justification

In last week’s post, I noted that salvation can be broken down into three parts: justification, sanctification, and glorification. In previous posts, we’ve addressed justification and sanctification. In today’s post, we will briefly examine the doctrine of glorification.

Glorification is that aspect of salvation where God makes us like himself. To clarify, we will not be gods or deity in any sense. But in glorification, God will grant us perfection: morally, spiritually, intellectually, and bodily.

Before explaining the wonder of what God will do in glorification, let’s set a biblical foundation. There are several Scriptures that underscore what we mean by glory and glorification.

Psalm 24:10 teaches that God is the King of glory who displays splendor and wealth in his person.

Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory

Psalm 24:10

John 17:1-5 teaches that Christ glorified the Father with the fame, brightness, and splendor worthy only of God.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

John 17:1-5

Later on in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed that his followers would share in this glory.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:22-23

Paul reflects on this glory shared with believers as one of the purposes of salvation.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-29

It is important to note that Christ shares his glory with his followers through his redemptive work on the cross. God’s glory is displayed and declared through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection to a glorified body.

In one sense believers are glorified in two states similar to how we described sanctification. We share at least in part Christ’s glory now (as with positional sanctification). But we await the fullness of glorification until we enter God’s presence and he resurrects our bodies to a glorified state.

The wonder of glorification is that God in his greatness, splendor, wealth, pomp, weight, and magnificence would even notice sinners like you and me. But not only does he notice us, he provides the means for our cleansing and salvation through Christ. Beyond that, his salvation promises that we will share in his glory. When we really consider this, it boggles the imagination. Glorification can be defined in this way:

Glorification is multidimensional. It involves both individual and collective eschatology. It involves the perfecting of the spiritual nature of the individual believer, which takes place at death, when the Christian passes into the presence of the Lord. It also involves the perfecting of the bodies of all believers, which will occur at the time of the resurrection in connection with the second coming of Christ. It even involves transformation of the entire creation (Rom. 8:18-25).

Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 1008.

When God glorifies us, he will make us morally perfect. We will no longer be bound to our sinful state.

When God glorifies us, he will also make us spiritually perfect. We will no longer be subject to internal desires and longings that are outside of God’s will.

When God glorifies us, he will make us intellectually perfect. God will give us right and correct knowledge of himself, ourselves, and all that he has made. While I don’t think this means we will omniscient as God is, I do believe that in our glorified state, our knowledge of God will be more full and clear.

When God glorifies us, he will make us bodily perfect. God will resurrect our body and unite body with soul perfecting us as he intended humanity at creation.

As I finish up this post, I’m humbled. That God would stoop down and step into his creation to save sinners like you and me is an amazing thought. That he would give us the honor of sharing in his glory is astounding. Here are some suggestions on responding to the doctrine of glorification.

  • Praise. God is glorious and he is worthy of our praise. Praise him for his glory and salvation.
  • Pray. God wants us to know him. Thank God for his salvation and that he will hear us when we seek him.
  • Worship. God’s glory deserves our worship. Make time this week to worship alongside other believers for God deserves it.
  • Glorify. God’s grace is beyond imagination. Glorify God that he would save us and privilege us to share in his glory.

Photo by Anna Gru on Unsplash

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

One Seraph to another in Isaiah 6:8

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

The four living creatures in Revelation 4:8

The thrice holy declaration of God’s otherness from these two passages of Scripture remind us that God is set apart in a way unique only to him. There is no one like him. The thrice holy declaration is also unique to God’s attributes. No other attribute (love, power, glory, justice, etc.) is designated in Scripture by stating it three times. God’s holiness is gloriously, eternally unique.

God’s holiness is moral purity, but it is more than moral purity. Jerry Bridges in his book The Joy of Fearing God, describes God’s holiness as transcendent majesty (67).

In this sense, God is so much more than we are and he is truly OTHER. God is full of holy majesty and glory in a way that we cannot fully comprehend.

Yet the wonder of our salvation is that God in his holiness reached down to man in his sinfulness. Through Christ, who is God and is the fullness of God enfleshed with holiness and love, God entered into his creation. Christ experienced God’s holy wrath and displayed God’s glorious love on the cross. Jesus is the very image of God’s holiness and love.

In a most glorious realization, God redeems us in order to make us holy. This is the part of salvation called sanctification.

Let’s take a moment to review salvation in three basic parts. (There are more aspects to salvation than these three. See the previous word of the week posts. But these three parts provide a helpful framework).

  • Salvation as justification: God declares us righteous. This is salvation in the past tense. God declared us righteous by the gracious work of Christ on the cross and through our faith in him.
  • Salvation as sanctification: God makes us holy. This is salvation in the present tense. God does save us from our sin, but being made holy is a process of God removing sin from our lives and making us into Christlikeness (Romans 8:29).
  • Salvation as glorification: God glorifies us. This is salvation in the future tense. God will give us glorified bodies and allow us to experience life as he originally intended.

We explored justification in a previous post. We will explore glorification in a future post. In this post, we are going explore salvation as sanctification.

Sanctification is an aspect of salvation that can be controversial.

Does sanctification mean that God does all the work, and we can behave any way we choose? This would be antinomianism (or anti-law).

Does sanctification mean that we can become sinlessly perfect this side of heaven? This would be perfectionism.

Let’s try to answer these questions by offering just a few observations on the doctrine of sanctification.

Sanctification has at least two aspects. First, positional sanctification is the concept that God makes us holy through the work of Christ. In essence, we are sanctified through the work of Christ (see Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11). Nothing sinful will enter into God’s presence in heaven. So the work of Christ in justifying us and sanctifying us will completely cleanse our sin away.

Second, practical sanctification is how we partner with God to be holy in our character and conduct. Practical sanctification recognizes the reality that we still live in a sinful human body in a sinful world with an enemy who tempts us to sin. While we are sanctified positionally, we must partner with God to be set apart or holy in our behavior.

To answer question #1 above, sanctification does not imply that it is ok to live in sin after conversion (Romans 6:1-2). To answer question #2 move, sanctification does imply we will be perfectly holy, but not until heaven. We cannot be sinlessly perfect this side of eternity though holiness is to be our aim.

For the rest of this post, we are going to explore some practical ways that we can partner with God to be holy.

It is important to note that God expects holiness of his people.

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

God to the people of Israel, Leviticus 19:2

Peter quotes this passage in the New Testament and adds additional explanations in 1 Peter 1:14-16.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.

God’s holiness is the primary reason that he expects us to be holy and set apart. God has given us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and strengthen us to experience sanctification (Ephesians 5:18).

We participate in our sanctification when we do the following things:

  • Confess and repent of our sins. We cannot expect to be holy in our conduct if we tolerate sin in our lives. When Peter reflects on the command to be holy, he reminds his readers to reject their former passions. Regular confession and repentance are means of pursuing holiness in our daily lives.
  • Reject and remove temptations. God commands us to resist the devil (James 4:7) and flee temptations (2 Timothy 2:2). We cannot expect to be holy if we are inviting sin into our lives. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to do whatever it takes to remove sin from us (Matthew 5:29-30). If you have a struggle with a particular sin, you must remove that temptation from your life. Here are two examples. If you struggle with drunkenness, you cannot sit in the parking lot of the ABC store. You must avoid (flee) temptation. If you struggle with pornography or lust, you cannot be awake at 1 am with your smart phone in hand. You must avoid (flee) temptation. To reject and remove temptations may mean that you act drastically (cut out TV or internet, not go to restaurants that serve alcohol, stop surfing FaceBook, etc.). But remember we are not called to be like everyone else. We are called to be holy.
  • Replace temptations with virtues and pursue righteousness. Being holy is not just about the negative (rejecting sin). It is about being set apart. In the Old Testament, priests were set apart as holy by their cleansing rituals, dress, and conduct. While we don’t have to emulate their rituals, the imagery is instructive. Replacing a temptation like wasted time on a smart phone with reading the Bible or a good book is conduct conducive of holiness. Likewise, we should pursue righteous behaviors (faith, love, peace, purity 2 Timothy 2:2). Spiritual disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, sharing the gospel, serving others, and meditating and memorizing the Bible are spiritually formative and helpful in pursuing holiness.

Here are some practical action items as you finish reading this post:

  • Thank God that he has set you apart to be holy through Christ.
  • Take a moment to confess and repent of your sins today asking God’s forgiveness and cleansing.
  • Remove a temptation from your life today.
  • Practice a spiritual discipline today (read, pray, study, memorize, share, serve).

When we pursue sanctification, we embrace the salvation that God has graciously given us.