Sanctification by Grace

When a person turns to Christ in faith and repentance they are united to Him. This doctrine is called union with Christ; in the Bible it is often simply referred to as being “in Christ.” There are many benefits to our union with Christ such as justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. When we are joined to Christ by faith we no longer stand as condemned sinners before God the Father. Instead, through our justification and adoption we are declared righteous and made children of God, in Christ. We do nothing. We simply receive the gift. The same is true of our glorification. God will complete the work He began in us when He calls us home (Phil. 1:6, 1 John 3:2). What about sanctification? Sanctification is by grace, through faith. Yet, it does require effort on our part (1 John 3:3). In his book, An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness, Andy Davis offers this explanation:

Unlike justification, sanctification is dependent upon a Christian’s constant effort, struggle, faith, and obedience, in conjunction with power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus sanctification is a mysterious collaboration between the power of God and the efforts of the believer. A vital passage on this collaboration is Philippians 2:12-13: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” The human side of sanctification is intense labor, working out salvation in fear and trembling. It is a serious struggle, a fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, and as far as the believer is faithful in this struggle, he will make good progress in sanctification. Yet he does not struggle alone, rather it is God who is at work in him to will and to do according to God’s good purpose. Sanctification is a collaboration, the believer and God working side by side, but with priority given to God’s power, apart from which we will certainly fail. (pg. 52)

Stanley Gale wrote these summarizing lines:

Sanctification, whereby Christ is formed in us, involves our participation and compliance. But its result as well as its pursuit are by grace, through faith. Apart from Christ we can do nothing. (A Vine-Ripened Life, pg. 27)

What happens when we put forth little or no effort in our sanctification? I would agree with the words of Maurice Roberts:

Our union with Christ, if we are truly “in him,” cannot be broken. But our communion with Christ will be dimmed and weakened if we do not carefully attend to the duty of a full-souled and full-hearted obedience to the revealed will of God in Scripture. (Union and Communion with Christ, pg. 34)

If you are truly in Christ, although your union can never be severed (read: perseverance), your communion can be diminished by sin and disobedience reducing your joy and confidence. Roberts’ words are again helpful here:

Hence, if we mean to enjoy in its fullness the love and joy of soul that Christ affords to those who are in union with Him, we must attend carefully to the duties which His Word enjoins upon us day by day. This is not a passive but an active posture of soul. Reader, are you endeavoring in every way to work out your salvation to God’s glory? If so, you will enjoy an inward feast of Christ’s love. (pg. 35)

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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