For Paul salvation is not just a one time event. It is not just something that happened in the past. Paul has no problem speaking of salvation as an ongoing event. There are times when he speaks of salvation as something we continually experience in our lives. We are not just saved, but we are being saved.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” In 2 Corinthians 2:15 he uses the same language of those who are being saved and those who are perishing. Paul sees no problem with dividing the world into two categories: those who are in the process of perishing and those who are in the process of salvation. Those who have accepted Christ’s invitation to follow him are those who are being saved.
This does not imply at all that we are doing anything to be saved. The language is very passive. We are being saved, and someone else is doing the saving. Paul uses this same type of language another time in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he writes, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Again, a passive verb. We are being transformed into his image, not on our own power but by the Spirit’s power.
Maybe this is how Paul would define the ongoing process of salvation – being transformed into his image. Yes, Paul talks about salvation in the past tense. He has no problems suggesting that we were saved, and are saved. But for Paul I don’t believe that is the whole story. While we experienced salvation when we called upon the name of Lord and participated in his death, burial and resurrection through baptism, we are continually experiencing salvation through the Spirit’s transforming work. The end result of that work is that we are transformed into Christ’s image – ultimate salvation.
This should be exciting news for those of us who are being saved!