Archive for March 2015

Define “Sanctification”

March 19, 2015

“Sanctification is not achieved by a process, nor by our striving, or working to that end. It is achieved once for all by union with Christ” (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p 143). John Murray, however, also sees it as a “deflection from the pervasive New Testament witness to speak of sanctification as merely positional” . Murray sees the positional position as necessary but not as sufficient and teaches that sanctification is also “progressive”. Murray argues that if the believer has the Holy Spirit and is given commands to obey God after conversion, then the believer must still be obligated to live out the commandments of God.

But “progressive sanctification” does not logically result from a change of disposition in the believer. And “progressive sanctification” does not logically result from the imperatives given to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Justified sinners remain sinners even after justification, and also after “sanctification”. Even our best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not create in us a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify us. “Sanctification” does not put us in possession of any personal holiness. “Sanctification” makes us saints, not better people who don’t sin so much.

When it comes to the word “sanctification”, first we need to define the word, because biblically it has more to do with binary status than it does with process or progress. I would recommend Peterson’s Possessed by God on this, but in brief we need to always remember the teaching of Hebrews 10;10-14 that those individuals being sanctified in time are individuals at different times being set apart by the blood of Christ. It is election that first sets us apart. Christ died only for the elect, and it is Christ’s death which sets the elect apart when God imputes the death of Christ to them.

So we need to define sanctification. Even when we say “definitive sanctification”, we need to make it clear if we are talking about the work of the Holy Spirit in initially causing us to understand and believe the gospel (II Thess 2:13) or if we are talking about a claim that Christians cannot sin as much or in the same ways as we did before conversion (John Murray)

Those who speak of “definitive sanctification” as our new inability to not sin so much often assume that their own definition of sanctification is what we find taught in Romans 6. But a careful reading of Romans 6 shows that being united to Christ’s death sets the elect apart by means of legal identification with Christ. The reason sin shall not reign is not “we will not practice sin (so much) anymore”. The reason sin shall not reign over those sanctified by Christ’s death is that they are now no longer under the law.

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, being under sin and death. Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since 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. 10 For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law. Christ’s elect, after their legal identification with Christ’s death, are no longer under law.

The death of the justified elect is the SAME legal death that Christ died. The “definitive resurrection” of the elect in Romans 6 is the result of being set apart with Christ (and His death) from being under law.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ. Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with His death, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. Romans 6:7: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s definitive transformation by the Holy Spirit so that the justified cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in Romans chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”. But Romans 6 does not talk about Christ or His people not habitually sinning. Romans 6 locates the cause of “sin not reigning” in “not being under the law”

Christ was never under the power of habitual sin , and the definitive death of the justified elect is His death.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Holy Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. What’s definitive is being legally joined to Christ’s death.

Either Dead in Christ or Not

March 10, 2015

Galatians 5: 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus HAVE CRUCIFIED THE FLESH with its passions and desires

If we were to ever become dead in Christ

It would not have been us who did it
it would be by God’s imputation

If we were to ever become dead in Christ
We would count in a new way and not hang our future
On a divine life in us

If we were to ever become dead in Christ
We would count as loss
What we used to count worship

If we were to ever become dead in Christ
We would have had it Done to us
Death is suffered

If we were to ever stand still in Christ
What we would have lost is making outcomes
Depend on God causing us to obey

We do not hope for righteousness
We hope because of righteousness
Having passed from death through a death imputed

Died with Christ” (or “died in Christ”) means Christ died instead of the justified elect, but the result is that the person the elect used to be, that person is dead, over with, done trying to help build their own righteousness. That old person is not here now anymore. The justified elect person has nothing to gain by their works. And nothing to lose.

Galatians 2: 19 For through the law I died to the law, in order to live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives with regard to me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Being crucified with Christ and living now in the flesh by faith are two sides of the same thing—you can’t put on the new without putting off the old. The Romans 6 baptism into the death is NOT God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ—-God’s baptism of the elect into the death of Christ is the same as God’s imputation of Christ’s death (Christ’s righteousness) to the elect.

I Corinthians 1:25 For the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it (the gospel) is the POWER of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

I Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God

Looking Back at Repentance of a False Gospel, by Tianqi Wu

March 1, 2015

Tianqi Wu —While I was unconverted, I began to realize that penal substitution logically implies limited-by-God and effectual-in-itself atonement. But rather than submitting to the truth glorifying the righteous God and Savior, I refused to believe it, and considered it a “theology of glory” because it attributed “cold and calculated” success to God .

Instead, I started looking for alternative views of atonement in which God “takes the risk” so that all sinners get the opportunity to “embrace God’s loving arms”, with any legal requirement hidden in the background as a formal necessity, so that “what really matters” is what is happening now in the God-man relationship.

I was not in neutral. I loved an idol, a false god whose glory was in trying his best to save everybody in spite of foreknowing failure.

There were two main assumptions behind my faith in this false gospel.

1 I understood “grace” as God in his sovereignty choosing to see the best in us, so that even though we are sinful and profane, god still sees some broken reflection of his image in us, and therefore is moved to save us – unless we harden ourselves to even destroy that broken likeness. In other words, I made God’s grace crowd out his justice and holiness, turning grace into a tribute to what’s in the sinner.

2 My boast was that (unlike others who spurned the love of god) I was one of those prodigal sons who had come to their senses and found their way home and made father happy. I wanted my salvation to be about my faith journey, to have my seeking in it, to have my commitment in it, to have my perseverance in it. I was usurping the glory of Christ by conditioning salvation on my faith.

I wanted to be the one who was finally decisive in my relationship with god, and I wanted to make sure that god’s grace on me was not wasted and I did not let god down in his risk-taking, I wanted to make a name for myself as a “grace receiver” rather than a “grace rejecter”. I had no fear of God and his Law, but proudly rejected any god who would condemn sinners for their sins “without giving them a opportunity to be saved”. I had no clue of the righteousness of God that answered his demand in the Law, but covertly tried to establish my own righteousness under the mask of “receiving grace”.

I was hostile to (unconditional) grace for the elect alone but found beauty in a conditional “grace” for everybody. The true God has now caused me to submit to and love the only true and good news…unconditional election deciding for whom Christ would die, this atoning death securing its own application, justification by imputation, sovereign regeneration & revelation of gospel, and God’s permanent security & preservation

Romans 6: 20 For when you WERE slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the THINGS OF WHICH YOU ARE NOW ASHAMED? For the end of those things is death.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is lasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.