Previously we looked at the three phases or tenses of salvation— past, present, and future— from the golden chain found in Romans 8:29-30. We can sum up what we’ve discovered as follows:
Past – Justification – Separation from the Penalty of Sin
Present – Sanctification – Separation from the Power of Sin
Future – Glorification – Separation from the Presence of Sin
But there’s so much more in these few verses. Let’s take a look at them one more time. Romans 8:29-30 reads:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Once again, this golden chain, as it is called, goes from eternity past (foreknew, predestined) to eternity future (glorification) and includes the point in between where we become aware of our salvation (justification). Some of these links in the golden chain of salvation can be personally experienced by each of us emotionally. Some, we can only appropriate by faith. And this is where confusion enters into the equation.
Faith, Feelings or Something Else?
For centuries, since the Reformation, the church has preached salvation by grace through faith— plus nothing and minus nothing (Eph. 2:8). And this, without a doubt, is true and orthodox. The church has tenaciously fought against adding anything to salvation and somehow cheapening Christ’s sacrifice on the cross or deeming it less than sufficient to redeem those He died for. To add to the completed work of Christ is, in itself, one of the greatest forms of blasphemy. But we will look at that topic in detail in the future.
In addition, to guard against the deception and false salvation that can come when emotions are added to the salvation mix, over the last century and a half much of the church has equated any emotions as of the flesh and the antithesis of faith. In other words, faith is non-emotional. Faith is the opposite of emotions or feelings. And, if our faith is centered on our emotions and not on the tenets of the Gospel, then true salvation doesn’t take place and the emotional, recent convert is still dead in their trepasses and sins (Eph. 2:5).
But not all of that is true. Yes, if someone’s faith is placed in their emotional feelings, such as tears at the altar or a euphoric sensation of bliss or peace, and not on the completed work of Christ on the cross, true salvation doesn’t take place and the individual is still in their sins. That’s a given. But that doesn’t mean faith and feelings are mutually exclusive and cannot even be together in the same room. The Scriptures simply don’t teach that matter is bad and spirit is good, like ancient Gnosticism, nor that all emotions are evil and the opposite of faith. Why? Because repentance and conversion and the dying of the old man and the resurrection of the new man can, and should, be a spiritual and an emotional experience.
This exchange of the old life for the new life should impact the very depth or core of the repentant sinner (2 Cor. 5:17). Salvation and the imparting of the Holy Spirit as our guarantee of our future inheritance with Christ (Eph. 1:14) should dramatically affect the entire person: physically, spiritually, emotionally, morally, socially, and intellectually. There’s not a single door in our makeup that Christ will not now invade. The Holy Spirit now takes up permanent residence in our lives and will create in us “rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
So salvation is by faith through grace and not of any human work (Eph. 2:8) and is first experienced by us at justification (Rom. 8:30). It’s here, at justification, that we first become aware of our cleansing by the blood of Christ and the fulfillment of His promise to give us the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17; Acts 2:38). It’s at this point the crushing gravity of our sins are revealed and we understand, maybe for the first time, that we are guilty, condemned, and sentenced to an eternity of torment in Hell for those very sins. Our utter hopelessness is paraded before us. Our supposed good works, our ace in the hole, our own self-righteousness, is now seen for what it really is— filthy rags, refuse and putrid garbage (Isa. 64:6).
We repent of our sins, our failures, our arrogance, pride and rebellion and receive, by grace through faith, the forgiveness provided only by the death of Christ— an eternal forgiveness and reconciliation offered by Christ alone. Conversion takes place. Regeneration. And now we take the faith God sovereignly provides us and place it in the hands of the living Lord Jesus believing, above all else, that His death atoned for our sins, satisfied our eternal debt with God, and were paid in full (1 John 2:2). As Jesus said from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), or “Paid in full!” Our sins were imputed to Him and His righteousness is imputed to us and we are free, forgiven, saved and justified in the sight of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Sorry, but what we just described, the salvation experience, would also involve your emotions as well as your spirit. Just look at the emotions involved in repentance alone.
And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil (Luke 7:37-38).
You also have the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and many other examples of those whose repentance of their sins was accompanied by great emotion. Emotions of joy, emotions of gratitude, emotions of shame, emotions of hope. They run the gambit.
So, you ask, “What is this so important? Why are we making such a big deal of this?”
The reason is simple, part of our golden chain of salvation can be experienced by us in real time, in the flesh, emotionally. We know for example, and not just on blind faith, when justification took place in our lives and the old man died to sin. We can also know, looking back, of God’s effectual call on our lives when we could sense Him moving us towards Him. Any testimony you hear will include elements of God’s effectual call. “I was listening to the radio and, well, I don’t know… something a preacher said just resonated with me. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Later, when I came to Christ, I realized God was calling me to Him long before I actually came and surrendered my life to Him.”
The entire journey of sanctification can be known emotionally as well as spiritually. We know when we fail God and we know when we can feel His pleasure. We know when we are convicted of our shortcomings, driven to our knees in repentance, suffer the grieving of His Spirit for some selfish sin, and can feel the joy and exhilaration of experiencing a renewed relationship with Him. We’ve all experienced some, or most, of these and we know when they happen. They are both spiritually and emotionally appraised.
On the other hand, glorification is something we can only know by faith. And so is God’s foreknowledge and His predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). We accept these on faith since we have no emotional way of knowing or confirming when they happened or if they happened to us at all. Some of the golden chain is known spiritually by faith alone and some is known spiritually by faith with an accompanying emotional aspect to it. No, make that a wonderful emotional aspect to our salvation. After all, simple love is more that faith, it is also emotion
But what happens when someone claims to be saved, to love Jesus more than anything, and yet has no, none, nada, zero emotional affection to the Lord, His church, His Word, or other Believers? What would we say about a person like that? Are they saved? Or, are they just quiet, not a people person, private, withdrawn, an introvert, stoic, or maybe… “Uh, I don’t like to talk in front of people”? What happens when someone tells you they love their wife and kids more than anything but feel nothing towards then? Do they really love their kids? Are they a liar?
Or maybe they are deceived?
We will look deeper into this issue next.