Posted tagged ‘definitive sanctification’

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.

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Is the law- Gospel Antithesis Boring? The Jones Book on Antinomianism

January 29, 2014

Instead of throwing together all accusations of antinomianism into one convenient “package”, so that “one idea leads to the other” . we need to look at the identifying descriptions one by one, to see which are accurate and which are not.

For example, we do not deny that the distinction between impetration and application in order to affirm application by God’s imputation and to affirm impetration for the specific sins of the elect alone, so that this propitiation must in justice be applied to the elect so that the then justified elect are justified from these sins. In short, the antithesis between law and gospel is NOT “antinomian”, because the Bible itself tells us that “law is not of faith”.

Jones (Antinomianism, 2013, P and R) does not mention the Westminster Seminary California volume “The Law Is Not of Faith”, but I think they are the ultimate target of his fury.. Jones even links John Cotton with “antinomianism” because Cotton understood God’s imputation to be before faith, and a cause of faith. (But see II Peter 1:1, Galatians 3-4, given the Spirit because of being sons, Romans 8:10, life because of righteousness.) Along the way, Jones provocatively accuses those in the “Sonship” faction as giving “boring…messages each week when they have a sort of systematic theology that they need to declare every Lord’s day”. (p 118).

Let me say that I am at least equally bored with those who make everything to be about “union with” the resurrected Christ so that we Christians “can and will” now do what Christ did. These folks who keep repeating “threefold union” always take almost no time to forget union by election or by imputation, so that they can run back to “union by faith” or “union by the Spirit” or to “Christ in us” instead of “us in Christ”, which they did not deny but which they never stop to talk about.
It’s very much like those who speak of “threefold sanctification”, in which they do not deny that, in biblicist terms, sanctification is an either or and based on being in Christ’s death or not (Hebrews 1o, sanctified by the blood), and in which they do not deny that “sanctification is by the effectual call and hearing of the gospel by the Holy Spirit in believing the gospel about what Christ did (II Thess 2:13), but then from on, nothing but a “conditional sanctification” which depends on our cooperation and effort. To believe the gospel is the same as obeying the gospel. To live by faith is to do what Jesus says to do. Some of us are doing it. You are not doing it. Yes, I am bored with moralist preaching. It doesn’t seem to me very different from Arminian preaching.

On p 6, Jones writes that “Melanchthon changed his mind and agreed that the gospel alone was able to produce evangelical repentance…He came to a ‘Reformed’ view of the gospel, which included the whole doctrine of Christ, including repentance…” For Jones, the “full gospel” is not about a distinction between law and gospel “defined narrowly as pure promise”, but instead has conditions and sanctions

Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is wrong if it’s understand to say that Christians now CAN obey the law (or if it is used to imply that God in neonomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do).

It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. 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.

Martin Luther’s cautions in the Heidelberg Disputations need to be heard!

The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really for good and God’s glory.

The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they are not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does WHAT IT IS ABLE TO DO, it commits a mortal sin

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” and other blessings by something extra infused 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 another level because of what they thought they have been enabled to do, and thanked their god that they are not like other sinners.

Jones 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.

His Christology 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 on the other hand, 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 works and 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.

Jones wants to throw all he calls “antinomian” into one package. So if you deny that the sanctification of the Christian is progressively increased by works and obeying the law, Jones then equates that with the antinomians who deny the agency of the Christian, who say that Christ believes in us for us, or obeys in us for us. You will find that kind of language in the Arminians of the “exchanged life” view, and also occasionally in some of Tullian’s (or Steve Brown’s) language, but it is simply wrong to equate the position of what Jones calls the “imputative” view with the “mystical union” view.

Jones, even though he points out the distinction between the imputative and the mystical, still tends to collapse a distinction between law and gospel into the idea that Christians are not agents who are commanded to obey the law. The distinction between law and gospel does not deny the function of law to command, but as antithesis it also does not confuse the justification of Christ (by obeying the law, whether you say “covenant of works” or not) with the assurance of justification of Christians. The distinction between law and gospel agrees that Christians are agents commanded to obey, but it refuses the idea of “cooperation” in which we have the Spirit’s agency in us enabling our agency. Gaffin and Schreiner can call this 100% God and 100% man all they want but the math still adds up to synergism.

Jones argues those who don’t agree with him haven’t read and understood the puritans and the antinomians. But he also argues that he has a better “more robust” Christology. “Good works were necessary for Jesus if he was to be justified…. good works are likewise necessary for our salvation–though, unlike the case with Jesus, not for our justification.” (p 76) Jones claims that those of us with a “justification priority” have reduced the gospel to justification, but he has reduced substitution only to Christ’s impetration (ignoring the imputation of the substitution) and has introduced synergism and our obeying the law into the application and assurance of final salvation.

Dismissing the law-gospel antithesis for a “large commanding gospel” hermeneutic does not answer all Christological questions. The distinction between impetration and application is important, but that distinction is only as good as the definition of the two terms. In the matter of “application”, Jones puts all the focus on the agency of the Spirit (with our conditional cooperation) and none on God’s imputation of what Christ did in propitiation. In the matter of “impetration”, Jones puts all the focus on Christ’s active obedience (living by faith) but none on the idea of “sanctification by the blood”, so that holiness is a function of Christ bearing the guilt of the elect.

This is a very provocative book. When Jones reports that Gill rejects Rutherford’s claim that God loves Christians more if they obey more, Jones does not attend to the arguments of Gill, but simply rehearses Rutherford’s conclusions and calls into questions if Gill even understands what Rutherford was saying. p 84)

Jones argues from the fact that Christ learned obedience and “increased in favor with God” even as Christ was perfectly obeying the law to the idea that sinful Christians will also begin to sin less and thus be more loved by God. From this, Jones goes on to the puritan idea of sanctification by punishment in this life, purgatory now instead of after death. . Jones call this “evangelical punishment” (p 93)

Jones even argues from the propitiation (the Trinity’s wrath on the Son for imputed sins) to the idea that God loving us means that God will be angry with us. From the conclusion that “God was never happier with the Son than when God was angry with the Son” (p 95), Jones reasons that God loves us less when we obey the law less. But using Christ’s life of atonement as the analogy for the Christian life ( something Norman Shepherd and Richard Gaffin like to do) misses out on the gospel news of the Christians being legally united to Christ’s death. Romans 6:16, not under the law but under grace. Romans 7:6, you died to the law.

Jones even claims that the answer to Romans 6 proves that the antinomian question should never come up. Instead of seeing that the teaching of Romans 3-5 (the two imputations, the two headships) leads to the question of Romans 6, Jones claims that “Paul’s teaching of definitive and progressive sanctification” prove that “Paul could hardly be accused of antinomianism.” (p 121) I certainly agree that Paul was not antinomian. In Romans 3:2-8, Paul even responds to the accusation by affirming the condemnation of antinomians. But for Jones to claim that Paul had a “large commanding gospel” in which the question should not be asked is to ignore not only the context but the content of Romans 6, which teaches that Christ was ‘alive to sin” (because of imputed sins) and that Christians are justified from sin (6:7) because the power of sin is the power of the law over a person “alive to sin” (guilty before God, as Christ was by imputed sin).

Those who speak of “definitive sanctification” often assume that their own definition of sanctification is what we find taught in Romans 6. But 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 that “we will practice less and less sin”. 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.

We need to believe and trust on Christ, instead of merely copying “the faith of Christ” . 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) or so that they sin less over time. They tell us that justification was in Romans chapter five but that chapter six is not about justification but about sanctification and union and final salvation.

Without questioning each other. more and more people seem to agree that Romans 6 must be about something “more than imputation and justification” 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. (Also, Romans 6 says “baptized into” not “baptized by the Spirit into….)

Bavinck—” The gospel, which really makes no demands and lays down no conditions, nevertheless comes to us in the form of a commandment, admonishing us to faith and repentance. The gospel covenant is pure grace, and nothing else, and EXCLUDES ALL WORKS. It gives what it demands, and fulfills what it prescribes. The Gospel is sheer good tidings, not demand but promise, not duty but gift.”

Jones is Augustinian in the sense that he has not much time for a distinction between what God does in us and what God already finished outside us in Christ. Even when it comes to Christ’s priestly work, the emphasis is on Christ’s present intercession and not his “death to sin” and the federal imputation of that death to those under Christ’s headship.

Augustine–“give what you command, and command what you will.” Jones—“Christians CAN answer to the demands of the law in their justificaton …AND ALSO THE GOSPEL DEMANDS OF THE LAW in their sanctification by the Spirit. (p 53) Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine is wrong if it’s understand to say that Christians now CAN obey the law ( or if it is used to imply that God in neonomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do) . It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. 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.

What’s Definitive in Romans 6?

July 9, 2013

Those who speak of “definitive sanctification” 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. (Also, Romans 6 says “baptized into” not “baptized by the Spirit into….)