By David K. Bernard
FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION, the main theme of the Bible is God’s plan to redeem humanity from sin and fulfill His original creative purpose. From the beginning God planned the Incarnation and the Atonement.
While there have been various ages or dispensations in God’s dealings with humans, these ages do not represent different plans of salvation, but they progressively unfold and reveal God’s eternal plan. In the church age we see the fullness of individual restoration; in the Millennium we will see the fullness of corporate restoration.
In every age, the basis of salvation is the same. (See Romans 3:24-25; Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 9-10.) The source of salvation is always divine grace: the unmerited gift of God to us, the free work of God in us.
The ground of justification is the blood of Christ. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God provides salvation consistent with His principles of justice. The Blood, the Cross, and the Atonement all refer to the sacrificial death of Christ for us. Since Christ’s resurrection was necessary to make His death effective, to turn defeat into victory, the ground of salvation is specifically the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The means of salvation is faith, or trust in God. We receive salvation and apply it to our lives through faith, which today is specifically faith in Jesus. Biblical faith is more than intellectual acceptance or verbal agreement. It always includes response or application, namely, the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5).
To summarize, in every age salvation has come by grace through faith based on the blood of Christ, and faith is always expressed by obedience to God’s Word. Old Testament believers looked forward to the Cross without fully knowing God’s plan, while New Testament believers look back to the Cross.
Romans 8:29-30 describes God’s eternal plan for the church: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
1. Foreknowledge. Before God created humans, He knew they would fall into sin and therefore planned the Cross (I Peter 1:18-20). He foresaw that some would respond to His call and therefore established a plan for the church.
2. Predestination. God predestined for His church to be molded into the likeness of His Son. To predestine means to foreordain, determine in advance, plan unalterably. Predestination applies to God’s plan, not to each person’s fate. God predestined the Incarnation, the Atonement, the church, and the ultimate salvation of the church. By God’s grace, everyone has the freedom to choose whether to be in the church (Titus 2:12).
Our salvation is not merely a wish or a possibility. It is a certain event if we will remain in the church. Moreover, salvation consists of transformation into the image of God. We will not become God, but we will ultimately receive a sinless nature and an immortal body like that of Christ. God did not intend for the Son to be the only human to conquer sin and death. God came in flesh to have many sons and daughters. The man Christ is the first in
God’s spiritual family, but God intends for the Son to have many younger siblings who enter the family after Him.
Christ is our brother (Hebrews 2:17).
We are to follow Him and become co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17). Ifwe trust in Him, we will one day truly become like Him (1 John 3:2). When our faults and failures cause discouragement, we must not give up, for if we will remain in God’s plan we have the guarantee of ultimate, total, and permanent victory.
3. Calling. Based on His plan, God calls people to respond. The offer of salvation extends to everyone, but only those who respond in faith are chosen (Matthew 20: 16; Revelation 22:17). This passage speaks of an effectual calling. Only those who respond to God’s grace are called out of sin.
4. Justification. God justifies those He calls out of sin. He declares them to be righteous. Their sins are washed away, and they receive Christ’s righteousness. (See Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:11.)
5. Glorification. The final step in our salvation is glorification, which is the culmination of the process of sanctification, or walking in holiness. Ultimately, justified believers will receive glorified, sinless bodies and will live forever in glory with the Lord.
This passage speaks of glorification in the past tense. In God’s mind, glorification is as good as done. God has already provided it for us; we are simply waiting to receive it publicly. We are already God’s sons and daughters, kings, and priests; we are just awaiting the revelation of our status (Romans 8:19). If we will remain in God’s plan, we will surely inherit eternal glory with Jesus Christ.