Already Accomplished but not yet Applied.

There seems to be some confusion about the statement that Jesus accomplished our sanctification on the cross. For all who truly believe the gospel, such confusion doesn’t seem to be a problem with reference to justification. Perhaps this is because, for believers, this declaration has not only been accomplished on the cross but has been applied so that we are as justified as we will ever be. Not only is this not the case with sanctification, but believers are exhorted to become involved in the work of sanctification. For this reason, the idea that sanctification is already accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ does not seem quite right.

It seems that the problem may inhere in the failure to distinguish between the accomplishment of redemption and the application of redemption. In terms of sanctification, the work Jesus accomplished on the cross has not yet been completely applied. Thus, it is accomplished but not yet complete.

Not everything that Jesus accomplished on the cross has been applied and thus realized in the believer’s life. I believe he accomplished not only the reconciliation and redemption of his people, but also the reconciliation and redemption of the physical universe. Eventually, all futility will be eliminated. Sickness and death will be forever banished. There will be no more pain and sorrow. All this results from his redemptive accomplishments, but clearly has not yet been realized.

When Jesus died, the believer’s sanctification no less than his justification was accomplished. Not only did he die for us; we died with him to the reigning power of sin. At the point of initial faith, God declares believers righteous in his sight based on Jesus’ obedience [active and passive]. Thus, the application of his death for us has occurred when we first believed. That is a declaration that will stand for all of time and eternity.

Our death with him is also an accomplished fact. In God’s reckoning it occurred when Jesus died and begins to be applied when God unites us to Christ by the work of effectual calling. But he who began this good work in us goes on performing it until that day when he finally consummates all things. He enables us to account ourselves really dead to sin and alive toward God. In other words, he enables us to live in the light of that which God has declared true about us. In other words, he enables us to live in character with what we already are as believers. That is a work of faith. That life long work of enabling us is the application of Jesus’ accomplishment on the cross. Believers are not passive in the work of sanctification, but we are not faithless either.

Sanctification is not by faith alone as is justification, but it is alone by faith. That is, we are not sanctified apart from faith.


3 Responses to “Already Accomplished but not yet Applied.”

  1. March 5, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I’ve understood that as “already but not yet”.

    • March 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Exactly! What a helpful concept that is in understanding so much of Scripture.

      • March 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

        Already, but not yet gives a new depth of meaning for ‘grace’. I’ve come to believe that growing in grace is more about a deeper and deeper understanding of grace itself as we grow spiritually, than just progress in our conforming to CHrist’s image.

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