I was a Christian for twenty years before I began to realize the Bible taught not only that a believer has been saved but is also being saved and one day will be saved. This spiritual truth surfaced after I began to read and study the Bible. Salvation is not only a past event; it is also a present experience and will be one day a final and completed deliverance. It was several years after this that I understood it in the following way: that a believer has been delivered from the penalty of sin, is being delivered from the power of sin, and one day will be delivered from the presence of sin. The penalty, power, and presence of sin parallel the biblical terminology of justification, sanctification, and glorification.
There are many Christians that have been raised in churches that have two chairs theology (more about this in Chapter 8). You are either saved or unsaved. I remember when I was baptized as an outward profession of my faith in Jesus Christ, the church greeted me along with the others who were baptized that day. Since I was a young man, I had the impression that I had arrived. I was going to heaven. But I failed to understand that the gift of everlasting life begins at the moment of faith. You don’t have to wait to die to get it. I also didn’t realize salvation from the penalty of sin is only the beginning of the race, not the end of the race. And I believe many evangelical churches have given that impression to a lot of new believers over the years. Because of it, these churches as a whole have failed to make disciples. This failure has produced numbers of believers who lack good biblical understanding, do not grow to spiritual maturity, and lack assurance of their salvation.
Why does it matter? It matters for a number of reasons. First of all, God wants to deliver us from the power of sin so we can live a productive spiritual life that glorifies Him and is good for us. So if one is unaware of this theological truth, how would it be possible to grow and to glorify God?
Secondly, it is significant to understand Scripture correctly, so one does not become confused and is not taken captive by poor teaching, causing fear and doubt. For example, the word “save” or “saved” doesn’t always mean to be delivered from sin’s penalty, which is eternal death. Sometimes the Bible uses it about a child of God being saved from the power of sin. Sometimes it is used of someone being saved from a dangerous situation. It’s not always a reference to being saved from hell. But if you have a theology that doesn’t allow for a third chair, then you almost always see it in reference to salvation from hell.
My Comment (This comment is not in the book): One of the biggest mistakes in understanding the Bible is only seeing two options – heaven or hell. Many Christians are not aware of the present tense aspect of salvation. Everyday God desires to deliver me from the power of sin so that I can live in a way that is good for me and glorifies Him. But the deliverance from the power of sin depends on how willing I am to surrender the circumstances of life to His control, relying on His power to control my thoughts and actions. Will I overcome evil with more evil? Or will I overcome evil with good? (Rom. 12:21). Am I going to be led by the Spirit or will I respond in the flesh? (Gal. 5:15-17) How will you respond today?