Links Daily Devotional

Big Words

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11, NIV)

It’s a hard job, preaching. To it, most preachers bring a theology background abundant with big ideas and the words that try to capture them. But to the listening, most people bring ears and brains without such a theological dictionary. Not sure exactly what words like propitiation, paedobaptism, and premillennial are supposed to produce in a congregation—what they commonly produce is sleep!

Yet today we will look to capture the meaning of three critical and frequently used biblical terms. But don’t snore yet—we’ll be using golf to help us along.

Here are the terms: salvation, justification, sanctification. Likely, if you’ve hung around a church or a Bible study for more than a few sessions, you’ve encountered one, two or all three of these concepts. And maybe you have been able to take a reasonable stab at their meaning, even if you’re not sure what the speaker’s entire intent is behind the word.

Let’s look at the basics. First, all of these actions—and they are actions locked in their lengthy noun forms—are God-initiated (it is He who calls us) and God-employed (it is He who empowers us). We cannot save, justify, or sanctify ourselves. Second, all of these actions begin working in us simultaneously at the moment we believe.

And what of the terms? Salvation is that move God makes in us from death to life, from darkness to light, from slavery to our sin nature to willing bond-slavery to Him. Justification is that verdict God renders over us that declares us righteous in Christ, as though we had never sinned. And sanctification is the work that God is continually doing in us to make us holy in the way we think, speak, and act.

Now consider this picture. In my hometown, you will find an excellent practice facility. It is a place for beginners and accomplished golfers alike. Part of this facility is private, with an extra short game area, putting green, and a turf range year-round. You can access this part of the facility with an annual membership fee.

Let’s imagine a struggling beginner who knows she needs two components to fix her game: lessons and practice (wise woman!). So she asks in the pro shop how she might best attain these things, and she is told that there is a pro on site who can rescue her from her many misfires and that there is the opportunity to use the facility with the privileges of membership if she joins the Green Grass Club. That is, in a few moments’ time, by arranging for accepting the proposal of lessons and membership, this woman can—in a golfing sense—be saved from her troubles, be stamped worthy (justified) as a member, and begin the sanctifying process of becoming a better golfer.

In closing, it is significant to remember that salvation and justification are instantaneous and singular acts of God that move us into right and eternal standing with Him. But sanctification, while instantaneous in its initiation, is an ongoing process, the work of God’s perfecting in us. It is the “practice and development” that deepen the life that “lessons” and “membership” have begun.

Jeff Hopper

July 14, 2011

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