Justification, Atonement, and Salvation

(excerpt from an interview with Dallas Willard, interviewed by Gary W. Moon):

GWM: Before we leave this, I have a follow-up question. I forget the age of your granddaughter.

DW: She is eleven.

GWM: Dallas, by way of summary, if you were sitting down with her and she said, “Grandpa, I’m confused. Can you tell me how justification, atonement, and salvation are different, if they are different?” What would you say so that I—I mean, she—could understand?

DW: I would say that justification is a new beginning for a relationship that has been broken, and it is made right by forgiveness, but that’s just the doorway into the resumption of relationship. The relationship [itself] is atonement, and that involves Christ becoming one with us. [Atonement] means that we now [can] walk with Him and that He is in us, and we are in Him. We have eternal life, and that is what atonement is. The result of atonement is deliverance or salvation. We are not under the power of sin and death anymore. Justification, atonement, and salvation are three aspects of one thing.

GWM: And then if she were to say, “Grandpa, what do you mean when you say, ‘Salvation is a life’?”

DW: I would talk to her about the life that is in a plant or an animal so that she would understand there is a definite kind of movement in the plant or the animal, and I would talk to her about different kinds of life. Then I would tell her that when we place our confidence in Jesus, He becomes a new kind of life in us, and that means now we think different thoughts; we believe things we didn’t believe before, and also we are strengthened and directed by grace, which is now a force in our life that comes from Jesus. And salvation as a life is simply participation in the life that comes from Jesus, who is with us and in us. The basic idea is, there is now a power, a personal power, moving in our lives that comes from God and comes in the form of Jesus.

Read the whole interview here: Getting the Elephant Out of the Sanctuary | Conversations Journal