BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE: Article 4d: Glorification

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Often a doctrine related to God's overall redemptive plan in Christ receives relatively little attention. The doctrine of glorification seems to reflect this scenario.

Even the Baptist Faith and Message itself devotes only a scant 17 words to its explanation. With these few words, however, our predecessors in faith knowingly submitted for our benefit a doctrine replete with applications still to be explored by most.

For those of us who lived in Texas when the oil boom went bust back in the '80s, the perfect sermon illustration -- the "divine pipeline" of Romans 8:28-30 -- often welled up from the pulpits of West Texas.

This particular text essentially told us, then as now, that it is impossible for those foreknown, predestined, called and justified by Christ's person and his work to ever slip out of the life-flowing pipeline without also finally being glorified. Once having entered the costly pipeline of salvation, Christians should look forward to when they will not only be raised from the dead ultimately but will be raised to everlasting life at Christ's return as well.

The Apostle Paul describes the process: "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

Here the devil can hardly be said to be in the details, but rather a God-ordained justification/sanctification/glorification procedure is seen as working itself out for the sake of God's people. But what exactly are the details?

It is difficult to argue with Wayne Grudem's assessment of glorification as "... the final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own."

From this we gather that the doctrine of glorification ultimately has to do not only with the perfecting of our material bodies but with the immaterial aspects of our having been made in God's image as well.

Whatever erroneous conclusions may be drawn by folks who believe that salvation applies only to the soul, Grudem's definition reveals here a more holistic approach to the matter.

While we must grant that it is proper to take care of our physical selves, by the same token our efforts will prove in the end to be a losing battle.

The Apostle Paul speaks to the issue by saying "our outer man is decaying" (2 Corinthians 4:16). Physical death comes to everyone as a result of sin's entrance into the world.

But for Christians, death is not the only thing waiting for us at life's end, but the Lord Jesus Christ himself awaits us as well.

An obvious two-fold aspect is at work here: either we are going to die and immediately be received into his presence, or we will be among the few who will graciously be allowed to welcome him at his return.

Hence, Christ alone is our true hope (Philippians 3:20-21). From this it is easy to conclude that not only will we someday be with the Lord of the universe himself, but we are also going to be just like him (Matthew 13:43).

By way of further definition, glorification is the final phase of our total redemption as believers in Christ. Nevertheless, for the moment we live between the first and second comings of Christ.

There is a sense, then, in which we are between "the already and the not yet." While there is no denying the fact that Christ's person and his work on the cross have conquered both death and sin on our behalf, sin has yet to be eradicated entirely from the existent earthly economy.

We are justified in Christ, true, but we are still being conformed to his image by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We still battle remaining sin. Even though the power of sin has been broken, we still suffer at the hands of the world.

The greater truth operating here is that God has initiated a good work in us -- one which will at last be brought to fruition when Jesus returns. Only then will we finally be perfected in holiness. Our battle with sin will end, and we will be entirely conformed to the image of Jesus Christ himself. We will have put on the imperishable and been clothed with immortality.

And the glory that will someday be revealed in us will so overwhelmingly outweigh our present sufferings that no real comparison should be attempted (Rom 8:18-19).

When Jesus comes back, what will actually take place with regard to Christians who have died? "Behold, I tell you a mystery," Paul says, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor 15:51-52).

This incredible transformation only takes place at Christ's Second Coming. All living Christians will also be suddenly and supernaturally changed physically, undergoing a transformation so profound that the term "resurrection body" only hints at what will actually take place at the time.

Scripture indicates that Jesus was raised in the same body in which he died, and apparently this will also be the case with Christians. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul provides us with an analogy that seems to compare our glorified, resurrection bodies to the relationship existing between a seed and its plant; it is the same organism but naturally different.

John also tells us that when Christ returns "we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is" (1 John 3:2). This is a part of the "good news" that we as Christians often neglect -- that our glorified bodies will be like Christ's, impervious to death and sickness, with our souls filled to the brim with righteousness and truth.

The grief and burdens that life can bring will trouble us no longer. Even the very presence of sin will be eradicated, and the sanctification process will be completed.

If there is one overarching application that illustrates the doctrine of glorification's vitality, it would be this: Jesus is coming back to receive us to himself and to change us gloriously.

This truth should serve to strengthen and inspire us even as it has already throughout the history of God's people, many of whom have willingly suffered for Christ's sake as a result of the spiritual fortitude the doctrine produces.

This is not to say that other applications should not be attempted. For example, the doctrine of glorification should also promote holiness of life. If we continually keep in mind the idea that we will soon be like him, we will be motivated beyond the norm to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12), to cooperate with him in the sanctification.

If we continually place before us the idea that glorification is the logical conclusion to the drama of God's redemptive plan, a renewed spiritual pilgrimage will result.

In summary, Christians have been regenerated and justified by grace through faith. But on this side of the grave, we will never be thoroughly free from either the taint of sin's effects or the creeping deterioration of our mortal bodies. Christ's salvation, however, is holistic in nature, and in him all things are truly made new.

Through a providentially wrought sanctification, we become, step by pain-staking step, in our experience what we already are judicially. At long last, when we are clothed with a glorified body, our justification and sanctification will merge as one.

From the very first moment of being in Christ's presence, we will never have occasion to sin again. Every aspect of our God-imaged essence will have been redeemed and glorified, and we will enjoy God's presence and each other's company for all eternity in a physically and morally perfect environment.

As for God's redeemed people as a whole, the glorified state will entail nothing less than a perfect deliverance from everything once entailed by the curse of Genesis 3 itself.

As for our individually resurrected, glorified bodies, they will never be corrupted. As for our individually glorified souls, they will love God wholeheartedly without reserve or qualification.

This is where Christians desire to be; but if remaining on in mortal flesh is necessary, it will mean fruitful labor for us as servants of Christ. Either way, God's people win out in the glorified end.


Ostrander is associate dean and associate professor of Christian theology at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky.

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Full text of Article 4: Salvation

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

B. Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.

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