Have you ever considered why God has saved us? Most of us would answer, “He saved us to go to heaven.” Perhaps we’d say, “He saved us for his glory.” While those answers are correct, they’re not complete either.
Having spent a fair amount of time studying this question, let me offer three possible answers.
1) God saves us to know him and his Son.
In John 17, Jesus prayed:
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3)
According to Jesus himself, the very essence of eternal life is to know God and to know him.
2) God saves us to become like Christ.
In Romans 8, Paul says:
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:28-29)
I suspect that Paul chose his words carefully and intentionally. You might think that he should have said, “God predestined us to be saved or go to heaven.” After all, the word predestined refers to our appointed destination. Apparently, though, there is something more important than our location such as our identity. God has predestined us to become like his Son.
3) God saves us to be members of Christ’s body.
What does Paul say in Ephesians 2?
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God … being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19, 21, 22)
Notice the distinct metaphors which Paul uses. First, we are fellow citizens of one kingdom. Second, we are family members, members of God’s family. Third, we are pieces of a temple—bricks if you will—meant to house God himself. We are equal with one another. We are dependent upon one another. Furthermore, our unity is the grand design of God’s plan of redemption.
God chose us in him before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). In him we have redemption through his blood (Eph 1:7). He has given us all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him (Eph 1:8-10).
When we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5). He re-created us in Christ Jesus. We were separated from Christ, but Jesus reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross (Eph 2:12, 16). So then we are no longer strangers and aliens, but we are fellow citizens with the saints (Eph 2:19).