Office Hours Season 5: On Sanctification: New Life In The Shadow Of Death

Office Hours 2016 full sizeIn season 5 of Office Hours we focused on the biblical, Reformed, and confessional doctrine and practice of sanctification, i.e., the process of being made holy, of being brought gradually and graciously into conformity to Christ by the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of sanctification is as simple and clear as the practice of sanctification is difficult: It is the dying of the old man and the making alive of the new. The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1648) capture the simplicity and clarity of the biblical doctrine of sanctification. The Heidelberg says:

88. In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist?

In two things: the dying of the old man and the quickening of the new.

89. What is the dying of the old man?

Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.

90. What is the quickening of the new man?

Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.

When the framers of the Heidelberg spoke of “conversion,” they were using the word at it was understood by confessional, evangelical Protestants prior to the 18th century. It did not mean a sudden experience associated with a revival but rather the turning away from sin and the turning to Christ.

The Shorter Catechism wonderfully captures another essential aspect of the doctrine. In Q. 32 it lists sanctification, after justification and adoption, as one the benefits graciously conferred upon those whom God the Spirit has effectually called to new life and true faith. It defines sanctification thus:

Q. 35. What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

We should note that the first thing that the Presbyterian Churches say about sanctification is that it is the work of God’s unconditional favor (grace) to sinners. In short, sanctification is as much a product of grace as justification is. The consequence of God’s sanctifying grace is gradual conformity to Christ, gradual mortification, and gradual vivification.

In short, sanctification is the Spirit-empowered, progressive mortification (putting to death) of the old man, with which we must struggle all our lives, and the gracious, Spirit-empowered vivification (making alive) of the new man.

The faculty spent most of a year talking about what sanctification is, how the Spirit works within his people, and how believers respond to God’s grace. We called this season, “New Life In the Shadow of Death.” The series title was meant to capture the paradox of our new life. We have been given new life in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, “the Lord and giver of life” (Nicene Creed) but that new life, as we are being made alive with Christ (vivification), comes in the midst of death. Believers are gradually dying to sin (mortification) and that dying flows out of our union with Christ in his death (Col 2:11–12; Rom 6).

  1. The Definition of Sanctification—David VanDrunen
  2. The Sanctification Crisis in the Reformation–John Fesko
  3. The Lordship Controversy Is Back–Mike Horton
  4. The Necessity of Sanctification–Hywel Jones
  5. Sanctification, Perfection, and Romans 7–Joel Kim
  6. Sanctification and Justification–Mike Horton
  7. The Role of the Holy Spirit in Sanctification–Hywel Jones
  8. The Struggle of Sanctification in the Psalms (1)–Bryan Estelle
  9. The Struggle of Sanctification in the Psalms (2)–Bryan Estelle
  10. Public Worship and Sanctification–W. Robert Godfrey
  11. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification–Dennis Johnson
  12. Sanctification and the Means of Grace (1)–Mike Horton
  13. Sanctification and the Means of Grace (2) –Mike Horton
  14. The Role of Prayer in the Work of Sanctification–Charles Telfer
  15. On Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life–Mike Horton
  16. The Pilgrim’s Prayer (1)–Steve Baugh
  17. The Pilgrim’s Prayer (2)–Steve Baugh
  18. The Law and Sanctification–W. Robert Godfrey
  19. Sanctification and Virtue–David VanDrunen
  20. Sanctification and the Fruit of the Spirit–Julius Kim

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