There is a doctrine pertaining to salvation, life, redemption and glory regarding the tension in which we live after initial repentance and before eternity called the “Already-Not Yet” phenomenon. It simply means that many of the promises which have been given are received in part. In regards to salvation, there are three phases and perspectives in which we need to look at it:
- By grace you have been saved. (Eph 2.5)
- For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2.8-9)
- For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? (Rom 8.24)
- You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Mark 13.13)
- But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Matt 24.13)
- If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor 3.15)
- For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor 1.18)
- For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2 Cor 2.15-16)
There are theological terms that define the three: Past – Justification, Future – Glorification, and Ongoing – Sanctification. Justification is the moment that we are declared righteous before God because of the obedience and righteousness of Christ. All of our sins (past and future) were forgiven at that moment. Glorification is the moment when we will shed our earthly bodies, our bodies of sin, and be made whole and pure on the New Earth. Sanctification is the ongoing process that gets us from Justification to Glorification – it is the process of the Christian life, where God is making us more holy day by day.
Paul tells us in a few different places that once God has begun that process, he will not stop it. If you have been justified, you will be glorified:
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
– Rom 8.29-30
“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.”
– Phil 1.6
Now, that sounds great and all, but what about when Christians sin? We are still in our flesh, our human nature is at war with the Holy Spirit living within us (Gal 5.17).
When we confess our sins at the moment of salvation, the punishment that each sin merits is decisively placed on Jesus Christ. The debt has been paid. The punishment is completed. That is why Paul says in Romans 8.1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” We are not condemned. There is no further judgment for our sin. However, God is intensely concerned about our holiness and He does discipline us.
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
– Heb 12.7
And thus we come to the passage that has grabbed my heart this morning:
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
Because I have sinned against Him,
Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.
He will bring me out to the light,
And I will see His righteousness.
– Micah 7.7-9
We, as believers, who sin, will bear the indignation of the Lord on occasion as discipline. At times we will dwell in darkness, by the hand of God, in response to sinful choices. But even though I dwell in the darkness, the Lord is a light for me! He will bring us out into the light, we will see His righteousness, He will plead our case and execute justice for us! Yes, I have sinned, even as a Christian. Even as one who has been justified, and we all will continue to fail until the day that we enter into His presence for eternity. But He is our light, and Christ is our righteousness. It is not on my righteousness that I stand, but Christ’s!
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
– 1 John 2.1
Therefore, let us strive for holiness. Let us seek to love God by honoring and obeying Him. But let us not lose heart when we stumble. Because we have an advocate who will present Himself as atonement for that sin before the judge. But let us also not forget that God does not always treat us gently. He disciplines us both in response to sin and for the sake of growth sometimes apart from sin, but it is all for our good and our ultimate salvation. Take comfort in His rod. If you are straying from Him and His ways, and are in a season of discipline, take comfort that He would discipline you. And listen to the Spirit calling you home! If there is no rod, let us check our repentance and see if the course of salvation has truly begun.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
– Ps 23.4