The Need for Salvation
Mankind was made in the image of God and was in perfect relationship and harmony with Him prior to the entrance of sin into the world (Gen. 1-2, Rom. 3:9-18). The broken relationship is restored between God and humanity through God’s salvation from the penalty, power, and presence of sin (Col. 2:14, Lk. 9:23-25, Rev. 21:1-4). After the fullness of salvation is in effect, the creation itself will be healed from sin’s effects (Rom. 8:18-25).
Salvation is a process with aspects in the past, present, and future for believers. God initiates the process with a call to restored relationship, and those who respond in faith are regenerated (1 Tim. 2:4, Rom. 8:30). Believers have been saved from the penalty of sin which Jesus took on Himself during the crucifixion (Col. 2:14), they continually progress through the process of being saved from sin’s power in their lives for as long as they live (Lk. 9:23-25), and after their death and resurrection, they will ultimately be saved from the presence of sin (Rev. 21:1-4). This holistic salvation process can also be referred to in different stages as conversion, sanctification, and glorification pertaining to salvation’s past, present, and future implications for believers (the beginning, continuation, and completion of salvation).
Whereas conversion/regeneration is a subjective process dealing with inward spiritual condition of the believer, the concepts of justification, union with Christ, and adoption are all objective dimensions of salvation. Sin brings with it not only a corruption of nature for humanity, but also justified wrath and punishment (Rom. 3:23, Col. 3:5-6). Believers are categorically justified by God and acquitted from the wrath and penalty due to them for their sins because of the atoning work of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (Rom. 5:1-11).
Union with Christ
The Bible frequently refers to Christ as being “in” believers and as believers being “in” Christ–in a union inaugurated at their regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 1:3-8, Col. 1:27). This union is brought on and mediated through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11, 1 Cor. 12:13). All that the believer has spiritually is based on Christ’s being within, and their spiritual vitality is drawn from His indwelling presence. This union brings with it promises of sharing in Christ’s experiences as well, such as suffering (Rom. 8:17), crucifixion (Gal. 2:20), death (Col. 2:20), burial (Rom. 6:4), along with His quickening (Eph. 2:4-5), resurrection (Col. 3:1), and eventual glorification (Rom. 8:17). This union enables believers to be accounted righteous (Rom. 8:1), be empowered to live in Christ’s strength (Phil. 4:13), and enables them to suffer well in times of trial as Christ did (1 Pet. 2:20-21).