Gospel Sanctification

There are many more people who have been affected by the latest Gospel Sanctification propaganda than you—or even they—might realize (if you don’t know about it, it’s time to find out!).

You hear it in little things that they say, and /or how they say bigger ones.

People are now writing not only about “idols of the heart,” but also about the really “deep idols” that we must deal with. How they make such non-biblical distinctions, let alone distinguish idols of the heart from plain, old idolatry, is hard to gather. They have no biblical support for doing such things, but what they say sounds pious, and many are swept aside by this fact, and, I suppose are out there trying to repent, “deeply.”

Actually, down through the years it has been the vague stuff like this that has captured the minds of the untaught and unlearned (2 Peter 3:16). That’s why mysticism stills holds a large segment of the Roman church in its clutches, why liberalism with its vague neo-orthodoxy still affects the thinking of many, and why post-modern anarchism is in vogue.

The thing that needs to be done is for the members of biblical congregations to be encouraged by their pastors to buy and study good theological textbooks like, AA Hodge’s Outlines, like Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, and—more recently—Reymond’s Systematic Theology. And, of course, these churches should regularly teach true doctrine clearly and persuasively.

People simply don’t know what they are being fed, and what they are swallowing, half the time.  Speaking of time, it’s high time that we got back to thinking theologically rather than reading Christian romances and pious-sounding froth. If we don’t, error—rampant at the moment—will take over leadership in the “Evangelical” church.

Do you know what the words “justification” and “sanctification” mean when used theologically? If you don’t it’s certainly necessary for you to “catch up.” The crux of the issue has to do with the unbiblical fusion of sancrification with justification. The latter is set forth not as “keeping” God’s commandments, but as bringing about change by concentrating on the cross. As one immerses himself in the cross of Christ, sanctifying growth occurs. The biblical truth is that we are to pursue fruit, which becomes a reality and the Spirit helps us grow in grace.

It’s time to read carefully about the meaning of justification and sanctification. But be careful that you read the classics, that you compare the definitions and concepts of these more “modern” texts with them, and that you are able to distinguish the error taught today.  Get, and digest, a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Becoming a discerning Christian ought to be high on your list of goals.  Otherwise you, or some of your loved ones, will be taken in by the current wave of error that is washing over the church!

9 thoughts on “Gospel Sanctification

  1. I think this is a very important issue. Suppose I need to buy the book “Growing by Grace”. I think that a key issue is: What is the relationship between grace, effort and sanctification? What does a text like this mean?:

    But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NET)

    Thanks for bringing us such a reflection!

  2. I leave the previous comment up as it is a great illustration of the non sequiters that pass for logic in some circles and the silly mis-characterizations of Jay’s teaching.

  3. Don, the Bible doesn’t use the word Trinity either.

    Marie, from what I have read of Dr. Adams, he is a behaviorist/moralist. He teaches that changing the behavior is the way to change the heart. At least that’s what I read on the pages of Competent to Counsel. I was so shocked at what I read that I withdrew my application to a seminary that uses Dr Adams as its text. Check it for yourself.

  4. I am glad Dr. Adams wrote this – I have been thinking about this very issue since we were chatting about the positional difference on sanctification in your office last month. Although I have not read the titles on systematic theology you mention, one of the clearest and most concise books I have on a biblical view of sanctification is Dr. Adams’ “Growing by Grace”. There is no way anyone could read that and think that he is a behaviorist – on page 7 he begins laying out what true holiness is and takes it from there. (If Blogger ever comes back up, I would like to write about this myself – using citations from that book.)

    Re: Brian’s point – Donn, about a year ago you did an informal interview with Rick Thomas on that very question – why “idols of the heart” isn’t a very helpful biblical counseling construct. He had it on his Counseling Solutions website, and I also have the file on my blog – if you still have it, it might be useful to post. I listened to your explanation a couple of times, and found it quite helpful. (For what it’s worth, since then I’ve noticed what a “cliche” that term has become, to the point where even secular authors talk about “idols”.)

  5. 1. Yes, many authors today do use the terms interchangeably. The Scriptures do not.

    2. Justification is monergistic, sanctification is synergistic. Walking is what I do, not something Christ does for me.

  6. Idols of the heart and idolatry are used interchangeably, at least with the authors that I have read. I’m not quite sure of the reason for your objection to the term.

    Also, I see both sanctification and justification are ours through faith in the work of Christ on our behalf. Are you saying something other than that? Are you saying that justification comes by faith and sanctification comes by works? Paul said, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. . .”

  7. Absolutely. Absolutely. Theological Training MUST be returned to the local church. That is the solution. Seminaries are leading Christianity around on a leash. I am constantly ribbed in Christian circles for using “big words” like “sanctification,” “antinomianism,” etc., etc. I have often been exhorted to stop using “fifty-cent theological terms.” This post is dead-on: Christians will be defenseless (actually, they already are) against false doctrine otherwise.

  8. Talking about Sanctification is about already and not yet.
    We have been Sanctified by Christ’s blood and enabled to live in holiness, but we are not completely Sanctified in the fullness yet, we still live in the sinful world and are living toward that fully sanctified life.

    So, let’s live toward the fullness with our maximum strength, heart, mind, all of our being. Challenge your limit for God!

  9. Justification is from God by His mercy through the work of Christ at the cross. Justification is a legal term that clears me of my wrongs and sets be before Him without blame.

    Sanctification is instantaneous cleaning at salvation by the blood shed at Calvary, but the believer must continue to perfect the sanctification by striving to understand the word and live the word.