Sanctification: Means – Pt. 5

For one knows, both biblically and experientially, that God does not mechanize the hands and mouth of the Christian directly; He affects the heart.[1] The Holy Spirit opens up the believer “from the inside to the gospel message as He enables him to understand the wonder of God’s love for him” (Rom. 5:5) that consequently creates “the response of faith”.[2] Therein one sees the two basic means of sanctification: the Spirit’s affectation of the heart, and faith. Further, the Spirit reigns in the believer “by dwelling in him continually” (Rom. 8:9) and “making him free from the tyrannous authority of sin” (Rom. 8:2).[3] Once again, it is said, ‘sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts’ (1 Peter 3:5). Yet, once more, ‘it is God who works in you’, not necessarily ‘out of you’ (Philippians 2:13). Paul reserves the responsibility of practical obedience to the Christian in that ‘working out’ of what God places within (Philippians 2:12). “The conceptual tension… seems unbearable – apparently, an extreme formulation of the paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.”[4] Still, the apostle frames this act of sanctification around the empowering work unto the Christian’s heart to complete the deed. Nevertheless, this ostensible contradiction leads to another premise of great importance.

The Christian finds himself pinned between what some call the ‘two times.’ It is even said that Paul “believed himself to be living” and ministering “‘between the times’.”[5] This anticipatory transition period is the designated setting of the Christian’s moral admonition. The ‘times’ are distinguished: for, “in one sense” the justified “have already been raised from the dead”, but “in another, they are still waiting for this to take place.”[6] Silva asserts an almost identical principle, in that “while in a very important sense we have already been saved (Ephesians 2:5, 8; Titus 3:5), in another sense we are yet to be saved (Romans 5:9-10; 1 Corinthians 3:15; 5:5; 2 Timothy 4:18).”[7] The tension is upheld as a result of the ‘newness of life’ experienced by one who is reckoned righteous as not having altered “the fact that man in this world have mortal bodies” where “sin is ever at hand.”[8] Even James “recognizes that his readers will not entirely be able to escape the influence of sin” (James 3:2) but still beckons them to press on unto total holiness (James 1:4).[9]  It is because “the ‘new creation’ in its fullness belongs to the future, but to those in Christ it is already realized through the Spirit.”[10]

Herein the connotations relay a conclusion to this dialectical balance: sanctification being a progression of realization. The Spirit’s work in the hearts of God’s children is a means to manifest their justification. This principle beautifully unfolds and provides an aid to understanding to the text of Philippians 2:12-12. Paul is elucidating the struggle of how “salvation in its entire scope necessarily includes the manifestation of righteousness in our lives.”[11] Barrett affirms that sanctification is a “process of realization” – in that, one begins to personally witness and enact what God has done in them by justification.[12] Fitzmyer states, “Sanctification… involves the daily task of living out of justification.”[13] The man has died with Christ and “should no longer be in servitude to sin” (Romans 6:6); the service points back to the death one has occurred by justifying faith.[14] For, one’s death with Christ has consistently led to life with Christ (Romans 6:8-11). Paul does not use the phrase ‘new creation’ in Romans as he does in his other epistles (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17), but he most certainly upholds the concept. The “Christ-event (Romans 6:4-5)” of justification introduces the believer “into a new way of life” (Romans 6:4).[15]

“Since God is the sort of God He has revealed Himself to be, to belong to Him involves the obligation to strive to be and do what is in accordance with His character. The Christian’s concrete living is henceforth to be marked by the continuing process of sanctification: it is to be moulded and shaped ever more and more into conformity with God’s righteous will.”[16]

The Christian ‘new life’ consists in moving further up and into God’s character. Importantly, one must realize that “this new life in Christ is nothing less than the risen Christ living His life in the believer.”[17] It is not that God’s children are yearning for god-like imitation, rather they “enjoy proleptically the very life of the risen Christ, which is nothing less than ‘eternal life’ (5:21; 6:23).”[18] Deucedly, the sons of God are left in a state of realization and not implementation. This is necessary since “a right relationship has been established” and therefore, “we can in no way ‘add’ to that status by our conduct.”[19] However, there is a return to the paradox on the side of human responsibility, in that “the life of the Christian with Christ can be experienced and recognized only by faith.”[20] F.F. Bruce elegantly summarizes this premise: “faith” is “the bond of union with the risen Christ.”[21] In sanctification, it may be sufficient to say that not one faction, neither Christ or faith, affects the other to budge, rather they are inseparable in continuity and function. One cannot separate justifying faith and life lived in the Spirit, for they “are two sides of one coin; neither is present without the other.”[22] Cranfield obliges in the belief that “our righteous status before God involves an absolute obligation to seek righteousness of life”; to grasp justification without sanctification is incongruous.[23] True faith, as depicted in the Bible, simply “cannot exist apart from acts of obedience to God.”[24] Again, it is the faith in sanctification, being led by the Spirit, which motions the process of realizing one is justified; and this is simply due to them being the same faith. The faith that led to one’s justification empowers and moves one’s sanctification.[25] 


 

[1] It is well established, and will be further reinforced, that sanctification is not by works, but by faith. However, Charles Brown presents a conclusive argument for those left wanting: “If a Christian is sanctified as the reward of long striving against inward sin, then he receives the payment of a debt which God owes him, and his reward is not of grace nor of faith. These two methods will not mix. This doctrine of sanctification by works is a denial of the whole principle of salvation by faith.Brown, The Meaning of Sanctification, 34.

 

[2] C.E.B Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary On the Epistle to the Romans, 6th ed.,International Critical Commentary (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 2:841. My emphasis added.

 

[3] Ibid., 841. My emphasis added.

 

[4] Moisés Silva, Philippians, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 118.

 

[5] C. K. Barrett, Epistle to the Romans, (The Black’s New Testament Commentary), Revised ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2011), 120.

 

[6] Ibid., 119. See Barrett’s eschatological implications of justification and sanctification, pgs. 118-120.

 

[7] Silva, Philippians, 121.

 

[8] Barrett, Epistle to the Romans, 119.

 

[9] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James (The Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Leicester, England: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 37.

 

[10] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary On the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 273.

 

[11] Silva, Philippians, 121.

 

[12] Barrett, Epistle to the Romans, 118.

 

[13] Fitzmyer, Romans, 451.

 

[14] Barrett, Epistle to the Romans, 118.

 

[15] Fitzmyer, Romans, 123.

 

[16] Cranfield, Epistle to the Romans, 2:601.

 

[17] Bruce, Galatians, 144.

 

[18] Fitzmyer, Romans, 123.

 

[19] Silva, Philippians, 121.

 

[20] Barrett, Epistle to the Romans, 118.

 

[21] Bruce, Galatians, 145.

 

[22] Ibid., 233.

 

[23] Cranfield, Epistle to the Romans, 1:295.

 

[24] Moo, James, 38.

 

[25] It may be critiqued that there is too much reiteration of this concept. In light of the profundity of the notion, it can be dangerously misinterpreted and maltreated. Thus, scholarly support and multiple commentaries on the theory are critical.

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