This is the firth and final part of this paper. Hope that the has been a benefit to all you who have read it. The firsts though third sections can be read here(1), here(2), and here(3).

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Reformed

Summary. The reformed view of sanctification has its basis in the believer’s union with Christ and its means in the actions of the believer. The foundation and source of the believer’s progress in holiness is in union with Christ.[1] Any progress is a fruit of this union,[2] for the holiness of the progression is found in Christ and imparted to the believer.[3] The One who works the holiness of Christ into the believer is the Spirit.[4] Every action of holiness by the believer is energized by the Spirit.[5] Thus, the attainment of holiness cannot be attributed to the workings of the believer.[6] Yet, this process of sanctification requires our responsible participation.[7] We are to participate by doing the appointed means God has given for men to do.[8] By all of this, the Christian is moved into greater and greater conformity with the image of Christ.

Benefits of this View. The benefits of the Reformed view are in its God-centeredness and its call for human responsibility. From beginning to end salvation is of the Lord. No merits, no boasting, no glory can be give to any believer. All glory, honor, and majesty can only be attributed to the Lord. He and He only is center. From this, the believer can take absolute assurance in the completion of His salvation; victory has been attained! This victory has not been done by our own striving. Christ has come to be the champion of the believer’s salvation! It is in His gospel that the believer is to remain stable and steadfast in their faith (Col 1:23). Yet, all the while, Christ calls his disciples to engage in means by which the Spirit makes the image of Christ real in their lives. Our humanness in engaged by commands to follow; there is no passivity. For the Christian is called to make real steps after the way of Christ. It is inside this mysterious capatibalism of God’s work bring forth our real works by which we are sanctified.

Rebuttal of Arguments. Since every facet of sanctification flows from the finished work of Christ by the work of the Spirit there is absolutely no ground for human boasting in any progress in one’s sanctification. The Lutheran’s worry that if the law is present then moralism will follow is shown to be a wrong inference. The focal point of the Christian’s view is Christ. Christ perfectly fulfilled the law, imputing his merits to believers (Rom 5:19). He removed the curse of the law by becoming a curse himself (3:13). He secured justification by His resurrection (Rom 4:25). He has obtained salvation for His people and no power can separate His children from His salvific love (Rom 8:31-39).

It is by looking at this glory that the Spirit transforms the believer from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor 3:18). Being so encapsulated in the accomplished work of God the believer can then fight to live according to the Spirit (5:16-22). Thus, the believer is never to leave Christ. Instead, his sanctification is to be done at the foot of the cross.

The believer walks in a completed pilgrimage. There is no illusion of perfection. There is the truth that everything for the believer’s salvation has been completed by Christ.[9] At the same time, “The Christian…lives in the tension between the now of living ‘by faith’ and the not yet of knowing the full reality of the kingdom ‘by sight’.[10] Thus, victory is a reality for the Christian. The Christian has died, by Christ’s death, and thus able to put to death the sin that is in his earthly members (Col 3:3-5). Hope is to be the bountiful possession of the Christian since he keeps in view the redemption God has accomplished (Rom 15:8-13). We do not have to construct a goal of perfection here on earth. The Perfect One has already run the course and sits at the right hand of God to be the perfector of the believer’s faith (Heb 12:2).

Yet, the consummation of this reality has not been reached; it will be reached with the second coming of Christ.[11] So, for now the believer will stumble in many ways (James 3:2). The war to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh will be one of the characteristics of his life (Gal 5:16-23). Yet, though he sins, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for his sin (1 John 2:1-2). So God comes to us with the promise of victory by Christ while acknowledging our failures.

What the other two views say cannot be done are done in the Reformed view. We can rest fully in the sufficient work of Christ while progressing towards greater degrees of holiness. We can have the promise of victory while still living in the reality of our struggle with sin. The reformed view more adequately takes the full biblical scope on sanctification and presents it more faithfully than the rest.

Application to Ernie. Ernie would be directed to focus on what is his in Christ Jesus. He should have no doubts about his salvation. Yes, his sin is grievous before God. Yet God chose instead to put the wrath for Ernie upon His own Son—Jesus. Ernie must rest in this salvation! Part of this salvation is not only the truth that he has been forgiven but that he has been made anew! He is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); therefore, he does not live under the dominion of sin, and he can make progressive steps in defeating his lust. This will happen when he starts applying the means of grace to his life that the Spirit may transform him into the image of Christ in this area.

Conclusion

Having analyzed the Lutheran, Wesleyan, and Reformed views of sanctification we have concluded that the reformed model is the most biblically faithful one. The Lutheran, while having a commendable centrality on Christ, does not deal with all the biblical witness. The Wesleyan view, while having an inspirational view on victory of the Christian, cannot hold up to both the Bible and reality. Against both of these, however, the reformed view holds faithfully to the full scope of biblical teaching on sanctification.


[1]“It is by calling that we are united to Christ, and it is this union with Christ which binds the people of God to the efficacy and virtue by which they are sanctified.” John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 141.

[2]Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 3rd ed. rev. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1946), 532-533.

[3]“The holy frame and disposition whereby our souls are furnished and enabled for immediate practice of the law, must be obtained by receiving it out of Christ’s fullness, as a things already prepared and brought to an existence for us in Christ, treasured up in him; and that as we are justified by a righteousness wrought out in Christ, and imputed to us; so we are sanctified by such a holy frame and qualifications, as are first wrought out, and complete in Christ for us, and then imparted to us.” Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (London, England: Oliphants LTD, 1954), 27. See also

[4]Sinclair B. Ferguson, “The Reformed View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 62.

[5]Murray, Redemption, 183.

[6]“men do not make themselves holy; their holiness, and their growth in grace, are not due to their own fidelity, or firmness of purpose, or watchfulness and diligence, although all of these are required, but to the divine influence by which they are rendered thus faithful, watchful, and diligent, and which produces in them the fruits of righteousness…The hand is not more dependent on the head for the continuance of its vitality, than is the believer on Christ for the continuance of spiritual life in the soul.” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), 218.

[7]Hoekema, Saved By Grace, 200.

[8] “several means are appointed of God for the begetting, maintaining and increasing faith,” Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, 184. Marshall gives a thorough explanation of the different means in chapter 13.

Yet, we are not to see the function of means as making man co-operating with God in sanctification. “All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us…The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.” Murray, Redemption, 185.

[9]“The gospel—the first coming of Christ—wins for the believers all the riches of glory. The acceptance of the believer with God is perfect the moment he believes because Christ and his work are perfect…There is nothing the believer will possess in glory that he does not now possess in Christ.” Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament (Exeter, Australia: The Paternoster Press, 1981), 99.

[10]Ibid., 99.

[11]“For the believer the second coming of Christ will be the manifestation of his glory and of the glory of his kingdom, a glory which we already grasp by faith.” Ibid., 99.

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