This paper gives a brief overview of the concepts of salvation and the church and explains what salvation is taking into account time factors; hence, it delineates on the three-fold factors such as justification, sanctification, and glorification. It concludes with the application of these doctrines to the personal Christian life and ministry.
The issues of soteriology and ecclesiology with respect to their concepts are paramount to be studied in the Christian doctrine as to give the body of believers an understanding of the both; meanwhile, this paper explains the concepts concerning what salvation is and what the church is not.
THE CONCEPTS OF SOTERIOLOGY
In theological views, there are various ideologies regarding salvation with respect to time factors. Some believe that salvation is a single occurrence when the Christian life begins. Some believe that it is a gradual process which occurs progressively in the life of the Christian, and while others believe that no one can be totally saved now; therefore, salvation awaits those who want to be saved. Aggregating these views, suggests that salvation could be a series of happening in the life of a saved individual, or a series of not continuous happening, a process which overlaps, or a single continuous process with different parts of happening. Looking at these concepts bring to mind the three concepts regarding salvation. These concepts include justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Erickson writes, “There are various opinions as to how salvation is related to time. It is variously thought of as a single occurrence at the beginning of the Christian life, a process continuing throughout the Christian life, or a future event. Some Christians regard salvation as basically complete at the initiation of the Christian life.”
The concept which has to do with the initiation of the Christian life is called justification which begins when someone accepts the Lord through faith as the word is preached. It is the act of being right with God or commonly called righteousness. Psalm 71:2 states, “Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me.” Sinners are saved because God imputes righteousness on them. When the imputation is complete through the saving grace of our Lord, the individual becomes acquitted before God.
The other concept of salvation which has to do with the progressive process is called sanctification. It is the act of being set apart for God’s use. A sanctified vessel is the vessel which is set apart to be used for special occasion. This can be instantaneous or progressive. Instantaneous sanctification is another word for initial justification and progressive sanctification is another word for holiness. God asserts in I Peter 1:15-16 that “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” This is progressive holiness which has to do with the daily obeying of God’s word when one is tempted. It indicates that the Christian life is the continued walk with the Lord. Christians live in the world of temptations and sins; therefore, the Christian life is a daily walk to face the devil and sin.
Jesus came to save sinners as per of his mission. Fudge writes, “The historic mission of Jesus revolved around seeking out and saving those who were lost (Luke 19:10). The mission of Jesus is related to the proclamation of the kingdom of God and forgiveness of sin.” In justification, sins are forgiven while in sanctification sins are cleansed. God
does not remember the sins of the sinners when justification and sanctification are applied.
The third concept of salvation is glorification which indicates future event. Christians are not yet complete for the fact that we live in the fallen world and in the sinful bodies. I John 3:2 states, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. There is coming a time when this corrupted bodies will put on incorruption and the mortality will put on immortality according to scriptures. These concepts of salvation can be seen throughout the scripture which indicates that salvation is instantaneous, progressive, and future. As Christians live in this world of sins, they are shaped and made to become Christ like individuals through trials or temptations. James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Salvation is the process which takes over time to prepare an individual to enter heaven. Trials or temptations of various kinds prepare the believers for the heavenly glories. The Christian life is a journey; as the result, there is a transition between the beginning and the ending. The beginning is the concept of justification where the believers are admitted into the family of God. Between Justification and glorification stands sanctification which is progressive. In our Christian walks with the Lord, trials or temptations come to prepare us for our glorification. We can not bypass this stage of the Christian life. It is the process of the Christian growth, development, and maturity. God cannot use you if he has not prepared you for ministry. For every glory there is a story. Your story tells what you have experienced in life as the result of the occurrence of the test of time.
THE CONCEPTS OF ECCLESIOLOGY
The idea of the Church in Christendom is quite different from what the bible says about the Church. People look at the church to be a building. The Church is not a building but it is human being. It is an organism that has all life vital processes. Such vital life processes biologically speaking are respiration, reproduction, locomotion, photosynthesis, growth and development etc. These are characteristics of organism. A building cannot have these characteristics for the fact that it is a lifeless object.
Finger writes, “Why do people come to church? Various possibilities suggest themselves. Some may be altered by the fellowship or friendships available. Others are drawn by desire for worship. Many parents prioritize education and peer relationships for their children. Still other folks participate mainly in outreach ministries.” This statement defines the church not as people, but it defines the church as a building or a place of meeting. The church “ekklesia” in the Greek language means the “Called Out Ones” or people who have been redeemed from the world of sin and have been brought into the kingdom of God. Instead of people being called the church, the church is being named as a place of meeting. Bach’s idea regarding the church is different from what the church is generally called to be by the average Christian community.
Bach writes, “During the past three centuries, the church has gradually lost its central and influential role in Western society due to significant cultural and religious changes in the Western world.” Bach’s understanding of the church indicates that the church is not a place or building, but the church is an organism or group of people who has lost its role in society as the result of cultural and religious dynamics in changing circumstances. The church is not a building, but it is a body of believers who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.
DOCTRI NAL APPLICATIONS
Understanding the concepts of salvation and the church is vital to one’s Christian life and ministry. I realize that I cannot attain the status of being a church if I have not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. I receive justification when I confess my sins and repent from them. After confessing my sins, I receive forgiveness of sin which sets me apart for God’s use. I become sanctified by the virtue of my inclusion into the kingdom of God. I continue to walk in this sanctification knowing that the Christian life is a journey which requires endurance and persistence. I understand that without total obedience to the word of God renders me useless in the house of God.
I understand that the church is not a building, but it is body of believers who are called to serve the Lord. I am the church and called to be holy by virtue of my status. I will teach these concepts regarding salvation and the church in the ministry in which God has called me to.
In conclusion, the knowledge of soteriology and ecclesiology is vital to one’s Christian life and ministry.
Bach, Jeppe Nikolajsen. Missional Folk Church? A Discussion of Hans Raun Iverson’s Understanding of the Danish Folk Church as a Missional Church, 100 no 1 2012.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Michigan: Grand Rapids, 1998
Finger, Thomas N. Salvation: Contrasting Concepts and Church Conflicts, 7 no 1 Spr. 2007.
Fudge, Thomas A. Concepts of Salvation in the Western
Church to the Sixteenth Century, 45 no 3 2003.
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. Michigan: Grand Rapids, 1998, 902.
I Peter 1:15-16.
Thomas A Fudge, Concepts of Salvation in the Western Church to the Sixteenth Century, 45 no 3 2003, p 217.
I John 3:2.
I Corinthians 15:54.
Thomas N Finger, Salvation: Contrasting Concepts and Church Conflicts, 7 no 1 Spr. 2007, p 22-31.
Jeppe Nikolajsen Bach, Missional Folk Church? A Discussion of Hans Raun Iverson’s Understanding of the Danish Folk Church as a Missional Church, 100 no 1 2012, p 23-36.