Is the Sanctification of a Christian like the Justification of Christ?

Mark Jones (Antinomianism, P and R, 2013) makes many provocative and condescending statements, as if to say that those who disagree with him have not read the historical documents in question. The most irritating claim he makes is that he’s correct because of a better Christology.

Jones, p 21—“If Christ is our mediator, our union with him means not only that we must be holy (i.e., necessity), but also that we will be able to be like him (i.e., motive)…”

Jones, p 21— “Whatever grace we receive for our holiness first belonged to the Savior (John 1:16)”.

Jones, p 24–“There was a perfect synergy involved in Jesus’ human obedience and the Holy Spirit’s influence…Following this pattern, although man is completely passive at the moment of regeneration, he cooperates with God in sanctification.”

The Christology of Mark Jones consists of equating the justification of Christ with the sanctification of a sinner. Denying the idea of a “covenant of works” in which Christ obeyed law to earn merits, Jones also denies the idea of substitution so that our works are not necessary for salvation. Jones accepts substitution FOR JUSTIFICATION ONLY, but like the Galatian false teachers, Jones equates “living by faith’ with obeying the law, and argues along with Richard Gaffin and Norman Shepherd that our living by faith means our obeying the law.

On p 22-23, Jones argues from the fact that Christ obtained salvation “bestowed on conditions”, that we too must obtain “sanctification” in the same way, bestowed on conditions. Instead of talking about the merits of Christ, he speaks of Christ’s living by faith, which was obeying the law, to get to the idea of our also living by faith, which then comes to mean our obeying the law.

On p 24, Jones argues from the fact that Christ “was not left to His own abilities but was enabled by the Spirit” to not only question the language of “covenant of works” but to say that we Christians are enabled by the Spirit “to cooperate with God in sanctification. Except for the emphasis on sanctification instead of justification, the conclusion is no different from that of NT Wrights—don’t be so Christocentric, because the work of the Spirit in us is Christ’s work also for our final justification.

I do NOT deny that the distinction between impetration and application. Rather, I affirm that distinction in order to affirm impetration for the specific sins of the elect alone AND to affirm LEGAL APPLICATION by God’s imputation (not by the agency or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit through Christ’s gift. It is not the Holy Spirit who gives us Christ. Christ’s propitiation must be legally applied by God to the elect so that the elect are justified from the sins for which impetration/ propitiation was made by Christ.

Accusations of antinomianism against those of who give priority to imputation do not prove the reality of our being against the law. To say that only Christ could or has satisfied the law is to properly fear God. Neonomians turn out to be antinomians. To think that one can produce “sanctification” synergsitically by something extra infused (then indwelling) into us in addition to what God has done in Christ is to not yet fear God as the Holy One who demands perfection.

Many experimental puritans put themselves on a superior level to the rest of us because of what they think they have been enabled to do and because of the righteousness they think they can and will now produce.

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15 Comments on “Is the Sanctification of a Christian like the Justification of Christ?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    How was Christ justified? NOT by the work of the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ was NOT justified after becoming born again. Christ was justified by satisfying the righteous requirement of the law for the sins imputed to Christ. Christ was justified by His death. Christ needed to be justified because Christ legally shared the guilt of His elect, and this guilt demanded His death. Christ was not justified because of His resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was God’s judicial declaration because of Christ’s death and not because of the work of the Spirit.

    Romans 6:9–”We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

    So Christ was justified by His own righteousness. Christ was declared to be just, not simply by who He was as an incarnate person or by the ministyr of the Spirit in His life, but by what Christ Himself had done in satisfaction to the law. No righteousness was shared from somebody else to Christ, Christ had earned His own righteousness by His own death.

    God’s declaration (in the resurrection) that Christ (God the Son) is righteous is on the basis of what Christ did in His death..

    Romans 4:24-25 –Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.

    The justification of the elect sinner is different from the justification of Christ. The legal value and merit of Christ’s death is shared by God with the elect sinner, as Romans 6 says, when they are placed/baptized into that death. This is NOT the Holy Spirit baptizing us into Christ. Nor is it even Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit.

    So only one righteousness. In Christ’s case, no legal sharing. In the case of the justified elect, that same one death is legally shared, and this one death is enough, because counted to them it completely satisfies the law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4)

    Romans 6:7–”For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”

    Christ’s resurrection is not the basis of God’s declaration of Christ’s justification. His resurrection is His justification. The Norman Shepherd (“federal vision”) problem creeps in when people begin to think that since Christ was justified by what He did, then the elect also must be justified by what they are enabled to do.

    There is only kind of justification for sinners like us, and it’s by imputation. It’s not in the future. We will not be justified or sanctified the same way Christ was. We are justified and sanctified by what Christ did, and NOT by what Christ is now doing in us. Only Christ could be (and was) justified by producing righteousness.

  2. Ruben Cardenas Says:

    Well, if that doesn’t give red flags (Jones) then I don’t know what will! Glad you posted the page numbers. I’ll try picking it up and reading it later. Can’t say I’m terribly excited to though.

  3. Jacs Lemmer Says:

    Christ is the fulfillment of the law…. “It is done”. Solus Christus. He is, was and forever shall be sufficient. The Spirit came to convict of sin (not as an accuser) and then to act as Comforter to the saved.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    But they say this—-To live by faith is to do what Jesus says to do. Some of us are doing it. You are not doing it.

    Since our duty is not based on our ability, talking about our new ability and new regeneration (infusion, impartation, disposition) says nothing about our obligation to obey the law. Yes, we are obligated to keep the law.

    Neonomians taught that God justifies without strict obedience to the law. But the legalists on living the Christian life are not neonomians. They agree that the justification which got us started was by Christ’s satisfaction alone. But when it comes to what they call “sanctification”, they think the strictness of the law has been relaxed, so that God is angry with them only when they get too immoral but not angry with them most of the time (when they are moral).

    (I should say that some of these legalists are not neonomians. Many of them are legalists even in the matter of justification, since they teach a “not yet aspect” to justification. Some of them even think that God accepts Holy-Spirit created faith as the righteousness or in place of the righteousness, instead of teaching about the definite atonement of Christ’s death to satisfy the law for the elect.)

    .No Christian is yet keeping all of God’s law. It does not matter what we say about our ability to keep the law. It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. This is the truth, even if you are one of those who thinks that any mention of the truth of God’s foreordination leads to fatalism.

    The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to sanctified. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I now LIVE TO God. Galatians is not only about justification but also about how we live the Christian life.

    Like the Galatian false teachers, those who say “sanctification” is by works and our cooperation are not saying that sin causes people to lose their justification. They are not denying imputation. They are simply saying that there’s MORE to the Christian life than justification.

    They are merely saying that you need to be sanctified also, and unlike justification, they say, sanctification IS by works. Since both justification and sanctification are the results of “union” with Christ, they remind us, we need also a “righteousness of Christ” which is now found in us. This is why Gaffin tells us about the “not yet aspect of justification”

    For Gaffin, you can’t be justified all at once, because you need to be sanctified to be justified, not that sanctification is the basis for justification, but “union with Christ” means that you have both, and for both you need time.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Hyde on why “gratitude” is not the “sola” motive—

    In preparing sermons in my ongoing “Studies in First Peter” I found the Scottish Presbyterian Alexander Nisbet’s (1623–1669) commentary (1658) on 1 Peter 1:13–25 to be helpful and relevant to the current debate. With verse 13, Peter turns from indicative to imperative, from praise to God to exhortation to Christians. And in his comments on these verses, Nisbet lists twelve—not merely one—motivations to holiness. At a minimum this shows us that the Reformed tradition is much broader than some want to make it out to be.

    I’ll just list the motivations below (some are simple, some more complex), but if you’d like to follow along and read the entire section, pull up a chair and grab your Banner of Truth reprint off the shelf. The relevant pages are 34–55.

    The consideration of our spiritual privileges by Jesus Christ. (v. 13)
    The sweet privilege of adoption. (v. 14)
    Since the Lord has called us from an estate of sin and wrath to a state of holiness and happiness we should walk answerably to our calling. (vv. 15–16)
    There should be a conformity between the Lord and all his children. (vv. 15–16)
    God our Father is also an exact and impartial Judge of us and our actions. (v. 17)
    We are strangers and sojourners in the midst of many hazards and temptations. (v. 17)
    The great privilege of our redemption—its price and its effect. (vv. 18–19)
    Since Christ was appointed Mediator from eternity and was manifested for our good we are bound to live to his honor. (v. 20)
    Since the Father has glorified our Guarantor in our nature to bring us confidently into his presence as reconciled to us, we should live to his honor. (v. 21)
    The Spirit’s power enabling to believe the gospel has so purged out heart corruption that we have attained a sincere love for the Lord’s people, therefore we ought to grow in this love. (v. 22)
    The excellency of or new life and nature in regeneration. (v. 23)
    The higher excellency of our spiritual state above even the glory of man naturally considered. (vv. 24–25)

  7. markmcculley Says:

    every chance you get to turn an indicative into a command, go for it—watch how Mark Jones does it—-
    1. The command of the Father on the Son. The Father gave Jesus a perpetual command to love sinners (see Jn. 6:37-40; Jn. 10:15-18; 15:10). Jesus remains in the Father’s love by loving sinners. There can be no greater influence upon the Son to love us poor, miserable sinners than the command of the Father. Christ’s failure to love us would actually be a failure to love his Father.

    Think of Christ’s words to Peter in John 21:15-17. Christ asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” Peter will show his love for Christ by feeding Christ’s sheep. Now think of the Father asking the Son, “do you love me?” Son: “Yes, Father, you know that I love you.” Father: “Die for my sheep, love my sheep, nourish my sheep.”

    mark–have you done enough to remain in your father’s love today?


    do you think so/

    are you sure?

    the gospel is not so narrow as you think

    Frank Turk—those who take the law-gospel distinction too far are giving Christians “a pass” as only being unhealthy not maybe lost. They are excusing behavior.

    Hood: Some of my Reformed brothers and sisters do not know that they can please the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:1; Rom. 8:8-9) or that religious acts are acceptable to God, not something to repent of (James. 1:27, Acts 10:4).

    mark—so in sime don’t deny grace and forgiveness, but there’s so much more more MORE —you can and you must, and if you don’t, you are screwed

  8. Hugh McCann Says:

    From an OCA* minister:

    * Orthodox Church in America – which I am not herein endorsing. Just liked some of his points!

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Bradley Green, Covenant and Commandment, IVP, 2014, p 63—-“According to Meredith Kline, we are saved by a works principle (Christ’s work for the elect), but Kline thinks that Christ’s work must be kept totally and utterly sequestered from Abraham’s work and from our work. …Kline imports unnecessary categories when he says that there are no conditions (hence not a necessity of obedience) related to the heavenly realm where grace reigns. Does it not make more sense to simply say that within a gracious covenantal relationship God moves his covenant people to obey him.?

    mark mcculley–I am reporting, not agreeing with Green or John Frame or Gaffin. Have you ever noticed that the folks who want to say that there was “grace” in the garden before the fall are the same persons who want to say that grace after the fall includes law and conditions?

    John Frame (law and gospel) —“It is impossible to say that the law is excluded from the message of the gospel.”

    Gaffin ( By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38)—”The antithesis between law and gospel is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer.”

    • markmcculley Says:

      Mark Seifrid—-Calvin is able to speak of the condemning function of the Law with the same vigor as Luther himself ( Institutes 2.7.1-7). Yet in his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, he speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. ….

      The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. For the Reformed the Law is no longer a “hard taskmaster,” who exacts full payment. It rather urges believers on to the goal of their lives, exciting them to obedience. In describing how the regenerate experience the Law, Calvin appeals directly to Psalms 19 and 119.

      Calvin regards the Law as addressing the believer as a regenerate person. This “regeneration” is not fully effective in us, but weak and impeded by the “sluggishness” of the flesh. —Calvin regards regeneration to effect a new state within the human being, which is partially present and active. The “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us. For Calvin, the most important function of the Law lies in its speaking to us as regenerate persons, urging us onward to the goal that lies before us. In speaking to the regenerate, the Law has lost its condemning function–: it no longer works our death, but only furthers the new life which is partially present in us already.

      Luther finds a radically different anthropology in Scripture. The old, fallen creature exists as a whole alongside the new creature, who is likewise a whole. The picture of the human being is either darkness or light, without any shading of tones. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. In so far as the Law deals with our salvation (and does not merely guide our outward conduct), it pronounces our condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

      Psalm 119 strikingly ends on the same note as Rom 7:24: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant! For I do not forget your word” (Psalm 119:176). The whole psalm is summarized in this closing statement. The one who delights in the Law of God, who recounts it, meditates on it day and night, and clings to it, nevertheless does not yet know it in his heart and experience, and repeatedly appeals to the Lord to teach him. As he implicitly confesses in the opening of the psalm, his ways are not yet “established” in keeping the Lord’s statutes. He still is ashamed when he considers them (Psalm 119:5-8). In view of these petitions and the closing of the psalm, there is good reason, contrary to usual practice, to render the whole of Psalm119:9 as a question: “How shall a young man purify his way? How shall he keep it according to your word?” This petition recurs in varying forms, as the psalmist looks beyond the Law to the Lord, whom he asks to teach, instruct, and revive him (e.g., Ps 119:12, 18, 25-26, 29, etc.). The condition of the psalmist is not essentially different from that of the believing Paul, who likewise delights in the Law of God, but finds a different Law at work in him that makes him a prisoner of sin. What the psalmist sought from the Lord (and undoubtedly in faith received) is found, Paul with joy announces, in the crucified and risen Christ (Rom 7:25). In Psalm 19, too, the psalmist, even after his exalted praise of the Law confesses that a saving work of God beyond the Law is necessary in his heart: “Who can discern (their) errors? Make me innocent of hidden sins. . . . Then I shall be blameless and innocent of great transgression” (Ps 19:11-13). Admittedly, Psalm 1 lacks this element of confession. But the shadow of the cross lies across this psalm: who among us can claim to be that person here and now? As the psalm itself suggests in its promise that “his leaf does not wither,” the path of the righteous one whom it describes leads through testing and trial on its way to the “season” of fruit (Psalm 1:1-6).

      The sins of which we are aware, dangerous though they may be, are not the most dangerous ones. These hidden faults are more deeply rooted in our person and being than we can imagine, and finally consist in the desire to do away with God and to possess that which properly belongs to our neighbor.

      Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another

  10. markmcculley Says:

    if we say that “sanctification” is not the basis for “justification”, but then say that “sanctification” is the evidence of justification, what is the practical difference? Does the time sequence “save the difference”? if we say that faith is not works, but then say that works prove faith, what is the real daily difference?

  11. markmcculley Says:

    Is Galatians only about justification, so that the “soft legalism” (for progress in holiness) can be corrected without suggesting that anybody is not yet justified, to whom Christ is of no profit?

    “In most definitions of legalism by New Testament scholars, the possibility of ‘soft’ legalism is not even considered. The ‘legalist’, for Cranfield, is the one who tries to use the law ‘as
    a means to the establishment of a claim upon God, and so to the
    defense of his self-centeredness and the assertion of a measure of
    independence over against God. He imagines that he can put God under an obligation to himself, that he will be able so adequately to fulfil the law’s demands that he will earn for himself a righteous status before God.’ For Moule, legalism is ‘the intention to claim God’s favour by establishing one’s own rightness.’ For Hübner, those who see righteousness as based on works define their existence in terms of their own activities, leave God out of consideration, and, in effect, ‘see themselves as their own creator.’ For Daniel Fuller, legalism ‘presumes that the Lord, who is not ‘served by human hands, as though he needed anything’ (Acts 17:25), can nevertheless be bribed and obligated to bestow blessing by the way men distinguish themselves.’

    in Paul’s argument it is human deeds of any kind which cannot justify, not simply deeds done ‘in a spirit of legalism’. Paul’s very point is lost to view when his statements excluding the law, and its works from justification are applied only to the law’s perversion. (Stephen Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters (Eerdmans, 1998, p 132)

  12. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones–Man exercises faith in order to receive the saving benefits of Christ’s works of impetration… Good works a necessary part of our perseverance in the faith in order to receive eternal life. Good works are consequent conditions of having been saved.

    Nathan J. Langerak –What Mark Jones means by “consequent conditions” is that they are new conditions of salvation imposed on the saved person because the person is now saved
    No benefits applied before faith is exercised? Is not faith itself applied before it is exercised? What about regeneration?”

    Mark jones– Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor (chariti) with God and man” (Luke 2) . Does this mean “favor” as many English translations suggest? Or should we translate the Greek as “grace”? God may be “gracious” to Jesus – not as though he sinned – because God is gracious to his creatures. How much more to his beloved Son? God showed favor to his favorite Son. Christ’s human nature was sanctified and filled with graces (Gal. 5:22).

    Bavinck: “If humans in general cannot have communion with God except by the Holy Spirit, then this applies even more powerfully to Christ’s human nature” (RD, 3:292).

    Mark Jones—How, then, is it possible that Christ could merit salvation for the elect if he was sustained by the Father through the Spirit (i.e., received grace)? First, concerning Maccovius’s point that the work must proceed from one’s own powers for it to be properly meritorious, we may say that the Sprit is still the Spirit of the Son. So while the Son voluntarily submitted to the will of the Father, to be upheld by the Father, the divine nature which operated upon Christ mediately through the Spirit was still, ontologically speaking, Christ’s Spirit (i.e., “own powers”).
    Hence, Christ’s work (obedience) proceeds from his own power, even if it was mediated through the Spirit.

    Second, Anselm argued that Christ, as a rational being, owed obedience to God. But to make satisfaction on behalf of sinners, Christ had to go beyond a life of obedience – he had to die.
    As the God-man, Christ’s death was therefore supererogatory – a death above God’s requirement of him. His death is superabundant to make satisfaction for sins.

    Mark Jones explains that people like me (who deny Christ’s lawkeeping imputed) are like

    Gataker and Vines, who used Anselm’s argument to reject the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. Christ’s death was supererogatory and therefore his death merited eternal life. They argued Anselm’s point that Christ’s obedience is required, but his death is not required;

    Goodwin argued that the Assembly must grant the assumption of the Anselmians that Christ, in his humanity, was obliged to fulfill the law.
    However, for Goodwin, Christ, as the God-man, had a unique dignity and so was not obliged to keep the law in the same way a creature is, especially since his law-keeping was voluntary.

    Daniel Featley also held that Christ’s hypostatical union meant that he was freed from the obligation of the law. True, Christ had a human nature, but he was not a human person. The dignity of the person, which in the case of Christ is infinite, alters his relationship to the law. As a result, Goodwin and Featley argued that since Christ was not obliged to obey the law but did so anyway, he must have been doing so on behalf of his people.

    Goodwin’s position was that Christ’s obedience to the law was not an ontological necessity but rather a functional necessity by virtue of Christ’s pretemporal agreement with the Father to fulfill the law on behalf of sinners. [“a non-indebted work”] Adam did not come freely, hence his obedience was “indebted,” unlike Christ’s, which was not indebted. Therefore the parallel breaks down at that point concerning merit between the two Adams.

    As William Perkins argues, protecting the uniqueness of Christ as the one who alone can merit has certain implications for imputation:
    “And the true merit whereby we looked to attain the favor of God, and life everlasting, is to be found in the person of Christ alone: who is the storehouse of all our merits: whose prerogative it is, to be the person alone in whom God is well pleased.

    God’s favor is of infinite dignity, and no creature is able to do a work that may countervail the favor of God, save Christ alone: who by reason of the dignity of his person, being not a mere man but God-man, or Man-God, he can do such works as are of endless dignity ever way answerable to the favor of God: and therefore sufficient to merit the same for us.

    Merit must be something that is not owed: Christ freely came to obey in our place, hence it was not owed. Adam did not freely make the decision to place himself under the law of the covenant of works. Adam was upheld by the Spirit in the Garden, but it was not his Spirit.

    Merit should proceed from the powers of the one who deserves it: Christ relied upon his Father’s grace – the grace of the Holy Spirit – but, ontologically speaking, the will and essence of God are one, and therefore Christ’s merit proceeded “from the powers of the one who deserves it.”
    The rewards given to Christ for his meritorious obedience were of use to him because of the glory that would come to his name. God is jealous for his glory, so when Christ merited glory there was no threat of God sharing his glory.

    Finally, the rewards given to Christ are proportionate to the work he performed. Adam’s reward would have been far greater, assuming we say that Adam would have been granted heavenly life, than what he “worked for”.

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Hebrew 2: 10 For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely
    appropriate that God—all things exist for Him and through Him—should make the leader of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.
    Hebrews 12: Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,
    keeping our eyes on Jesus, the leader of our faith, who for the joy
    that lay before Him endured a cross
    I Peter 2: 20 when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it,
    this brings favor with God.
    21 For you were called to this,
    because Christ also suffered for you,
    leaving you an example,
    so that you should follow in His steps

    he First Christian: Universal Truth in the Teachings of Jesus.
    By Paul F. M. Zahl. Eerdmans.

    The first Christian of the title is, according to the author, Jesus
    himself. Writing against the current theological grain, Zahl, who is
    an Episcopalian theologian contends for a decontextualization of Jesus and his teachings. Too much attention, he believes, is now paid to the Jewish and particularistic aspects of Jesus at the expense of universal truths, the chief of which is that all are called to repentance. A short and provocative book reminiscent of Kierkegaard in substance, if not style, and emphatically unsympathetic to Catholicism.

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