Six Steps in Three Pairs
We need to be clear
about the past, future,
and present steps
of our salvation
Recently on the radio program we’ve been considering what the New Testament shows us regarding transformation. (You can listen to the podcast of the most recent episode on iTunes or on Spotify.)
Spending some time to consider this great topic has been a real help to me. To think that God is working even now to transform our very being, so that ultimately we will be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29), is a blessing beyond anything we could possibly imagine. “But as it is written,”
…“Eye has not seen,
nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into
the heart of man
The things which
God has prepared
for those who love Him.”
— 1 Corinthians 2:9
To put the matter of transformation in its proper context, we have on the program considered the six basic steps the New Testament shows us regarding our salvation, the “tion” words, so to speak: justification, regeneration, sanctification, transformation, glorification, and conformation.
There is also the matter of reconciliation, which is indeed quite crucial, but that is not so much a step we pass through as an experience we have; the others relate to what we are in ourselves, but reconciliation has to do with our relationship with God.
(We may also, however, consider all of these together as experiences we need to have to fully enter into the salvation God has prepared for us. In that case it is very interesting to note that there are seven such experiences, for seven of course is the number of the completion of God’s work in time. And if we add in the overall experience of salvation, then there are eight, which is the number of resurrection.)
What I don’t think I’d ever noticed so much before is that these six steps are in three pairs, with the two items within each of the pairs being closely related to each other.
The first pair is, of course, justification and regeneration. We experienced these two things simultaneously, in the past; the moment we believed in Christ, God forgave our sins and pronounced us righteous in Christ (justification; Rom. 3:24,28) and then imparted His divine life into us, into our spirit (regeneration; John 1:12-13, 3:6).
The last pair is what we will experience in the future: glorification and conformation (Rom. 8:28-29). Glorification means the divine life we received in the new birth saturates our entire being, and this results in our being fully conformed in every way, both inwardly and outwardly, to the image of Christ.
Again, this will take place in the future. It may not be quite clear yet how and when we will experience these last two steps, since that relates to the coming reward and discipline of the believers in the millennium. We do know, however, that at “the last trumpet,” our body will be changed, transfigured, in an instant, “in the twinkling of an eye,” and this very much relates to our glorification and conformation (cf. Phil. 3:20-21). The Apostle Paul tells us:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
— 1 Corinthians 15:52
What a hope is this!
So, that is what we as the believers in Christ will experience in the future, as well as what we have already experienced in the past. What then should we be experiencing today?
The middle pair, that is, sanctification and transformation.
Like the items in the other pairs, these two matters are very closely related, with sanctification being essentially a negative experience and transformation being the positive experience. That is, the greater our experience of sanctification, of being separated unto God from everything that is sinful or even common in the world, the greater will be our degree of transformation, of God imparting His divine life into our being. For example, the Apostle Peter tells us that God has given to us,
…exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
— 2 Peter 1:4
There is, however, an important difference between this pair and the others. That is, while in the past our justification and regeneration took place in an instant, and in the future our body will also be changed in an instant, sanctification and transformation are not instantaneous. Rather, we experience them, or at least should be experiencing them, day by day, all throughout the rest of our life, so that we may be prepared to be glorified and conformed to the image of Christ in the future.
In our upcoming notes we hope, as the Lord leads, to consider further this matter of transformation.
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— 15 June 2022 —