Ready for Part Two of the Soteriology exam for NANC? (Read Part 1). Soteriology is the study of Salvation, and today's question is: Sanctification is said to be past, present, and future. Discuss, including the idea of “union with Christ.”
(But first I have to say, I was so excited after studying justification that I was a little afraid the rule book would be slapped down on me for Sanctification. Do not fear. There is hope ahead in this long post.)
Sanctification is the process of becoming like Christ. Once we are justified, we are fully accepted based on Christ’s righteousness, and sanctification is what He does progressively through us. This isn’t a one-time event in our past. It changes us daily and will continue to change us until we are perfected at the coming of Christ.
When we accepted Christ as Lord, He washed us and we were sanctified. (Acts 20:32) It is clearly something that was started when He replaced our heart of stone with a heart of flesh. (Ex 36:26). Grudem says, “the initial step in sanctification involves a definite break from the ruling power and love of sin, so that the believer is no longer ruled or dominated by sin and no longer loves to sin.” (Grudem 747). Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus… for sin will have no dominion over you.” (Rom 6:11, 14).
Although God, at that moment, viewed us as having the righteousness of Christ, the act of sanctification wasn’t completed on-the-spot. He continually works in us to love and good deeds. We have been predestined for something: to be conformed to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29). Our goal as Christians is to grow more and more like Christ. We are to “press on” and “not let sin reign” and “strive for holiness” and “be renewed.” Sin still exists in us and in our world, but it does not need to control us.
“Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.” (Romans 6:19).
We are not left to our own power to accomplish this. Quite the contrary! Without God, we could not grow in this grace. We have been given the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth and should let Him lead our lives. (Romans 8:14). God put His Spirit within us to cause us to walk in His ways. (Ex 36:27).
In this world, we will have trouble, but we can be encouraged: Jesus has overcome the world! Though we will never reach perfection here on earth, for there is no man who does not sin, (I Kings 8:46), and we all make mistakes (James 3:2), we can be encouraged that He is returning, and when He does, our sanctification will be complete. Only then will we be made perfect. I Corinthians 15:49 says that we will “bear the image of the Man of heaven.” When we go to the presence of the Lord, we will be “men made perfect.” (Heb 12:23).
Jesus is the author of our faith – Justification – and the perfecter of our faith – Sanctification. (Heb 12:2). Union with Christ is the understanding that apart from Him, we can do nothing. He has given us His righteousness, He is working out our sanctification, and He has redeemed our lives from the pit. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (I Cor 1:30-31).
"Since all we do has mixed motives and we seldom if ever love others as we should, we can confidently say that we do not bring anything of additional worth to our relationship with God. He is fully satisfied in Christ." (Hendryx).
John Calvin said: (This is long, take time to digest it.)
We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.
If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ [I Cor. 1:30].
If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.
If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion;
if purity, in his conception;
if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [compare to Heb. 5:2].
If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion;
if acquittal, in his condemnation;
if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13];
if satisfaction, in his sacrifice;
if purification, in his blood;
if reconciliation, in his descent into hell;
if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb;
if newness of life, in his resurrection;
if immortality, in the same;
if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven;
if protection, if security if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom;
if untroubled expectation of judgment; in the power given to him to judge.
In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from the fountain, and from no other." (2.16.18.)
Fixing our eyes on Jesus means that we are constantly looking to Him for help and grace, always full of thanks for who we are in Him. We take our eyes off of our own good works and efforts and check-lists and disciplines, where we get stuck trying to gauge our own progress and how far we’ve come. We instead look to Him until we completely forget ourselves in comparison to His love. We see Him as He is and love Him for it, asking that He will fill us with that love, which spills out on others and results in a life that looks more and more like Him.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face,
and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Lemmel, Helen H. 1922
Hendryx, John “Sanctification via Union with Christ.” Reformation Theology. April 21, 2006. Accessed 1/25/11. http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/04/sanctification_via_union_with.php
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pages 746-752.
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