by Mike Ratliff
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:19 ESV)
Sanctification: “The work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” – The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35)
This post came about from a discussion among our discernment group today about this article/video by John Piper. My initial response went something like, “isn’t what Piper and Warren and these guys doing is substituting Transformational stuff for Biblical Sanctification. In other words, we become more and more self-able, self-sufficient instead of more and more humble and dependent upon the grace of God, which is what Christian maturity is all about.” From that I began working out how to build this post around contrasting real, Biblical Sanctification with this manmade, self-made stuff that Rick Warren and the behavior modification gurus that follow him teach. What I came up with is that you should go to John Piper’s link and watch his video and/or read the post there then read the technical stuff below that I have condensed from a Theology manual. Then at the end, I will give you three links to articles I posted back in September on Sanctification. I think you will see that Biblical Sanctification is quite different than what these people are teaching.
The Biblical concept of Sanctification is not of sin being totally eradicated, but neither is it that it is merely counteracted. Instead it is the result of God divinely working within the Christian a character change freeing him or her from sinful habits and forming in them Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues. It is an ongoing transformation within a maintained consecration, and it engenders real righteousness within the frame of relational holiness. This relational sanctification, the state of being permanently set apart for God, flows from the cross, where God through Christ purchased and claimed us for Himself (Acts 20:28; 26:18; Hebrews 10:10).
Moral renovation, whereby we are increasingly changed from what we once were, flows from the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1-20; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 13:20-21). God calls his children to sanctity and graciously gives what he commands (1 Thessalonians 4:4; 5:23).
Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name in this world; desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. In sanctification, the Holy Spirit “works in you to will and to act” according to God’s purposes; what he does is prompt you to “work out your salvation” (i.e., express it in action) by fulfilling these new desires (Philippians 2:12-13). Christians become increasingly Christlike as the moral profile of Jesus (the “fruit of the Spirit”)is progressively formed in them (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19; 5:22-25). Paul’s use of glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows that for him sanctification of character is glorification begun. Then the physical transformation that gives us a body like Christ’s, one that will match our totally transformed character and be a perfect means of expressing it, will be glorification completed (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:49-53).
Regeneration was a momentary monergistic act of quickening the spiritually dead. As such, it was God’s word alone. Sanctification, however, is in one sense synergistic—it is an ongoing cooperative process in which regenerate persons, alive to God and freed from sin’s dominion (Romans 6:11, 14-18), are required to exert themselves in sustained obedience. God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Corinthians 7:1’ Philippians 3:10-14; Hebrews 12:14). Knowing that without Christ’s enabling we can do nothing, morally speaking, as we should, and that he is ready to strengthen us for all that we have to do (Philippians 4:13), we “stay put” (remain, abide) in Christ, asking for his help constantly—and we receive it (Colossians 1:11; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:1).
The standard to which God’s work of sanctifying His saints is directed is his own revealed moral law, as expounded and modeled by Christ Himself. Christ’s love, humility, and patience under pressure are to be consciously imitated (Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:21), for a Christlike spirit and attitude are part of what law-keeping involves.
Believers find within themselves contrary urgings The Spirit sustains their regenerate desires and purposes; their fallen, Adamic instincts (the “flesh”) which, though dethroned, are not yet destroyed, constantly distract them from doing God’s will and allure them along paths that lead to death (Galatians 5:16-17; James 1:14-15). To clarify the relationship between the law and sin, Paul analyzes in a personal and dramatic way the sense of impotence for complete law-keeping, and the enslavement to behavior one dislikes, that the Spirit-flesh tension produces (Romans 7:14-25). This conflict and frustration will be with Christians as long as they are in the body. Yet by watching and praying against temptation, and cultivating opposite virtues, they may through the Spirit’s help “mortify” (i.e., draining the life out of, weaken as means of killing) particular bad habits, and in that sense more and more die unto sin (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5). They will experience many particular deliverances and victories in their unending battle with sin, while never being expose to temptations that are impossible to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Here are the three articles on Sanctification I posted in September 2010.
Soli Deo Gloria