How sinners are saved

How sinners are saved: The Christian life, or, sanctification.

Below is a question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

 

Q. 35 What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace1, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God2, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness3.

1 2Thessalonians 2:13 — God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.

2 Ephesians 4:24Ephesians 4:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. true...: or, holiness of truth  

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— And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

3 Romans 8:1Romans 8:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  

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— There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

 

Every part of the working out of redemption in the life of the saved sinner is by grace. That is true of the work of sanctification. It is a work of Divine grace alone. It is true that the individual is himself active in sanctification but it is nonetheless a work of God by His Spirit. Cp Phil 2:13Phil 2:13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  

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, I Thessalonians 2:13. Sanctification is only achieved by the enablement of God. It is He who enables us to make progress in grace and holiness. Sanctification begins in regeneration which is the implanting of a new and holy inclination toward God in the soul previously only inclined to evil. Sanctification is only completed in the act of glorification. It is not complete in this life — there is no such state as ‘sinless perfection’ in this life. Cp Phil 3:12Phil 3:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  

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, I John 1:8, 3:2. While sanctification is imperfect and varies in the individual from day to day and from one believer to another, it is a vital truth that sanctification is to be observed in every true born child of God. While a new-born child may struggle and encounter many developmental difficulties along the way, not thriving as others do, yet where life is present there will be some evidence of that.

I  WHAT MAKES SANCTIFICATION DIFFERENT TO JUSTIFICATION AND ADOPTION.

Sanctification is defined as a work rather than an act of grace. In this it is distinguished from justification and adoption. Sanctification differs from these other acts of grace in that it is:

1. An internal work of God whereas justification and adoption are both external to us.

2. A work which makes a real change in our person while justification and adoption being legal acts are changes of status, forensic rather than moral.

3. A work of grace that begins in an imperfect condition and gradually proceeds toward perfection while both justification and adoption are complete and perfect acts immediately.

 

II  WHAT DOES SANCTIFICATION CONSIST OF?

Simply put, sanctification is our renovation in the image of God — in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. Cp Colossians 3:10Colossians 3:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:  

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, Ephesians 4:24Ephesians 4:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. true...: or, holiness of truth  

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. Every part of our being is affected by the process of sanctification — intellect, will, mind, memory, affections, i.e. soul and body. Cp Romans 6:13, 19.

This involves two distinct aspects:

1. Dying to sin. The mortification of the old man, or the old inclination to sin, is an important element of sanctification. Cp Romans 6:5Romans 6:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  

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, Colossians 3:5Colossians 3:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:  

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, Gal 5:24Gal 5:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. affections: or, passions  

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2. Living unto God. A desire for and pursuit of God-likeness is the ‘positive’ side of sanctification. There is to be a constant strengthening/reviving of the new man. Cp Romans 6:13Romans 6:13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. instruments: Gr. arms, or, weapons  

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, Gal 2:20Gal 2:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  

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, II Cor 4:1.

 

III  HOW IS SANCTIFICATION ADVANCED?

Sanctification is advanced as God blesses to us:

1. His providences in our lives. As we learn from God’s providential dealings with us either in blessing or in chastisement and apply those lessons sanctification is advanced. Cp John 15:2, Romans 5:3-4Romans 5:3-4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  

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, Heb 12:5-11Heb 12:5-11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. after...: or, as seemed good, or, meet to them 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.  

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2. His appointed ordinances. God has ordained means of grace and as we show diligence in using them sanctification is advanced. Some of those means of grace are:

a) His word — I John 17:17John 17:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  

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, 1 Peter 2:11 Peter 2:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,  

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b) Prayer — Prayer is spiritual communion with God and He has promised to bestow spiritual gifts, i.e. to increase grace, in response to believing prayer.

c) The sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s supper).

These are the external means of sanctification yet they are only effective by the internal means — faith. Faith is the organ of our union with Christ and communion with His Spirit. Faith is the means by which the experiences of the heart and the actions of the life are brought into subjection to the truth.

Obviously, sanctification is hindered as these are neglected, sin is indulged rather than mortified and there is no effort to live unto God. Sanctification is both a grace and a duty. The regenerate soul co-operates with the Holy Ghost in the work of sanctification. We are bound to make diligent use of, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, of all the means God has appointed for our spiritual renovation and growth in grace. While good works are not the ground of our acceptance with God they are absolutely essential to salvation. It is these ‘good works’ of obedience to God that are in view in sanctification.

Next topic: The benefits of salvation enjoyed in this life

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