What if Confessional Lutherans and Reformed Agreed on Progressive Sanctification?

Darryl asks this question at the OLTS

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      • Dr. Clark,

        With all do respect, the Reformed may not have called it “definitive sanctification” but I believe that they have taught it! The Heidelberg Catechism clearly teaches the substance of the doctrine when it asks:

        “Question 43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?

        Answer: That by virtue thereof, our old man is crucified, dead and buried with him; that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves unto him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”

        If this “benefit” isn’t what definitive sanctification teaches then frankly Murray and Gaffin can’t communicate very well! However, this is exactly what they mean by definitive sanctification. Note also what it is grounded in! It is not grounded in justification but rather the historia salutis. I wonder how we receive the benefits of the historia salutis? I say “union with Christ.” (cf. HC 55)

  1. Scott, could you, if you have the time or inclination, post something on definitive sanctification? I’m relatively new to the arguments for and against this.

  2. Definitive sanctification, as far as I have been taught and understood it through writings (Murray and Gaffin) is that it is the once-for-all accomplished benefit received through our union with Christ’s death and resurrection whereby our old man was crucified and we are set free from the dominion sin had over us prior to conversion. Thus, definitive sanctification is usually defended most forcefully from Romans 6. I don’t know if you have heard something different but that is what I have been taught and thought I had read. I am, however, open to being shown differently. BTW, I don’t know about the scripture proofs in the HC, but they use Romans 6 to defend Q. 43. Thus both the “definitive” sanctification advocates and the HC seem to be saying the same thing and getting the doctrine from the same place. Note also the definitiveness of the Heidelberg’s language (e.g. “is crucified” and “no more reign”). The offering up of sacrifices, then, would be cooperating with the ongoing mortification and vivification (i.e. progressive sanctification) of the believer throughout the Christian life.

    Thus Murray writes about definitive sanctification based on Romans 6,

    “We see, therefore, that the decisive and definitive breach with sin that occurs at the inception of Christian life is one necessitated by the fact that the death of Christ was decisive and definitive. It is just because we cannot allow for any reversal or repetition of Christ’s death on the tree that we cannot allow for any compromise on the doctrine that every believer has died to sin and no longer lives under its dominion. Sin no longer lords it over him.”

    At least that’s the way I see it.

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