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Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4 > Chapter 4: Sanctification and Perseverance

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In this chapter, we proceed to the last part of the order of salvation (ordo salutis), sanctification and perseverance. (Properly speaking, the last part is actually glorification—but Bavinck saves that for chapter 18). There is a natural connection between sanctification and justification, which we examined in detail in the previous chapter. This chapter is very rich with many important ideas. I've selectively summarized the big points here:

1. Sanctification is a Part of Salvation: "Since the redemption that God grants and works out in Christ is meant to accomplish complete deliverance from sin and all its consequences, it includes sanctification and glorification from the very beginning, along with justification" (p. 232). "The forgiveness of sins [i.e., justification]… though an important benefit, is not the only one and has to be followed by a second [i.e., sanctification]. Christ... is a complete Savior, who not only delivers us from the guilt and punishment of sin but also from its pollution and power. He accomplishes the first in justification, the second in the new birth, or sanctification" (p. 245). Sanctification is not an accessory that is tagged on to salvation, but is rather an essential part of salvation. "No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin" (Murray, John. Redemption, Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1955. p. 131).

Side note: In the previous chapter, Bavinck used the terms forgiveness and justification often interchangeably. Likewise, in this chapter, he uses the terms holiness and sanctification in an interchangeable way. Generally speaking, I try to use the term sanctification, when possible, for clarity.

2. Sanctification in the Old Testament: God issued his law for the sanctification of his people. "This sanctification extended to the people as a whole and applied to all aspects of life" (p. 232). Unfortunately, the law was misunderstood and misapplied. The "people overstressed the value of this cultic purity [i.e., the ceremonial aspect of the law] and boasted of its external privileges. But prophecy opposed this tendency, deflated cultic worship [note: even to the point of the destruction to the temple!], and highlighted the religious-ethical elements in the law. Obedience, the prophets said, is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22)… Israel failed to meet this requirement of the covenant… God nevertheless would not forget his people… but [promised that] in the last days would establish a new covenant in which he would forgive all their iniquities, form a new heart and a new spirit within them, and cause them to walk in his ways. Just as in the case of the forgiveness of sins, sanctification would be his work and his gift" (p. 232). In the new covenant, God would provide everything needed for the sanctification of his people.

Side note: For a excellent treatment of how God sanctifies his people in the Old Testament, I strongly recommend Dr. L. Michael Morales' book Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus . In it, Dr. Morales carefully explains the meaning and necessity of the Old Testament Levitical system in sanctifying God's people so that they would be fit to enter God's presence.

3. Sanctification in the New Testament: While much of the Old Testament was characterized by antinomianism, "after the exile, Israel increasingly opted for the way of self-righteousness and regarded its relationship with God in such a consistently nomistic way that there was no longer any room for grace, and the whole of life… was controlled by the scheme of work-and-reward" (p. 233). "Jesus, therefore, returned to the spiritual sense of the law as it had been explained by prophecy. The righteousness of the kingdom of heaven was different from that of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20; Luke 18:10–14). God desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matt. 9:13)… The demand of the law is nothing less than perfection, just as our Father in heaven is perfect (5:48), a perfection that especially includes mercy (Luke 6:36; 10:37); a willingness to forgive (Matt. 6:14; 18:35); love for God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love for one’s neighbor as for oneself (Mark 12:33). But a person obtains such perfection only by conversion, faith, regeneration (Mark 1:15; John 3:3)… Jesus himself leads the way for his disciples. He left them his example (11:28–30). He is their Master and Lord (Matt. 10:24; 23:10–11; John 13:16)… He gave up his soul for them in death (Matt. 20:28; 26:26, 28). By this act, he not only won for them the forgiveness of sins; his self-offering, his death, was also a total consecration to the Father, a perfect act of obedience to his will, a sanctification of himself that by his word they too might be sanctified in the truth (John 17:17, 19)." (p. 233). As such, "In justification, the active obedience of Christ is imputed to the Christian (Rom. 5:19). In sanctification, the active obedience of Christ is the pattern for the Christian life (1 Cor. 11:1)" (Andrew George, friend from Facebook).

4. Believers Are Identified With Christ: "Believers are people who by the grace of God have not only received the forgiveness of sins but by their baptism have also been brought into fellowship with Christ, who died and rose again (Rom. 6:3–11), have been transferred out of darkness into the light (Col. 1:13), and now constitute an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9). They have received Christ not only as righteousness [i.e., justification] but also as ἁγιασμος (hagiasmos) [i.e., sanctification]… They have been transferred into a state of holiness (1 Thess. 4:4, 7; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 2:9)" (p. 235). "Believers are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life (Eph. 2:10)" (p. 236).

5. Reasons to Live a Holy Life: "With many compelling reasons believers are urged to live this holy kind of life. They are obligated to this because God has first loved them, has had compassion on them, and has shown his love to them in Christ (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:9; 1 John 4:19). They owe it to God because with Christ they have died to sin and been raised to a new life (Rom. 6:3–13; Col. 3:1–2); because they are not under the law but under grace and belong to Christ so as to bear fruit for God (Rom. 6:14; 7:4; Gal. 2:19); because they do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit and are temples of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:5; 1 Cor. 6:15ff.); because they are children of light and must walk in the light (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:8; 1 John 1:6; etc.). A complete summary of these compelling reasons is impossible because there are so many. Among them, however, the reward of future glory occupies a significant place as well… The thought of future glory spurs them on to patience and perseverance (Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 15:19; 2 Cor. 4:10, 17; Rev. 2:7, 10–11, 17; etc.). For God rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6, 26)" (p. 236).

6. Good Works (Sanctification) and Rewards: Jesus "repeatedly presents the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as a reward (Matt. 19:29; 25:34, 46) that is already stored up in heaven now (5:12; 6:20; 19:21; Luke 6:23) and will be distributed at the resurrection (14:14). And that reward will be paid for all sorts of works: for enduring persecution and disgrace (Matt. 5:10–12), loving one’s enemies (5:46), giving alms (6:4), perseverance (10:22), confessing Jesus’s name (10:32), service to his disciples (10:41–42), giving up everything and leaving it behind (19:21, 29), working in the vineyard (20:1–16), faithfulness in one’s vocation (24:45–47), careful management of the goods entrusted to us (25:14–30), mercy toward the disciples of Jesus (25:32–46), and so forth. There is therefore no doubt whatever that Jesus uses the idea of reward as an incentive to spur his disciples toward faithfulness and perseverance in the pursuit of their calling. But… the reward, which consists in the kingdom of God, far exceeds in magnitude all the labor and toil we have given it (5:46; 19:29; 20:1ff.; 25:21–23; Luke 12:33)… that believers themselves view and receive these benefits as something that comes to them undeserved (25:37ff.); that they are unprofitable servants who only did what they were supposed to do (Luke 17:10); that the reward depends on God’s free disposition (Matt. 20:14–15); that for all participants in the kingdom of heaven and its benefits this reward is the same (20:1–15); and finally that this kingdom is not purely a state of happiness consisting in external blessings but includes being a child of God and having purity of heart (5:8, 9, 45, 48, and so forth)" (p. 234).

Side note: "All the benefits that believers enjoy or will obtain are gifts of the grace of God (Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 8:9; Eph. 2:8; etc.), yet everyone is rewarded according to his works (Rom. 2:6–11; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:5; Rev. 2:23; 20:12)" (p. 236). "Although salvation is granted to all believers, there will be differences in glory among them, depending on their works (Matt. 10:41; 18:4; 20:16; 25:14ff.). In Scripture, therefore, both in the New and in the Old Testament, there is a close connection between sanctification and glorification. What is sown here is harvested in eternity (Matt. 25:24, 26; 1 Cor. 15:42ff.; 2 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7–8). Without sanctification no one will see God (Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14)" (p. 236). What we do here has eternal implications.

7. Sanctification is a Trinitarian Work: The whole of salvation is a Trinitarian work. Indeed sanctification "is a gift and a work of God, attributed in turn to the Father (John 17:17; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20–21), to the Son as life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45; Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14) and particularly also… to the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:2). In this connection believers are passive; they are sanctified (John 17:19; 1 Cor. 6:11), they died with Christ and were raised with him (Rom. 6:4ff.), they are sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2), God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10), creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), the work of God (Rom. 14:20); all this is from God (2 Cor. 5:18)" (p. 252). Furthermore, Bavinck points out that, in a special sense, the Holy Spirit is the "the prime agent in sanctification" (p. 252)—which is especially revealed to us in the New Testament, hence his designation, the Holy Spirit.

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For clarification: "Sanctification, accordingly, is in the first place a work of God (John 17:17; 1 Thess. 5:23; Phil. 1:6)… God enables [believers] both to will and to work… out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13; 2 Pet. 1:10)" (p. 235). We are enabled to be fruitful. Indeed, the Belgic Confession teaches, "it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man… Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by His grace; howbeit they are of no account towards our justification… Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them (for what can we merit?)—nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do and not He to us, since it is He that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure… In the meantime we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through His grace that He crowns His gifts" (article 24).

8. Error—Justification Confused with Sanctification: We have touched on this topic a few times in the last couple of chapters, but we'll be exploring it in more detail here. One of the greatest errors that the church has faced is to confuse justification with sanctification, resulting in the trap of legalistic sanctification. Justification and sanctification are distinct; "those who mix them undermine the religious life, take away the comfort of believers, and subordinate God to humanity. The distinction between the two consists in the fact that in justification the religious relationship of human beings with God is restored, and in sanctification their nature is renewed and cleansed of the impurity of sin… Logically justification comes first in this connection (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:30)… It is a juridical act, completed in an instant. But sanctification is ethical: it is continued throughout the whole of life and, by the renewing activity of the Holy Spirit, gradually makes the righteousness of Christ our personal ethical possession" (p. 249). So, we are both declared holy and made holy by God. "Justification and sanctification, accordingly, grant the same benefits, rather, the entire Christ; they only differ in the manner in which they grant him. In justification Christ is granted to us juridically, in sanctification, ethically; by the former we become the righteousness of God in him; by the latter he himself comes to dwell in us by his Spirit and renews us after his image" (p. 249).

Side note: One of the clearest explanations that differentiate between the two comes from the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 77, "Wherein do justification and sanctification differ? 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." All Christians can expect to be equally justified, but not equally sanctified.

9. Error—Sanctification Completely Separated from Justification: On the other extreme is the error of completely separating justification and sanctification. This error leads to antinomianism. Although "justification and sanctification are distinct in character, it is [still] important that we continue to bear in mind the close connection between the two. Those who separate them undermine the moral life and make grace subservient to sin. In God righteousness and holiness cannot be separated" (p. 249). As such, when Christ came to save his people, he was a Saviour in the complete sense. "His obedience to the point of death was aimed at redemption in its entire scope (ἀπολυτρωσις, apolytrōsis), not only as redemption from the legal power of sin (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) but also as deliverance from its moral domination (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:14; 4:30). To that end Christ gives himself to them, not only objectively in redemption, but also imparts himself subjectively in sanctification and unites himself with them in a spiritual and mystical manner" (pp. 249-250).

10. Sanctification in the Early Church: To understand how a poor understanding of sanctification results in numerous errors, we need to first appreciate the historical development of the doctrine. Recall from previous chapters that a superstitious view of baptism in the early church resulted in erroneous teachings of faith, repentance, regeneration, and justification. The same is true of sanctification. "All the Apostolic Fathers and apologists vie with one another in insisting on a holy way of living and a practical Christianity. They put no less stress on life than on doctrine… which aroused even the admiration of pagans… But just as already in the time of the apostles all sorts of error and sin occurred in the church, so this evil continued to exist and later even worsened from the second half of the second century onward when the church expanded and was influenced by the surrounding world… Initially the idea prevailed that members of the church who had been admitted through baptism would not commit grave sins such as idolatry, murder, robbery, theft, fornication, and witchcraft. Since in baptism only sins committed in the past were forgiven, the church, it was believed, could no longer reckon with sins committed subsequently and forgiveness could no longer be obtained for them. Reality, however, soon taught otherwise: cases of a gravely offensive nature definitely did occur. The church then excommunicated members who had committed such sins, in some cases refused to readmit them to membership, and delivered them up to the mercy of God" (p. 237). Essentially, in the early church, it was recognized that Christians ought to behave differently and in a holy manner. When a person fell, however, the church often did not know how to handle or restore him/her.

11. Sanctification According to Rome: The need to deal with sins (especially grave or mortal sins) "led to the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance. Even so, the difficulty of less serious sins committed daily by believers remained. They could not be so grave that the church could take disciplinary measures against them. Still they were sins that required forgiveness. The problem became more and more serious, insofar as the grave sins that called for excommunication were limited in number (apostasy, murder, fornication), and it seemed impossible to solve, inasmuch as the grace of baptism pertained only to sins committed prior to the reception of this sacrament… Thus… the idea arose that forgiveness for these lighter offenses could only be secured by doing good works… It was believed that the gospel of grace actually had continuing effect only until baptism. Those who still sinned after receiving baptism fell under the law and had to work out their own salvation… This nomistic [legalistic] tendency, which construed the gospel as a new law, was significantly reinforced by the authoritarian and hierarchical development that the church experienced. To the degree that the authority of Scripture came to be shouldered by the church and the church could issue injunctions that bound people in their consciences, obedience to the church became the one all-inclusive virtue" (pp. 237-238).

Side note: We already see here how the doctrine of sanctification was tied to the historical shift in authority form Scripture to the church. In the next few chapters, we'll be exploring this idea more.

12. Sanctification According to Rome—Double Morality: As the doctrine of sanctification continued to develop along nomistic lines, there emerged the notion of double morality. A distinction was made between "'the things pertaining to duty and the things pertaining to virtuous conduct, the morally proper and the morally perfect'… In the postapostolic period… the negative virtues became very prominent… there was much from which Christians had to abstain—polytheism, emperor worship, theaters, and so forth… The situation was such that Christians were more intent on fleeing from the world than on winning itMen and women who had demonstrated greatness in self-denial and self-sacrifice… became admired models. On their gravestones and in their chapels, people began gradually to venerate them with strong devotion. On them was bequeathed the name 'saints,' which in earlier times was a predicate of all believers… And when in the second and third centuries the secularization of the church increased, many of its members fled and practiced their beliefs outside the church. This is how first the eremitic and later the monastic life began" (pp. 238-239).

There arose a belief that one could actually exceed God's requirements in some matters. The seed of this belief began with "Tertullian [who] translated 1 Cor. 7:25 into Latin with the words: 'I do not have a precept [praeceptum] of the Lord, but I offer [this] advice [consilium]'… This led to a doctrine that was further developed [by Rome]… and [now] occupies a supremely important place in Catholic doctrine and practice. Gradually, the 'counsels' (consilia), which surpass the 'precepts' (praecepta), were construed (in line with the sins prohibited in 1 John 2:16) as the three virtues of chastity (abstention from marriage; Matt. 19:11–12; 1 Cor. 7:7ff.), poverty (Matt. 19:21; 1 Cor. 9:14), and obedience (Matt. 16:24; Luke 14:26ff.)… Alongside the things that are commanded, [the Catholic church] assumes the existence of an area for things that are desirable and praiseworthy. Over and above the practical life, it ascribes great value to the ascetic and contemplative life… While the precepts are necessary for people to obtain eternal life, the counsels are free and optional but have the advantage that they enable people to reach this goal 'better and more expeditiously'" (p 239). Thus, a distinction was made between different types of good works.

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13. Sanctification According to Rome—Meritorious Good Works: Accordingly, "this nomistic trend, which characterized the thinking of the church, led automatically to the doctrine of the meritoriousness of good works… which casts the whole relationship between God and humanity in the scheme of do ut des (I give that you may give). Those who serve God and keep his commandments can claim a right to reward… In the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, it is already said that the baptized, who received forgiveness for the sins committed earlier, must henceforth acquire eternal life by keeping the commandments of Christ. Tertullian then gave this idea a rigorously juridical character by his theory of merit: if Christians do good works or offer 'satisfactions' for sins still being committed, they make God into their debtor ('put God under obligation') and obligate him to reward them according to their merits on the day of judgment… The church… increasingly followed a semi-Pelagian line of thought and made the meritoriousness of good works an article of faith" (p. 240). Ultimately, this (blasphemous) teaching rendered God our debtor!

Side note: As we discussed in the last chapter, all areas of doctrine are interrelated. When one doctrine deviates from truth, so do many others. We see this here as well. Bavinck lists several implications of Rome's doctrine of sanctification (pp. 240-242). These include (1) rejection of total depravity. "Since the will has indeed been weakened by sin but not deprived of all liberty, the natural human person can… still do naturally good works" (p. 240). (2) Saving grace is resistible. But, by cooperating, "they make themselves worthy of a merit of congruity" (p. 240). (3) There is infused grace through baptism which restores the superadded gift (p. 241). (4) The superadded gift confers supernatural virtues (p. 241). (5) By good works, "according to a merit of condignity, [a person gains] an increase of grace, [and] eternal life in the vision of God" (p. 241). (6) Good works are weighed according to the reward expected. "Belonging to the good works that merit such a great reward [of eternal life] are especially those works that are not strictly commanded by the law but go beyond it… In the eyes of Rome, those who do these things are saints… They do far more than they are obligated to do. They… store up a great treasure of merits in heaven, and by their works of supererogation also acquire merits that, added to the superabundance of Christ’s satisfaction… And the church, out of the fullness of this treasury [of merit], can distribute merits as it sees fit. It can, by means of indulgences, transfer the merits of those who had a surplus to those who are deficient, for all the members of the church are members of one body' (p. 242).

14. Sanctification According to the Reformation: " The Reformation attacked [Rome's] entire nomistic system at the roots when it took its position in the confession that sinners are justified by faith aloneCommunion with God came about not by human exertion, but solely on the part of God, by a gift of his grace… If human beings received the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, adoption as children, and eternal life through faith alone, by grace, on account of the merits of Christ, then they did not need to exert themselves to earn all these benefits by good works… For the faith by which they accepted these benefits was a living faith, not a dead one, not a bare agreement with a historical truth, but a personal heartfelt trust in the grace of God in Christ Jesus… From its very beginning, faith was two things at once: a receptive organ and an active force; a hand that accepts the gift offered but also works outwardly in the service of the will; a bond to invisible things and a victory over the visible world; at once religious and ethical" (pp. 242-243). Thus, saving faith is the instrumental means of justification, but also the way of sanctification.

15. The Reformed Affirm Sanctification Correctly: Though the Reformed taught that sanctification was essential for salvation, it not in the same sense as Rome. For "faith… arose from regeneration and was accompanied by constant repentance. Accordingly, in doing those good works believers did not strive for extraordinary things in order thus to make their merits and reward greater" (p. 243). Indeed, Calvin explained, "The entire life of the Christian is dedicated to the worship of God—we are not our own; we are God’s. We belong to God completely and always, in life and in death" (p. 244). Furthermore, "Christians… have to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this present world—soberly in relation to ourselves, justly in relation to others, and devoutly in relation to God. In Calvin’s description of the Christian life, the negative virtues—self-denial, crossbearing, and meditation on the future life—are strongly emphasized, but the positive virtues are not lacking either" (p. 244).

16. Protestant (Methodist) Departures from the Reformational Position—Perfectionism: However, within Protestantism, there were those who again fell into error. These sects "proceeded from the idea that the confession of justification by faith was, if not incorrect, at least defective and incomplete and had to be augmented with sanctification" (p. 245). Of these, Methodism was the prototypical example, and the one that Bavinck explores most deeply. "Methodism not only advanced a specific method of conversion but also gradually arrived at a special doctrine of sanctification. John Wesley not only distinguished justification from sanctification but separated the two… [According to Methodism] Humans can no more do any good works after justification than before… Hence this perfect sanctity is a second gift after justification by faith; it is a second change, but of a very different nature… [It was Wesley's] deepest conviction… that, after justification, complete holiness was at once obtainable by faith… in an instant" (p. 245). This is perfectionism. "This doctrine of Christian perfection… occupies such a prominent place in Methodism that it has frequently been called the formal principle… of Methodism" (p. 245).

Side note: Interestingly, Bavinck connects perfectionism (a Methodist tenant) with double morality (a Roman principle)—as both tend towards nomism. In "the case of all advocates of a double morality… sooner or later they all arrive at the doctrine of the perfectibility of the saints, the meritoriousness of good works, and the transferability of merits. Perfectionism is a characteristic of almost all nomists" (p. 260).

17. Meritoriousness of Good Works Rejected: The Reformed strongly rejected the idea of meritorious good works. The Westminster Confession of Faith 16.4 states: "They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possibly in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do." (The Canons of Dort, 5th Head, article 2 and Belgic Confession, article 24 teach similarly). "For if good works are all imperfect, if even the best work is still in some way deficient, and if the whole of the Christian life remains a striving after perfection, one can hardly speak of merit or reward and even less of a surplus of merits for others" (p. 263). Bavinck elaborates and provides five reasons why the idea of meritorious good works is wrong:

i. The law is one unit and indivisible. The "moral law, which in its normative or didactic use… remains in force for believers, [and] is a single whole… when one of its parts is violated, is violated in its entirety (James 2:10–11)" (p. 263)

ii. The benefits we receive from God come from union in Christ and this cannot be divided. "For Christ cannot be divided. One cannot possess a few of his merits without possessing all the others… Neither in justification nor in sanctification can one participate in his benefits without being in communion with his person" (p. 263). It is not possible to possess justification without sanctification (i.e., the error of Methodism) in the same way Christ himself cannot be divided.

iii. Saving faith always seizes upon the whole Christ for salvation. We "can never isolate [Jesus] from his benefits nor can [we] isolate one benefit from the others. Sanctification, accordingly, both from the divine and the human side, is an organic process" (p. 264). Indeed, "the weakest faith gets the same strong Christ as does the strongest faith" (Sinclair Ferguson).

iv. The "Christian life cannot be atomistically split up" (p. 264). The "final goal of moral conduct can be found only in God, who is the origin and hence also the final goal of all things, the supreme good that encompasses all goods, the Eternal One to whom all finite things return… [we are] subordinate and subservient to the glory of him from whom, through whom, and to whom all things exist" (p. 265).

v. The idea of service and reward (though present) is not economical. When God rewards his people for their work, it is not a financial transaction.

"For God cannot and need not be served by human hands, since he himself gives to all humans life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25; cf. Job 42:1; Rom. 11:35; 1 Cor. 4:7). What pleasure would it give the Almighty if we were righteous? What would he gain if our ways were blameless (Job 22:3)? If we had done everything we were supposed to do, we would still be 'unworthy slaves,' slaves who gave the master more trouble than profit (Luke 17:10)… [Even] the most saintly people have only a small beginning of perfect obedience, now that even their best works are still defective and impure, and they owe everything they are, own, and do as believers to the grace of God… [Therefore] all notions on their part of a reward, of merit, which would give them a right to reward in the true sense of the word, are out of the question" (p. 265).

One might ask then, why does God use the imagery of wages and rewards when speaking to his people? It is a motivation for holy living. "He does that to spur on, to encourage, and to comfort his children… He represents heavenly blessedness to them in the form of many images—of a city, a fatherland, eternal rest, a crown, an inheritance, an athletic prize, wages. But now who would dare to exploit this last image to their own advantage and boast of their own merit? The imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance, which is kept for us in heaven, is not a wage paid out to employees in proportion to what they have earned but a reward that the Father in heaven grants to his children out of sheer grace" (pp. 265-266).

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18. Duplex Gratia (Double Grace) From Union With Christ: "To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness [i.e., sanctification] in the same sense in which he is our righteousness [i.e., justification]. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior. He does not accomplish his work halfway but saves us really and completely. He does not rest until, after pronouncing his acquittal in our conscience, he has also imparted full holiness and glory to us. By his righteousness, accordingly, he does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God’s image and to merit eternal life. But Christ has accomplished everything… for both our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). The holiness that must completely become ours therefore fully awaits us in Christ " (p. 248). Calvin taught that the dual graces of justification and sanctification flow from union with Christ. "By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace [duplex gratia], namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ's blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by Christ's Spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life" (Calvin, Jean. Institutes of the Christian Religion: Volume 1. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960. p. 725 . III.11.1).

According to the Reformed, the "mystical union starts already in the pact of redemption (pactum salutis). The incarnation and satisfaction presuppose that Christ is the head and mediator of the covenant… There is after all no participation in the benefits of Christ apart from communion with his person. The imputation and granting of Christ to his own comes first, and our incorporation into Christ again precedes our acceptance of Christ and his benefits by faith. Heartfelt sorrow over sin, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, taking refuge in Christ, and so forth, are acts and activities that presuppose life and, hence, the mystical union and flow from it" (p. 250).

Side note: In contrast, Lutherans make sanctification a product of justification. The mystical union with Christ, according to them, "comes into being only after justification and regeneration in an active faith" (p. 250). For more on this topic, I highly recommend Dr. Mark Jones' book Antinomianism where he addresses this in more detail.

19. Passive and Active Aspects to Sanctification—Correctly Stated: "Sanctification… [is] a process in which humans are passive just as they are in regeneration, of which it is the continuation. But based on this work of God in humans, it acquires, in the second place, an active meaning, and people themselves are called and equipped to sanctify themselves and devote their whole life to God (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 12:14; and so forth). In fact, this active sanctification coincides with what is called 'continued repentance,' which, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, consists in the dying-away of the old self and the coming-to-life of the new self [see Q&A 89 and 90]. But while in repentance it is the negative side of the process that stands out, in active sanctification it is the positive side that comes to the fore" (p. 253).

As such, the Reformed were able to call "good works necessary to salvation provided this did not imply a 'necessity of causality or merit or effectiveness' but implied a necessity of presence of the means and ways to obtain eternal salvation" (p. 255). "For Scripture definitely insists on sanctification, both its passive and active aspects, and proclaims both the one and the other with equal emphasis. It sees no contradiction or conflict between them but rather knits them together as tightly as possible as when it says that, precisely because God works in them both to will and to do, believers must work out their own salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13). They are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared for them to walk in (Eph. 2:10)… As beloved children, they must be imitators of God" (pp. 255-256).

20. Passive and Active Aspects to Sanctification—Misunderstood: There are many people who feel there is "a conflict between this all-encompassing activity of God in grace and the self-agency of people maintained alongside of it. They have charged Scripture with self-contradiction and have for themselves sacrificed the one group of pronouncements to the other. On the one hand [e.g., the Romanistic extreme], it was stated that grace only serves to restore human willpower for good and to put humans themselves to work. Good works, in that case, were definitely necessary for salvation, whether by a necessity of merit (Rome) or by a necessity of causality and effectiveness (Remonstrants). And from the antinomian side it was said objectively that the righteousness and holiness of Christ remained completely external to a person, not only in justification but also in sanctification, so that repentance, conversion, prayer for forgiveness, and good works were totally unnecessary, bore a legalistic character, and failed to do justice to the perfect sacrifice of Christ" (p. 254).

Side note: As with many things, there exists an antinomy between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. (See volume 2, chapter 1, point #3 for a review of antinomies). "Scripture always holds on to both facets: God’s all-encompassing activity and our responsibility… Believers are branches in the vine who cannot do anything apart from Christ, yet at the same time they are admonished to remain in him, in his word, in his love (John 15). They are a chosen people, and still have to be zealous to confirm their call and election (2 Pet. 1:10)" (pp. 253-254).

21. Good Works (Sanctification) That God Desires: "Sanctification manifests itself in good works, which according to the Heidelberg Catechism [see Q&A 91] arise from the principle of a true faith, conform to the law of God, and are done for his glory. They are therefore distinct from the virtues of the pagans and the virtues of all who do not have such saving faith" (p. 256). "For that reason this faith is not only needed at the beginning in justification, but it must also accompany the Christian throughout one’s entire life, and also play a permanent and irreplaceable role in sanctification. In sanctification, too, it is exclusively faith that saves us" (p. 257). After all, for whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). "Faith breaks all self-reliance and fastens on to God’s promise… it seizes upon God’s mercy and relies on the righteousness and holiness accomplished in Christ on behalf of humans" (p. 257).

Not all good works are acceptable to God. There are so-called natural virtues. Even unbelievers can do "good things" in a certain sense. "Since after the fall people have remained human and continue to share in the blessings of God’s common grace, they can inwardly possess many virtues and outwardly do many good deeds that, viewed through human eyes and measured by human standards, are greatly to be appreciated and of great value for human life. But this is not to say that they are good in the eyes of God and correspond to the full spiritual sense of his holy law. To the degree that human beings subject their own thoughts, attitudes, and actions to more precise scrutiny, they are all the more deeply convinced of their sinfulness" (p. 257). Indeed, John Owen commented: "'Ye can do nothing,' that is, which pertains to fruit-bearing unto God. In things natural and civil we can do somewhat, and in things sinful too much; we need no aid or assistance for any such purpose;—but in fruit-bearing unto God we can do nothing" (Works).

22. Already/Not-Yet Aspects of Sanctification/Glorification: "For believers 'newness of life' (Rom. 6:4) begins with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This newness of life forms a contrast to their early 'walk' in all sorts of sins and iniquities (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 2:1). Now they are new persons (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10; 4:24; Col. 3:10) who live for God and present their members as instruments of righteousness for sanctification (Rom. 6). The consequence of this relationship with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit is that believers are freed from all the guilt of sin, but no less from all its pollution. Consequently, sanctification in the New Testament consists fully in believers being conformed to the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19). To that extent sanctification coincides with glorification. The latter does not just start in the afterlife but is initiated immediately with the calling… And this glorification is continued throughout the Christian life (2 Cor. 3:18) until it is completed in Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:49, 51ff.; Phil. 3:21; Col. 3:4).

Scripture assigns a very high position to believers. Believers are said to share "in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4)… [and] unable to sin (1 John 3:9; 5:18ff.)… [Scripture] ascribes to [the church] a holiness and glory that render it godlike… this glorification of the church, which starts with regeneration… [and] in principle [the church has] been sanctified, glorified, and conformed to the image of the Son" (p. 261) While our state of justification and sanctification may not necessarily be obvious based on appearance, "both belong to those things that one does not see and that are certain only to the eyes of faith. Also Scripture itself is aware of this. Despite its splendor-filled description of the state of believers, it nevertheless views them as sinners and does not conceal their transgressions and their confessions of sin" (p. 261). It's true: "sin remains a reality in believers to the very end of their lives" (p. 262). But, while the Bible "does not say that believers are sinless, [it] does say that faith in Christ is not compatible with a life in sin" (p. 262).

23. Law Remains in Effect For Believers (Third Use of the Law): "Scripture, though always presupposing the imperfection of believers, nevertheless never weakens the demand of the law… Believers must follow Christ, who committed no sin (1 Pet. 2:21ff.; Eph. 5:1–2), and in the day of Christ they must be blameless, pure, without blemish, irreproachable (1 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:10; 2:15; Col. 1:22; 1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23). They are, accordingly, unceasingly admonished in all seriousness to live a holy life… As long as they live in this life, they must fight against Satan, the world, and their own flesh" (p. 263).

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Side note: "When the Scripture relates redemption to the law of God… It does not say that we are redeemed from the law. That would not be an accurate description and the Scripture refrains from such an expression. We are not redeemed from the obligation to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and our neighbour as ourselves… It would contradict the very nature of God to think that any person can ever be relieved of the necessity to love God with the whole heart and to obey his commandments" (Murray, John. Redemption, Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1955. pp. 43-44). When the Bible says we are redeemed to the law, it refers to redemption from the curse of the law as to its penalty, to the ceremonial aspect of the law as provisional terms have been fulfilled in Christ, and to the law of works as Christ as redeemed us from the necessity of keeping the law as a condition of our justification.

24. Perseverance Related to Sanctification: "Scripture speaks of the perseverance of the saints in the same way it does about sanctification. It admonishes believers to persevere to the end (Matt. 24:13; Rom. 2:7–8); to remain in Christ" (p. 266). As long as we are here on earth, we must continue our fight against sin. Believers "must keep their entire spirit, soul, and body blameless in sanctification until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4; Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23). Though they are in the flesh and continually have to battle against the flesh (1 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 5:17)… still they are called to purify themselves from all pollution of flesh and spirit, to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1), to crucify the flesh with all its passions and desires, to present their members as instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:13; Gal. 5:24), not to sin but to overcome the world, to keep God’s commandments, to purify themselves, and to walk in the light (1 John 1:7; 2:1; 3:6, 9; 5:4; etc.)" (p. 235).

25. Perseverance of the Saints: The Bible "speaks as if apostasy is a possibility: 'If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall' (1 Cor. 10:12); it… threatens heavy punishment for unfaithfulness (Ezek. 18:24; Matt. 13:20–21; John 15:2; Rom. 11:20, 22; 2 Tim. 2:12; Heb. 4:1; 6:4–8; 10:26–31; 2 Pet. 2:18–22)" (p. 266). "Pelagians, Roman Catholics, Socinians, Remonstrants, Mennonites, Quakers, Methodists… and even Lutherans have taught the possibility of a complete loss of the grace received. Augustine, on the other hand, arrived at the confession of the perseverance of the saints… [According to Augustine] while believers could totally lose the grace received, the elect could not finally lose it… [And only] the Reformed… maintained this doctrine and linked it with the assurance of faith" (pp. 266-267).

26. Preservation of the Saints: True believers persevere because they are preserved by God. "Perseverance is not an activity of the human person but a gift from God… [According to the Reformed, God] watches over [his work of salvation] and sees to it that the work of grace is continued and completed. He does not, however, do this apart from believers but through them. In regeneration and faith, he grants a grace that as such bears an inamissible character; he grants a life that is by nature eternal; he bestows the benefits of calling, justification, and glorification that are mutually and unbreakably interconnected" (p. 267). With respect to the many warning passages in Scripture that caution against falling away, they "are the means by which perseverance in life is realized… It is precisely God’s will, by admonition and warning, morally to lead believers to heavenly blessedness and by the grace of the Holy Spirit to prompt them willingly to persevere in faith and love… The certainty of the outcome does not render the means superfluous but is inseparably connected with them in the decree of God" (pp. 267-268).

27. Salvation Belongs to the Lord: From beginning to end—from the eternal decree of election to perseverance and final glorification—salvation is the work of God. If, at any time, we ascribe any portion of salvation to the work of man, the golden chain of salvation will be broken. If we challenge the security of believers at any point, then we take away from God's immutable foreknowledge, "thus making everything uncertain unstable" (p. 269). We can be comforted in knowing that "the covenant of grace does not depend on the obedience of human beings. It does indeed carry with it the obligation to walk in the way of the covenant but that covenant itself rests solely in God’s compassion… God cannot and may not break his covenant… His fame, his name, and his honor depend on it. He cannot abandon his people" (p. 269).

Those that truly fall away and completely apostatize were never with us. We need to remember that "they were not of us or else they would have continued with us (1 John 2:19). Whatever apostasy occurs in Christianity, it may never prompt us to question the unchanging faithfulness of God, the certainty of his counsel, the enduring character of his covenant, or the trustworthiness of his promises. One should sooner abandon all creatures than fail to trust his word… The Father has chosen them before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), ordained them to eternal life (Acts 13:48), to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). This election stands (Rom. 9:11; Heb. 6:17) and in due time carries with it the calling and justification and glorification (Rom. 8:30). Christ, in whom all the promises of God are Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20), died for those who were given him by the Father (John 17:6, 12) in order that he might give them eternal life and not lose a single one of them (6:40; 17:2); he therefore gives them eternal life and they will never be lost in all eternity; no one will snatch them out of his hand (6:39; 10:28). The Holy Spirit who regenerates them remains eternally with them (14:16) and seals them for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30)" (pp. 269-270). "Those who believe have eternal life already here and now (John 3:16). That life itself, being eternal, cannot be lost" (p. 270). There is Trinitarian security! That which God requires he gives to his people and accepts it as if it were their own. Praise God Almighty!

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