Saved to the Uttermost!
By Matthew Pickens
In his first letter to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul gives us a very important list:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)Anyone else find themselves in this list of people? Anyone ever committed any sexual sins? Worshipped an idol like money, power, prestige? Unjustly gained something? Coveted what someone else has? Unfairly hurt someone’s reputation while they were there or not? Paul certainly thinks so, “And such were some of you!” (1 Cor. 6:11a) The sobering reality here is that Paul tells us that everyone on that list will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the wonder of the gospel is the past tense of our Christian life. Paul goes on to say, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11b) We need to understand the whole of what happens at the very beginning of our Christian lives. We are not only declared to be righteous (justification) at that moment but God actually makes holy (sanctification) as Paul says, “You were sanctified.” That is to say that anyone who is in Christ Jesus, who puts their faith in him alone for salvation according to God’s gracious promise, is not a sinner any longer.
In his letter to the church in Rome Paul describes this immediate sanctification as our dying to sin and being raised to righteousness (Rom. 6:1-4). When we were united to Christ in his death we died to the power of sin. It does not rule over us any longer. As we are united to Christ in his resurrection we are raised to newness of life, a new life that is dominated by the controlling power of the Holy Spirit. John Murray described this aspect of sanctification this way:
This means, therefore, that not only did Christ die, not only was he buried, not only did he rise from the dead, but also all who sustain the relation to him that baptism signifies likewise died, were buried, and rose again to a new life patterned after his resurrection life. No fact is of more basic importance in connection with the death to sin and commitment to holiness than that of identification with Christ in his death and resurrection.This means that Christians can no more die again to sin than Christ can be crucified again. What happened to them when they were united to Christ was a one-time transforming event that moved them from the sphere of sin to the sphere of righteousness.
Now we do not mean by this that Christians are perfect. We know that we can’t even make it through a single day, and sometimes not even an hour, without sinning somehow. Paul goes on in the next chapter to describe that though his desires are for holiness he still finds that he does the things he does not want to and sins (Rom. 7:15, 18). What Scripture teaches us is that this sin that remains in us is not controlling like it was before we were saved in Christ. Francis Turretin noted, “when he [Paul] says, ‘sin dwells in him,’ . . . it is one thing to dwell, another to reign.” That reigning power of sin is broken in us when we were definitively sanctified in union with the crucified and risen Christ and now what happened at the moment we were saved is progressively realized through our whole Christian life as God continues to work out our salvation until it is perfected in glorification.
So did you belong on that list from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? Rejoice that the gospel means you aren’t there any longer! You may still commit sins but God promises that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those you are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) Sin once reigned in you but now you are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. In all things Jesus saves you to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25)!