Friday, October 29, 2010

PART 3: Is it you should be or you are sanctified?

                                                 Grace gives life to dead sinners

It is grace and grace alone that makes a sinner alive in Christ [Eph. 2:4-5]. This spiritual life that is wrought by God does not end with saving faith and justification. This new life leads to a new attitude and new desires [2 Cor. 5:17] which causes the fruit of sanctification. While the sinful nature is still present, believers are no longer slaves of sin [Rom 6:17] and, therefore, the wretched man of Romans 7:15-24 has been dealt with by the amazing grace of spiritual renewal [Titus 3:5]. Believers have not only been sanctified once for all [Heb. 10:10], they are also being progressively sanctified by the power of God’s grace [Heb. 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.].

Therefore, just as believers are justified by grace alone through faith alone, I believe they are also sanctified by grace alone. When believers think they are cooperating with God’s grace in their sanctification, they are asserting that human effort is a part of their salvation [Gal. 3:3]. When believers rely on the new covenant principles of grace, the Holy Spirit, and union with Christ for their sanctification they are on solid ground. However, when they look to the obsolete old covenant principles of law keeping and bondage to sin as a wretched man for their sanctification they are hindering and frustrating their walk with God. [Rom. 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.].

Look to the Spirit and grace rather than the flesh and ministry of death for sanctification.

Monday, October 25, 2010

PART 2: Is it you should be or you are sanctified?

Those who are redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ know the Lord and listen to his voice. Notice in the following passage that Jesus does not say they should listen to my voice, but says they will listen to my voice:

John 10:14-16 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Those who are redeemed by Christ follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Notice in the following passage that Paul does not say the sons of God should be led by the Spirit, but they are led by the Spirit:

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Jesus reports on the characteristics of believers in the beatitudes. Notice he does not say blessed are those who should be poor in spirit or should mourn etc. No, he says blessed are those who are poor in spirit, mourn, etc.

It is the work of irresistible grace in believers that cause them to listen to his voice, be led by the Holy Spirit, and to have the characteristics that Jesus describes in the beatitudes. Believers are not perfect or even close, but irresistible grace causes these things to happen in varying degrees. If a person does not have these qualities, then they are not believers. The solution to this problem is not to become a legalist striving for sanctification, but to cling to the cross in faith and repentance.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

PART 1: Is it you should be or you are sanctified?

While the Bible is full of exhortations and encouragement on how Christians are to be sanctified, the character of believers has been supernaturally changed by the power of God in a way that causes them to pursue holiness and sanctification. It is not that they should BE SANCTIFIED it is THEY ARE SANCTIFIED! Irresistible grace does not end with justification. Christians are not saved by grace and sanctified by human effort. We are saved by irresistible grace and sanctified by irresistible grace. Since sanctification is assured [John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.], it is dangerously close to a faith plus works salvation to assert that human effort is needed for sanctification apart from grace. Paul explained this well in the following passage: “1 Cor. 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Here Paul gives 100% of the credit to the grace of God.

The Old Covenant has been made obsolete by the new and better New Covenant. New Covenant believers are given new hearts by divine power and sanctified by divine power. The following passage describes a God caused sanctification:

Hebrews 8:10-11 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

While believers freely come to Jesus Christ and freely respond in sanctification, it is caused by divine intervention [grace].   

Friday, October 8, 2010

The two spiritual categories of human beings

From New Covenant and New Testament revelation we see that God relates to two basic categories of human beings. All people are either “in Christ” by faith or they are not. All of redemptive history points to Jesus Christ and those who are in him by faith. In Romans 4 Paul explains how this “in Christ” relationship worked for those saved during Old Testament times and the New Testament is thorough in explaining how believers are “in Christ” by faith since the church began at Pentecost. This “in Christ” relationship is repeated again and again in the New Testament in different ways such as:

1 Cor. 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Therefore, faith is the key to being “in Christ”.  Most questions concerning how God deals with man can be answered if this basic “in Christ” test is used as a foundational presupposition about God’s relationship to man. For example, does God love all men equally and unconditionally? Keeping the categories distinct will show that Scripture describes a clear difference in how God loves these two categories. 

When Scripture speaks of judgment, love, righteousness, or anything else it is important to distinguish which category is being considered. For example, the judgment to determine eternal destiny will be different for each category. Those who are NOT in Christ will be judged by their deeds and works. In this judgment God does not grade on a curve, but grades on a scale that requires a perfect sinless record in order to be reconciled to God. This is the very bad news that Paul covers in Rom. 1:18 through 3:20. However, those who are “in Christ” will be judged on the perfect sinless record of Jesus Christ. They will be covered by His righteousness and atonement for their sins. His fulfillment of the Old Covenant [Mt. 5:17] and atonement is the very good news of the gospel that begins in Rom. 3:21.

Does this mean those who are “in Christ” can and possibly will proceed full steam ahead in pursuit of a sinful life? When we go back to the fundamentals of this “in Christ” relationship, we find that this relationship also changes the heart of those who are “in Christ”. From 2 Cor. 5:17 to Rom 8:9 to Rom. 6 to Eph. 2:5 to John 3:3 to Hebrews 8 we find the same message and that is those who are “in Christ” have been changed by the power of God. Therefore, those who are “in Christ” will not continue unchanged in a pursuit of sin. They have been changed by the power of God and while sin will remain a problem, they are no longer under its power.

In stark contrast to being in Christ, those who are NOT in Christ are still under the power of sin and are still under God’s wrath. They do not have peace with God and neither the law or their attempts to perform good works can bring them to an “in Christ” relationship with God. The only way is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

If we will start with the “in Christ” relationship with God rather than get bogged down and confused by covenant relationships, Old Testament law, ethnicity, parental status, or different dispensations, then much of the confusion about the characteristics and identity of believers becomes clear. Paul did this very thing in the following passage:

Galatians 3:25-29 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

God did not make a saving covenant with any nation or family and he made no promise of salvation to any nation or family. The New Covenant was made with God’s elect on an individual one on one basis and each individual is “in Christ” by his own personal faith alone.