Beza On Sanctification (1570)

Q133 Therefore, explain fully this sanctification of ours in Christ.

A133 Something is said to be sanctified which is segregated from common pollution, so that it is most pure, and wholly consecrated to God the greatest adversary of all filth. Therefore, in this way our nature is sanctified in Christ from the very moment of conception, and so He sanctifies us. Furthermore it happens in two ways. First, as I have said, we are reckoned righteous by the imputed righteousness of Christ fully before God, not in ourselves, but in Him to whom we are united through faith. So also I say that our persons, by the imputation of His perfect holiness and integrity, are reckoned holy and whole and thus acceptable to the Father, not in ourselves, but in Christ. Finally, the force and energy of this most pure holiness which is in the flesh of Christ, I say it flows also into us by the working of the Holy Spirit in us, so that we become holy in ourselves, that is, segregated from the defilements of this world, and we serve God in spirit and body; which benefit in the scriptures is often termed sanctification, regeneration, illumination, new man, new creature, and spirituality.

Q134 Therefore, you say that this latter sanctification is not something outside of us, and is not ours by imputation alone, but is a new endowment truly ingrafted and clinging in us, by the mere grace of the heavenly Father, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, diffused in us.

A134 I say so.

Q135 Therefore, to what end is the other sanctification of our nature which is imputed to us?

A135 Because this sanctification which is inherent in us is unfinished in us, as is apparent by the perpetual warfare between the flesh and the spirit in us, even in the best men. Therefore, in order that our persons might be acceptable to God, and consequently so that that which comes forth from us might please Him (for the life of the saints is as a kind of continual offering up of oneself,* to which the apostle exhorted us), another sanctification must intervene; clearly, another which is most full and whole in Christ, in whom our most kind Father, looking, might acquiesce, He who is a perpetual enemy to all uncleanness, and is the most just and merciful.

Q136 But why does He not completely sanctify us immediately?

A136 No, instead marvel at His goodness, in that He instills any little drop of regenerating grace in man. Yet why He defers the full sanctification of us into another age, there are many reasons, and chiefly two. One, because we are of little faith, and therefore, as much as is in us, we impede the inworking of the Holy Spirit. The second, so that, as we are saved by grace alone, and not by works, he who glories, should glory only in God. For if this sanctification were complete in us, our righteousness would also be complete, or inherent in us, and then Christ would not be wholly and properly our Saviour, but only the tool and instrument for disposing us in such a way that we might justify ourselves by our own righteousness, which is plainly the foul and detestable error of the Semi-Pelagian Sophists.37

37. Semi-Pelagianism was revived in the 16th Century by the Jesuit theologian Luis Molina, and emphasized man’s free will in obtaining his own salvation.

Theodore Beza, A Little Book of Christian Questions and Responses, ed. Dikran Y. Hadidian, trans. Kirk M. Summers, vol. 9, Princeton Theological Monograph Series (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2009), 51–53.


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  1. We are making a start, in this life, by the work of the Holy Spirit, at becoming what we are declared to be at our justification, by grace, through faith in Christ alone. But it is always, in Christ alone, and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. The fruit and evidence that this is true of us is that, albeit imperfectly, we strive to grow in holiness, until at last, when Christ returns, we will have a resurrected body that is glorified in being like Him. Praise God!

  2. Wow. Beza is remarkably clear! Interesting that he uses “regeneration” as synonymous with “sanctification”. Also that he clearly articulated that it is the energies of Christ which are communicated to the believer. I recall Horton emphasizing repeatedly the “essence-energies distinction” of EO as helpful to a proper understanding of the benefits of Christ, received through union, in his pamphlet “Union with Christ”.

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