Sanctification is a necessity. That cannot be denied. It is the clear teaching of Scripture: “be holy as I am holy.” It is clearly taught not only in the Old Testament (Lev 11:44) but also in the New (1Pet 1:15). Nevertheless, it is possible to misconstrue the imperative for personal, intrinsic holiness so as to make it a pre-condition for acceptance with God. After all, scripture does say without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb 12:14). If we construe things this way, who among us is qualified to stand before God? Of course, the medieval church answered: “ordinarily, no one.” Then, at the same time, she implicitly lowered the bar for acceptance with God. The Reformation provided an answer to this crisis. It distinguished between “is” and “because” (or, on the basis of). We do not stand before God on the basis of our intrinsic, Spirit-wrought sanctity. Nevertheless, only because of the grace (free acceptance by God) of God in Christ whereby Christ is our righteousness and our sanctity, because his righteousness and holiness have been imputed to us and are received through faith alone resting in and receiving Christ, we are reckoned by God as holy for Christ’s sake. In Christ, we are holy.
The other great error to be avoided is the notion that, since we are holy and righteous in Christ, there is no necessity to put to death the old man and to be made alive in the new and to wrestle with sin and toward holiness. There is a biblical requirement for personal, intrinsic holiness not as a condition to be accepted with God but as a consequence of having been freely accepted by God for Christ’s sake.
The third person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. He is at work in believers. Sometimes, when we discuss sanctification, we may forget to consider his essential role, power, and grace in the process.
There is no one better to help us work through these issues than Hywel Jones. He is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary California and he has been a pastor for 50 years. You will be glad that you listened to this episode.
Here is the episode. Thanks for listening!
Here are the episodes for Season Five: New Life in the Shadow of Death.
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