Becoming What We Already Are

Q. I know your site well enough to know that you say “You are saved by what you believe, not how you behave.” Though I completely agree with you, I still run across Biblical “scholars” that say things like this:

“I spent most of my younger years believing I was a Christian, but one day a born again believer explained what it took to be a Christian and I realized I had been wrong for years; I had swallowed the lie. There must be a conversion from a life of sin to a new creature who repents and turns from sin.”

I know that as God’s children, we should strive to be more Christ-like every day, but this sounds like another example of belief plus works. Would you agree?

A. 2 Cor. 5:17 says if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. The old has gone and the new has come. These verbs are in the past perfect tense. They mean we don’t work to become this, we already are this. The conversion took place at the moment of belief. This is why when Paul was exhorting the Philippian believers to strive for the victorious life he said, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” (Phil 3:16) We already are a new creation and have been since the moment we were saved. Changing our behavior is not something we have to do so we can be saved or stay saved. It’s something we want to do because we already are saved and nothing can ever change that.

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