The biblical teaching on Christian salvation indicates a three-dimensional perspective, including salvation, sanctification, and glorification. In Eph. 2:8, Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Salvation is understood as a past event or dealing with the penalty of sin, indicating a completed action.
In Cor. 1:18, however, Paul says, “but to us who are being saved.” The clear emphasis is on salvation present known as “sanctification” in which believers are “being saved,” a present ongoing process, dealing with the power of sin that will not be completed until the end.
The idea of final salvation or “glorification” is suggested in Rom. 5:9, where Paul states, “we shall be saved.” Paul is clear about the future dimension of salvation when believers will be delivered from God’s wrath and the presence of sin.
Salvation is both an event and a process in which people are brought into a right relationship with God. Consider the following illustration. Suppose a person intends to drive from Woodlands to Sentosa. As he drives across the causeway, linking Johor Bahru and Singapore, he realises that he is driving toward the wrong direction. He recognises his error, gets off the highway, and turns the car around.
This scenario illustrates several key points. One, there is recognition of error. Two, action is also taken to turn the car around. These two elements, though significant, do not encompass the full understanding of salvation. There is still one crucial element missing; the driver still needs to arrive at the destination.
Thus, a change of mind or an act of turning is not enough. Repentance represents the beginning point of one’s spiritual journey. The process of getting to the destination (sanctification) and actually arriving at the destination (glorification) are necessary. Salvation is both point and process, as well as past, present, and future realities.