Office Hours: Mike Horton On Sanctification And Justification

Office HoursThe core question of the Reformation was this: how can a sinner be right with God? The medieval church had concluded that he cannot, that, before God can accept someone, a person must be entirely sanctified and sanctification is a process initiated by grace but completed by human cooperation. In short, the medieval church had concluded that, ordinarily, no one, in this life, is ever finally justified because no one is ever fully sanctified. The Reformation rejected that conclusion in favor of Paul’s doctrine that believers are now justified freely by God (Rom 5 and 8), only on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us and received through faith alone (See Gal, all). What about sanctification? Like Paul’s opponents, Rome argued that the Protestant message of free grace and faith alone would lead to godlessness. The Protestants, however, agreed with Paul that those who are made alive by the Spirit and united to Christ by faith (Rom 6) can no longer live in sin, that progressive sanctification is the necessary and natural outcome of justification. Still, there are many who remain dissatisfied with this approach. There are renewed proposals to go back to the medieval and Roman view. Others want to reform the Protestant view in various ways. Mike Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics joins us to talk through the problems in and solutions to relating justification to sanctification while doing justice to both.

Here is the episode. Thanks for listening!

Here are the episodes for Season Five: New Life in the Shadow of Death.

Here are all the episodes. Subscribe to Office Hours in iTunes.

WSC Media appHere’s the WSC media app.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Very good Heidelcast but my question remains, why do Reformed folks not bite the bullet and clearly state faith’s source? Is faith itself, regardless of being an ‘instrument’, a gift? Eph 2:8? Why is this gift which is grace element not emphasized?

  2. Honored to have your response, Dr Scott. I have only recently come to faith and repentance in the Reformed way after traversing the wilderness of Arminianism, first as a Roman Catholic for 14 years, and then, as a member of Charismatic/Pentecostal and Full Gospel for another 34 years. I turned 50, 23 days ago, and am reading and making up for lost time. How? By devouring everything I can find in Reformed Theology,, your blog, reformed 21, and the writings of Luther, Calvin, Owen, and contemporary Reformed folks like yourself, Frame, Sproul, Trueman, Seinfrid, Mohler, and of same ilk.
    In all my readings as above, I rarely come across a very clearly written statement, paragraph, chapter or book on the very Anchor, Core and Essence of faith itself being a gift of grace in the quickening work of Christ’s Spirit in uniting us with Him in His death and resurrection.
    I would be very, very blessed to read Reformed work on this.

    • Franklin,

      You seem to be looking for something very specific. Your words “anchor,” “core,” and “essence” etc suggest that you’ve thought about this and aren’t satisfied with the way the Reformed faith puts it.

      What are your influences?

      I ask because I think, if I understand you, the Reformed churches confess and our best theologians teach, that the Spirit grants us new life and with that new life faith and through faith, mystical union with Christ by the Spirit. I think I can find that widely taught in our writers.

      Is your concern that union with Christ is not properly emphasized or that faith is not emphasized as a gift?

      E.g., on union see these resources:

  3. Php.1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (ESV)

    “… Here Paul clearly testifies, that faith, as well as constancy in enduring persecutions, is an unmerited gift of God.” John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to Philippians, loc. cit.

    • See also Horton, The Christian Faith, 580–86.

      Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 493–509.

      You might start with the sections on effectual calling, which are before the sections on faith.

      See also Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity (1645) (Christian Focus, 2009). Petrus Dathenus, The Pearl of Christian Comfort is also quite good.

      Two other classics come to mind: Perkins’ Golden Chain and Rollock’s Treatise of Effectual Calling.

      I surprised that Owen didn’t satisfy you. Did you read his critique of Arminianism?

  4. Dear Dr Clark, BINGO! You hit the nail on the head…’Is your concern that union with Christ is not properly emphasized or that faith is not emphasized as a gift?’

    I point this out because at least over here in Malaysia, the so-called ‘evangelical’ churches are swamped with Arminian thinking, belief and practice.

    I see this in our so-called ‘National Association of Christian Counselors’, who cannot draw the distinction of Christian as having their presuppositions formed by the Scriptures, but awash in ‘integration’ without Scriptural genesis.

    I see this in the Christian NGOs, para-church organizations, bible seminaries and meetings, conferences and workshops, with very confused renditions of faith preceding regeneration, working up faith to believe on Christ as thought it is from the human will, nature, rather than a gift of God.

    And I have been listening to hours of mp3 messages by Michael Horton, Tim Keller, John MacArthur, Eric Alexander, Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, and just cannot see the emphasis that it is Christ by the Spirit who resurrects us with Himself in union with Himself.

    If it is Sola Fide, and as Paul emphasizes faith in Romans 4 as critical to grace, then shouldn’t the emphasis be that as part of Christ’s salvific gift of union with Himself, then, in that moment of regeneration, when the Spirit quickens the Word of Christ, and Christ Himself in the heart ‘dead in trespasses and sins’, isn’t the very first work faith?

    I shall most gladly read the very many resources given to me in the earlier postings.

    Thank you all for your love in the Lord in responding to my heart’s cry for more of His grace. I wish you all a glorious 2014 full of His grace and truth. May 2014 bring us a gospel-initiated and gospel-sustained revival of biblical (Acts) proportions!

Comments are closed.