26 May 2006

The Tenses of Salvation

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Exegesis, Grace, Hermeneutics, Ministry, Preaching

The Tenses of Salvation

We have reflected on the word “salvation” here on Stoned-Campbell Disciple previously. It is such a deep and marvelous theme that I decided to return to it once again.

Salvation is one of those words that carries many meanings, even in Scripture. It means deliverance from sickness, death or enemies frequently in the Psalms. It means liberation from slavery and oppression in the Exodus. It carries notions of forgiveness in Leviticus. Salvation is broad in the Bible and we embrace all of these meanings. In all of these meanings, however, salvation always carries the idea of blessing from God.

Scripture is clear and unequivical on this salvation “idea” — it is God alone who saves. Listen to what the Prophet of old had to say,

But now, this is what the LORD says – he created you, O Jacob, he formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine . . . For I
am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . (Isaiah 43.1-3; cf. Ex 14.30; Psalm 136).

God saves. We get saved by God. Salvation is the work of God.

But salvation is spoken of in three tenses in Scripture: Past, Present and Future. When we look at redemptive history it might look something like this:

Words — Past — Present — Future

Righteousness — Justified (Rom 5.1) — process/growing — perfection
Salvation — saved (Eph 2.8) — being saved — – will be saved
Sanctification — Sanctified (1 Cor 6.11) — seek sanct (1 Th 4.3) — presented holy
Glorification — glorified (1 Pt 4.14) — being transformed (2 C 3.18) — glorified
Renewal — born again (Tit 3.5) — renewal — regeneration

The Past action of accomplishing salvation is God’s work alone at the cross. Paul seems to summarize this in 1 Cor 1.30 where he declares that Christ is our righteous, our holiness, and our redemption. This is God’s work alone. We might even say, biblically I believe, that salvation is by grace alone in this tense.

In the Present we are both passive and active. In the present we submit to God’s working within us through his Spirit. We respond to the good news of God’s work in the cross through trusting faith. In other words it might be said “we play a part” in this tense. We gain no merit. We get no credit. But we do submit to being molded and shaped through the power of God.

In the Future we again are totally in the realm of God’s work alone. Our future righteousness, glorification, and salvation await the work of God. God will accomplish these things.

In the present we struggle with salvation even though we are declared by God to be saved. But our bodies share in the fallen state of the creation itself. Thus we await and grown for the redemption of our bodies to become not something we believe and hope for but something that will be realized (Romans 8).

The tenses of salvation really help explain the Christian life it seems to me. We really are “between the times.” We are between Good Friday and Easter.

Bobby Valentine

7 Responses to “The Tenses of Salvation”

  1. Steve Puckett Says:

    Good words of clarification. I have found within restoration churches, things can get very “tense” when talking about salvation and point of time for salvation.


  2. preacherman Says:

    I appreciate your comments. I know as I look at the tenses of Salvaiton I understand who I am in Christ and appreciate the grace of God more than ever before.

  3. Falantedios Says:

    Thank you for these insightful words. I really needed to read them, as I’m in the midst of pointing the way to Jesus for a beloved co-worker of mine at Chili’s. Pray that I can speak God’s words to him without getting in the way too much.

    in HIS love,

  4. cwinwc Says:

    Good thoughts Bobby. We’ve gotten hung up on the “timing” of salvation while at times we’ve ignored the “divine timer.” It doesn’t matter (my opinion here) whether the person doing the baptizing is male or female, said the phrase “for remission of sins,” or (here’s an oldie but a goodie) held his or her hand up while baptizing someone. For that matter, it doesn’t matter if the person being baptized into Christ, little toe didn’t’ get immersed or if part of the baptismal robe floated above the water line due to an air bubble.

    Salvation isn’t about timing / phrases / or air bubbles. It is about the redeeming acts of love that only God Himself could perform on our behalf so that we would have a hope to ask for and claim the free gift of God in our lives.

  5. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Preacherman, Nick and Cecil,

    I appreciate your comments. Nick I will be in prayer for your friend.

    Cecil I agree with your “opinions.” Years ago I baptized a man, who just happened to be quite large. Easily twice my size.

    He was terrified of water and it took some persuasion to convince him it was “safe.” But as I immersed him part of his hand extended above the water (unknown to me actually) as he placed it on the wall to help stabilize himself (I guess that was his instinct).
    Apparently only an inch or so of his fingers broke the water.

    I got as wet as he did! But I had a brother who pointed out that he was not “fully” immersed and insisted that we do it again. And in one of my braver moments of life, I refused.

    Bobby Valentine

  6. Danny Says:

    Good post Bobby. I think you have captured the source of some of our struggles in trying to define out our part and God’s part- the whole grace vs works thing.

    I think I will use this! Thanks.

  7. Connie Lard Says:

    What a wonderful way to look at salvation! “Sanctification” is, I believe, a closely related term when talking about salvation in the present tense – our allowing ourselves to be molded into what God wants us to be. I never heard much about sanctification growing up in COC’s, and I have taken great delight in exploring and learning to understand this process. Your discussion of salvation in the presence tense was very helpful to me.

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