God knew that we would never be able to reach His standards so He sent His only Son to accomplish it on our behalf.
John 3:16-17 NLT “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
We can be freed from many concerns and apprehensions by gaining a fuller understanding of all that was accomplished on our behalf at the cross. The New Testament uses three terms to describe God’s saving work in our lives.
The first aspect of our salvation is justification.
Romans 5:1-2 NLT Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
There is no way we can enjoy a victorious Christian life unless we understand the biblical meaning of justification, because it’s the foundation of everything else we believe about salvation. To be justified is to be declared righteous by the Lord. Justification was initiated by God’s grace, accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection, and is received by us through faith.
Jesus lived a sinless life and obeyed the law of God perfectly. Then He offered Himself on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin. When we trust in Christ through faith, God declares us not guilty because Jesus took on our sin and suffered the punishment that we deserved:
2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Justification is all of His work and none of ours, due solely to His grace and not our works.
Galatians 2:16 NLT Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” (emphasis mine)
The Lord doesn’t look down and see some goodness or worthiness in us that warrants salvation.
Romans 3:23-24 NLT For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
On the contrary, there is nothing we can do to make ourselves righteous or acceptable to holy God. The only way to be made righteous is by His amazing grace, through faith in His Son.
The second part of salvation is sanctification. This too is a work of God on our behalf.
1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.
Justification is a legal pronouncement that happened when we came to faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Although sanctification began at the same time, it’s a process that continues throughout our lives as Christ’s righteousness is accomplished in and through us by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Our position of righteousness can never be changed because Christ’s work on the cross cannot be undone. We are reconciled with the Father, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit—forever. These are the foundational truths to which we must cling whenever sin threatens to entangle us, guilt overwhelms us, and discouragement overshadows our joy in Christ. Even in the midst of defeat, we can be confident that the good work God began in us will be completed by Him as well.
Philippians 1:6 NLT And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Although God is the one transforming us into His Son’s image, we do play a role in the process. The Lord uses a variety of means to mature us, and in order to grow spiritually we must be teachable, yielding to His Spirit and filling our minds with truths from His Word. And in the process, there’s comfort in knowing that one day our growth will be complete.
Philippians 3:12 NLT I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
The third and final aspect of salvation is glorification. A day is coming when our righteous standing before God will become a living reality.
Philippians 3:20-21 NLT But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
Our battle with sin will be over, and we’ll never be burdened with guilt again. We will live eternally in the complete freedom of being personally righteous as well as righteous through Jesus.
Until then we walk by faith knowing that we belong to Christ, our sins are forgiven, we’ve been declared righteous, and nothing can separate us from His love. However, tempting as it may seem to rely on justification, ignore sanctification, and live as we please until we’re glorified, that is not our goal. On the contrary, we must pursue “the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord”
Hebrews 12:14 NLT Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
Out of gratitude and love, your desire should be to reflect in practice what you are in position. In that way your life will become a display of Christ’s character, for your good and His glory.