Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stott on three Phases of our Salvation

Without referencing my long absence, or commenting on whose harsh words have prompted my return to the blogosphere, I’m just going to jump right in if it pleases you.

If you have never experienced the strange amalgamation of both joy and conviction while reading John Stott, I would recommend first and foremost “The Cross of Christ” – a book I recently lent to a former youth of mine who has “graduated” from my ministry and is currently going to school in Ohio. A book I am very much looking forward to dissecting through e-mails. I have no doubt it will bear much fruit in his life, as the books I fill his hands with every time he heads back to college always seem to.

If you want to experience more of John Stott, may I recommend “Men Made New”, which is a short 100 or so page booklet that explores Romans 5-8.

Romans 5 starts out: “ 1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Stott writes: “On closer examination these appear to relate to the three tenses or phases of our salvation. 'Peace with God' speaks of the immediate effect of our justification. We were ‘enemies’ of God (verse 10), but now the old enmity has been put away by God’s forgiveness and we are at peace with Him. The immediate effect of justification, then, is that enmity has given way to peace.

Secondly, ‘this grace in which we stand’ speaks of the continuing effect of justification. It is a state of grace to which we have obtained access and in which we continue to stand. This is how the New English Bible puts it: “We have been allowed to enter the sphere of God’s grace.” And, of course, having entered it, we continue in it. We stand in it today.

Thirdly, ‘the glory of God’ for which we hope speaks of the ultimate effect of our justification. ‘The glory of God’ here mean heaven, for in heaven God will be fully revealed.”

Stott goes on to describe how we can be sure of each stage of justification. Because we experience justification in its initial, immediate form, that is, that our hearts are regenerated and our affections are changed. We have all experienced that at some point haven’t we? A desire to please God, even though we may not know how, or have the will or self control to actually follow through with that desire.

But Stott reminds us that even though sanctification is “a difficult and arduous process that renders many Christians inactive in their faith”, because Paul assures us of these truths, and we honestly experience the fulfillment of the first phase of justification, “we can put faith in the fulfillment of the second phase, that is, the Holy Spirit conforming us to the image and likeness of The Christ.”

Once again, because we see sanctification at work in either our lives or the lives of those around us, we can again, put faith in the fulfillment of the third phase of our justification, which is glorification in heaven.

The rest of the book explains how our confidence in the work of our justification as we look backwards to its three effects empowers us to actively involve ourselves in partnering with the work of the Holy Spirit in the one area God Sovereignly invites us to participate in: our sanctification.

I definitely recommend this book, as it articulates well what it looks like to “put on” our “new self”, and how working to do so with the proper perspective is not legalism, but simply fighting to become what we already are in Christ.

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