Part of the confusion Christians experience comes through failing to appreciate all that God promises in the gospel. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe, but that salvation doesn’t end with the forgiveness of our sins. God’s saving purpose extends to the restoration of our fallen nature and our conformity to the image of Christ who is the image of God (Rom. 8:29). Nothing less will do.
The gospel is a work of God’s grace from first to last, and it promises us a full salvation—not from the penalty of our sin only, but also from its power in our lives, and ultimately even from its presence in the world. Consequently our justification cannot be separated from our sanctification or from our final glorification with Christ (Rom. 8:30). They are all of a piece, aspects of the one saving gospel. Jesus’ call to follow him into a new life of faithful love and obedience to our heavenly Father fits into that broad scope, for it is itself part of God’s gracious work in our lives to redeem us and restore us and to present us to himself as a beautiful and radiant Bride.
I appreciate the words of the nineteenth-century Anglican bishop J. C. Ryle on this theme:
He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sin, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them.
Our gracious God not only saves us from our sin, he also saves us for God’s glory by remaking us in the image of his Son Jesus Christ. We must understand Christ’s call to discipleship as an integral part of the full scope of God’s gospel in our lives.
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