Posted by: Billy Marsh | October 7, 2007

Reflections On True Spirituality: Session 6 (Part II)

In “Part II” of my reflections on session 6 of this week’s meeting, I want to disclose why Schaeffer named this chapter, “Salvation: Past-Future-Present” and discuss how he ties these teachings back into his Trinitarian theology. So, here are the soteriological categories that correspond to their respective chronological markers:

  • Past = Justification
  • Future = Glorification
  • Present = Sanctification

With respect to justification, Schaeffer says that this aspect of our salvation occurred in the “past” at the time when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. This was a “once-for-all” event. He intimates, “. . . there are no degrees of justification. One cannot be more or less justified. . . . One is a Christian, or not a Christian, on this basis (65).”

Briefly looking at glorification as the part of salvation which occurs in the “future”, Schaeffer points towards the Second Coming of Jesus and the resurrection bodies that all believers will receive. Then, Schaeffer labels sanctification as the “present” due to the fact that it best summarizes our present relationship with Jesus. As opposed to justification which is “once-for-all”, sanctification is “moment-by-moment”.

Admittedly, these are not ground-breaking truths, but why does Schaeffer rearrange the terms in his title so that the “future” precedes the “present”? I would like to propose two reasons, and I believe that both can be discerned from a close reading of Schaeffer’s chapter.

First, I believe Schaeffer does this for emphatic reasons. Half of the chapter covers the doctrine of sanctification, and therefore, leaving it last in the chapter ostracizes it from justification and glorification insofar as sanctification is in the present as well as explicity “moment-by-moment”. Second, Schaeffer arranges the title out of chronological sequence due to how he understands Romans 8:30 where Paul writes, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” According to Paul, both justification and glorification are both irrevocable states of being for someone who has been called into salvation by God. Moving so fluidly from justification to glorification entails sanctification. Therefore, Schaeffer looks back at Rom 1:17 in order to describe the “present” aspect of salvation. Paul says, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”

Here, Schaeffer unveils the main purpose and theme of True Spirituality:

Justification is once for all; sanctification is continuous, from our acceptance of Christ right up to our death. This study of the Christian life and “true spirituality” falls within the present portion of our salvation. That is, this whole study is, in reality, a study of the biblical teaching of sanctification (67).

Next, Schaeffer relates the “moment-by-moment” reality of salvation in the present to how this lifestyle brings man back to what he was originally created to be. He profoundly writes:

I then stand in the place in which man was made to stand at his creation. Not just in some far-off day, in the millennial reign of Christ, nor in eternity, but now I am returned to the place for which I was made at the beginning. I am immediately in a new and living relationship with each of the three persons of the Trinity (67).

  • God the Father become our father. This is adoption.
  • God the Son lives in us and we live in him. This is our “true Christian mysticism”, namely the union we have with Christ.
  • God the Spirit indwells the believer.

In summary, Schaeffer closes out this chapter showing the unity of salvation as the Bible presents it; however, each aspect of eternal salvation in Christ is distinct in its own right. Therefore, we as believers must not live camped out in only one of the three, nor only focus our attention on facets such as adoption or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We must simply live in light of the whole of salvation, but fully aware of its many parts. And, for Schaeffer, the Christian needs to be mainly concerned with the “present” while resting in peace and in thankfulness for the parts that are “once-for-all”. He concludes:

The unity of salvation is: a single piece, and yet a flowing stream. I became a Christian once for all upon the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification. The Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment-by-moment. There is the same base (Christ’s work) and the same instrument (faith); the only difference is that one is once-for-all and the other is moment-by-moment. The whole unity of biblical teaching stands solid at this place (70).

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