Are You a Success When It Comes to Sanctification?

Has your life so far been a success?

At least, is your life finally now a success?

More successful than your parents?

Less successful than your children?

Do you think that “merely” surviving (still existing) is success?

If we read other people’s obituaries to find out what the dead persons did wrong, we should remember that we also are going to die, despite any success we have in eating and exercise. (s every other person’s death (besides ours) really a suicide—they made bad choices?)

-Pharisees have an explanation–unlike me, those other were merely existing, even before they died they were not really living. But I am a success. I myself am really living, not faking it. I am the real thing.
My practical personal righteousness (not for justification but for sanctification and assurance of final justification) exceeds that of the Pharisees.

Our future deaths do not change the imperatives (poor people are too stupid to eat right like I do)

But grace does not mean that we will have success with the imperatives

Grace does not mean that there are no more imperatives

“Should have”—- “Could not” is not an excuse

The gospel is not an excuse for failure and sin

But that being said (and really meant , the gospel of grace is the only solution for failure and sin

Only resurrection is the solution for death

“Successful aging” does not provide a solution to prevent death.

Cherry picking soundbite proof texts out of the bible is not the means for success either.

Philippians 4: 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

but see also

Philippians 3: 10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

2 Corinthians 13:4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are WEAK IN HIM, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

2 Corinthians 4: 10 We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, in order that the life of Jesus also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life will also be revealed in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us

This does not mean that Jesus is still dying.

Jesus is NOT still dying, not even in us.

We have either been placed in Christ’s death or we have not.

We are not in the process of being placed into Christ’s death.

We have either been sanctified or not.

Some of the elect have been sanctified, and some of the elect have not yet been sanctified.

II Thessalonians 2: 13 But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning[f] God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.

Jesus Christ acted for His own glory. But we are not to act for our own glory. Jesus by His death obtained His own justification. We do not obtain our own sanctification. Jesus does not “help us” to obtain our own sanctification.

Hebrews 12: Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine.
Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.
Are ye able? Still the Master
whispers down eternity,
and heroic spirits answer,
now as then in Galilee.

Justified just as i now am
But the future second aspect of my justification depends on my lifestyle

Now i am more sanctified than I was, but now I also have the ability to become even more sanctified

Do you remember that song from some hymn books that says–yes we are able—so many think we (after we get justification out of the way) are able to help God produce our sanctification. We give God all the credit for enabling us to obey as well as we do, and we never claim to obey perfectly–so grace helps us, and then grace cuts us some slack and at least we are a little bit more successful than we were yesterday. We have gradual success , notonly because we are allowing God to transform us each day but also we ourselves are killing sin in us. We are not merely permitting the Holy Spirit to mortify sin in us. WE DO IT.

Ferguson, p 106—if you are led by the Holy Spirit, then you are not under law IN THE SENSE THAT YOU ARE NOT UNDER CONDEMNATION. But you are under the law in the sense that “for whatsoever you sow, that you shall reap.” The more we offer ourselves to the Spirit, the more fruit of the Spirit we will produce. God has given us provisions for victory, and made it possible for us to be more than conquerors

Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God, p 107 the Holy Spirit will deliver you from a lifestyle in which you find yourself constantly coming under the condemnation of the law

You and also the Holy Spirit keep you from sinning, and not sinning keeps you from condemnation

Is the new covenant God writing the Ten Commandments on our hearts?

Reformed—God has not changed the law (except God has de-consecrated the temple and the Jews, and now consecrated our children)

question—after God writes the Ten Commandments on our hearts, do we then obey the Ten Commandments?

Sinclair Ferguson, p 182, Devoted to God—“But when they come to Christ, the law that had formerly been a burden they felt unable to carry now seems transformed. It’s almost as though the law itself is carrying them, and not the other way around. What was their burden has now become their pleasure.


Ferguson, 221–Is your “knowledge” merely informational” or is yoiur knowledge transformational?

In us, but also through us, by our efforts also

John Murray–“God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work” His understanding of progressive sanctification entails that man cannot claim anything good “in and of himself”. “What the apostle is urging is the necessity of working out our own salvation, and the encouragement he supplies is the assurance that it is God himself who works in us” (Murray, 149).

But unless John Murray assumes the command to be given only to those who have the ability to perform the command in some sense, then the ability of the regenerate is not relevant.

“God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required result” (Murray). Murray would see both full divine participation and full human participation in the sanctification process. This is synergism

I agree with Ed Boehl (The Reformed Doctrine of Justification- notice the critical preface in which Berkhof claims Boehl is too Lutheran).

Boehl–“If conforming into the image of Christ is truly the work of the Holy Spirit alone, then it is difficult to claim a a new ability, in the regenerate man. The regenerate man is not given an improved ability from the Holy Spirit to obey God. This position does not deny that the regenerate man bears fruit. Nor does it deny that the Holy Spirit sometimes enables the believer to overcome sin. However, it not the case that this is an ability found within justified sinners.”

Why do so many Reformed say that the Sabbath has been fulfilled but also that the Sabbath has not yet been fulfilled?

Maybe some of the reason is that they think they were born in the covenant before they had been justified yet.

And maybe some think that those who have already been justified have not yet lived a lifestyle that will escape condemnation when the second not yet aspect of justification arrives.

Ferguson–you cannot have Christ as your Saviour without having the Spirit as your leader. And being led by the Spirit will deliver you from a llfestyle in which you constantly find yourself coming under condemnation of the law Devoted to God, p 107.

I Peter 2: 24 He Himself bore our sins
in His body on the tree,
we would live for righteousness

245—Haldane holds the view that the only sense in which Paul could say that “Christ died to sin” is that he died for sins imputed. Haldane–“Our Lord never felt the power of sin, and therefore could not die to the power of sin?” Smeaton held a similar view–dying to its guilt.

246 Ferguson—My view however is that Christ died to Sin as a power. He died for sin but also to the dominion of sin. In Christ therefore we have died to sin’s reign as well as its guilt.

Mark McCulley— Haldane and Smeaton and Hodge argue that the power of sin is the guilt of sin.

Ferguson—Slaves, masters, “freed from sin” is the language of the marketplace not the legal courts. Paul is not dealing with justification from guilt as our motivation.

Ferguson, p 256, Devoted to God —“Only when we know the proportions of Christ’s deliverance. will Paul’s imperatives strike home and we know that we CANNOT go on living as though we were subjects of sin’s reign.”

Mark Mcculley: So, if we don’t see it the way Ferguson and John Murray see it, then we are not really Christian, because it turns out that we can and do live a lifestyle that is condemned by the law? But if we live a lifestyle that is not condemned by the law, only then, and as we continue to live that way, will we know that Christ died to sin for us, and that we are Christians?

I guess success is always relative. You could always have more success. If you wanted to.

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5 Comments on “Are You a Success When It Comes to Sanctification?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    KF—The superficial explanation for why some people don’t like tragedy is that it’s depressing; the deeper reason is that in tragedy there is no one to blame.

    Most people couldn’t care less about why bad things happen to good people, they are only concerned with why bad things happen to me. Like Job, they think they’re the center of the universe– theodicy reduced to cosmic egotism.

    Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified, IVP, 2014—Human nature after the cross remains as it was before the cross. If Christ healed our humanity by taking our humanity, then Christ was crucified by the very nature he had healed…. According to Torrance, Christ condemned sin by saying no to the flesh and living a life of perfect faith, worship and obedience. But this would mean that the condemnation of sin did not take place on the cross, but in the daily life of Christ. But Romans 8:3 says that it not Jesus but God the Father who condemns sin in the flesh. While it was indeed in the flesh of his Son that God condemned sin but it was not only in his Son as incarnate, but in his Son as a sin-offering.. God condemned sin by passing judgement on his Son. We are justified as ungodly (Romans 4:5), not as partakers of a nature which has been united with the divine.

    Ferguson, 78–When I respond to my baptism in faith, my baptism tells me—you no longer have the same relation to sin as you used to —-it is now inconceivable that you would continue to sin

    82—In order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. The “bought to” expresses the idea of making something inoperable, of no effect, no longer able to exercise the authority it once had. The physical body of a Christian is no longer the fertile soil for the weeds of sin to grow as it once was. “The sin” is being personified here in terms of its power, not guilt.

    John Murray–“Satisfying the law could not overcome the power of sin “in that it was weak through the flesh” The flesh is sinful human nature. As confronted by sin, satisfying the law can do nothing to meet the exigency created by the flesh. …”And for sin” Although it would be in accord with scripture with Scripture to regard sin as meaning sin imputed or sin offering. BUT THERE IS NO GOOD REASON to inject any other thought but that when the Father sent the Son it was for the purpose of DEALING WITH SIN. …Sin has been deprived of its power and the beneficiaries walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit….Jesus not only blotted out sin’s guilt but also vanquished sin as power. ….Freedom from condemnation MUST EMBRACE freedom from the judgment of sin’s power as well as the judgment of sin’s guilt. Romans 8:4 will have to be regarded as the singed effect in us of the judgment executed on the power of sin in the cross of Jesus AND of the inwardly operative power of the Holy Spirit emanating from the cross. It is eloquent of the apostle’s view of the place of the law of God in the believer’s life that the apostle should conceive of the holiness in the life of the believer as the fulfillment of God’s law.

    John Murray–In Romans 8:3, the apostle had spoken of the impotence of the law. How then can the apostle construe the holiness of the Christian state as the fulfillment of the law’s requirement? The fact, however, cannot be disputed and it is conclusive proof that the law of God has the fullest normative relevance in that state which is the product of grace. The dictating power in their lives is not the flesh but the Holy Spirit. By grace there is no antinomy between the law as demanding and the Holy Spirit as energising. “The law is spiritual”. Romans 7:14

    Romans 8: 3 What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, IVP, 1996

    p 95 Augustinian theology was committed to a process of justification. In the process grace moved the will to hate sin and to desire justification, providing the opportunity to return to the grace of baptism. Justification could never be complete.

    p 97 The way we present the gospel invariably expresses an implicit understanding of the order of salvation.

    p 102 It is only by the Holy Spirit that we are being united to Christ. The Spirit’s agency and priority is the architectonic principle, and for this reason there is always a not yet character to our present salvation.

    Mark:So we are back to Augustinian model, where justification is not yet complete…..

    p 102 There is always a not yet character to our present salvation. It is doubtful if the chain model of the order of salvation could ever express this fully. Its very form suggests that one link is complete in itself and thus distinct from the others; thus for example, regeneration is viewed as coming to an end were faith begins.

    Mark: So justification is not distinct from the Christian life? Justification is not distinct from regeneration? And most importantly, regeneration is not distinctly before faith? Regeneration is never complete? Regeneration and the Christian life are the same, and the Christian life is not complete yet? In this way, the idea of a complete present justification can be discarded, because it depends on future regeneration. Ferguson (and Gaffin) can have no justification complete and done right now.

    p 103 And while it requires a carefully guarded statement, it is also true that….justification awaits its consummation, in the same way in which adoption (like justification, a legal act in the New Testament, will enter a new stage…when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what is due to us (II Cor 5:10)

    mark: The dialectic requires guarded statement, because if you say it too plainly, Ferguson might get in the same political trouble as Norman Shepherd. But it’s still two-stage justification (despite his “have already been justified with irreversible finality), and it’s justification which depends on works the Holy Spirit has produced in us, after we are (provisionally) Christians. Ferguson reads the Westminster Catechism (openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment) as teaching a future justification. This comes from saying that justification is not isolated or distinct from “sanctification”. This comes from saying that no link is yet complete.

    p 104 Being raised with Christ took place in a representative fashion in Christ’s historical resurrection. BUT it is realized in the believer at regeneration, which is marked sacramentally by baptism.

    Mark: And so we are back to the Augustinian process, and to the efficacy of the grace of water baptism. Instead of being raised by legal imputation into Christ’s representative death, raised is thought of as regeneration. And this justification by representative death and regeneration are again confused, with the legal representative tending to drop out of the picture. Because Ferguson thinks “union” covers it all, and that regeneration cannot be an isolated link distinct from the rest of the Christian life.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    (in an early Banner of Truth essay) Ferguson did criticize Shepherd and Gaffin on this very question.

    Shepherd writes that “The prophets and apostles viewed election from the perspective of the covenant of grace, whereas Reformed theologians of a later day have tended to view the covenant of grace from the perspective of election”(p 60). The result of this, it is argued, is that the reformed preacher no longer says “Christ died for you” – but, when these words are construed, not from the point of view of election, but of the covenant, then “The Reformed evangelist can and must say on the basis of John 3:16, Christ died for you.”

    Ferguson: This demands comment. First, Shepherd appears to adopt the view of the prevailing academic critique of the covenant theology of the seventeenth century (forcefully presented decades ago by Perry Miller), which suggests that the doctrine of covenant somehow makes God’s secret counsels less harsh. We ought therefore to look at covenant, and not at election. This analysis, both historically and biblically we reject. It is clear that, in fact, covenant theology arose in a variety of circumstances – sacramental, in the case of Zwingli, biblical and theological, in the case of Calvin, expository and pastoral, in the case of the Puritans.

    Doubtless, in the case of some writers, Shepherd may be right. But it is an extreme view to charge all reformed writers with this confusion of thought, and to suggest that they have turned the order of scripture on its head. To use Shepherd’s own citation – the fact is that some passages, e.g. Ephesians 1:1-14, do employ the mode of looking at covenant from the viewpoint of election. Indeed, in that passage it is necessary for the reader to look for covenant in the context of election.

    From a more practical point of view – was it because Whitefield and Edwards, Spurgeon and M’Cheyne managed to escape the old reformed straitjacket and discover election it its covenant perspective that they were such great evangelists? It seems highly doubtful. And therefore we are justified in wondering whether this is really the true solution at all.

    Shepherd has had the courage to state to the reformed reader that a question mark hangs over the commonly accepted notion that the preacher cannot say: “Christ died for you.” In fact Shepherd goes so far as to say that, from this covenantal perspective, the reformed preacher is under obligation to say “Christ died to save you.” But that cannot possibly be a proper assessment, for no evangelist in the New Testament shows himself to have been under an inescapable burden to say that.

    In fact Shepherd is surely confusing two things in John 3:16, to which he refers – the truth that it was the loved world to which God gave his Son (which is affirmed), and the statement, “Christ died to save you” (which is not confirmed). Not only does the reformed evangelist not say this, the apostle John does not say it either

    Ferguson: “Eyebrows will be raised by Professor Shepherd’s comment that “Baptism rather than regeneration is the point of transition from lostness in death to salvation in life” (p 66) – to which, it must be added, he provides a note to the effect that “The position here advocated should not be confused with the sacramentalist doctrine of baptismal regeneration” (ibid). His point is that when evangelism is election-oriented, it is also regeneration-oriented, so that the whole thing is viewed from the standpoint of the secret work of God. The problem with this approach is that, “Judgments have to be made which belong properly and exclusively in the hands of God.” Just because such judgment belongs to God, the evangelist should not attempt even an approximation” (p 67).

    This whole view, according to Shepherd, leads to the tension in reformed evangelism of works of preparation for grace, to which he objects: “Even the exhortation to ask for a new heart does not square with insistence on total inability. There is nothing the unregenerate man can do or will do in the direction of his conversion” (p 69). “In contrast to this regeneration – evangelism a methodology oriented to the covenant structure of Scripture and to the Great Commission presents baptism as the point of transition from death to life” (p 71). This, Shepherd argues, is demonstrated by the emphasis in the New Testament, not on people being converted, but on their being baptized, and he cites Acts 2:41 and Acts 16:33 as illustrative of this very principle.

    Shepherd is somewhat guilty of mishandling the tests he quotes in favour of the priority of baptism over conversion. On the one hand the verses do say what he states; but he fails to remind us of other things they state. Thus, for example, that the 3000 who were baptized were those who “gladly received the word”, and that Paul and Silas baptized the jailer because he believed in God. They must have borne the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God. The apostles must have judged these men to be truly regenerate. Rather than draw attention away from conversion, these instances simply highlight that, for the adult, a profession of faith in Christ, and of conversation was a prerequisite for baptism.

    It is true that baptism is what “should mark the passage from death to life”(p 72), but it is another thing to suggest that it actually constitutes “the point of transition from lostness in death to salvation in life”(p 66). This is to confuse the sign and the thing signified, and to be guilty of an offence against reformed teaching. Surely Professor Shepherd means something different from what he says? It is perhaps not surprising that, while critical of the current expressions that a man is “truly converted” or “really born again”, and emphatic that in the New Testament the phraseology was that he was “baptized”, and that these other expressions were redundant, he does not himself manage to escape an addition to baptism as the expression of fruitful evangelism, when he says that “All who have been baptized AND are seeking to do the will of God are to be regarded as Christian brothers”(p 74)

  4. markmcculley Says:

    I have heard NewCovenantTheology folks say that if you switch to NCT and away from a flat Bible ethic, you will live more by faith and less by guilt. But either we are holy or not, no matter what our theory of covenants. All of us are still sinners. The new covenant replaces the imperatives of the Mosaic covenant with the law of Christ. The new covenant however does not teach that our greater ability and better motives allow us to satisfy the law of Christ.

    I agree that sanctification not by our performance. But I wish that those who teach that sanctification is not by performance would stop claiming to be “more adequately performing than the Pharisees did”.

    First they need to begin to question the false justification gospel of those who make the future depend on our performance.
    Second they need to stop promising that people who agree with them will perform better. It’s like having your cake and eating it also. One, blessing is not based on performance. But two, you will perform better if you have the right motives like they claim to have, as they brag about how they live more by faith.

    God does not accept anything we perform if it is motivated by our desire for assurance or blessing. And God DOES accept our worship if our worship is not motivated by mercenary motives. But these truths do not equate to “we perform better than legalists do”.

    Jon Zens teaches–if you have a view of sanctification apart from Moses or one flat covenant, then you will “more adequately fulfill the law in the age of faith”. This leads to the claim that our obeying “exceeds that of the pharisees” and reads Romans 8:4 as being about our own satisfying “the requirement of the law”.

    Those who see themselves as now having the new covenant ability to satisfy the requirement of law do not yet fear God, because they don’t yet see Christ’s death as the only and only satisfaction of law—-

  5. markmcculley Says:

    david Scaer: “Other Protestant denominations see sanctification, the working of the Holy Spirit in Christian lives, in synergistic terms, another Greek derivative, which means that a thing has two or more causes. Believers are required to play a part in developing their personal holiness by living lives disciplined by the Law and by special ethical regulations set down by the church. Christians can and must cooperate with God’s grace to increase the level of personal sanctification. Cooperation, a Latin derivative, is a synonym of synergism, and also means two or more things or persons working together.

    Scaer: “These confessions think that God alone justifies, but that sanctification is a combined divine-human activity, which even though God begins, each believer is obligated to complete. In this system, the Gospel, which alone creates faith, is replaced by the Law which instructs in moral requirements and warns against immorality. Justification by grace is seen as a past event and the present focus is on man cooperating with God to reach a complete sanctification.

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