Right On Time: Godfrey On The Law And Sanctification

Office HoursWell, obviously, the Reformed world is in the midst of a controversy over sanctification. To help bring some balance and perspective to the discussion the faculty of Westminster Seminary California has been discussing sanctification this season on Office Hours. In the providence of God the latest episode in the series a discussion with W. Robert Godfrey on the role of the law in sanctification.

In Matt 5:17 our Lord Jesus said about the law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (ESV) and in v 19: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great vin the kingdom of heaven” (ESV). He followed those words with an exposition of the law in the Sermon On The Mount. The Apostle Paul repeated and explained the 10 commandments in his epistles to the churches. After the apostles, in reaction to persecution the early church emphasized the necessity of sanctification and the moral law. The medieval church so emphasized the importance of the moral law that she gradually came to teach acceptance with God by grace through faith and obedience to the law. The Reformation rejected that doctrine as contrary to Scripture and confessed justification by God’s unmerited favor alone, through faith alone. All the Protestants agreed that, though we are not saved or accepted with God by our law keeping the law does have an important role in the Christian life.

Bob Godfrey is President and Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary California and the author of several books, one of which is Westminster Seminary California: A New Old School, which he co-authored with Darryl Hart.

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.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. I’m 16 minutes in, and I appreciate everything Dr. Godfrey has said so far. It does seem that what Dr. Godfrey is saying, stands against what I’m hearing in some reformed circles.

  2. I have yet to begin to listen as yet, but this topic us running wild on Facebook. Many of my reformed friends are advocating a sanctification that is monergistic, and any who who says its synergistic is in grave error and no not the truth… It seems to be gaining weight from followers of Son Fortner who not only rejects this latter view, but rejects the confessions …any help in this area from you will only increase my current study .

    • I can’t quite follow all your negatives but

      1. Salvation, which comprises justification and sanctification (and final glorification) is of God – monergistically. The confessions uphold that and I thought Don Fortner did too. Anything that hints of man contributing to his salvation/sanctification has been consistently declared heretical

      2. There are others, also wearing the reformed label and claiming consistency with the confessions, who fear that the above would lead to a dependence that amounted to nothing more than passivity, and a freedom that justified licentiousness. They do not to require man to contribute to his salvation, but to participate in his sanctification.

      3. The dispute, which echoes earlier disputes between the Catholics and Reformation Protestants, depends on whether there is a sense of ‘participation’ that does not slide into ‘contribution’.

      4. You will have to listen and read with your ‘heart’ as much as with your head to discern the validity of much of the language out there

    • McKinley,

      There are loads of resources here:


      Listen to this series:


      Particularly this episode:


      This might help:


      You might also read the Westminster Larger Catechism on sanctification:

      Q. 75. What is sanctification?
      A. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

      Q. 76. What is repentance unto life?
      A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.

      Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
      A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

      Q. 78. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?
      A. The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

      Q. 79. May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?
      A. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

      Q. 80. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
      A. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.

      Q. 81. Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?
      A. Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.

      Q. 82. What is the communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
      A. The communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is in this life, immediately after death, and at last perfected at the resurrection and day of judgment.

      Q. 83. What is the communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy in this life?
      A. The members of the invisible church have communicated to them in this life the firstfruits of glory with Christ, as they are members of him their head, and so in him are interested in that glory which he is fully possessed of; and, as an earnest thereof, enjoy the sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and hope of glory; as, on the contrary, sense of God’s revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation of judgment, are to the wicked the beginning of their torments which they shall endure after death.

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