If I am a little more sanctified than you, then I am a little more sure that I believe ???

when I am obeying him (however imperfectly) more than you are, my progress in sanctification is the fruit of free justification and my progress in sanctification does contribute to my assurance, but if your lack of progress in sanctification contributes to your lack of assurance, remember not to make your progress the first thing but only something second or third in your assurance, because even if you have a little less dirt (and more gas) in your tank than I do, you do have some dirt, and none of us have all gas (some dirt is mixed into all our progress) , and assurance is not all or nothing, which is why my progress in sanctification is not the first main thing but only one of the reasons that gives me assurance

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9 Comments on “If I am a little more sanctified than you, then I am a little more sure that I believe ???”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    The strength of Peterson’s work is his ability to engage various biblical texts without ever losing sight of their wider context. In fact, it is an appeal to context that leads him to disagree with J. C. Ryle’s interpretation of Hebrews 12:14 (a verse that says “without holiness, no one will see the Lord”). http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2014/08/18/christians-are-holy-and-wholly-possessed-by-god/

    n Peterson’s view, an unbalanced focus on progressive sanctification misses the New Testament’s primary method of motivating us to holiness: emphasizing our justification and sanctification by faith in Christ (70). To provide a needed corrective, he works through New Testament epistles, encouraging us to take seriously the Scriptural warnings about neglecting holy living, and urging us to keep our attention from shifting from God’s grace to human effort (91).

    The key to understanding the relationship between sanctification and the other aspects of salvation is found in eschatology. “Moral renewal proceeds from our union with Christ in his death and resurrection” (95), he writes, before launching into a lengthy examination of the Romans 6-8passage’s teaching on sanctification.

    “Those who belong to the new age are liberated through Christ, but are not yet entirely free from the old age” (96).

    We have died to sin

    in a judicial sense (Christ died on the cross for us, we died with),
    a moral sense (we walk as resurrected people),
    and a literal sense (we will be united with him in resurrection) (96-98).


  2. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones—“Of all the Reformed theologians I have surveyed on the matter of good works, the vast majority affirmed that good works are necessary for final salvation. ….Of course, good works are not necessary for receiving justification; otherwise, we could not be justified by faith alone. That is not the dispute.”

    John Gill—1. no such thing is ever to be found in the scriptures, namely, that good works are necessary to salvation. But if this was so principal a part of evangelic truth, as the adversaries plead, it should, be contained in express words in the scriptures
    2. The apostle treating of the causes of our salvation, removes good works, and entirely excludes them; and teaches, that he only has blessedness, to whom God imputes righteousness without works, Romans 4:6. Compare Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:5. If therefore good works are entirely excluded from the causes of salvation, how will the same be necessary to salvation?
    3. That which is not necessary to our justification, that is not necessary to salvation; because there are no other causes of salvation than of justification: But good works are not necessary to justification.
    4. If we are saved by grace, then good works are not necessary to salvation; for the antithesis remains firm, If of grace, then not of works, otherwise grace is not grace, Romans 11:6. Romans 6:23. Ephesians 2:8, 9.
    5. If by the death of Christ we obtain justification of life and salvation, then we are not saved by our own obedience: Romans 5:17-19,
    6. What is ascribed to faith alone, as it is contradistinguished from works, that is not to be attributed to works: But salvation is ascribed to faith alone, John 3:16; Mark 16:16; Romans 1:17 and 4:6; Galatians 3:11;Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5. Heb 10:38. Ergo,
    7. What is necessary to salvation, that, as much as it is necessary, is prescribed and required in the evangelic doctrine, Romans 1:16. and 3:27. But good works, as necessary to salvation, are not prescribed in the gospel John 3:16 and 6:40; Romans 1:17 and 4:6, seeing the law is the doctrine of works, the gospel the doctrine of faith, Romans 3:27; Galatians 3:12.
    8. Add to this, that this assertion concerning the necessity of good works to salvation, has been already rejected as false, in the false apostles, Acts 15:5, where an opposition is formed to the sentiment of the apostles, that we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ
    9. If good works were necessary to salvation, we should have whereof to glory; but the holy Spirit takes away all glorying from us, and for this very reason excludes good works from hence, Ephesians 2:8, 9. Romans 3:27 and 4:1, 2.
    10. Wherever the scripture produces reasons for which good works are necessary, it mentions quite others, than that they are necessary to salvation; namely, that we ought diligently to perform good works, because of God, because of Christ, because of the holy Spirit, because of the holy angels, because of our neighbour…


  3. markmcculley Says:


    Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a brief article entitled, “How Do I Know I’m A Christian?” He wrote it to offer pastoral help for believers looking for assurance of their salvation. I find it wanting theologically and pastorally.

    I grow weary of Evangelicals who continually set forth “tests of the faith” as a means of attaining assurance. Such an approach to assurance has its roots in pietistic nomism (i.e., continual introspection; searching for marks of spiritual life as a means of attaining assurance). I have a certain disdain for such an inward-looking piety. For years, this approach to assurance led to ever-increasing doubt, confusion, despair and uncertainty.

    There certainly is a place for genuine self-examination and personal introspection (i.e., fruit inspection; taking a spiritual inventory). But, it must be done for the purpose of sending us back to Christ. Self-examination must be done in such a way that it strengthens the struggling believer’s life of faith rather than hinders or destroys it. Too often, Evangelical Christians trust in their self-examination rather than in Christ. Too often, self-examination is done in such a way that one has to doubt whether or not Christ will be merciful and forgiving.

    As a pastor, I see this often. I was guilty of practicing this type of piety for many years. Trusting in self-examination is a soul-killer. Such legal examination and doubt is the great sin of unbelief, which is always missed in self-examination! When a believer, even a struggling believer, engages in self-examination he or she is to do so with confidence of his or her heavenly Father’s favor because of the free promises of the gospel (Note: Contra DeYoung, there are no threats and exhortations inherent in the gospel; see: “10 Errors to Avoid When Talking about Sanctification and the Gospel”). This confidence can be present even when a struggling believer sees little to no shining light of his or her own qualifications. The fact is believers continue to struggle with sin their whole life (Romans 7). This struggle is a sign of salvation because only believers struggle with sin. Scott Clark writes, “your conscience will continue to testify against you all your life. That’s just the way it is. If your conscience does not so testify then you are an unbeliever or confused. The believer says to himself, “Yes, conscience that is all very true but something else is true. God the Son has accomplished all righteousness for me and that is enough, so be quiet.”

    Assurance lies in the very direct act of faith as one is presented with Christ, the object of faith, to whom the writer of Hebrews exhorts his hearers to draw near (Hebrews 10:22). Such focus and assurance is in opposition to one’s own reflections on the work of the Holy Spirit within (the reflex act of faith). Michael Horton notes that inward-looking piety has more in common with modern Evangelicalism than its does with Reformation piety (Highly recommended reading: Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation).

    The reflex act of faith can support the believer’s profession but it cannot become the ground of the believer’s assurance. John Calvin rightly states that our acts of obedience are of value only when taken a posteriori (Institutes, 3.14.19). Assurance must be found in the direct act of faith. John Calvin states, “If they [believers] begin to judge their salvation by good works, nothing will be more uncertain or more feeble; for indeed, if works be judged of themselves, by their imperfection they will no less declare God’s wrath than by their incomplete purity they testify to his benevolence,” (Ibid).

    According to Calvin, good works are “testimonies of God dwelling and ruling” in believers inasmuch as they first cast their full confidence upon God’s mercy not upon their obedience. Calvin argues,

    …under God’s judgment we must not put any trust in works, or glory in any esteem of them. The agreement lies in this: that the saints, when it is a question of the founding and establishing of their own salvation, without regard for works turn their eyes solely to God’s goodness. Not only do they betake themselves to it before all things as to the beginning of blessedness but they repose in it as in the fulfillment of this. A conscience so founded, erected, and established is established also in the consideration of works, so far, that is, as these are testimonies of God dwelling and ruling in us. Inasmuch, therefore, as this reliance upon works has no place unless you first cast the whole confidence of your mind upon God’s mercy, it ought not to seem contrary to that upon which it depends, (Institutes, 3.14.18).

    One doesn’t have to react to the threat of antinomianism by driving believers back inside themselves, away from Christ. John Calvin, discussing assurance, counsels, “. . . the consciences of believers, in seeking assurance of their justification before God, should rise above and advance beyond the law, forgetting all law righteousness. For since, as we have elsewhere shown, the law leaves no one righteous, either it excludes us from all hope of justification or we ought to be freed from it, and in such a way, indeed, that no account is taken of works. . . If consciences wish to attain any certainty in this matter, they ought to give not place the law,” (Institutes, 3.19.2).

    According to Calvin, good works serve as “signs of the divine benevolence” toward believers. In this regard, good works may serve to undergird and strengthen one’s faith provided these gracious “testimonies” direct the believer outside of himself to contemplate the source (i.e., Holy Spirit) of those good works. Calvin explains,

    Therefore, when we rule out reliance upon works, we mean only this: that the Christian mind may not be turned back to the merit of works as to a help toward salvation but should rely wholly on the free promise of righteousness. But we do not forbid him from undergirding and strengthening this faith by signs of the divine benevolence toward him. For it, when all the gifts of God has bestowed upon us are called to mind, they are like rays of the divine countenance by which we are illumined to contemplate that supreme light of goodness; much more is this true of the grace of good works, which shows that the Spirit of adoption has been given to us [cf., Rom. 8:15], (Institutes, 3.14.18).

    Like Calvin, we give place to good works in strengthening a believer’s faith. But, just like the rays of the sun, which always lead us back to their source, so good works are intended to take us back to their source, namely Christ and all of His saving benefits. 1 John 2:1-2 serves as a much better starting place to take believers who are looking for assurance (In directing believers to 1 John for assurance, DeYoung’s article doesn’t reference a single gospel text from 1 John). The gospel is the source and ground for the believer who is looking for assurance.

    “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Ephesians 2: 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, in order to create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 in order to reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

    In Ephesians 2, Paul is not dividing the law from its curse, or saying only that the curse has been abolished. What has been abolished is “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances”. In some sense, the law itself has been abolished. Paul speaks in Ephesians 2 the opposite of the way he would have to speak if he thought that curse and law were two different things.

    Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

    The “record of death” against us is the same as the “legal demands” against us. It is difficult to see how the law and its curse can be separated, when the Apostle integrates them together in this way. It is the demands which are hostile to us.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    The curse does not attach to the ceremonies. Rather, the ceremonies picture the way out from the curse. Those who say that “law” in the two texts above only refers to the ceremonies, end up having ceremonies that damn rather than ceremonies that prefigure Christ and the cross.

    Romans 6 teaches that sin shall not have dominion over those who are “no longer under the law”. This does not only mean “no longer under the curse of the law”, although it does mean that. Neither does “no longer under the law” only have to do with not being in the old covenants anymore.

    Romans 3:31 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

    Propitiation means that the law must be faced. The gospel is not about an “end-run” around the law. The righteousness of the gospel comes by Christ taking the law head-on, with His satisfying its curse. This is the conclusion of Romans 3:31.

    Paul cannot let the fact that the gospel is “apart from the law” as regards sinners doing the law obscure the equally prominent fact that Christ’s righteousness is the only death that truly satisfies the law.

    Romans 3 has been all about showing that God’s law cannot be set aside without rejecting God and His law. Justification cannot be a matter of sweeping sins under the rug the law’s demand for satisfaction. This is why Christ had to die.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    mark jones: Christ claims that He remained in his Father’s love because He kept his Father’s commandments. Because the antinomians did not view the law as a true instrument of sanctification, to them the preaching of the law could only condemn believers.

    mark: it is mj who assumes that there is only one way to “preach the law”. If somebody preaches the law as showing our need of grace and of Christ’s death, then mj would call that preacher “antimomian”. If somebody preaches the law as denying the possibility of our gaining blessing by imperfect obedience, then mj would call that person ‘antinomian”

    mark jones: Today, many understand Christ’s words in Matthew 5:20 (“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”) in a similar way. Yet, Christ is not here speaking of His own imputed righteousness. The Pharisees did not actually keep God’s law; rather, they left the commandments and held “to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). Those described in Romans 8:4 surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees because their obedience is Spirit-wrought and far more extensive.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we trusted in you alone, we had faith in you alone, we believed the Bible and the gospel and your words
    Many will acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, perform many wonderful works, and still perish. Many will plead their own lives and Christian works. Those condemned will not mention that they are sinners saved only by the death Man Christ Jesus. They will NOT DENY the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for his people, but their assurance will be their own idea of what “doing the will of God” means.
    Romans 3:28: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law; and Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast

    If we sin at all, we “lawbreak” and so there is no “doing of the will of God” except only alone in Christ’s death. John 3: 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds will not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works will be shown to be accomplished by God.”
    Is this saying “our law-keeping is good enough” to stand the light? or is it saying that our works “accomplished by God” are no part of the law-keeping which keeps us from being swept away in the flood of God’s judgment? I think the second not the first. I John 1: 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

    I John 3: 9 Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin,because he has been born of God. 10 This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did Cain murder Abel? Because Cain’s works were evil, and Abel’s works were righteous.
    Why were Abel’s works righteous? Because Abel perfectly kept the law? Or because Abel never sinned like his parents? Or because Abel was never imputed with the first sin of Adam? Or because Abel stayed on the narrow path of doing a lot better at obeying than Cain did? My answer, you know, is that Abel’s works were righteous because Abel believed the gospel—Abel was on that narrow path, not that he never sinned, not that he was not able to sin in any way, but that he was not able to sin against the gospel. Abel was not able to find peace and assurance anywhere else but in Christ’s death (the seed of the woman shall…)

  8. I am not usually a fan of N T Wright, but in this essay he says something very “Protestant” against the idea that some believers have attained better status than others at the judgment.

    Wright—“In I Corinthians 3, Paul does not say that the people who have built with gold, silver and precious stones will go straight to heaven, or paradise, still less to the resurrection, while those who have used wood, hay and stubble will be delayed en route by a purgatory in which they will be punished or purged. No: both will be saved. . This is a solemn passage, to be taken very seriously by Christian workers and teachers. But it does not teach a difference of status, or of celestial geography, or of temporal progression, between one category of Christians and another.”

    Wright—“In fact, there are so many things said in the New Testament about the greatest becoming least and the least becoming greatest that we shouldn’t be surprised at this lack of distinction between the post-mortem state of different Christians. There is no reason whatever to say, for instance, that Peter or Paul, James or John, or even, dare I say, the mother of Jesus herself, is more advanced, closer to God, or has achieved more spiritual ‘growth’.

    Wright—“Think about one of Paul’s best-known chapters, often rightly read at funerals. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ,’ he writes (Romans 8.1). The last great paragraph of the chapter leaves no room to imagine any such thing as the doctrine of purgatory, in any of its forms. ‘Who shall lay any charge against us? … Who shall condemn us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor the present nor the future, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!’ And if you think that Paul might have added ‘though of course you’ll probably have to go through purgatory first’, I think with great respect you ought to see, not a theologian, but a therapist.”

    Wright—Dante’s middle volume is the one people most easily relate to. The myth of purgatory is an allegory, a projection, from the present on to the future. The glorious news is that, although during the present life we struggle with sin, and may or may not make small and slight progress towards genuine holiness, our remaining propensity to sin is finished, cut off, done with all at once, in physical death.”


  9. Janice Knight — “Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism–The first group, familiar to readers of The New England Mind, is composed of Perry Miller’s “orthodoxy” : Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, Peter Bulkeley, John Winthrop, and most of the ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony…. They identified power as God’s essential attribute and described his covenant with human beings as a conditional promise. They preached the necessity of human cooperation in preparing the heart for that promised redemption, and they insisted on the usefulness of Christian works as evidence of salvation…. Perry Miller, among others, has lamented that these religionists developed structures of preparationism and an interlocking system of contractual covenants that diminished the mystical strain of piety he associated with Augustinianism.”

    Janice Knight—”The second body closely embodies that Augustinian strain. Originally centered at the Cambridge colleges and wielding great power in the Caroline court, this group was led in America by John Cotton, John Davenport, and Henry Vane. Neither a sectarian variation of what we now call “orthodoxy” in New England nor a residual mode of an older piety, this party presented a alternative within the mainstream of Puritan religious culture. In a series of contests over political and social dominance in the first American decades, this group lost their claim to status as an “official” or “orthodox” religion in New England. Thereafter, whiggish histories (including Cotton Mather’s own) tell the winner’s version, demoting central figures of this group to the cultural sidelines by portraying their religious ideology as idiosyncratic and their marginalization as inevitable. “

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