We can rightly look to the moment of conversion (if we can pin-point that moment) as the day of our salvation. As we come to understand the work of Christ better, we can look to the cross as the place where our salvation was accomplished. But to fully understand the saving work of God, we must go back much farther in time.
In order to think rightly about salvation, it is critical to begin at the right place with the right perspective. Right thoughts about saving grace proceed from a right perspective about the truth. But what is the best place from which to begin to view our great salvation? Where do we gain the best vantage point from which to see the grace of God? Three possibilities lie before us.
First, one might say that the best starting place to understand salvation rightly is one’s conversion. Any Christian can reflect upon God’s grace in his life by considering the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit in causing him to be born again. It is essential to correctly grasp the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration in order to properly understand salvation. We praise God for the powerful role of the Spirit in convicting us of sin and calling us to faith in Christ. But although this is a great perspective from which to gaze upon our salvation, it does not see it from a lofty enough vantage point.
Second, one might say that the best place in which to understand salvation is two thousand years ago, with the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross. To grasp saving grace, we should “survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,” as Isaac Watts rightly encourages us to do in his grand hymn. While hanging on the cross, Christ secured the eternal redemption of His people. See Him wounded for our iniquities. Behold Him smitten for us. His saving death certainly gives a necessary understanding of salvation—it is the very heart of the gospel. But even this perspective, grand as it is, does not have the clearest view.
Third, one might say that the best place to go to understand salvation is all the way back to eternity past. In truth, this is the best viewpoint from which to understand the saving grace of God. There, before time began, God the Father chose His elect to be His people. He singled them out to become the recipients of His saving grace. The Father then commissioned His Son to enter the yet-to-be-created world in order to die a substitutionary death for these chosen ones. At that point, Jesus’ death was so certain that He became the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the world. The Father and Son together then commissioned the Holy Spirit to apply the merit of Christ’s death to His elect. Only by looking to eternity past do we gain the proper perspective to fully grasp the magnitude of our salvation.
—Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 411–412.