We who have placed our faith in Christ are saved. That's what Scripture tells us (e.g., Acts 16:31). Let's just all agree with and start with that premise. But for what purpose? We understand what we are saved from -- wrath, hell, eternal torment, etc. -- but what are we saved for? I suspect we have an idea, but I'm not entirely sure that it's the same idea that God has.
We like to think that God saved us because He likes us. Okay, too simplistic. But certainly because He loves us. I mean, isn't that straight out of John 3:16? And that's it, right? Saved so we can spend eternity with Him. Wonderful! Sure, it might sound a bit ... narcissistic. "God saved us in order to have a group of people around to praise Him." But, really, that's okay. Maybe, but it's not biblical. Sure, He saved us for heaven, but is that the answer?
Scripture tells us God's purpose in salvation. In Ezekiel God explains what His plan is in saving Israel.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
Here God lays out His method -- clean from sin, spiritually revive, and install His Spirit. (Note the interesting parallel to what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5.) Then explains His purpose -- "to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules." That is not method. We are not saved by works. But it is purpose. Paul echoes this in Ephesians when he explains that we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9) (method) for good works (Ephesians 2:10) (purpose). Salvation is not in a vacuum. We don't just "get saved" end of story. We get saved for good works.
Another purpose (or, perhaps more accurately, the purpose of that purpose) is found in one of our favorite passages.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29)
We love that "all things work together for good" thing, but what good? We don't have to guess; he tells us. We are "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." The aim of salvation is to create "many brothers" who are conformed to the image of His Son.
I'm not suggesting that the purpose of salvation is to work, work, work. Clearly Scripture teaches that God is "not served by human hands, as though He needed anything." (Acts 17:27) God doesn't need our help (Psalm 50:12). But God does plan to use us in His work (Ephesians 2:10) where He gets the glory (Matthew 5:16). We work because God causes it (Ezekiel 36:27; Ephesians 2:10). But it is His purpose in salvation in order to conform us to the image of His Son so that, in the end, we may know Him (John 17:3). That is, in the end, salvation is marvelous for us, but it's not about us. It's about Him. And what He can do with us for His glory.
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