Posted tagged ‘sanctification’

All Christians are Saints, but Roman Catholics are Not Christians

September 24, 2015

Seeking sainthood in the Catholic Church? If you’re from outside Western Europe, things are looking up. A Harvard University study suggests both an uptick in saint-making and a larger portion of new saints coming from outside Western Europe, thanks to increasing competition for worshipers around the world from Protestant religions. Sainthood is quite an exclusive club for American Catholics. Pope Francis’s plans to canonize a Spanish missionary next week will be only the 11th canonization of anyone with close ties to America. During his trip to the United States later this month, the pope will canonize Junipero Serra, who spread Catholicism in modern-day California. Declaring Serra a saint — meaning the Catholic Church recognizes that a person has made it to heaven and can intercede for those on earth. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/09/14/so-you-want-to-be-declared-a-saint-by-pope-francis-see-your-odds-here/

Proverbs 15:8 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”

Romans 6:20 ”For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those thing is death”

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we now bear FRUIT FOR GOD. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear FRUIT FOR DEATH.”

Luke 16:15 That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God.

Being set apart by God for God is not the same thing as being “moral”. Morality is not “sanctification” because those who are not yet justified before God by Christ’s death are not yet sanctified, not by the blood and not by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches a distinction between “dead works” (works done with unacceptable motives, like gaining assurance) and “fruit unto God” (works that are pleasing to God without being “necessary”)

Our justification is not by our works, not even by our works after faith and justification. If we are already justified, then it’s too late for us to be justified by works. If we think we will lose our justification if we don’t work, then we do not yet understand what God’s justification is.

When Roman Catholics (and most Protestants) do not yet understand what God’s justification is, that is the result of God not having yet justified most professing Christians. According to John 10, the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice and do not follow strangers, and this includes legalist and Arminian Protestants as well the pope who claims to be “the vicar of Christ”. If we think that our works will give us the evidence that we are saints, then we have not yet believed the gospel, which is the good news about being joined to Christ’s death and NOT ABOUT OUR WORKS.

Romans 3: 27 “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith. 28 For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

Even after we are justified saints, we are not yet glorified, not yet raised from the first death and given immortality. But neither is the rest of salvation conditioned on our morality and works. Our future resurrection from death is not about God enabling us to do what is required, but about God doing for us what we cannot and never will do.

Most professing Christians condition salvation on what God does in the sinner. Even many Augustinians define grace as God doing in us what God requires in us, instead of defining the gospel by Christ’s death as satisfaction of God’s law.

Is Assurance Necessary for Us to Be Moral, or is morality necessary for Us to have Assurance, or do we have a Situationist Gospel in which the Answer Depends on Who’s Listening?

With its emphasis on “knowledge” and “calling”, II Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are commanded to become become fruitful, but not in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ.

But many assume an assurance of calling based on our morality. To do that, they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context of II Peter 1, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their “works of faith” the assurance.

Their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works. Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in God causing them to be moral, not assurance in Christ’s death because of the sins of the elect imputed.

By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”?

Legalists warn against thinking you are justified if you are not “sanctified” (following moral rules) . But they are trying to be saints without first being justified by Christ’s death alone. They have not yet submitted to the gospel which teaches a righteousness not our own, a righteousness found in Christ’s death. Instead the legalists give their idol god the glory for creating in them a righteousness of their own.

We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But even many professing “Reformed” folks think of faith as the “condition” that saves them. Yes, they disagree (somewhat) about the source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in than they are in the object of faith.

We get “results”, they boast. We are seriously and sincerely moral. This false gospel makes everything conditional, not on Christ’s death, but on us—-if the Holy Spirit enables you do enough things right, then God promises not to break you off.

The true gospel explains that the justification of the ungodly does not happen apart from the imputation of Christ’s death and that faith is created by hearing the gospel. The true gospel tells us that it is the righteousness ALONE (Christ’s death bearing sins, apart from any works of faith created in us ) which satisfies the requirement of God’s law. (Romans 8:4)

The moralist does not test her works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.

Hebrews 6:1– “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”

Hebrews 9:14–”How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

The problem with using works “done after you are in the family” to get assurance that you are a saint is that works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. The light of the true gospel of free grace exposes our “good works” as “dead works”. And “dead works” are sins.

John 3:19– “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Certainly God commands us all to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh, by people who are not yet justified. To doubt that you are justified or will be justified because of morality or immortality is to take the focus away from Christ’s one-time-done death for elect sinners.

Is the Holy Spirit the Source of Our Justification and Sanctification?

May 26, 2012

I will begin with the part with which I very much agree, in which Mike Horton warns against calling “sanctification” a cooperation.

Horton: “It is inappropriate to import the monergism-synergism
antithesis (typically belonging to the debate over the new birth and
justification) into sanctification. It is better simply to say that we are working out that salvation that has Christ has already won for us and given to us by his Spirit through the gospel. Though in
sanctification (unlike justification) faith is active in good works,
the gospel is always the ground and the Spirit is always the source of our sanctification as well as our justification.”

Mark McCulley: The Holy Spirit does give us what Christ has already won. But we also need to say that the Son gives us the Holy Spirt, and that the Son is given to us by legal imputation. Galatians 4:6– because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit into your hearts.”

Of course this raises many questions about order and the word “union” and Horton has done a good job of borrowing from Bruce McCormack on the priority of imputation as a performative act. (See both his book on Covenant Union and his essay in Tributes to Calvin).

I know the Westminster Confession uses “applied by the Spirit”
language but we need to account for the order in Galatians 3:13-14.
Redemption/ justification is the basis for the promise of the Spirit,
the blessing of Abraham. As Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68: “when he
ascended on high, he gave gifts to men.” Every reference to “baptism
with the Spirit” (including I Cor 12:13) has Christ as the one who
gives the Spirit, not the Spirit as the one who gives us Christ.
Effectual calling by God the Father does not assume that it’s the Spirit who includes us into Christ.

It’s a reduction (not the entire truth) to say tha the Holy Spirit gives us the salvation which Christ won. Even though I agree that there is no imputation and calling apart from the Spirit, I worry about the leaving out forensic imputation or making the legal only one of the results of some “more basic” union.

The thing I would most fundamentally question in Horton’s paragraph
above is the conclusion—“the Spirit is always the the source of our
sanctification as well as our justification.” One, the Father is
forgotten. Two, in what sense is the Spirit the source of our
justification? In the sense that Christ did His work by the Spirit? In the sense that the Spirit gives us the faith which has as its object what Christ won for the elect?

We need to make sure that we keep saying that Christ’s righteousness is not what the Spirit does in us. This is why I don’t think we should even talk about a “twofold righteousness” or an “imparted righteousness”. In any case, we need to make a distinction (not identify) the work of Christ outside us and the work of the Spirit in us.

Three, we need to define “sanctification” and make a distinction
between our traditional use of the word and the Bible use of the word. The Bible has different senses of “sanctification”, both by the Spirit (II Thess 2:13) and “set apart and perfected by the blood” (Hebrews 10). David Petersen’s book Possessed by God is a good place to start to think about this.

Of course, in our common language, when we say ‘sanctification”, we tend not to be talking about Christ’s death or about the Spirit causing us to hear the gospel. We tend to think of the new birth as creating in us a new disposition which causes us to gradually get better.

Horton in his good book on covenant union has a very good discussion
of the problems with traditional accounts of “regeneration”, and I
know that none of us can talk about everything at one time. But my
specific point is to ask how the Spirit is the source of
“sanctification”. If we are talking about “sanctification by the
blood” (Hebrews 10) then it is very right to notice the parallel to
Christ’s death as the source of justification.

But if we are talking about the Spirit causing us to understand and believe the gospel, then we cannot identify the source of justification as the Holy Spirit.

The gospel is about the law, because the gospel tells us how Christ
satisfied the law for the elect. The gospel demands a faith that
repents from the old life of trusting ourselves (even with grace and help) to satisfy the law. To hear the gospel is to turn from the sin of trusting ourselves (with grace and help) to ever become acceptable to God. We learn to take sides against ourselves. It is Christ’s death which not only justifies us but also sanctifies us.

We believe and we repent, and the Holy Spirit causes us to do
both, but these things that the Spirit works in us are not our righteousness. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is not the source of either our justification nor our sanctification.

While we are still sinners, we are already sanctified.

Horton’s remarks can be found at: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/03/23/sanctified-by-grace/

Some Legalist “Calvinists” Have Outgrown the Gospel When It Comes to “Sanctification”

December 7, 2011

The legalist Calvinists of course are careful to say that their “sanctification” by their own obedience is not by “their own strength”. But for “sanctification”, they don’t trust the blood they trusted for justification. Though they know they are not yet perfect, they are now trusting Christ “in them” for their “sanctification”.

These legalist Calvinists are less concerned now with the “benefit” of justification (forgiveness of sins) and more interested (they say) in the Benefactor Himself, Christ in them, the person. And thus they equate “sanctification” with their “good works”, which they think they Holy Spirit is producing in them by means of “union with” the resurrected Christ.

Either have enough of these works, the legalists say, or you will not have evidence that you saved. These legalists do not test their works by their doctrine of righteousness. Most of them think you can be wrong about the doctrine of the righteousness revealed in the gospel (justification), and still give evidence by works of one’s salvation. They raise doubts about those who oppose “Lordship salvation”, but not about sincere hard-working Arminians.

As Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.

Since both the Arminian and the legalist Calvinist agree that not everybody will be saved but not about how many sinners Christ died for, they both get assurance from the “tenor of life” of the professing believer.

Indeed, unless we are universalists or fatalists (some Primitive Baptists are both), we cannot avoid the search for evidence. But we need to see that the evidence is submission to the gospel, which involves knowledge about election, imputation and satisfaction. It is a waste of time to talk about other “evidence” unless a person knows what the gospel is. Only after a person knows what the gospel is, can we then ask if that person judges by that gospel.

We first test ourselves to see if we have excluded works as being any part of our righteousness before God. To include the works (done they say with the help of the Holy Spirit) in the righteousness is evidence all by itself that a person still believes a false gospel.

Along with legalism comes indifference about the question of election and about the truth that Christ did not die for the non-elect. Such things don’t matter to the legalist, since what got done on the cross is not enough anyway for the legalist.

There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. There are many different ways to be “legalist”. Either you are a legalist or you are not.

The only way NOT to be legalist is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel joyfully explains how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.

The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that their works were enough. They don’t know if their works (even though helped along they think by the Holy Spirit) are satisfactory.

They were not antinomians and they were not insincere. They probably believed in election also (or at least the unconditional right of Israel to the land!). But instead of pleading a Christ who got done a perfect righteousness, they pleaded their “sanctification”

They didn‘t say they had “faith alone”. They were not into “easy believism”. They didn’t say that their obedience was a “second step” of gratitude added to their faith. They avoided the law/gospel antithesis that the legalist “the covenant” folks want us to avoid. They thought they were safe.

Yet despite their false assurance, they were lost. Why? Was it because they lacked enough “sanctification” or was it because they trusted in the false gospel? That’s a trick question: they were lost because they were born lost, and they never were rescued and we know that because they never believed the revealed gospel.

Sanctification Is Not “More and More”, by AW Pink

September 26, 2011

In the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Assembly the question is asked, “What is sanctification?” To which the following answer is returned: “Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby, they whom God hath before the foundation of the world chosen to be holy, are in time through the powerful operation of His Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.”

Now far be it from us to sit in judgment upon such an excellent and helpful production as this Catechism, which God has richly blessed to thousands of His people, or that we should make any harsh criticisms against men whose shoes we are certainly not worthy to unloose. Nevertheless, the best of men are but men at the best, and therefore we must call no man “Father.”

First, the definition or description of sanctification of the Westminster divines is altogether inadequate, for it entirely omits the most important aspect and fundamental element in the believer’s sanctification: it says nothing about our sanctification by Christ (Heb. 10:10; 13:12), but confines itself to the work of the Spirit, which is founded upon that of the Son.

This is truly a serious loss, and affords another illustration that God has not granted light on all His Word to any one man or body of men. A fuller and better answer to the question of, “What is sanctification?” would be, “Sanctification is, first, that act of God whereby He set the elect apart in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy. Second, it is that perfect holiness which the Church has in Christ and that excellent purity which she has before God by virtue of Christ’s cleansing blood. Third, it is that work of God’s Spirit which, by His quickening operation, sets them apart from those who are dead in sins, conveying to them a holy life or nature, etc.”

Thus we cannot but regard this particular definition of the Larger Catechism as being defective, for it commences at the middle, instead of starting at the beginning. Instead of placing before the believer that complete and perfect sanctification which God has made Christ to be unto him, it occupies him with the incomplete and progressive work of the Spirit.

Instead of moving the Christian to look away from himself with all his sinful failures, unto Christ in whom he is “complete” (Col. 2:10), it encouraged him to look within, where he will often search in vain for the fine gold of the new creation amid all the dross and mire of the old creation. This is to leave him without the joyous assurance of knowing that he has been “perfected forever” by the one offering of Christ (Heb. 10:14).

Our second observation upon this definition is, that its wording is faulty and misleading. Let the young believer be credibly assured that he will “more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life,” and what will be the inevitable outcome? As he proceeds on his way, the Devil assaulting him more and more fiercely, the inward conflict between the flesh and the Spirit becoming more and more distressing, increasing light from God’s Word more and more exposing his sinful failures, until the cry is forced from him, “I am vile; 0 wretched man that I am,” what conclusion must he draw?

Why this: if the Catechism-definition be correct then I was sadly mistaken, I have never been sanctified at all. So far from the “more and more die unto sin” agreeing with his experience, he discovers that sin is more active within and that he is more alive to sin now, than he was ten years ago!

That we may not be charged with partiality, we quote from the “Confession of Faith” adopted by the Baptist Association, which met in Philadelphia 1742, giving the first two sections of their brief chapter on sanctification: 1. “They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also (a) farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, (b) by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; (c) the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, (d) and the several lusts thereof more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. 2. This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war.”—

This description of sanctification by the Baptists leaves something to be desired, for it makes no clear and direct statement upon the all-important and flawless holiness which every believer has in Christ, and that spotless and impeccable purity which is upon him by God’s imputation of the cleansing efficacy of His Son’s sacrifice.

In the second place, the words convey a misleading conception of the present condition of the Christian. To speak of “some remnants of corruption” still remaining in the believer, necessarily implies that by far the greater part of his original corruption has been removed, and that only a trifling portion of the same now remains. But something vastly different from that is what every true Christian discovers to his daily grief and humiliation.

All the Reformation “standards” (creeds, confessions, and catechisms) will be searched in vain for any clear statement upon the perfect holiness which the Church has in Christ or of God’s making Him to be sanctification unto His people. Most theological systems have taught that while justification is accomplished the moment the sinner truly believes in Christ, yet is his sanctification only then begun, and is a protracted process to be carried on throughout the remainder of this life by means of the Word and ordinances, seconded by the discipline of trial and affliction.

But if this be the case, then there must be a time in the history of every believer when he is “justified from all things” and yet unfit to appear in the presence of God. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and yet, according to the doctrine of “progressive sanctification,” until we can say it we are not meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

Not only are those who have no complete sanctification unfit for eternal glory, but it would be daring presumption for them to boldly enter the Holiest now—the “new and living way” is not yet available for them, they cannot draw near “with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” What wonder, then, that those who believe this doctrine are plunged into perplexity, that such a cloud rests over their acceptance with God.

The glorious Gospel of God reveals to us a perfect Savour. It exhibits One who has not only made complete satisfaction to the righteous Ruler and Judge, providing for His people a perfect righteousness before Him, but whose sacrifice has also fitted us to worship and serve a holy God acceptably, and to approach the Father with full confidence and love.

If the conscience be still defiled, if the eye of God rests upon us as unclean, then confidence before Him is impossible, for we feel utterly unfit for His ineffable presence. “Now where remission of sins is, no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:18, 19).

The same sacrifice which has procured the remission of our sins, provides the right for us to draw nigh unto God in acceptable worship. “By His own blood He entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:13).

The Christian is regarded not only as guiltless, but also as spotless and holy. Oh to realize by faith that we are assured of the same welcome by God now as His beloved Son received when He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. God views us in Christ His “Holy One”.

Apart From Works for Justification, By Works for Sanctification?

February 2, 2011

Josh Moody avoids writing about the topic of Jesus dying only for the elect. Since he is not teaching that glorious doctrine, he Is teaching that Jesus did die for everybody.

If you think that kind of antithesis is unfair, then I will use one of Moody’s analogies: if you can’t go by train (because the train doesn’t go there), you have to go by car, and you can’t go by train and by car at the same time.

Since the only kind of atonement revealed in the Bible is definite and effectual (for the sheep, and not for those who will not believe, John 10), then there is no atonement revealed in the Bible for everybody, and you can’t have it both ways, no matter what John Stott or Martyn Lloyd-Jones or anybody tried to do.

You can say all matter of true things about the difference between justification and sanctification (and I have no doubt that the false teachers in Galatia did so), and still avoid the offense of the cross being A. for the elect alone and B. being alone effectual, being the difference, since Christ’s death was not for everybody.

You can say that Christ died for everybody and still not be a “Romanist” who confuses justification and sanctification. If Christ’s death was the righteousness intended and obtained for everybody, then it’s not His justifying death but our “sanctification” which must make the ultimate difference. And if that is so, we need to be very afraid.

Moody writes: “Nobody comes along and says that you don’t need faith. They just say it’s not faith alone. But if it’s not faith alone, then it is faith plus law; and if it is by law, then it is no longer by promise; then it is no longer by faith. The message of faith and works is really a message of work; it is simply legalism” (p157)

Let me say something different. Nobody comes along and says that justification is not by grace. They just say that our “sanctification” is caused by our cooperation They also say (or leave it implied) that Jesus died for everybody but that it doesn’t work unless the Spirit causes you to add works to your faith.

But if Jesus died for everybody, then it is that death PLUS you being changed so that you both believe and work, and if the difference of the new covenant is “sanctification”, then the promise is not about Christ alone or His death alone.

If “sanctification” is not about the one offering of the one body of Christ in death for the elect, then “sanctification” gets changed to being about your being changed (so that grace is not cheap and Jesus is King).

The message of His justifying death plus your “sanctification” by message is really at the end a message about you.

Harold Senkbeil, “In its most blatant form heresy claims that we must place our own good works into the balance to give us a favorable standing before God. Its subtle form seems more attractive. God does all the work in justification, but we finish the work in our sanctification.

“We may be declared right by God’s judicial decree through faith alone, but then it is up to us to perform the works of love and obedience that true holiness requires. This error makes justification merely the first stage of sanctification. God get us on the path of holiness and then we continue. God starts and we finish…”Justified; Modern Reformation Essays on the Doctrine of Justification, p96