THE DEGREE OF OUR SALVATION AND THE EXTENT OF OUR SANCTIFICATION
The degree of our salvation depends on the extent of our sanctification. The more we are sanctified, the more we are saved. Perhaps yesterday you were further along on the bridge of salvation than you are today. The reason may be that you lost your temper with your husband or wife, and this caused you to move backwards somewhat on the bridge. You backslid and lost a little of your sanctification. Therefore, you are not as sanctified now as you were yesterday.
Suppose an old friend visits you and asks you to participate with him in a certain kind of worldly entertainment. If you accept his invitation, you will lose even more sanctification and move back farther on the bridge of salvation. However, if you refuse his invitation and instead preach the gospel to him and encourage him to become a Christian, you may recover the sanctification you have lost and even progress further on the bridge. As a result, you are more sanctified and more saved. The point here is that how much we have been saved is determined by how much we have been sanctified. We need to be impressed that God’s salvation is not simple and that it is related to sanctification.
Suppose a young brother becomes weary of attending the church meetings. Therefore, one day instead of attending the meeting, he decides to go to the beach. The next time he comes to a meeting, he may feel that he is in death. The reason is that he has lost some of his sanctification. He did not preserve his spirit, soul, and body.
SANCTIFICATION AND JUSTIFICATION
Martin Luther fought a great battle for the truth of justification by faith. Because he was involved in this battle, we should not blame him for failing to see other aspects of God’s full salvation. Luther taught that justification is by faith. According to this, if we believe in the Lord, we shall be justified. However, there is a sense in which justification is also a matter of degree. On the one hand, the Bible speaks of justification before sanctification (Rom. 6:19). But on the other hand, there is a sense in which sanctification comes first and justification follows (1 Cor. 6:11). In this sense, God’s justification must go according to the standard of sanctification. If we are not sanctified, then we cannot be justified.
THE PROCESS OF GOD’S SALVATION
God’s salvation of us involves a process. It has a beginning, and it will have a consummation. Once again, we may use human life as an illustration. Life begins at birth. But after birth there is a long process of growth. I have been growing in human life for many years, and still I have not yet reached the consummation. The principle is the same with God’s salvation. However, many Christians regard salvation in too simple a way. Moreover, in systematic theology salvation may be presented as if it were simple and clear cut. But God’s salvation is not simple, and in a certain sense it is not clear cut. On the contrary, it has a beginning, a process, and a consummation. Not even our human life is simple. Why, then, should we expect God’s full salvation to be so simple?
We need to have the proper concept concerning God’s salvation. If we have the right understanding of this, we shall realize that the extent to which we are saved is determined by the degree we have been sanctified. According to Paul’s word in 2:13, salvation is in sanctification of the Spirit.
In our actual experience of God’s salvation, we move back and forth on the bridge. Perhaps you yield to a certain temptation, and move backward on the bridge of salvation. But even then the sanctifying Spirit is working in you. As a result, that step backward may cause you to move even farther ahead than you were before. For example, a brother may lose his temper with his wife and exchange words with her. No doubt, this failure causes him to move backward on the bridge of salvation. However, when he repents and returns to the Lord, he will once again move ahead, further than he was before.
In our experience none of us moves steadily ahead on the bridge of salvation. On the contrary, we all move ahead in the way of going backward and forward. Even though this may not be clearly revealed as a doctrine in the Bible, we know from our experience that this is the way we advance on the bridge of God’s salvation.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 29, by Witness Lee)