Even though humans are fallen and sinful, God has shown his grace evident (2 Tim. 1:9) in that he has chosen some (election) for salvation (Acts 13:48; Rom. 9:11-13). Scripture tells us that God chose those who would be saved before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6). Those who are elect are empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond to the message of the Gospel with faith, and thus will inherit eternal life (1 Thess. 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 8:28-30).
The point at which a person comes to faith in Jesus is the moment of conversion. The Bible describes this as a new birth (John 3:1-8;). In conversion, a person is given the gift of faith to believe and trust in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 6:17). It is called a conversion because the old is gone, and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). This is the message of the gospel, that what once was lost is now found (Luke 15:32).
In our unregenerate condition, we are seen as dead to God (Eph. 2:1), and we cannot accept his call, unless the Spirit regenerates us and gives us the ability to respond in faith. To provoke conversion, the Holy Spirit brings new life to a person (John 3:5-8) causing them to choose Jesus (over not choosing him, which is our natural tendency). Once a regenerate person, a Christian is justified before God and the Holy Spirit becomes the active agent in the process of sanctifying them. Both regenerate and unregenerate people can know the truth. God gives the former over to a debased mind (Rom. 1:28-32), the latter he offers the gift of salvation through faith.
Once regenerate, we are justified before God, not because of anything we did, but because of the gift of grace through what Jesus did on the cross (Rom. 3:24). Faith in Jesus, not works, is the basis for this because it is a trust, fear, and submission to God, not a dependence on self to be made right with God (something we’re incapable of on our own because of sin) (Gal. 2:16. By being justified, we are rescued from God’s wrath by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross in our place (Rom. 5:9).
Once justified, our works are no longer empty to God (1 Cor. 1:30). In fact, we are moved by God to do good works (Eph. 2:10, 13; Phil. 2:13). Our growth toward Christ-likeness is evidence that God’s Spirit is within us, and we are being saved by Jesus (Tit. 1:16, 2:14; Jas. 2:14). Once again, the Gospel says that what we couldn’t do for ourselves, God has done out of his loving grace through Jesus’ death. This is true of sanctification (Heb. 13:12). While a regenerate person will desire more and more to please God (Rom. 6:19, 1 Thess. 4:3ff) the Holy Spirit gives the power to overcome sin and live a new way (2 Thess. 2:13).
Just as Jesus was glorified in his death and resurrection, so a Christian will be glorified in the death of their old life and resurrection of the new life because of Jesus who represents them to God. In this way, they are glorified with Jesus (John 12:23, Rom. 8:17, 30). Originally created to reflect God’s glory, salvation means a return for the Christian to this glory.