesus.  At the same time, you are called to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).  Sanctification is a work of God, but it is also a work in which we share.  We labor like the farmer who plants and who plows and who waters, but it is ultimately God who gives the growth.


Another important aspect of this growth is that it takes time.  God is building for eternity.  He is building a work in you that is meant to last.  It has been said that when God wants to grow an oak tree He takes a hundred years, but when He makes a squash, He takes only six months.  God is building within you the very person of Jesus Christ.  Christ is being formed in you.


            My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:19).


Paul speaks to the believers in Galatia and tells them that Christ is being formed in them.  This takes time.  There is no short cut to maturity.  Searching for short cuts will lead you into dead ends and pitfalls as you attempt to use certain experiences and “second blessings” to bring you to maturity.  The problem with these is that they lead you to look for the source of your growth within yourself rather than where it should be — in Christ.  He is both the source as well as the goal of our sanctification.


            14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, (Ephesians 4:14-15).


This is our goal.  It is that we will be like Jesus Christ in all aspects.  This process will continue until the day that we see Him face to face.  This brings us to the destination of our sanctification.


5.         Ultimate Sanctification:  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. (John 3:2).


We have a promise for the future.  It is that we shall see the Lord.  When we see Him, we will be like Him.  Moses asked that he might be permitted to see the glory of God, but he was only permitted to see God’s “after glow.”  No man has ever seen the full glory of God, but there is coming a day when we shall see Him just as He is.  How will that be possible?  It is because we shall be like Him.  We are going to be changed.  The work of sanctification will have its completion.  The process of growth will terminate with an eternal summer of glory.  We will be like Christ.  His character is today being formed in us and one day it will be completed.


Today we are saints in transition.  We are never where we were, but neither are we ever where we want to be.  We are a walking contradiction.  Yet there is hope for the future.  We will be changed.  This hope for the future has an obligation for the present.  This has an effect on how we live today.  It gives us a goal for which to attain.  This goal is stated in the following verse.


            And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:3).


This is a doctrine of comfort, but it is also designed to motivate us and teach us how we are to live today.  It moves us to live a life of purity and holiness.





Security is something needed by everyone.  This is most obvious when we look at children.  They have not learned to cover their needs.  One of their biggest needs is security.  Our daughter once asked my wife if she and I would ever divorce.  She had seen divorce pictured on television as a regular way of life and many of her friends and peers came from homes that had been broken by divorce.  The splitting of a family tears apart a child’s security.  Everything on which the child has based a life comes crashing down.  The result is often fear, hostility, and rebellion.


Children are not alone in their need for security.  We all need security.  There is job security, marital security, social security, but the most important thing is eternal security.  The Bible is very explicit to the matter of eternal security.  The reason Jesus came to earth was to provide us with a security that would be eternal.


1.         Our Security is seen in the work of Jesus.


Jesus gives words of assurance to all who follow Him when He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  28  and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.  29  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29).  Notice the double assurance that is given.  He says that no one shall be able to snatch them out of His hand.  But that is not all.  He also says that no one shall be able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.


2.         Our Security is seen in the Removal of our Sins: As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).


Paul concludes his study of our salvation and then asks the rhetorical question: Can anything ever separate us from the love of Christ?  In Romans 8:35-39 he lists all of the possibilities before concluding that nothing shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God.


3.         Our Security is seen in the Sealing Ministry of the Holy Spirit.


            13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation‑‑ having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14).


The believer has been sealed by the Holy Spirit.  A seal was a device, usually crafted into a signet ring or a cylinder that was engraved with the owner’s name or with some identifying sign.  A seal could be used to signify several things.


           Ownership: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).


I have a rubber stamp with my name engraved on it.  If you pick out a book from my library and look on it, you will see that it is stamped with my name on the binding.  It indicates the book belongs to me.  In the same way, when you placed a seal upon something in ancient times, it signified that you were the rightful owner of that property.  Under Jewish law, a slave could also be stamped with a seal.  A slave who wished to devote the rest of his life to the service of his master would have his ear pierced.  This act would seal him as the permanent property of his master (Deuteronomy 15:12-18).




Another significance of a seal was protection.  When Pilate had the tomb of Jesus sealed with an official Roman seal, it was with the purpose of protecting the contents of the tomb from being disturbed.  Anyone caught tampering with that seal would have been stopped by the Roman soldiers posted without.




A third purpose of a seal was authentication and verification.  A seal would serve as a signature to authenticate a letter or official document.  Rulers frequently wore a signet ring — a ring with an elaborate engraving identifying the wearer.  The ruler would spill hot wax onto the document and then press his fist with the sealing ring into it, leaving its mark.  This would authenticate the document and make it official.


The Holy Spirit accomplishes all three of these duties on behalf of the believer.  He is the sign of ownership, signifying that we belong to God.  He is also the sign of protection, indicating that our Heavenly Father will care for us and that nothing takes place in our life that has not first passed through a nail-scarred hand.  He is also the mark of authenticity, showing by the fruit He produces in the life of a Christian that He is resident in that life.


What shall we say about the person who comes and makes a profession of faith and who, for a time, exhibits all of the characteristics of a Christian, but who then leaves and who rejects Christ?


John describes this sort of person.  “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).  Notice what John does not say.  He does not say that they lost their salvation.  Rather he says in essence, “By the very fact that they left, they showed that they were not saved in the first place.”


When God saves a person, a process begins that will continue throughout his entire life.  Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).  Sanctification is not an option in Christianity.  It is for this reason that 1 John can describe a Christian as one who is continually...

           Walking in the light (1:7).

           Confessing his sins (1:9).

           Keeping the commandments (2:3; 4:7).

           Loving his brother (2:10).

           Practicing righteousness (3:10).

           Believing that Jesus is the Christ (5:1).


For this reason, I believe in the eternal security of the believer, but the eternal insecurity of the make-believer as illustrated in the following chart.


Eternal Security

A Biblical Balance

Loss of Salvation

Once a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, they will be saved no matter whether or not they continue to believe.

It is possible for one to experience a faith for a time that is not saving faith.  Such a one often falls away after a time.

A person might come to Christ and be saved and then, because of sin or unbelief, might lose that salvation and be lost.

Reads the parable of the sower and believes that only the first one is lost while the others merely suffer “loss of rewards.”

The parable of the sower pictures some who initially experience a measure of spiritual growth, but who ultimately fall away and are not saved.

The parable of the sower tells of some who were initially saved but who lost their salvation because they did not endure.

Once saved, always saved; no matter what.

The perseverance of God’s elect is guaranteed by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation is a matter of enduring to the end.





There are four primary views regarding the perseverance of the saints.  The first three of these views have this perseverance dependent upon man and his strength.  The fourth view presents God as the deciding factor in man’s perseverance.



Perseverance is much more than eternal security.  While eternal security states that salvation cannot be lost, the doctrine of perseverance says that the man who is saved will continue to manifest the evidence of that salvation in this life.  Berkhof defines it as “that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, in which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continues and brought to completion” (1971:546).


This does not mean that everyone who claims to believe in Jesus Christ is necessarily saved.  There are those who might be members of the church and who, for a time, exhibit the earmarks of the redeemed, yet they are not really a part of the family of God.


            They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19).


When a person who has called himself a Christian falls away, it does not mean he has lost his salvation.  It may be an indication that he was never really saved to begin with.  Nor do the Scriptures mandate that all such false brethren fall away.  Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares and how there would be unbelievers and believers together until the Second Coming.


1.         A Confident Expectation:  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).


What is the work that was begun in the lives of the Philippians?  In one sense, it was seen in the gifts they had given to Paul for the ministry.  But in a larger sense, it was the work of God that was taking place in their lives to bring about those gifts.  The Christian life is a work in progress, but it is a work that is headed toward a specific goal.  Paul expresses his confidence that the work will be “perfected” — the Greek suggests that the work will be “over-completed.”


Notice who is doing the work versus who is the recipient of that work.  It is God who is doing the work and the work He is doing is “in you.”


2.         A Dependence upon God’s Faithfulness: But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).


The perseverance of the saints is dependent upon the faithfulness of the Lord.  He is the One who will accomplish your strengthening and protection.


            7 that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:7-9).


This promise was given to the Corinthian believers.  As we read through the epistle to the Corinthians, we can easily note that these people did not look blameless.  They appeared to be anything but blameless.  But that is because God was not yet finished with them.


When we speak of the perseverance of the saints, there is a sense in which it is a misnomer.  It is not really the perseverance of the saints that is described here.  What we see in this passage and others like it is the perseverance of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The saints do not persevere because they grit their teeth and struggle to successfully overcome every obstacle.  They persevere because God is faithful.  He has promised that He will bring us to perfection and He can be trusted to accomplish his promises.


A promise is not stronger than the character of the one who makes the promise.  If I promise something to you, it might not come to pass because I might fail you.  But God never fails.  He never falls down on the job.  He never changes His mind.  If He has promised you something, you can rest on His promise with complete assurance.


None of those who have been saved will ever be lost.  You have God’s word on that.  If you belong to Him, then He will keep you and confirm you to the end.


3.         A Dependence upon God’s Power:  Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 1:24).


The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints reflects a faith and a dependence upon the power of God.  It is God who is able to keep you from stumbling.  It is God who is able to make you stand as blameless in the presence of His glory.  The same God who promised to save you also assures that He is able to keep that promise.


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[1]  Stanford, A. Ray, Handbook of Personal Evangelism, Hollywood, FL: Florida Bible College, Pages 102-103.