Salvation of the Individual in Jesus
Three Aspects of Individual Salvation
What is the motivation not to sin, if Jesus paid our debt for us? It seems easy for someone to take for granted what Jesus did for us, and to continue to sin - to simply believe that Jesus died for them, and then go on living the same way as before. The truth is that we all still sin, even after we become believers, even the most sincere. I think that it’s helpful to understand that Salvation of the individual has three aspects that progress over the lifetime of the believer. These aspects of Salvation are Justification, Sanctification and Glorification. They correspond to the three aspects of a person - our Spirit, Soul and Body.
We have to be acquitted in God’s Court for Justice to be Served
God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins. Our sins separate us from Him. It is our sins that are the problem. Not God. Why did He do this? Because He did not want us to have to die for our sins and be separated from Him forever. He loves us and wants to be with us forever. God is Love and Grace. But He is also Just. If He was not Just, He would not be Good. He has to judge sin or He would not be a good God. Imagine if someone murdered someone you love. You wouldn’t be ok with it, if the judge just said to the criminal, ‘you are forgiven and free to go’. You would want the murderer to pay somehow. This sense of judgement in all of us comes from God. We are created in His image, which means we are like Him in many ways. He is just, so we also believe in justice. God loves us and does not want to punish us, but justice must be served. So He created a way for the debt to be paid. He sent Jesus, and Jesus died in our place, as our substitute. He took the punishment that we deserve so that God’s justice could be satisfied. He paid our death sentence for our crimes so that we could go free.
Why do we believe in Justice?
Think of it this way. All countries, communities, families, etc. have some kind of moral code, laws, sets of rules and justice. Where do those things come from and why do they exist? First, they come from a need for an agreed upon set of standards for people so they can work together in the way people interact and live. Second, they come from something within everyone that says, ‘this is right’ and ‘this is wrong.’ While all moral codes may not be exactly the same, throughout human history and across cultures, the lists of rules have often been similar, about things that are ‘good’ and things that are ‘bad’. The question is where does this inner prompting or conscience come from? It’s more than only a need for order within a community. We believe in right and wrong and that some kind of justice is needed when people do wrong. When a nation or community is formed, some set of laws are established, and the ‘law’ itself is the deciding factor of whether judgment or punishment needs to happen. Because if there is no law that is above everyone, everyone would do what they want and the society would be a ‘mad max’ sort of world. But even in societies and families and nations, people don’t always agree exactly what the law should be, and there’s always the question of who decides what it should be.
Why do we have Laws?
The issue is that all people are sinful. We all do wrong things. We are all self-seeking at times. And at times we all hurt one another. The Bible says we are all sinners, imperfect and do wrong. So why would any of us have the right to judge others or set the laws? We all fail, and we’re all in the same boat. But at the same time we all believe in right and wrong, and that there should be some kind of justice when someone harms or hurts another person. For example, someone should not be able to just steal someone else’s car and keep it for their own. In our society (and in others) we consider that to be wrong, so that person would need to pay some sort of ‘debt’ for it in the form of returning it, or buying another, but usually also some form of jail time or other punishment.
Why do we owe Debts?
This is the type of ‘debt’ we owe to God. People are all sinners and do wrong, so we cannot really be each other’s judge. So we create a Law that is above all of us to adhere to. But that Law is based on something more than just a need to make the society work. It’s based on right and wrong and can only truly be just and enforced by someone outside of humanity, who has never done anything wrong. Only someone who hasn’t done wrong has the right to judge anyone else truly. God hasn’t done anything wrong. And He’s the one who created us. He also is the one who sets the rules for right and wrong based upon His own character - who He is. The Bible says humanity was created ‘in His image’, and because of this, all humans also have a sense of right and wrong and a belief that there needs to be justice to punish wrongs and reparations made to the people who experienced the injustice. The wrongs we all do are the ‘debts’ we owe to God.
We believe a horrible injustice is done if people do not pay for their crimes. If someone gets off free without any jail time for murdering someone else, we are horrified. The murderer ‘owes a debt’ to the victim, their loved ones, society, and ultimately to God. They pay the debt through some kind of punishment and reparations.
Who has the right to Judge?
The ultimate law of God is based on His character. God’s character is life, love, joy, peace, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience and self-control. Anything that goes against this character, goes against the law of God. Jesus was a sacrificial servant who put other people’s needs before His own in every way. And Jesus is the full expression of God in human form. And Jesus is perfect (He never sinned or did anything wrong), but because He loves us, He died to pay for all the debts the rest of us owed to God for all the wrongs each of us have done.
Jesus paid humanity’s debt.
I think this is a helpful illustration. Imagine that you are in a court of law for whatever wrong things you’ve done in your life. God is the judge, and you’ve done wrong things, so you are guilty and must pay for your sins with some sort of judgment. It would be unjust for God to just let you go without consequences. In the courtroom, God has heard the list of wrongs that you have done, and knows how they have affected and hurt others (and have hurt Him). He slams down the gavel and pronounces you ‘guilty’. But at the last moment, before God delivers your sentence, Jesus runs into the courtroom and says, ‘take me instead!’ Jesus is hauled off to the electric chair, and you get to go free. Why? Because the debt has been paid by Jesus. Why can Jesus be a substitute for you? Because Jesus is both God and Human. Jesus is God, and so He is perfect. Jesus has no sins of His own to pay for. Jesus is human, so He can be an equal substitute for other humans.
It is part of our human justice system to require a life for a life. If someone murders someone else, we think it is only fair that they lose their life too - either by losing their freedom to live the life they want and being imprisoned or the death penalty. That’s what Jesus did. A life for a life. He died in our place, and even went to hell, for us. So we wouldn’t have to. Our ‘debt’ to God for our wrongs is paid by Jesus. God did this out of His love and grace for us because He doesn’t want us to have to pay the debt for our sins.
Salvation of the Spirit - Justification
When we have faith that Jesus died for us, Jesus pays for our sin, God accepts Jesus as having paid the debt, and we are forgiven. This is the First aspect of Salvation, Salvation of our Spirit, that is called Justification. The Spirit is the internal part of us that cannot be seen. Romans 5:1 (written by the apostle Paul) says, “Since we have been justified [past tense] by faith, we now have [present and ongoing tense] peace with God.” This means our account before God is forever clean because Jesus took the punishment. We are in a sense, legally free. There is nothing on our record, and it is forever blank, because the sentence that the Judge gave was completed by Jesus. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” Romans 8:1-2.
Salvation of the Soul - Sanctification
People still sin even after they believe and are forgiven. Jesus didn’t die only to forgive us for sin, He actually also wants to change our actual day to day life. This is the second aspect of the individual’s Salvation, called Sanctification, and it is a process that continues for our whole life on earth. Now that our Spirit has been saved, it is said to be alive again, because we are given the Holy Spirit / Spirit of Christ within us to help us change. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” Romans 8:14-16.
“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-16
Sanctification is the part of Salvation that is changing and saving our Soul. The Soul of a person is their mind, will and emotions. Every area of our lives is affected by sin and selfishness, so our thoughts, choices, and feelings are often about ourselves rather than God and others. So with the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our minds become more and more ‘saved’ as we think more and more like Christ who lived and died sacrificially for others. “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:2-6”
He is actively working inside us to change us day by day. We think more thoughts of love and kindness. Our desires and choices are more aligned with the character of God to be more just, kind, gracious, forgiving.... Our motivations are part of this aspect of salvation because they are a part of our will. Our motives begin to become more about God and others rather than ourselves. Even our feelings can be evaluated and changed to be more aligned with truth rather than just out of our control.
God gives us the Holy Spirit (also called the Spirit of Christ) to be with us and in us to help us. We can choose to listen to His voice as we read the Bible, and align ourselves with how it says we should think, behave and feel. It is a choice, but because the Holy Spirit is in us and has made us alive, we now actually have the power to change, as well as the motivation and desire to change. The more we read the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit, the more He changes our wills so that we want to love others more than ourselves. We learn more and more about how much God loves us and how much Jesus gave up for us, and we want to live for Him because we are motivated by thankfulness and gratitude and humility of understanding more and more how sinful we are and how much we need Him and His grace. This process over time is called Sanctification in the Bible, where our hearts, minds and choices are changed over time as we listen to the Holy Spirit and He changes us from the inside out. Will we still screw up and sin? Yes. The process of Sanctification isn’t finished until we die, and our Spirits are separated from our bodies and the impulses to sin.
Salvation of the Body - Glorification
While we are alive on earth, the believer’s soul is in a tug-of-war between our Spirit that has been saved, and the Body, which hasn’t been saved yet (though it is guaranteed to because of Christ in us). The Bible talks about walking in the flesh (body) versus walking in the Holy Spirit. Our body is a sort of gateway to sin because it is what interacts most closely with the world system, and Satan, and it has within it impulses that can pull us towards selfish choices. It is in a constant process of decay and death. Because the world system is run by many who haven’t yet been changed by Jesus, and because Satan has His hands in the world system trying to pull us away from God, and because we are constantly bombarded with our own desires, we are tempted to fulfill our own selfish impulses, and we sin. And our body is the thing that brings in all of these selfish desires.
When a person dies, their Spirit and Soul are removed from their body and is waiting until the Day when Jesus returns and gives us new bodies that will be unaffected by sinful impulses. When Jesus died and rose again, He conquered both sin and death. He was walking around on earth with a new resurrected body that could never die again. This is what He will give us as well when He returns at His Second Coming. He will give us new bodies that no longer have the desire to sin and that cannot die. This is the third aspect of individual Salvation, called Salvation of the Body, also known as Glorification.
Paul talked about this truth in Romans 6:5-9. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his [when we believe/Justification], we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his [after we die, and then Jesus returns]. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” These verses talk about the reality of the situation for a believer. Once you believe in Jesus, you are putting your trust in Him, you are united with Him, and you ‘die’ with Him. This is Justification and what makes it possible for Sanctification to begin in a person’s life. Then the believer is ‘raised from the dead’ with Him when the process is complete and they receive a perfected body when they are Glorified. This is the entire process of Salvation, and once it is complete, every aspect of the person is changed to be completely good, without sin, selfless and will live forever.
Paul also talked about his frustration in knowing the truth, but still living in a sinful body with its constant temptation towards sin. In Romans 7:21-25, he said, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” The Christian is caught between these two worlds, so sometimes their life may look more like Jesus as they choose to live for Him, and at others they will struggle with selfishness and sins, when they choose to give into sinful temptations of the flesh/body.
In Romans 8:5-6 he gives the solution. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Holy Spirit have their minds set on what the Holy Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Holy Spirit is life and peace.” The believer has the power to change their life, though it is a constant struggle and choice to live by the control of the Holy Spirit inside of them. The more they do, the more they will live a life governed by selfless choices. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” Romans 8:18. The struggle is real, but the Holy Spirit who lives inside the believer is given to us to help us until that day when we will be with Jesus and will be glorified and perfected like Jesus. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
The Apostle James had a warning for people who said they were believers, but continued to live a life characterized by constant sin with no regards to how it hurts God and others. A person who has truly believed in Jesus for their salvation, will receive the Holy Spirit, and will live their lives for God. Their faith will show in their lives by their love for others and how they treat them. This kind of evidence in a person’s life shows other people that the person truly has faith in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives to change their motivations and way of life. James questioned that a person who did not have these kinds of evidence in their life, did not actually have faith. We cannot see each other’s hearts and if others truly believe. Good deeds do not save the person, but they give proof to others that the person truly has faith in their heart. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James 2:14-18.
Salvation of Everything in Jesus
Jesus came to save and set right everything beyond just the salvation of individuals. Jesus died and rose again to fix everything that was broken and affected by sin. He will return to earth someday to set up His Kingdom based on goodness and justice and truth. The world is currently under the control of broken human systems and governments and the rule of Satan. Satan usurped some of the control of earth, that was supposed to be under control of humanity. Even creation started to unravel when humans first sinned and the perfectly integrated universe was broken. So destruction of the environment and death and decay of animal and plant life are also a result of man’s sin. “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” Romans 8:19-21.
When Jesus returns, He will take over the world systems and government, will chain Satan and then will throw him into the eternal Lake of Fire, and He will save the environment of earth and the universe when He creates a New Heavens and New Earth in a perfection that will go on into eternity. “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5
Motivation to live today for Jesus
I hope some of this helped to answer your question. A person who believes and their debt is paid by Jesus, is motivated by understanding, humility and gratitude. But these things are only possible because God has given the believer His Holy Spirit to change their minds, wills and emotions as they go through life and spend more time with Him. Ultimately, Jesus died for us so that we could have a personal relationship with Him. We are able to live more selfless lives because we spend time with Him in prayer and reading the Bible. This is communication with Him which grows us closer to Him in our relationship with Him. The more we talk to Him and listen to Him, the more we learn about Him and get to know Him, just like when we talk to friends and family. The more we know Him, the more we’ll understand who He is and all He has done for us, which will motivate us to sacrificially live less for ourselves and more for others.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-14
How to begin a relationship with God:
Everyone does things wrong and this separates us from God who is perfect and holy. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
This separation means that when we die we will be punished for our sins in hell instead of going to heaven. “The wages of sin is death...” Romans 6:23a
But God doesn’t want this to happen. So He offers us a free gift of eternal life if we trust in Jesus. “...but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ” Romans 6:23b
God accepted Jesus death, in our place, for our sins. Jesus was our substitute. He paid for our sins. God the judge, pronounced Him guilty. Our debt was paid, so we can go free. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life.” John 3:16
We accept this free gift from God by faith. If we believe we are sinners and Jesus died for us and rose again, then God gives us eternal life. It is this simple. “Since we have been justified (declared righteous / forgiven) by faith, we now have peace with God.” Romans 5:1
If you’d like to accept this free gift, you just do it through faith. But knowing God is a relationship, and so telling Him in prayer is a great way to start. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.... All who call on the day of the Lord will be saved”. Romans 10:9,13