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Salvation and Sanctification

Men and women are created in God’s image, but since the disobedience of Adam and Eve, all are born with a sinful nature, destined to death.  All are separated by sin from their Creator, utterly dependent on God’s mercy for salvation (deliverance from death).  Salvation is ours through the process of spiritual rebirth appropriated by the grace of God through a repentant heart and faith in the blood sacrifice of His Son for our sin.  Spiritual rebirth (also called “regeneration”) is not caused or induced by human efforts or merits.  No human being can redeem his own life or that of another; God is the sole elector of who shall be saved.  His elect are graciously blessed with faith in Jesus Christ; with receipt of the gift of forgiveness of sins; and with the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  The decision of who shall be saved was taken before the foundation of the world, that God’s elect would be sanctified (set apart from the unrighteous), holy and without blame.

Some seventy-six percent[1] of Canadians claim Christianity as their religion; however, it is unlikely that all of them are saved.  “Nominal believers” are self-professed Christians who may even be baptized but are unconverted; they think they are in right relationship with Christ, but are not.  Christian up-bringing from birth, infant baptism or even a later private or public declaration of conversion are not assurances of spiritual rebirth and salvation.  Attitude or motive is more important than action.  Decisions taken to accept Christ such as reciting a tele-evangelist’s “acceptance prayer;” raising one’s hand during the collective recitation of the “sinner’s prayer;” or going forward during an alter call, are only “outward” (willful) human acts.   The gifts of regeneration and salvation, on the other hand, are strictly linked to the “inward” condition of the heart.  [When the rich man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Christ did not say “accept me as your Lord and Saviour;” rather He addressed the “inward” condition of the man’s heart: “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come follow me.”  Upon hearing this, the man’s face fell and he went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Christ did not stop this man from turning away.]  Not everyone who says to Jesus, “Lord Lord,” will enter the kingdom, but only those who obediently do the “will of the Father.” 

The significance of the Cross means nothing apart from God’s Law, for by the Law we are conscious of sin.  Man must first recognize himself as a sinner before he can fully embrace Christ as Saviour and Lord.  Spiritual awakening requires repentance, denoting a change of mind, affections, convictions and commitment, rooted in a new reverence of God.  A repentant heart is a strong sign of a spiritual gifting from the Holy Spirit; in contrast an unrepentant confession of faith lacks spiritual unction at best; is a sterile act at worst.  The burden of condemnation on sinner’s heart turns him to Christ for mercy, and God has promised full righteousness (justification) credited to believers in Christ.  At this juncture in the salvation process God accepts us unconditionally “just as we are.”  However, the faith-righteousness covenant in Jesus Christ cannot be divided.  Christ must be both Saviour and Lord.  Acceptance of the burden of sin graciously redeemed and forgiven drives the convert to joyously submit to Christ’s Lordship.  Spiritual rebirth is decisive and never regretted.  The regenerate ceases to be who he was and begins to experience victory over the world through the sanctifying works of the Holy Spirit and through obedience to Jesus Christ.  Although a born again Christian will never achieve a sinless state, he no longer lives a life of sin, i.e. habitual lawlessness. 

It is the Holy Spirit’s purview, not man’s, to assure the hearts of God’s elect.  The forgiven become “children of God” and know their Lord and Saviour’s voice; each has direct access to God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit through personal prayer.  And in a fit relationship prayer is spiritual, not formal or empty ritual; is persistent, defining an on-going relationship, not intermittent, as a matter of need or convenience. 

Ge 3, Job 20:20; Ps 57:1-14; Mt 1:20-21, 3:1, 6, 8, 4:11, 5:17-27, 11:20-24, 12:26-29, 15:10-20, 19:16-24; Mk 1:4, 15; Lk 1:47, 71, 77, 10:17-20, 13:1-5, 14:25-35, 15:1-32, 19:9-10; Jn 3:5-8, 17, 10:27-29; Ac 3:19-20, 11:18, 15:9, 20:21, 26:20; Ro 1:18-32, 2:1-16, 3:9-18, 5:9, 6:3-11, 23, 7:4-6, 8:26, 38-39, 12:2; 1Co 3:16, 5:11-21; 2Co 5:11-21, 7:10; Eph 2:10, 4:22-24; Php 1:6, 2:12-13; Col 3:9-10; 1Ti 2:3-6, 4:10, 16; Tit 3:4-7; Heb 10:15-18; 1Jn 1:8-10, 2:29, 3:9, 5:13-15, 18.

[1] Statistics Canada, Population by Religion, by Province and Territory, 2001 Census.