Office Hours: The Gospel Mystery Of Sanctification

Office HoursSince the very earliest days of the post-apostolic church, in the 2nd century, there have been preachers who thought that the best way to produce godliness (sanctification) in believers is to pound it into them, as it were, with a hammer. It’s a great temptation, of course, to try to produce the desired results (as if we are the monitors of sanctity, as if there is an acceptable level of sanctity, in this life, with which we may be satisfied) by making acceptance with God conditional upon sanctification. The medieval church fell into that error and the Roman communion tragically made it into dogma at the Council of Trent. The Reformation Churches rejected that error entirely in her confessions in favor of the biblical message of justification and sanctification by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide). After the Reformation, however, the medieval view persisted even in some ostensibly “Reformed” circles. Richard Baxter (1615–91) wanted to be considered Reformed but he rejected the Reformation doctrines of justification and sanctification and his preaching and teaching resulted in theological, spiritual, and moral casualties. Walter Marshall  (1628–80) was one of those who was harmed. He was an English non-conformist pastor who labored under the burden and discouragement of Baxter’s moralism until he rediscovered the biblical and Protestant doctrines of justification and sanctification. Out of his journey he produced The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, which John Murray (1898-1975) called the “most important book on sanctification ever written.” By God’s grace he came to see that the moralist program for sanctification doesn’t produce the desired results because it cannot.

Dennis Johnson, Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and I sat down recently to discuss Marshall’s book and its implications for our new life in the shadow of death. I hope that you will listen to this episode and that you will share it with others.

Here is the episode.

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 appCheck out the WSC media app.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Dr. Clark,

    Did you intend to include sanctification in this quote from above?

    “The Reformation Churches rejected that error entirely in her confessions in favor of the biblical message of justification and sanctification by grace alone (sola gratis), through faith alone (sola fide)”

    Sanctification is by faith, but not alone, correct?

    I love Marshall’s work! Very needed corrective in many Reformed circles….

    • Michael,

      1. The Latin error (solis for sola) is the responsibility of the stupid autocorrect. I fixed it and then stupid autocorrect changed it again.

      2. Yes, I meant to say sola fide/by faith alone. Spirit-given new life (regeneration) results in sanctification, in which we are actively involved. I’m not trying to diminish our active involvement and even our struggle. Have you been listening to the series? We’ve been talking at length about the active part we play in sanctification but I’m not happy with the formula that says “by faith and works.” I don’t want to place our sanctification on a legal footing. We are not sanctified by works, are we? Good works are the product of sanctification, they are the fruit and evidence of our justification. Christians must and do fight manfully against sin and the devil. When we sin, we repent (turn away) from it, and turn to Christ. We actively put it to death and seek to be made alive to Christ but all that is by grace (God’s unmerited favor) alone through faith alone.

  2. This was an outstanding episode. A perfect antidote to the neonomian motivations to holiness infecting reformed circles nowadays.

Comments are closed.