First the low down, then a few statements, and then a lot of questions.

About two weeks ago Jen Wilkin wrote a piece called “Failure Is Not a Virtue” in which she registered her concern over celebratory failurisum–“the idea that believers cannot obey the Law and will fail at every attempt.” I thought her post was right to expose one of the possible errors in talking about sanctification, especially when some in the Reformed community have suggested that trying to help people stop sinning is a waste of time akin to teaching frogs how to fly.

In response, Tullian Tchividjian accused Jen of “theological muddiness,” saying that while failure is not a virtue, acknowledging failure most definitely is. After that, Michael Kruger jumped in, arguing that Tullian’s response failed to distinguish between the second and third use of the law. Then Mark Jones, whose excellent book on Antinomianism I commended here and here, came down on the side of Jen and offered to fly to Florida to debate law and gospel with Tullian, his fellow PCA pastor. Carl Trueman seconded the idea, and Jared Oliphint weighed in with a fine piece on the relationship between law and gospel in Reformed theology.

It’s no surprise that I share the concerns raised by Jen, Michael, Mark, Jared, and others in this discussion. I’ve already written a book on the subject and dozens of blog posts, so I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said. What may be helpful, however, is to try to push this discussion to the next level. I think Mark Jones has the right idea. Whether it’s a public debate or not, we as fellow evangelicals, often fellow Reformed pastors, and sometimes fellow friends, should be willing to provide further clarity and answer some probing questions from both sides of this scuffle over sanctification. And we should do at least some of this publicly, because this has been a public discussion entered into willingly by “public figures” on all sides.

We all agree the differences are not mere semantics. We all agree the issues are of crucial importance for the church’s preaching, counseling, and overall health and vitality. So let’s move past boilerplate and try to get to the bottom of these critical disagreements.

What We All Agree On (I Think)

On a number of key points, I think we are all singing from the same hymnal.

1. We cannot justify ourselves by anything we do or try to accomplish. Self-salvation is anti-gospel and doesn’t work (Gal. 1:8). We are only made right with God through the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), gifts which come to us by faith alone (Eph. 2:1-10).

2. Growth in godliness is impossible apart from the inner working of the Holy Spirit. God does not save us by grace and then tell us that the rest of the Christian life is up to us (Phil. 2:11-12). The gospel is for all of life. We need to be strengthened in the inner man (Eph. 3:16) and renewed in the thinking of our mind (Rom. 12:1-2).

3. The law of God is meant to convict sinners, including Christian sinners, of disobedience. God’s commands, as the perfect standard of the divine will, reveal to us our idolatries, imperfections, and failures (James 1:23). When we sin, we should not hide our failure from God, but confess our sins and seek forgiveness in Christ (1 John 1:8-9).

4. On this side of heaven we will always be simul iustus et peccator. There is no perfectionism for earth-bound creatures. We are all saints and sinners (Rom. 7:25-8:1). Even our best deeds and most grace-filled acts are accepted by God only because of the intercession and mercy of Christ.

5. The Bible is concerned about our obedience to the moral law of God. God wants us to be obedient and expects us to teach others to be obedient (Matt. 28:19-20). The purpose of exulting in grace is never so that sin may abound (Rom. 6:1-2).

Let’s establish these areas of agreement and celebrate them. This is a lot to agree on. These are precious truths, and in one sense we never move beyond them. There will never be a time when we should stop talking about grace, gospel, and justification. And yet, this doesn’t mean we can only talk about these things or that we can only talk about them in one way. The discussion is too important, the historical precedence for these disagreements too deep, and the dangers to the church too real. Let’s press ahead, not to forget what lies behind, but to appropriate the Reformed tradition as best we can and (more importantly) to stick with the Scriptures as closely as possible.

What We (Probably) Don’t Agree On

I can think of at least 15 crucial questions (with many related sub-questions) that need to be addressed in this sanctification discussion.

1. Can we exhort one another to work hard at growing in godliness? Is striving in the Christian life bound to become an exercise in self-rigtheousness? What place is there for moral exertion and calling others to make a gospel-driven effort to be holy?

2. Is there more than one motivation for holiness? Is preaching our acceptance in Christ and God’s free grace for sinners the only way to produce change in the Christian? Or are there many medicines for our motivation in godliness and many precious remedies against Satan’s devices?

3. Is it right that we try to please God as Christians? Is the language of “pleasing God” legalistic and to be avoided or does it capture a profound New Testament motivation for godliness?

4. Is God displeased with Christians when they sin? Is God ever angry with justified, adopted, born again Christians? Does he see our sin? What is God’s attitude toward sin in the believer?

5. Does God love all justified believers identically? Is it true that Christians can never do anything to make God love them more or less? How are we to understand our acceptance in Christ—static, dynamic, both?

6. Is sanctification by faith alone? We know that work has no place in justification, but what about in sanctification? Should we say that sanctification is monergistic or synergistic, or are these the wrong categories altogether? How are justification and sanctification different?

7. Can we be obedient to God in this life? Is everything we do no more than a filthy rag in God’s sight? Is there a place for imperfect, yet sincere, pleasing obedience in the Christian life?

8. Are good works necessary for salvation? Do people go to heaven without holiness? What are good works and how do they relate to justification and glorification?

9. Is growth in godliness a legitimate ground for being assured of our right standing before God? Does God want us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith? Should we look for evidences of grace in our life for confidence that we are saved, or is that tantamount to self-defeating, gospel-denying moralism?

10. Is it moralistic to seek to improve in holiness of conduct and character? Is sanctification about getting used to our justification, seeing our faults more and more, or learning to own up to our weakness? Does the pursuit of holiness involve trusting and trying?

11. What is the relationship between law and gospel? Should all of the Christian life and the whole of Christian theology be understood through this antithesis? And is it always antithesis, or can we say that law and gospel, in the final analysis, “sweetly comply”?

12. Does gospel preaching include exhortations and warnings as well as promises and assurances? Can gospel preaching be reduced to “acceptance” preaching, or is there are a place for other kinds of indicatives in our proclamation of the good news?

13. Is the good work in sanctification produced in us by God also done by us in the execution of our willing and acting? Is Christ the only active agent in our pursuit of godliness? How does God work in us and we work out our salvation with fear and trembling?

14. What is the place of union with Christ in the order of salvation? How does an understanding of the duplex gratia  (the twofold blessing of justification and sanctification) affect our approach to sanctification? How might the doctrine of union with Christ protect us from legalism and antinomianism?

15. Can we preach the law pointedly, not only for conviction of sin, but so that we might keep striving for greater obedience to God’s revealed will? We know that law establishes the perfect rule for righteousness and that God wants us to walk in obedience to his commands, but is the only way to produce this obedience by the preaching of justification? Is the only way to accomplish the imperatives by preaching the indicatives, or can we also insist on the imperatives without apology?

Maybe we agree on more of these points than I imagine. Maybe on some issues the disagreement is over matters of emphasis. Maybe my thinking needs its own tweaking. That’s all possible, likely even.

But it’s also possible—and in fact, everyone seems to agree on this point—that there are profound disagreements about what sanctification is and how it happens. I’d be happy to slowly work through each of these questions over the coming months. I’d be happy to look at questions from the “other side.” I’d be happy to see Mark and Tullian sit down (or stand up, as the case may be) for a friendly debate. I’d be happy for anyone willing to hash through these questions, ready to quote Bible verses and bring to bear the wisdom of our confessional tradition. I’d be happy for anyone or anything that produces clarity.

We all agree these issues really matter. So let’s see what’s really the matter.

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278 thoughts on “What We All Agree On, and What We (Probably) Don’t, In this Sanctification Debate”

  1. lwesterlund says:

    Well said, Shingai!

  2. Matt says:

    Shingai,

    The indicative, the power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts, can only produce the imperative, growth toward godliness. Therefore, focusing on the indicative could never lead to a “loose lifestyle,” only a process toward purity. Rom 6:1-2. However, a focus on the imperative will certainly only lead to legalism. There is no power in any law or in our own efforts to make us pure.

    Your principle must assume that grace is a concept to be learned (which can produce loose living) instead of an undeserved, Holy Spirit inspired change of heart (which compels us to avoid loose living).

    2 Timothy 3:5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

  3. Daniel says:

    I could probably break out the concordance or lexicon and make you guys sweat, but I thought I would just say, you guys are a joke. I minister in Chiapis Mexico where I recently preached on Ai and had to reference Jericho to make my point, I realized that it is a good chance these people do not know what Jericho is so I think your “positions” on sanctification might not go over well with the illiterate crowd or 3/4s of the world. Come down off your theological thrones boys, (and girls?) and walk in the harvest.

  4. Richard UK says:

    Shingai

    Your first comment seemed one of cautious welcome; your second was one of sceptical caution.

    As Matt says, the gospel has the power to produce change; it does not need to be limited in order to prevent licence. I don’t even understand what sort of ‘gospel’ that would be. It seems you simply don’t trust the Holy Spirit to do His transforming work

    I find Daniel’s comment patronising and hope he is not like that in his pulpit. It does matter what doctrine you teach, otherwise people can drift into legalism, then into depression, then away from the church.

  5. Richard UK says:

    I’ve just read KdY’s comment on this massive blog – perhaps his most provocative and yet most important one. He writes

    “Maybe we agree on more of these points than I imagine. Maybe on some issues the disagreement is over matters of emphasis. Maybe my thinking needs its own tweaking. That’s all possible, likely even”.

    No, 257 posts later, the issue is not just one of emphasis

    Yes, after reading and culling from 257 posts, KdY might learn that there is a different perspective which he could at least recognise before dismissing it.

    My guess is that he has not, and will not, read these posts, nor even get anyone to do so for him

  6. Sanctification is an ongoing process through which the Spirit of God is molding believers into the likeness of Christ by applying the life-changing purpose of the death’s of Christ in their lives in a tangible fashion. I’d say that the purpose of sanctification is to preserve the holiness and righteousness the believers have received upon salvation through Christ.

  7. Richard UK says:

    Sanctification is an instantaneous act of God by which He sets us apart for His good pleasure. Transformation is a better word for the on-going process. But yes, that too is an act of God, as you say

    But all protestants believe that, on conversion, it is Christ’s righteousness that is imputed to us. We do not have a righteousness infused into us which is much closer to a Catholic notion

    As Luther said, we remain, for our lifetime, simul iustus (which means justified not sanctified) but also simul peccator – we have no righteousness of our own

    Would you not agree?

  8. Bill says:

    Agree with Richard that any doctrine of sanctification that does not pass the “simul Justus et peccator” test needs to be ditched. I also agree that our sanctification can not depend on our good works or be a process. Christians are already Saints and the apostle Paul calls them Saints. I know that traditional reformed theology identifies sanctification as a slow ongoing process during the whole life of the Christian. Can we not call this good works ? Or fruit of the holy spirit ? The latter probably is more appropriate. Now with regard to sanctification Richard is correct that it is the sole work of God when he sets us apart. Karl Barth also had an interesting view of sanctification and he considered accomplished by Christ. There is nothing left for man to do. Basically justification for Barth is identified with Christ in his state of humiliation (hi sinless life and his death on the cross when he said it is finished), on the other hand for Barth Christ’s state of glory, i.e. his resurrection and ascension represents sanctification. So both justification and sanctification are objective works accomplished by Christ alone 2000 years ago. Now the subjective or human response to justification is faith and to sanctification is love. So justification is identified with Christ priestly role and sanctification with Christ role as king. Now this makes sense if we look at how Paul in Romans 6 talks about us being risen with Christ so that we can walk in newness of life. So Christ by rising from the dead sanctified all those that would come to believe in him.

  9. d camp says:

    Classically, a clear distinction is made between the doctrines of justification and sanctification – and for good reason – justification being related to our forensic standing and sanctification being related to conduct and ethical process. However, what we have not emphasized enough are the categorical distinctives within sanctification. The categories I would like use are: (1) positional sanctification – or the realm of the sacred or holy, and (2) progressive sanctification, what I refer to as representational or reflective sanctification – the realm of ethics.

    The realm of the sacred or holy is positional or “definitive,” as some authors refer to it. It involves standing and identity, a category referred to by Paul in 1 Cor 6:11, “but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” It is grounded in our justification but defined or characterized by God’s presence. This is the realm of the indicatives – who God is, what He has done, and who we are in Christ. It is a state of being, or what I will refer to as the ontological aspect.

    The second category is the realm of ethics and the imperatives, the teleological aspect. And while it is a process that effects a change in our character, its purpose is primarily reflective or representational – pointing to the attributes and work of Christ. A good example is 2 Cor 7:1, “Since we have these promises (the indicatives), beloved (standing and identity), let us (the imperatives) cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

    Paul, in 2 Tim 2:21, teaches that we have been set apart for the Master’s use. And the process of making us a better reflection of His character will not be complete until we reach heaven. In that sense we are a ‘work’ in progress and ‘progressive sanctification’ is a perfectly appropriate Biblical term to describe it. In his salutation to the believers in Thessalonica (I Thess 5:23), Paul prays for the culmination of that process, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely,” or “through and through,” a compound word from holos and telo (end) meaning “through to completion.” We are not ‘progressing’ in our standing, identity, or, acceptance in Christ, but we should be and are ‘progressing’ in our ‘set-apartness’ from the world. We are becoming more Christ-like and less like the world, and in that sense we are becoming “progressively sanctified.” Another good example is 2 Cor 7:1, “Since we have these promises beloved (standing and identity), let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

  10. lwesterlund says:

    Thank you, d camp, for this solid Biblical exposition on this divisive topic!

  11. Richard UK says:

    D Camp

    Thank you for yours above

    My only concern is that your view can be taken to mean that, through life, progressive sanctification means that we become more less sinful and more ethically good. This is still measuring sin as what we do, not who we are. Luther’s ‘simul iustus, simul peccator’ is to be preferred. And for Luther this meant ‘totus iustus, totus peccator’, not a changing proportion of one over the other

    As a caricature, the wrong view (I won’t say your view) means we could say to St Peter at the pearly gates ‘I’m allowed in because Jesus died for my sins – although these are a lot less than they used to be’.

    There is something fundamentally flawed in the commonplace use of ‘from indicatives to imperatives’ in the epistles, but of the ontological assumptions behind it – in short the assumption of ‘totus iustus, totus peccator, totus transformatus’ whereby an Adamic free will is returned to us

  12. Richard UK says:

    sorry, some bad grammar in mine above – difficult to review in this tiny drafting box!

  13. d camp says:

    I think I understand your concern, which is why careful distinctions are important. With respect to our fleshly nature, we do not become less sinful, nor is any obedience to the revealed will of God ever without the taint of human sin, no matter our intention. Nor does any of our actions or thoughts ever merit righteousness or good favor from God. But with respect to behavior that is witnessed by the world and a reflection of Christ, we through the power of the Spirit and His written word do sin less and obey more. I am not better or becoming better in terms of the inherent sinfulness of my fleshly nature, but I am becoming a better husband, father, employee, witness, etc. This is the work that Paul refers to in Phil 1:6, “He that began a good work in you will continue until the day of Christ.” Clearly he is not talking about the “work” or basis of justification, which “is finished” and imputed to us; we are not being continually justified. He is talking about the process whereby God “works in” what we “work out” (Phil 2:12, 13), a process under the guidance/empowerment of the Spirit in which we are conscious participants. The process of sanctification is not about earning but following, In terms of our ability to reflect and follow Christ, what was said about the faithful at Thyatira should and will also be true of every saint, “your latter works exceed the first” (Rev 2:19).

  14. Richard UK says:

    D Camp

    Thank you very much for the best explanation I have read anywhere of the interrelationship between the finished work of justification (vertical) and the on-going work of making us ‘fit for purpose’ (horizontal)

    I am using ‘making fit for purpose’ to describe God’s work in us to make us better husbands etc. The more common words ‘sanctification’ and ‘transformation’ now seem to have too much of the purely vertical flavour of us being ‘improved’ to gain more favor, or standing, before God. You have clarified this very helpfully.

    This ‘fit for purpose’ ‘down here’ also all meshes with the Hebraic idea of life on earth where social relationships etc, are important, rather than the Greek (stoic/platonic) idea (also shared by Buddhism) that all that matters is the spirit and how it stands before God

    This logic would then suggest that eternal life is the result of justification and other ‘rewards’ are the result of the socially ‘good’ things we do to help our neighbour. (Having said that, I do have a friend who says that, now that she is justified, she is now concentrating on earning rewards – which made it all seem rather cold and, indeed, impersonal)

    My only remaining hesitation however is, within the context of improved social relationships, the dynamics implied by your ‘work in/work out’ and ‘conscious participants’.

    I find Phil 2:12,13 fascinating but the command/exhortation is to work out your ‘salvation’. I agree this does not mean ‘work for your salvation’ (despite the countless numbers of preachers who hint at this). It presumably means ‘On the basis of being (knowing that you are) saved, now live out your life accordingly, ie free from fear.

    Consequently the ‘with fear and trembling’ must apply to v13 not to v12, ie ‘work out your life knowing that you are already saved, but do it with awe and excitement knowing also that it is God who is changing you – through Word and Spirit – to be more ‘fit for purpose’. Thus, when we find our temper is not as aroused by an event as it would have been 5 years before, we can exclaim ‘wow, God did THAT in me’. Anything else would of course be boasting

    In that context I am happy with your ‘conscious participants’ but I suspect you might also have wanted to imply that we are ‘willing participants’. It is at this point that I have problems and find that Luther and J Edwards can help me

    The problem with the word ‘will’ is that Catholic and post-Reformation Protestant Scholasticism still retain the Stoic notion of a ‘will’ that is above all things, able to quell the passions and choose wisely. Somehow this will is corrupted by the Fall but not as much as the passions – it is still able to respond well when educated. But is there such a thing as a ‘will’ in this morally autonomous sense? Augustine, Luther and even Calvin (but not later Calvinists) all had the ‘heart’ at the centre and all biblical commands/exhortations were essentially aimed at the heart. Luther made it clear that even after conversion, our ‘will’ (if such exists) is bound (we are donkeys ridden by one of two riders)

    We can see we are not in charge of our hearts’ desires at all. Even when we stop ourselves eating another ice cream, it is because another heart desire is that we should lose pounds not gain them. In other words we are indeed the product of our genes and our (sinful) environment, and destined for hell. But God saves and also gives a new heart (I’m never clear whether this is an instantaneous or progressive act – I prefer the latter). Consequently we have no locus on which to boast that we are now better husbands than before. This ‘yeast’ of boasting would still remain if there is any sense of us co-operating with the Holy Spirit, even if that only amounts to allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us.

    I would value your comments

  15. You will never defeat me – the true king!@!!

  16. This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me.
    Thanks!

  17. Romario says:

    The only thing that i not agrre is that the christian is a sinner, the scripture never call a saved man a sinner but a lost man, it’s true that the christian sins but this doesnt mean that the christian is a sinner. But i loved this text, is very helpful and help me so much.

  18. Martin says:

    What are you talking about?? Christians don’t sin. 1 Jn 3:9

  19. Richard UK says:

    Martin, Romario

    Romario did in fact say that Christians do sin – it is just that they are not sinners. Presumably he accepts that they/we were sinners before conversion (or baptism if he is Catholic)

    The issue here is whether we are sinners because we sin (Catholic), or whether we sin because we are sinners (Protestant)

    Someone (Catholic and even some Protestants) who believes that baptism or conversion somehow makes us ‘pure’ again like Adam (although we then inevitably go on to sin repeatedly), that person will indeed be puzzled to think that so little ‘happens’ at conversion if we stay sinners.

    But Protestants would say that the Catholic view is too much tied in with medieval metaphysics where grace was seen as a dollop of power, like a duracell battery, which given to the believer to enable him to press on in his new form and new strength. (Yes, we are a new creation but the arena in which this is true is more complex – see below)

    But grace is first the favor with which God sees those who are in Christ whatever their sins because Christ has died for them and no further death or punishment is required; and grace also means the Holy Spirit of God who is God in us and with us constantly, without whom we would all fall into depravity.

    The danger of seeing grace as a medieval once-for-all dollop of ‘something’ is that it undermines the whole nature of an ongoing, dependent relationship with ‘someone’.

    Luther’s ‘simul iustus simul peccator’ makes it clear that we, in ourselves, in our old Adam flesh, remain sinners, but forgiven sinners. Yet there is also a larger work of God in us which will change us into something far more than good people. It is the new Creation and we will be partakers of His glory. We now probably only see the tiniest hints of this – flashes of genuine love for others barely counting the cost to ourselves, a love of talking about the loveliness of Jesus and his Father, a genuine growing distaste for much that we used to find appealing. But all of these are and must be natural fruit – in some ways almost unconscious. To the extent that we work to adhere to commands, we have in part missed the point. There is a fight of faith – but it is a fight to retain one’s faith, not a fight to do all those things that we would have to do if we did not have faith!

    It is more important to realize what God has and is doing for us, than to focus on what we are doing for him,

  20. Matt says:

    Well said Richard.

  21. I really like and appreciate your blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

  22. d camp says:

    We “fight” in the sense that Paul refers to in Phil 2:12, “As you have always obeyed, work out your salvation with fear and trembling (The Holy Spirit’s words) . . .” It is an intentional effort, not contrary to faith, but because we have faith. The Holy Spirit does not love my neighbor simply by virtue of me looking to my justification. The Holy Spirit does not keep commands for us, but empowers us (Phil 2:13) to follow Christ with the same joy and intentionality that Jesus exemplified when He obeyed the commands of His Father:

    “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)

  23. Matt says:

    Good luck at working out your own salvation by your own volition. But I need more than luck. 1Co 1:30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the L ord.”

    God put the desire in me to work out my salvation. I completely and utterly rely on Him for that. Otherwise I could boast in my own power at working it out.
    1Co 4:7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?
    Our desire and “ability” to work out our own salvation is a gift and comes as a result of depending on Christ and not on our own volition. Be careful not to boast as if your “righteousness” actions are a result of your own desires. One day you will have to declare just the opposite.
    Isa 45:24 The people will declare,
    “The L ord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.”
    And all who were angry with him
    will come to him and be ashamed.
    25 In the L ord all the generations of Israel will be justified,
    and in him they will boast.

  24. D camp says:

    “Good luck at working out your own salvation by your own volition.”

    C’mon man! That’s a straw man that barely deserves a response–no serious evangelical/reformed Christian believes anything close to that. You are confusing the active Spirit-empowered volitional response to the Word of God with the unregenerate will of a non-believer. Our response to the will of God in the process of sanctification is just as active in our conversion, and God uses the means of His Word in both. You are expecting the progressive aspect of our sanctification to look and feel like regeneration, which you are not active in at all, which is really just another form of the old Keswickian Quietism.

  25. Matt says:

    D Camp,

    I guess Paul wasn’t a serious Christian then.

    1 Corinthians 9:16 Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! 17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust.

    So in other words you are saying, no serious Christian should depend on the power of Christ to enable holy living? Then explain this verse to me. Paul must be using a straw man not worth commenting on.

    Gal 3:2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

    You are describing a belief that human effort is the root of right living, becoming perfect by your own human effort and superior choices. By doing so, you deny the continuous work of the Holy Spirit in your life. This verse directly contradicts your last sentence. Can’t you see? Paul was speaking directly to you!

    2 Tim 3:5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

    Don’t reject the power that makes people godly by claiming that power belongs to you. Then you are only acting religious. What kind of righteousness can come from mankind? None. It is God who keeps us from stumbling (Jude 24).

    Hebrews 10:14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

    We are made holy, justified, and we are being made holy, being sanctified, by the Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done alone, not by our own feeble efforts and good choices.

    As I said, good luck, but I need a lot more than luck to resist my fallen nature. I need the constant work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I need to be compelled just like Paul. Is that too difficult for the Holy Spirit, to give us the mind of Christ? Is that not the Promise and the very picture of undeserved grace?

  26. D camp says:

    Of couse I am not saying we don’t depend on the power of Christ, those are your words and a straw man hardly to be taken seriously. Did Jesus depend on the power of the Spirit and the relationship with His Fathef? Certainly. Did that preclude or replace His dependence on the written word, including His Father’s commandments? Certainly not, for He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word . . .” And I’m quite sure Jesus was serious about His walk with the Father, and tells us to walk the same way, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)

  27. lwesterlund says:

    When a drowning man reaches for the thrown life-saver, is he saving himself by his own effort? It is his helplessness that makes him grab on. But it is a decision. We do not become passive, or automatons; we turn continually to the power of the Spirit within, in acknowledgement of our helplessness to work righteousness apart from His power. The turning is a choice–hence all the commands and exhortations to believers that we find in the Epistles.

  28. lwesterlund says:

    And we acknowledge that even our turning is because God has set us free from slavery to sin. We know that any desire to please Him is a gift of grace.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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