Atonement, redemption, forgiveness, pardon, justification, reconciliation, salvation – these are all-important words in Scripture. The discerning Christian will recognize that they all have to do with the subject of eternal salvation. Each of these words in its own way is part of a mosaic which we know as the Gospel. The Gospel is the gracious power of God through which sinners are made saints by the working of the Holy Spirit. It is the power of God unto salvation. The Gospel is the message of God’s undeserved love, commonly known as grace.
But it is the will of our heavenly Father Who has saved us by the merit of Christ Jesus, that while we live here on earth, we live the salvation life, a life of sanctification. Sanctification in its wide sense includes the entire work of the Holy Spirit from the creation of faith to perseverance in faith to good works which proceed from faith to the impartation of the end result of redemption, namely, eternal salvation.
In the narrow sense, the word describes the work of the Spirit so that one can now overcome sin and produce good works. Having been “made clean” because of the Gospel-word, Christ’s disciples “will bear much fruit” (John 15). While our salvation is complete, sanctification in the narrow sense is an on-going exercise. Through daily repentance we drown the old Adam with all his sins and evil lusts that again the new man manifest in God pleasing works might come forth. “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor . . .that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother” (1 Thessalonians 4). Because of our sinful flesh, which still clings to us, we need the daily assurance of God’s grace in order that the sanctified life might manifest itself in love toward God and our neighbor. A sanctified life is not a fruit of a “good” seed within us, but is the fruit of God’s love toward us and active in us. We read, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Why should the Christian desire to do good works? Not for one’s own benefit or glory! Scripture says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Repenting of our sin daily, and being assured of salvation by the perfection of Christ, may we press on daily in pursuit of that which serves God and our neighbor. To that end may the Word of God dwell in each of us richly.