Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Reformed View of Sanctification

Sinclair Ferguson, “The Reformed View,” Christian Spirituality, 44-76

I. “Reformed theology has always placed special emphasis on the subject of sanctification...A necessary connection between biblical doctrine and holy living is fundamental to the biblical and apostolic way of thinking. That is why Scripture is so full of moral imperatives logically derived from doctrinal indicatives” (pg. 48). (Mt. 6:32-34; Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:20-25)

II. There are two main features of sanctification

    A. Jesus is our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30)
    B. Salvation is accomplished through union with Christ.
III. Union with Christ
    A. Jesus is the “author,” “captain” or “pioneer” of salvation (Acts 3:15; 5:31; Heb. 2:10; 12:2). The word archegos (author) has “twin notions of primacy and origin. Jesus is the 'author' of our sanctification, in the sense that he creates it for us, but he is also its 'pioneer' because he does so out of his own incarnate life, death and resurrection...He is the first and only fully sanctified person” (pg. 49).
    B. Christ is the believers sanctification (Jn 17:17-19). He took on human nature in the likeness of sinful man (Rom. 8:3) so that he could live a holy life for those who are united with him (Heb. 2:11). He was the “first person to live a life of perfect obedience and sanctification” (pg. 50). Sanctification is “neither self-induced nor created in us by divine fiat” (pg. 50). His sinless life, death, resurrection and exaltation are shared with those who are united to him.
IV. The Effecting of the Union – Union with Christ is achieved by the “ministry of God's Spirit” and by the exercising of the believer's faith. At Pentecost the disciples were united with Christ through the coming of the Spirit. Though the apostles received the Spirit before Pentecost (15:3-5; 13:10), at Pentecost “they also received the Spirit of the ascended Christ, an event which (in their case necessarily) was chronologically separated from their regeneration” (pg. 52).

V. Union and Sanctification – In Romans 6:1-14 Paul exhorts the church to live in the understanding of their union in Christ's death, resurrection, and newness of life. They, like Christ, have died to sin and have been resurrected to a new life that they life in Christ.

VI. Death to Sin –“Death to sin and life to God is sanctification” (pg. 54). The believer doesn't die to sin, it is something that has already happened. The verb “died” is in the indicative not the imperative. This does not mean that the believer has ceased sinning, otherwise why would Paul exhort the Christian to cease sinning and to not offer their bodies to sin (Rom. 6:12-13).

VII. Freed from Sin – In Romans 6:7 Paul is saying that the believer is not only justified, “but has been set free from the reign or dominion of sin...sanctification means this: in relationship both to sin and to God, the determining factor of my existence is no longer my past. It is Christ's past” (pg. 56-7). Sin is no longer normative and we do not give full force to the gospel by focusing on our remaining sin.

VIII. A New Creation
    A. Union with Christ in his death, resurrection, ascension, reign (as well his future return) is the “foundation of sanctification in Reformed Theology.”
    B. In Romans 6:6 Paul states that the old man has been crucified with Christ. This usually has been taken to mean that the believer's old self was crucified with Christ which is implied in the passage but Paul has something more in mind. In chapter 5 he has been making the case that mankind is either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” Being “in Adam” is being “in the flesh,” the “old man” enslaved to sin and bound for death and judgment. Christ is the Second Adam, the Last Adam, the new Man, the head of the new humanity through his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:45-49). Being in Christ means being part of a new humanity. In light of what God has wrought the Christians should live in “radical holiness.” Paul tells Christians to “count,” to recognize what God has done and to act in light of that situation (Rom. 6:11).
    C. The response to sin problems in the church is often met with “Do you not know what is true of you in Christ?” (Rom 6:3, 16; 7:1; 1 Cor. 3:16; 5:6; 6:2-3, 9, 14, 19; 9:13, 24)
IX. Spiritual Warfare
    A. In the Reformed view, sanctification is marked by tension and conflict not quietness. The conflict comes from our being in Christ but still being in the world. Our goals and motives are different from the worlds and this sets up tension and conflict.
    B. Another source of conflict is Satan who opposes the Christian's sanctification. We need to wear the armor of God to protect us from the schemes of Satan.
    C. We are in conflict with ourselves. Even though we live in the Spirit, we continue to live in the flesh (though, we are not dominated by it). All that we have received in Christ has not yet come to completion. That is why Paul writes of this struggle in Romans 7:14-25. There has been some dispute whether Paul is talking about before he became a Christian or after. Whether Paul is speaking before or after, “it is a strange Christian who has not at some time realized that everything Paul describes is also experienced by all Christians” (pg. 63). Paul speaks of the struggle of the Christian to live up to the standard of God. This isn't pessimism but “biblical realism.” It is through this struggle that the Spirit is at work.
X. Necessary Mortification – we are to put to death whatever is a part of our earthly nature (Col. 3:5-11). Having put off the old man and put on the new, we are to live in the light of that fact (Col. 3:9-10). “Grace demands mortification. Without it there is no holiness...Mortification is the outworking of our union with Christ in his death to sin” (pg. 64). There is an internal and external mortification in the New Testament (Calvin). God uses external events so that “new life may arise both in us and in others.” This is described as pruning in John 15:2 and Paul describes the process in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

XI. Imitation and Self-evaluation
    A. “The ground plan of sanctification, union with Christ, is prophetic of the divine goal in sanctification: renewal in the image of Christ” (pg. 65). (Rom. 8:29) Man was created in the image of God and we are to glorify him but in Adam we all sinned and fell short of the glory of God. Christ restored what was lost and in him we are being conformed to his image.
    B. The believer bears the responsibility to be an imitator of Christ (1 Thess. 1:6; John 13:15). The goal of sanctification is to gain a true humanity by imitating Christ. “Sanctification is radical humanization” (pg. 66). The believer has two contrasting views, Ferguson writes, “in myself there dwells no good thing by my own creation or nature (Rom. 7:18); and in Christ I have been cleansed, justified and sanctified so that in me glorification has begun (1 Cor. 6:11).”
XII. The Means of Sanctification – Reformed theology does not view sanctification as a “mystical experience” where holiness is granted effortlessly. It is a process where God increases our holiness by “engaging our minds, wills, emotions and actions.” We have an active part in the process. Sanctification is an indicative (“I the Lord sanctify you”) and an imperative (“sanctify yourselves this day”). Reformed theology sees four areas which are means of grace.
    A. The Word
      i. The Scripture is the principle means of grace. It is hidden in our hearts to stop us from sinning (Ps. 119:11). It cleanses and regenerates (Jn. 15:3) and sanctifies (Jn. 17:17). It is by the sword of the Spirit that we are changed (Eph. 6:17). It is good for teaching and rebuking (2 Tim. 3:16).

      ii. In Reformed theology there is an emphasis on the preached word as the “instrument of sanctification.” This is why there is an emphasis on expository preaching.
    B. The Providences -- “The providences of God, not least of which are severe trials and affliction, are also ordained for the purpose of sanctification” (pg. 71). This can be seen in the lives of the key figures in the Bible. God intends for good in all the things that happen to them (Gen. 50:20 Rom. 8:29). “United to Christ, we understand providences in theses terms: 'Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows' (2 Cor. 1:5)” (pg. 71).
    C. The Fellowship of the Church – is the context of sanctification. The weak and the strong Christian building each other up (Rom. 15:1-3). The Spirit is given to each individual for the common good of the church (1 Cor. 12:7) and the gifts are intended for the body (Eph. 4:16; Col. 3:16). And the church is a “community of prayer.”
    D. The Sacraments – In the Reformed theology the sacraments play a major role in the sanctification process, “they are a communicative sign. They point us away from ourselves to Christ; but they also are a visible, tangible means by which he communicates with us and we with him. They display his grace and our union and communion with him...Sanctification is simply the outworking of this communion. We become like those with whom we have the closest communion; and in Reformed theology, sanctification means becoming like Christ” (pg. 73-4). The Word and the sacraments are closely tied together and the sacraments are never to be separated from the Word.


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