RPM, Volume 16, Number 20, May 11 to May 17, 2014

Covenant Theology

The Doctrine of Salvation
Part 1

Sermon Number Twenty

By Jim Bordwine


We are studying the issue of salvation within Covenant Theology. We have been following what theologians call the ordo salutis, which means "order of salvation." This is an explanation of what happens during the conversion of a sinner. Previously, we looked at the first element of our conversion, which is effectual calling. This refers to the work of God's Spirit when He gives life to our dead hearts and enables us to believe the gospel. This call is irresistible.

Next comes justification which refers to that declaration of God whereby the sinner is pardoned, or absolved of guilt, and counted righteous, not according to anything in the sinner, nor by infusing into the sinner a righteousness, but solely upon the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ. The third element is adoption, which is concerned with an act of God whereby the justified sinner is received into the family of God and enjoys all the blessings of sonship. Finally, we studied sanctification, which is that gracious work of God in which the elect, who have been regenerated and justified, are purified as the Holy Spirit applies Christ's atonement.

This leaves us with the final part of the order of salvation, which is the doctrine of glorification. The glorification of the believer is the terminus of his redemption; it is that to which all other elements in the sinner's conversion point and lead.

1. The Definition of Glorification

The first question to be answered is, of course, What is the doctrine of glorification? The doctrine of glorification is the Biblical teaching that those who have been called, regenerated, justified, adopted, and sanctified will, one day, be confirmed in sinlessness and experience a state of unending joy and blessedness in the presence of God.

Properly speaking, we must say that there are two stages to the glorification of redeemed sinners. First, upon death, the soul of the believer is freed from the body and returns immediately to its Creator. Second, at the time of Christ's return, the bodies of redeemed sinners will be raised and transformed into an incorruptible body that is compatible with a heavenly existence. This transformed body is reunited with its soul on that great day and, thus, the glorification of the believer is complete.

The believer experiences a foretaste of his glorification when he dies. His soul is freed from his decaying body and he enters a heavenly environment that is free of sin; he dwells in the presence of God and all the benefits of such a wonderful situation are his in the fullest. The believer remains in this state until Christ raises his body, remakes it, and reunites the soul and body, whereupon the believer resumes his blessed and eternal existence with God having been provided with a body suitable for his new environment.

Earlier in these sermons on the doctrine of salvation, I referred to a passage from Rom. 8 as Biblical grounds for conceiving of an ordo salutis. I would like to return to that chapter and read vv. 29, 30:

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

In context, these verses describe the entire event of conversion, from election before the foundation of the world to final and full sanctification in Jesus Christ, which is glorification. I want to say a few words about the term translated "glorified" in order to help us understand the doctrine. The Greek term used is one that is familiar; it is doxazo. This word means "to praise, extol, magnify, honor, to hold in honor, to render excellent, to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged." These meanings clarify for us what the doctrine of glorification aims to convey.

The end of a believer's journey is his revelation as the peculiar treasure of God, a treasure that is honored, dignified, and of great worth. Glorification marks the completion of Christ's work of redemption as the believer stands before God, as it were, having been awakened from sin's deadly slumber, having been given a new heart and having been purified completely in soul and body.

When we hear such things, we cannot fail to think of our Savior; we cannot fail to think of our merciful God. We cannot think that the praise and honor associated with our glorification is due to our labors; we cannot think that the excellence and dignity that is to be revealed in us one day will come as a result of our efforts. What I'm saying is that the doctrine of glorification includes as the objects of praise and honor our Savior and our heavenly Father.

Our glorification will be their glorification; our honor will be their honor. The completion of that good work begun in us by God will result in praise for Him. Our appearance in the state of glorification is not intended for our praise; it is intended to bring forth praise for our great God as the final results of His wonderful plan of redemption are manifested for all to see.

Listen to Paul's words in Eph. 1:

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

After his customary greeting, the apostle immediately declares the blessedness and praise of God for what He has done in Christ Jesus. It is God our Father, Paul writes, who has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing" and who "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." (vv. 3, 4) With God's love as a foundation, Paul continues, we have been adopted as sons through the Savior (v. 5). And notice the purpose for which God has done these things: "...to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." (v. 6)

The ultimate end of our redemption is the praise and glory of God. Our eventual glorification, when the redemption of all of God's elect is complete and they are assembled before Him in their new, heavenly bodies, will result in God being praised, honored and magnified. Our glorification, once again, will be God's glorification, God's honoring and God's exaltation, for He will be shown to be a sovereign, loving, merciful, and just God in an unparalleled manner.

The gathering of the fully sanctified and glorified Church of Christ will be an event unlike anything ever witnessed in all of God's creation, throughout all time; it will be an event unsurpassed for its stunning beauty and its atmosphere of rejoicing.

Paul continues and describes in more detail the method of our redemption. We have been redeemed "through [Christ's] blood"; in the Savior, Paul says, we have "the forgiveness of our trespasses" according to the working of God's grace (vv. 7, 8). Christ is the central figure in God's plan of redemption; it is God's will that Christ's work of atonement be the galvanizing accomplishment that brings restoration and wholeness to heaven and earth (vv. 9, 10).

The apostle speaks of an inheritance that is reserved for those who have been the objects of God's saving activity (v. 11); this inheritance is all that the believer receives in Christ in this life and in the life to come. Paul then makes another summary statement concerning God's redemption of us: "to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory." (v. 12) Paul is teaching that God's plan for our redemption was conceived in eternity past, was comprehensive and includes the destinies of all His children; and the completion of this plan is designed to bring praise and glory to God.

Even though believers will experience this plan as it unfolds in history, and even though they will know the joy of forgiveness, and even though they are the ones being delivered from damnation, these are not ends in themselves for the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption, I repeat, has as its goal the magnification of God's glory and greatness. Our glorification, therefore, can only result in praise being heaped upon God for what He has done.

The last two verses of this passage repeat this truth. Having believed the gospel, the Ephesians were "sealed in [Christ] with the Holy Spirit of promise." (v. 13) The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit is a pledge from God that a complete and full redemption is coming (v. 14). At the same time, and ultimately more important, the glorification of the believer in soul and body will be "to the praise of [God's] glory."

This is a stirring thought. The day is coming when the dead in Christ will join those of their brethren who are alive on the earth and they, together, will be reunited with their transformed bodies. In that blessed state, they will join with the angels in declaring the praise and glory of God.

A second passage to be examined comes from the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians (vv. 3-10):

3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; 4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-- for our testimony to you was believed.

These opening words of Paul are intended for encouragement. The Thessalonian believers were experiencing some form of persecution, which appears recently to have intensified. It seems that the Thessalonians were enduring some particular type of affliction that caused Paul to take note of it and offer these words of support as their struggle continued. His purpose, at this point in the letter, is to assure the Thessalonians that their grief and hardship were not unknown to God and would be addressed by Him.

It also is evident that the apostle thought highly of these Christians. Paul witnessed a transformation in these people as the gospel and the Holy Spirit arrived and took up residence in their hearts; a change in disposition had taken place and this change and subsequent growth in the faith was well-known even beyond their own region (cf. 1 Thess. 1:7). With this background of God's certain work in the hearts of these people, Paul teaches the Thessalonians to endure their persecution with patience; it is God's method of refining their faith and equipping them to reside in His kingdom (v. 5).

The apostle wants these suffering Christians to understand, however, that even though God is allowing them to pass through trials and even though He is using these trials for the good of the Thessalonian believers, He will, in the end, bring swift and sure judgment upon those who afflict His people (v. 6). This swift and sure judgment will occur "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (vv. 7, 8)

A great Judgment Day is coming, Paul declares; and on that Great Day, the enemies of Christ's people, who are, in fact, the enemies of Christ, will face the wrath of King Jesus and the end of that Day will witness the destruction of all those who have refused to obey the gospel (cf. v. 9). The Thessalonians could take comfort in these facts. Their momentary affliction was being used by God to purify them; moreover, those who were being so used by God would receive a just response for their actions against the redeemed.

For our purposes, what Paul says next is significant. Christ will come, the apostle writes, "to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed." (v. 10) Here, then, is a statement that makes the final deliverance and transformation of the people of God a matter of praise for Christ.

The consummation will bring about the judgment of all of Christ's enemies and the completed restoration of His people; together, these elements will result in the Savior receiving adoration, praise, and glory from all the redeemed and from the elect angels; He will be the object of our eternal thanksgiving and worship. Once again, therefore, we have to say that our glorification will be His glorification; our honor will be His honor. The final state of the redeemed will demonstrate what always was the goal of God's plan of salvation: the exaltation of our heavenly Father and our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.

The phrase, "marveled at among all who have believed," helps us understand what Paul means. The word translated "marveled at" (thaumazo) means "to admire, wonder, be astonished." When that great Day comes and all the redeemed from all the ages are assembled in the presence of God and we are able to see the final manifestation of God's plan of redemption, we will not marvel at ourselves; we will marvel, we will be astonished at what God has done. The sight of a redeemed, restored and sanctified humanity will be more startling than anything we've ever imagined. And our praise and thanksgiving will be directed to God and to His Son, Jesus Christ.

In the doctrine of glorification, then, we understand that the final transformation and purification of the people of God is not an end in itself; it will be the cause for heavenly celebration and for honoring our God and Savior. We will know sinlessness and we will inhabit a body prepared for our new existence, but the focus of that Day will be the God of all grace and His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us.


For our application, I want to stress something that is implied as we study the doctrine of glorification. What is implied is that there is a sense in which our salvation is not yet complete. Biblically, we find our redemption described as having occurred and, at the same time, as not yet having been completed. The doctrine of glorification gives us a good opportunity to explore this idea.

The believer can say that he truly has been called, regenerated, and declared righteous, but he cannot say that he yet has experienced the completion of the redemptive process. The believer is forgiven and has had the righteousness of Christ imputed to him; he has been adopted into the family of God and enjoys all that benefits of sonship. But the believer who is alive today has yet to experience the last phase of his salvation and that is his confirmation in sinlessness and the resurrection and transformation of his body.

I'm deliberately stressing this point for a reason. I'm not saying that we are not saved until we experience glorification; I'm not saying that there is anything insufficient about our status here and now. What I'm saying is that we need a grander vision of what our salvation is all about. We need to understand that the Scripture teaches that there is more to come, that what God has begun, He is going to complete.

This thought should encourage us when we are burdened. It should drive us forward with confidence and gladness when we face the various obstacles in life. Only believers have this incredible future; they are forever secure because of God's choice of them.

The completion of our conversion experience is going to be something never before seen in this universe. God did not cease to work in us at the point of our calling and regeneration; God did not cease to work in us upon His declaration of our justification or our adoption into His family. Those acts of God marked the beginning of our redemption; those acts of God set in motion a larger and more extensive work, which is the eventual recreation of us, body and soul.

When we think of our salvation from this perspective, we realize that our salvation is still happening as we live our lives and as God patiently and sovereignly leads us to maturity. Imagine that the day is coming on which you are going to be among a multitude that no man can number; and this multitude will be gathered in the presence of God; and this multitude will consists of sinners who have been purchased by the blood of God's Son.

How many of us are living with this perspective on our salvation? How many of us are living with this perspective on life itself? This perspective puts everything else into perspective! This point of view lets us see our few brief years on earth for what they are—a few brief years! This perspective keeps us from becoming too attached to this temporary place; it keeps us from laying up for ourselves treasure here. With this view of our salvation, what this life has to offer will be seen as the empty, ultimately worthless rubbish that it is.

The day is coming on which we are going to be revealed as the peculiar, beloved, and protected treasure of our Father in heaven. The struggles we encounter here will be gone forever. The day is coming when He is going to announce to all creatures in heaven and on earth that we are His beloved. The day is coming when the whole redeemed humanity is going to stand before God spotless and arrayed in heart-stopping beauty. There is nothing in this life that can compare to that, there is nothing that we might face in this life that can lessen our expectation of that day of glorification.

What is most thrilling about this doctrine is that what I've just described is not even the most remarkable part about the day of glorification. What's going to happen to us is not even the most astonishing element of that day. What is even more marvelous, what is even more humbling, what is even more a cause for anticipation is what is going to happen with reference to our dear Savior and our loving heavenly Father. On that day, our Savior finally will be shown for what He is; He finally will be acknowledged by all as the Savior-King who gave Himself for His people.

And on that day, our heavenly Father who determined to call us to Himself, who sent His own Son to become one of us, will receive the adoration of the new humanity. The heavens will ring with our praise on that day; and God will be exalted before us and we will behold Him and we will raise our voices and our hands as we cry out to Him in joy. On that day, the magnificence, the wisdom, and the power of our heavenly Father will be obvious to all.


Hymn for communion


The sacrament that appears before you this day is, of course, a portrayal of our Savior's death for us. That death sealed our destinies and makes certain the coming day of glorification. Therefore, this sacrament properly directs our attention not only to what has happened, but also to what is to come. We eat and drink these elements now, but the day is coming when we no longer will need these symbols because we will be with our Savior in heaven.

A grand celebration of all the redeemed from all the ages is planned. On the day of glorification, that celebration will take place. Receive these elements as confirmations of your place in that celebration; receive them in anticipation of the completion of God's work in you.

Matthew says:

And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."

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