The Christian Journey
Does trusting in Jesus impact the way you live your life?
When we trust in Christ, we begin a great journey. This journey is not always easy, but the outcome is certainly life-changing. I was looking at Titus 1:1-3 recently. The passage reads:
Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior… (NKJV)
Even though this is Paul’s introductory statement for his epistle to Titus, it contains a wonderful message for those who trust in Christ. Specifically, Paul provides three critical components of the Christian life.
Faith in Christ Begins with Justification
In verse 1 we see that Paul based his relationship to God through Christ “according to the faith of God’s elect.” Justification is a legal term and in the Bible, it involves God declaring those who trust in Him as just or righteous. This means that when we trust Christ as savior we are then seen by God as if we had always been righteous or just.
There are two elements of justification. First, justification involves the forgiveness of sin. Rom 4:5-8 tells us that justification results through faith in Christ alone. Faith alone, apart from works, results in forgiveness of sins (Eph 2:8-9).
Second, justification involves declaring the person of faith as righteous or just (Rom 3:21-30; 4:2-9, 22; 5:1, 9-11, 16-21). This does not mean the believer is made righteous. We are still sinners, albeit, we are saints who sin. The ungodly are justified (Rom 4:5) and justification involves God seeing us as righteous; God does not make us righteous—He merely sees us as righteous.
Thus, those who are justified by God through faith will not be condemned (Rom 8:1).
Faith in Christ Continues with Sanctification
Paul then continues by acknowledging that his relationship with God is based on “truth which accords with godliness.” God not only sees us as being righteous, but He also sees us as holy and pure. Though God sees as holy we are not immediately holy. Rather, those who put their faith in Christ begin the process of becoming holy. Sanctification is the process by which—according to the God’s will (1 Thes 4:3)—we are made partakers of His holiness.
Those who have trusted in Christ to reconcile their relationship with God (see Rom 5), being chosen by God for Himself, have also been set apart from the world and are holy (1 Cor 1:2). Sanctification is a relational reality, completed in Christ’s death on the cross, experienced through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and brought to its final goal when we see God (Heb 12:14; 1 John 3:2–3).
Christians, once justified are called to grow in their faith. This process of sanctification (being set apart) continues throughout the life of the believer and comes to completion only when we see the Lord.
Sanctification consists of three aspects.
1) Positional Sanctification
Sanctification is a process that continues during our lives as believers and God is one who preserves us completely (whole spirit, soul, and body) until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:14). Positional sanctification is brought about by the work of God (1 Thess 5:3; Jude 1), the Son (Eph 5:26; Heb 2:11), and the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:16; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:12). Perfect holiness is God’s command (1 Thess. 4:7) and purpose. As Paul prayed, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely” (1 Thess. 5:23).
Paul addresses all believers as “saints.” The term “saints” is derived from the same root as “sanctify.” Those who have been justified are then sanctified by their position in Christ; but this does not imply that any saint is sinless in daily life. After all, Paul addressed the Corinthian believers as “saints” and as already “sanctified” (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11); yet very letter was written to correct those Christians because of terrible sin (1 Cor. 5:1, 2; 6:1, 7, 8). They were “saints” and “sanctified” in Christ, but far from such in daily life.
In the same way, the word “holy,” like the word “saint,” is from the same root as “sanctify” and no more implies sinlessness than do the words “perfection,” “saint,” or “sanctify.” In the Scriptures reference is made to “holy apostles,” “holy prophets,” “holy brethren,” “holy priests,” “holy women,” “holy nation,” “holy conversation.”
Such expressions refer to the position of the persons, or things which are said to be holy as being set apart for God. A doctrine of sinlessness cannot be built on any use of the word “holy,” or “sanctify” as these words are used in the Bible.
2) Experiential Sanctification
While all believers are said to be sanctified positionally, there is never a reference in the Scriptures to their daily lives. Such an aspect of sanctification and holiness is found in another and entirely different body of truth which may be termed experiential sanctification. As positional sanctification is absolutely disassociated from the daily life, so experiential sanctification is absolutely unrelated to position in Christ.
Experiential sanctification instead may depend on some degree of “yieldedness” to God (Rom. 12:1), some degree of separation from sin (1 John 2:1-2), and some degree of Christian growth to which the believer has already attained.
Experiential sanctification is accomplished by the power of God through the Word: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17. See, also, 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 5:25, 26; 1 Thes. 5:23; 2 Pet. 3:18).
Sanctification cannot be experienced through feeling or emotion. Christian growth and experiential sanctification are not the same—The Christian will be more and more “set apart” as he grows into the image of Christ
3) Ultimate Sanctification
Ultimate sanctification is related to the “saved one’s” final perfection—it will be finalized in his glorification (see below for more on this topic). By His grace and transforming power, God will have so changed every child of His in spirit, soul, and body—that each will be “like Him” (1 John 3:2) and “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29).
Christ will present all believers “faultless” before the presence of His glory (Jude 24). All who have trusted in Christ—those in the true Church, i.e. the Bride of Christ—will be free from every “spot or wrinkle” (Eph 5:26-27).
Christians should therefore “Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:22-23).
Faith in Christ Results in Glorification
Paul saw that justification followed by sanctification leads to glorification. Paul lived “in hope of eternal life which God…promised…” Sanctification is linked with glory. When we turn to the Lord, our veil (that which stops us from see the things of God) is taken away (2 Cor 3:16). Then with the veil removed, we can behold the glory of the Lord. The eventual outcome is that the believer is transformed into the image of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18).
The thought for Paul, and therefore for us, is that all we do should be done with a view to eternal life. Our actions should be conducted with eternity in mind. This is a WOW statement. I need to ask myself, “How differently would I conduct my actions if I always had my mind focused on the eternal consequence of those actions?”
Thus, Paul spoke of our justification, sanctification, and glorification. Then he makes an interesting statement. He said these things were “promised before time began.” For whom was this promise intended?
We learn more about our calling from 2 Tim 1:9. Here we see God saved us and called us with a holy calling. We also see that this calling is not based on our works. Salvation is a gift from God apart from our works. Salvation is in accord with God’s grace and purpose. Salvation was given to us in Christ “before time began.”
God promised Christ that those who would trust in Him would be justified, sanctified, and glorified. What a promise! We are the ultimate benefactors of this promise. This knowledge alone should cause us to live the transformed life God expects of us (Rom 12:1-2).
Are you living your life in such a way that you honor and glorify God through Christ?
Are you living your life with eternity in mind?