The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians began with a detailed description of the people he was writing to. Paul said, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those in every place who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul addressed his audience as the church of God and indicated that they were sanctified in Christ Jesus. Paul was clearly referring to people who had already accepted Jesus as their Savior. The Greek word that is translated sanctified, hagiazo (hag-ee-ad’-zo) means “to make holy” (G37). Hagiazo is spoken of persons who are consecrated “as being set apart of God and sent by Him for the performance of His will (John 10:36).” The resultant state of Hagiazo is hagiasmos (hag-ee-as-mos’). Hagiasmos refers not only to the activity of the Holy Spirit in setting man apart unto salvation and transferring him into the ranks of the redeemed, but also to enabling him to be holy even as God is holy (2 Thessalonians 2:13)” (G38).
Paul went on to say that his audience was not lacking in any gift as they waited for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who would sustain them to the end, “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). The term guiltless has to do with being accountable for a debt. Jesus told a parable about an unforgiving servant in order to explain each person’s accountability to God for the sins they commit (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus began by stating that the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. At first, a servant was forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents. A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer, so there was no way the servant could pay the debt he owed. After the servant was forgiven, he demanded payment from someone who owed him a hundred denarii. A denarius was a day’s wages for a laborer, a very small amount compared to the ten thousand talents that the servant had been forgiven. When it was reported to the master what had taken place, Jesus said, “Then the master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailors, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:32-35).
Paul wanted his readers to understand that their moral debt was cleared from God’s accounting system when they accepted Christ as their Savior, but that didn’t absolve them of their responsibility to deal with their fellow believers in a manner similar to the way God had dealt with them. Paul said, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind, and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The divisions in the church were hindering the believers’ spiritual growth and what Paul later referred to as their edification (1 Corinthians 14:3). Paul used the Greek word katartizo (kar-ar-tid’-zo), which is translated united, to describe the purpose of edification, that the members of Christ’s body would be “perfectly joined” together. Katartizo indicates the close relationship between character and destiny in that the right ordering and arrangement of the members of Christ’s body results in every member being “fitly framed together” into a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21, KJV).
Paul went on to explain that the power of God was linked to the cross of Christ and that it had to be working in the believers’ lives until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ in order for them to be guiltless in the end. Paul said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18). Paul indicated that the cross could be emptied of its power. In other words, Christ’s sacrifice for our sins could be neutralized or made ineffective in what it was intended to do in a person’s life. Paul brought up this problem in the context of a person being saved. “The participle is used substantively to refer to those being saved, those who have obtained salvation through Christ and are kept by him” (G4982). Paul clarified his statement about being saved in 1 Corinthians 15:2, when he said, “Now I remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.” According to Paul, being saved meant that you continued to believe what you did when you first received salvation through the gospel. Paul likely contrasted being saved with perishing in order to make it clear that a person’s state does not change. A saved person can not become unsaved, but he can lose the reward God intended for him (Matthew 25:26-30).
Paul indicated that Jesus is the one who sustains believers as they go through the process of being saved. He said, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4-8). Jesus’ ability to sustain believers to the end is based on a personal relationship with the Lord that involves walking together by faith (G950). Paul indicated that Christ sustaining believers results in them being guiltless or being freed from their eternal moral debt to God. The way that it happens is by miraculous power being activated through the preaching of the gospel. Paul said, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:21-24).
Paul went on to say that the effect of being saved is that the mind of Christ is formed in the believer. Paul said, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). Paul also talked about the renewing of the mind in his letter to the Romans. Paul admonished them, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). The Greek word that is translated transformed, metamorphoo (met-am-or-fo’-o), is where the English word metamorphosis comes from. Metamorphosis refers to the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct phases. Paul indicated that transformation takes place as a result of the renewal of the mind. Renewal is intended to make a person different than in the past. The Greek word that Paul used, anakainosis (an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis), stresses the process of sanctification (G342). Anakainosis “is the gradual conforming of the person to the new spiritual world in which he now lives, the restoration of the divine image. In this process the person is not passive but is a fellow worker with God” (G3824).
Paul linked together different aspects of being saved in his letter to Titus. Paul referred to these two aspects of salvation as the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Justification by grace means that God’s divine influence upon our hearts and its reflection in our lives will cause us to be declared innocent in the end, when God actively intervenes to punish sin. God’s day of judgment is referred to as the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord holds an important place in prophecy (note on 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Paul wrote about the day of the Lord in his first letter to the Thessalonians. Paul said, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
Jesus emphasized the importance of remaining under the influence of the Holy Spirit in his message about the signs of the end of the age. After his disciples asked him when the end would occur, and the sign of his second coming, Jesus said, “Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:10-13). The Greek word that is translated endures, hupomeno (hoop-om-en’-o), means “to remain under the approach or presence of any person or thing, in the sense of to await” (G5278). What Jesus meant by the one who endures to the end will be saved was that endurance will be a distinguishing characteristic of believers that are in the process of being saved at the end of the age. Constant communion with the Holy Spirit will be more and more important for believers as Christ’s return draws near. Jesus concluded his Olivet Discourse with several parables about faithful and wicked servants and then, talked about the final judgment. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all his angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32). The sheep and the goats represent two spiritual categories that all people fall into, saved and unsaved. Jesus said of the sheep, who represented the group of saved people, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Jesus commended the sheep because they had taken care of him when he was in need of help (Matthew 25:35-37), but they were unaware that they had done anything to merit his favor (Matthew 25:37-39). When Jesus confronted the unsaved, the opposite happened. They argued that they had done everything that was expected of them. Matthew 25:41-46 states:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The key differentiation that Jesus made between the sheep and the goats was that one group ministered to his needs and the other did not. The sheep had done what Jesus expected of them, but were most likely unaware of it because it had not been an intentional effort on their part, but rather the divine influence of the Holy Spirit on their hearts that caused them to act the way they did.
Paul summarized all of his doctrine related to salvation in his letter to the Romans. In this letter, Paul emphasized the importance of faith (Romans 4:1-5:11), but he also made it clear that it takes an act of the will to overcome the effects of sin in our lives (Romans 6:13). In order to clarify the difference between works of the flesh, the things we choose to do based on our own desires and preferences, and acts of faith, Paul said:
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:4-8)
The main point that Paul made in this passage was that God counts righteousness apart from works. Therefore, it isn’t necessary for us to do anything to be saved. But, Paul went on to explain that life in the Spirit involves being mentally disposed toward doing the things that God wants us to (Romans 8:5-6). In his conclusion, Paul identified the uniting principle associated with being saved and the final judgment that Jesus described in Matthew 25:31-46. Paul said, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).