I needed to jot down just a few more recent thoughts concerning the subject of (progressive) sanctification, as I have seen it gaining in popularity as a subject for discussion in certain circles, particularly I suppose, in the social media. This is additional to my most recent article on the subject at SANCTIFICATION: Why & how can God accept sinners into His Presence?
As a subject, I don’t believe that progressive sanctification should be handled with much kindness. It is a hideous and potentially fatal religious proposition. The highest possible price was paid for it, it belongs to God’s people exclusively, and it should not be allowed to become a plastic accessory to be worn by fashionistas of the commercial free-will religious order.
Free-will, works religion, also known as Arminianism or various forms of synergism, is the highly fashionable religion being practiced by great numbers of churchgoers in these times. Followers of this religious form of worship, under the guise of Christianity, now crowd the pews of the great majority of what were once, Biblical and God-fearing churches.
In these shiny new will-worshipping theatres are man-made pavilions with many steps leading upwards, each step representing a higher level of self-righteousness and perceived holiness on which proud men stand and display their shame before other men, as witness to them worshipping their own efforts and abilities (Col. 2:23).
In order to solicit more support, in the great eagerness of their own driven will, they have named this system of will worship. Some call it “Lordship Salvation”. Even more ostentatiously they might call it “progressive sanctification” and deluded men heap wondrous praise and elevated prestige onto those who put great effort into achieving improved righteousness. These great congregations, having placed themselves under the spiritual governance of the powerful hierarchies and church councils which they have elected for themselves to serve under, often find themselves becoming the victims of their own ill-begotten belief systems when the whip of contrived church discipline inevitably turns on them.
In another setting and apart from Lordship Salvationists and those who believe that Jesus Christ is not quite enough in sanctification, are a few Christian worshippers remaining in sound evangelical churches, who know God and how He saves sinners by His Almighty free Grace through the finished work of Christ, without any additional effort from the sinner. They know that God does not save righteous, obedient or good men, He saves lost sinners like themselves.
They know that the greater their own efforts are at pleasing God or making themselves more valuable or acceptable to Him, the less their faith will be in the finished and perfect work of Christ. They know that it was for them, that Jesus prayed to His Father in John 17:9, “ I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”
To these few, Jesus Christ is truly Lord and Saviour, not through their own devices, but because God sacrificed His beloved Son for them and caused them to believe in Him.
Great masses, streaming multitudes of our people are being deceived into thinking that they have salvation, eternal life and acceptance before God because they made a “decision for” Jesus. In tragic desperation they actually believe that salvation is theirs because they responded to an altar call, decided to “allow” Jesus into their life, or because they repeated the words of a prayer, or simply said, “I want salvation.”
It is evident that they have no understanding of the teaching of Holy Scripture that faith is a gift and the sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:8-9). This gift can in no way be earned, it is produced in the hearts of the chosen, redeemed sinners by the revelation of Christ in them (2 Cor 4:4-6, Gal 1:15-16), by them having heard the Truth of the Biblical Gospel.
Lordship Salvation, in the current fashionable and religious sense, is the invention of those who need to proclaim a works-based salvation in order to protect their soaring popularity, business interests or to sooth their screaming consciences. It has no part in the Christian life. It is a product of will-worshipping, proud and boastful men. Progressive sanctification is not biblical, it is neither progressive nor is it sanctification. A believer does not gradually become more sanctified, less sinful or more holy in the sight of God. There are no varying degrees of holiness or sin in the sight of God. Holiness is either perfect, or it is unholy and sinful. Partial or progressing perfection never was, or ever will be holiness, it is always sin.
There is only one holiness that saved sinners can have and it is that which was purchased by the Blood of Christ and which God gives freely to all believers in Christ; and it is perfect holiness and complete sanctification. When we are born again, we have the holiness of Jesus Christ implanted in us. We become partakers of His Holy Nature. That is sanctification. It is not progressive, it is complete in Christ.
Jesus Christ is our holiness, we are fully sanctified by His holiness. Jesus Christ in us is our complete sanctification before Holy God. He is not only our justification, He is our complete sanctification. Am I repeating myself? Good, it was my intention to.
Only those who doubt that the sacrifice of our Precious Lamb the Lord Jesus could have been sufficient to pay for all of our unholiness, and for our complete sanctification, believe that it needs to be improved upon.
Jesus Christ IS our holiness before God. He alone is holy, and God sees only His holiness in the saved sinner. While we are in this world, our flesh, our deeds, our thoughts and our efforts remain sinful and they cannot become progressively more sanctified or valuable by means of our efforts at improving the Perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Saved sinners will grow in love, knowledge of God and His Word, knowledge of Jesus Christ, faith and hope. But, saved sinners have complete sanctification in Christ, it cannot get better than that. Those who do not have complete sanctification, by the nature of that position, do not have the complete Christ.
There will be many who disagree, and I have made mention of their opposing views. We leave them to climb the steps of their pavilions. I hope they don’t stumble or lose their footing on a wet day, as they are relying on their own muscle power.
I have written in more detail on the subject of Biblical sanctification here: http://fortheloveofhistruth.com/2013/04/04/sanctification-why-how-can-god-accept-sinners-into-his-presence/