Can you trust God for sanctification?

There seems to be an overwhelming fear among those who deny the idea of “gospel sanctification” that we will encourage licentiousness if we are too free in our expressions of Christ’s sufficiency in the whole of salvation. Often these days we hear the charge of “Antinomianism” being bandied about, and those who teach that Jesus accomplished every aspect of our salvation up to and including our glorification are regarded as heretics. In reality, being open to this charge is perhaps the best evidence that the message we proclaim is indeed God’s gospel. Dr. Lloyd-Jones wrote.

The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge [antinomianism] being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel(Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 1973,8).

Jesus died not only to guarantee his people’s justification but also to secure our sanctification and ultimate glorification. Though we are responsible to obey him in the process of sanctification, the work is his, not ours.

Over 100 years ago, Bishop J. C, Ryle wrote,

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30). ( J. C. Ryle, Holiness. (Available online at http://www.ccel.org) pp. 27-28).

Octavious Winslow also wrote about our completeness in Christ,

From every tongue in glory, and through the high arches of heaven, the anthem shall peal, “Worthy is the Lamb!” Believer in Christ! pants not your soul to join that song? and exults not your spirit in the truth that salvation, from first to last, is of God? Oh, how precious is the truth in the consciousness of our many failures and defects! Our salvation is all in Christ–our righteousness is all in Christ–our merit is all in Christ–our completeness is all in Christ–in Christ our Covenant Head, our Surety and Mediator; and no flaw in our obedience, no defect in our love, no failure in our service, should so cast us down as to shut our eye to our acceptance in the Beloved. Imperfections we would not overlook, sin we would not allow, disobedience we would not indulge, temptation we would not encourage; nevertheless, we would ever remember, for our encouragement, that, in default of perfection in the most perfect of our doings, we are fully and eternally, complete in Jesus.

Octavius Winslow, The Sympathy of Christ With Man, (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1863) pp. 83-84.

One wonders how a person can claim to trust God to justify sinners based on his promises of salvation to all who believe and mistrust him in the matter of promised sanctification. We should note that though believers are commanded to obey and thus become involved in the matter of sanctification, this work, like the act of justification, is a work of God’s free grace and is accomplished by the redemptive work of Christ. It becomes clear that sanctification is God’s work when we consider that he has promised to complete this work in every true believer. In his first Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).

The apostle Peter wrote, “. . . .the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Paul wrote to the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

In Romans 6, Paul sums up his answer to the charge that preaching unconditional pardon will lead to licentious living with these words in verse fourteen, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

These are not just nice little memory verses; they are God’s promises. “He who promised is faithful. . .” (Heb. 10:23).

Here is the point. If you are concerned about true believers turning the grace of God into licentiousness and sensuality [lasciviousness if you are a KJV advocate] because they enjoy a sense of full and free forgiveness in Christ, you can relax. God has it all under control. If he has justified us, he has also promised to sanctify us through the same redemptive work of Christ that declared us righteous. In fact, not only has he guaranteed our perseverance in believing attachment to Christ; he has assured our final conformity to the image of Christ as well. It is his work. Trust him to accomplish it.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).


5 Responses to “Can you trust God for sanctification?”

  1. March 18, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I think you clearly explained the true root of our sanctification while at the same time acknowledging that we are also involved in the ‘process’. All that the men and organizations that are accused of being antinomian and preaching a false gospel message are innocent of all charges, as far as I can see. None are perfect, but are trying to communicate that everytning in our Christian lives is in the end rooted in the marvelous and wonderful grace of God.

    • March 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Thank you for your comment. It doesn’t seem to matter how much we say that believers must be active in the process, the accusers continue to beat the same ole drum. I, too, have investigated many of the accused, and though I might not say things exactly as they do, I have found that they are not guilty as charged. I believe you said it in another of your posts or in an email to me. The deciding question in any issue is “Who gets the glory?” At the last, even if [really big if] we have done all we have been commanded to do in cooperating with his sanctifying grace, all the glory of it will be his, since the work has been his from first to last.

  2. March 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Randy, I’ve read some of your comments on Joel Taylor’s blog and finally clicked your name and found yours! You have been a refreshing voice of reason and the few posts here that I’ve read will bring me back for some cool, clean water of God’s grace.

    I do shrink back from using the term “Gospel sanctification” because I see the Gospel as the historical record of what Christ accomplished for His elect. It does not sanctify us. God works within and with us to sanctify us according to the gospel (Roman 16:24), not by or through the gospel. If the gospel is everything, it loses its distinctiveness and is likely to be confused with its Author.

    To God – not the Gospel – be the glory.

    Press on, my brother!

    • March 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm


      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

      I agree that the gospel, in and of itself, does not sanctify us, but I think you would agree that the imperatives of the NT Scriptures are bathed in gospel truth, for example, “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it.” or, “Forebearing one another and forgiving one another, just as God, for Christ sake has forgiven you.” It seems to me, such statements give us both the model and the motive for obedience. All I am saying is that the imperatives of sanctification are rooted in the indicitaves of the gospel. You are quite right to observe that it is God who sanctifies and not the gospel in and of itself. Still, it is the salvation bringing grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodlitness etc.

      When all is said and done, it is God who will receive all the glory since the work of salvation, from eterntiy to eternity. is his alone . Romans 11:36.

      Thanks for the encouragement.


      • March 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

        Randy – yes and amen! The imperatives of the gospel and implications of the gospel are used by God to sanctify us. The indicatives of the gospel (being given ears to hear) make it possible for us to work with God in this process. And since it is by His Spirit that we do anything good, all glory and honor and praise be unto our God for our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification! And our adoption, to boot!

        Blessings in Christ – the faithful One.

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