Monday, February 28, 2011

Jane Russell crosses the divide...

If it had not been for the good fortune of being invited to Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.'s 90th birthday almost 2 and 1/2 years ago (I became acquainted with him as a fellow member of Church of Our Saviour Santa Barbara), I would not have known the true story of Jane Russell, committed Christian, sinner saved by grace, and a woman of many "lively good works" who is now at peace in the presence of her Lord and Saviour.  Oh the stories we (hopefully) will share on that glorious hallelujah day.

The L.A. Times obituary is Here and the rest of the story is Here.

[photo left to right - Jane Russell, Rhonda Fleming, James Garner, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., John Kerr, and Anne Jeffreys]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Regulative Principle of Worship

     As one who came to the Anglican tradition about eight years ago, and more recently to the Reformed tradition,  I have found the issue of the Regulative Principle of Worship to be a hotly argued and more often than not, misunderstood teaching.  A couple years ago I read R.S. Clark's book Recovering the Reformed Confession, and highly recommend it.  At the time I had some questions here and there (and a few still remain), but otherwise I learned much.  The discussion is a necessary one in light of today's multi-quilted worship formats in Christianity, seemingly to fit any and every inclination.  And as it is that I am still thinking this through, it would probably benefit me to go back and reread the book even though my understanding of the RPW has matured since then.
     That being said, one crucial point that's helped in my understanding is that rather than being a principle solely to "restrict" what a church can and can't do legitimately in its worship, the RPW in allowing only those"elements" with Scriptural warrant into the Church's worship is a protection for the individual believer's conscience against the Church imposing or requiring anything that extends beyond what God himself requires of his people.  Some of the confusion that comes into these discussions is a result of the "elements of worship"  often being misdefined.  And as well, the three other aspects of the RPW (circumstance, form and rubric) are often ignored or conflated into that of "elements."
     To help shed some light in order to foster a more profitable debate on this topic, I'm posting (with permission) this short book review by T. David Gordon:


Principles of Conduct

"Covenantal Worship: Reconsidering the Puritan Regulative Principle", by Ralph J. Gore, Jr.

Image for Article
In light of the comparative dearth of historically and theologically informed studies of Reformed worship, one is inclined to welcome any contribution to the field that is characterized by both. R. J. Gore, Jr.'s most recent book is just that, although the book turns out to be more concerned with the subtitle than the title. He expends only 26 pages on covenantal worship per se; the majority of the work is devoted to the unproven thesis that the Puritans embraced a different principle of worship than Calvin did.
The strongest aspect of the book is the clarity with which Gore describes the differences between the worship practices of the English Puritans and those of Calvin, and the historical occasions of these differences due to Puritan fears of the (perceived or real) tyranny of the Anglican Church. The most refreshing aspect of the book is the candor with which Gore repudiates the teaching of the Westminster Assembly on worship: "All that has preceded has been helpful in determining that the regulative principle of worship, as formulated by the Puritans and as adopted by the divines at the Westminster Assembly, is unworkable. More importantly, it is simply not the teaching of Scripture" (137). While I disagree entirely with both aspects of this sentiment, its boldness contrasts refreshingly with the prevarication usually found among less-candid Presbyterians who have no more regard for the regulative principle of worship than Gore does but who profess to agree with it. Bravo to Gore!
Traditionally, students of Reformed worship have recognized that four categories require careful attention in understanding the regulative principle: element, circumstance, form, and rubric. An element (sometimes called a "part" and sometimes "mode") of worship is a distinct and ordinary act of worship. Prayer, singing praise, the ministry of the Word, the ministry of the Sacraments, are all "elements" of worship. A "circumstance" is some consideration regarding a matter that is not religious in itself, what the Westminster Confession (1:6) calls, "common to human actions and societies." Such considerations include the time and place of the meeting, amplification of the human voice, how best to provide seating and lighting, and so forth. A "form" is the lexical (or, possibly, musical) content of a given element. Thus, if one determines that prayer is an element of worship, the decision to employ the "Lord's Prayer" is a decision regarding "form;" not an element or circumstance. Finally, a "rubric" is a specific manner of conducting an element, such as the rubric of kneeling, standing, or sitting for prayer, or the rubric of breaking the bread (fraction) when administering the Lord's Supper. Each of these four realities is governed differently.
Reformed Christianity (Calvin and the Puritans) has distinguished itself from the Lutheran and Anglican traditions by permitting only those elements that are warranted by Scripture; whereas the Lutheran view permits any element not prohibited by Scripture. Thus, if an element is proposed as a particular act of religious worship, and if Scripture says nothing about it, the Lutheran tradition considers it permissible, and the Reformed forbids it. Consequently, Scripture "regulates" the elements of worship by positive warrant; where a biblical justification is absent, such an element is impermissible. Circumstances, by comparison, are not regulated by the Word alone; to the contrary, the Westminster Confession states that circumstances are "governed by the light of nature and Christian prudence." Thus, when determining whether to amplify the minister's voice, or whether to set the chairs or pews in a certain arrangement, one has no recourse to Scripture, but only to those considerations common to other "human actions and societies."
"Forms" of worship, according to the Reformed tradition, are regulated by the teaching of Scripture (in the sense that whatever is said must accord with biblical truth), but are not restricted to the actual words of Scripture. Thus, while Reformed churches may employ the "Lord's Prayer," ministers may also pray specifically for Mr. Smith's cancer surgery, which is not mentioned expressly in Scripture. Similarly, a sermon must accord with the teaching of the Word of God, but ministers are permitted to do more than merely read Scripture's own words; they compose sermons using their own wisdom and judgment.
"Rubrics" are governed by a combination of the considerations regarding forms and circumstances, because there are specific ways of performing certain acts that could either enhance or impinge upon the biblical realities contained therein. So, all the discussions regarding kneeling or standing in prayer appeal to more than that which is "common to human actions and societies" because such considerations need to grapple with how to perform an element in the most appropriate, most edifying, and most respectful manner.
Although Gore eventually uses all four terms in the book, he employs only two in his discussion of the Puritan understanding of worship: element and circumstance. This removal of "form" and "rubric," combined with his later redefinition of "circumstance" (to refer to "adiaphora") is the fundamental flaw in this book. If there are only two considerations in making decisions about worship (element and circumstance), then everything that is not a circumstance must, by definition, be an element. Thus, for Gore, differences between Calvin and the Puritans on forms and rubrics turn into a full-blown disagreement on the elements of worship.
Gore's failure to do justice to all four aspects of corporate worship leads to his conclusion that the regulative principle of worship is "unworkable." Although he never clarifies this point, what he apparently means is that the doctrine is either "difficult, or "not free from some difficulties," because, as he demonstrates, Reformed Christians have never worshiped uniformly. But the trouble is that this judgment is analogous to saying that the doctrine of the authority of Scripture is "unworkable," because some who profess the doctrine (e.g., Lutherans and Calvinists) arrive at different conclusions. Are the doctrines of the Trinity, or the two natures of Christ, "unworkable" because they are difficult or mysterious? Agreeing that worship is regulated by the teaching of Scripture does not guarantee entire unanimity on the relevant scriptural passages or their meaning.
What Gore's verdict shows, however, is a complete misunderstanding of the regulative principle. That is, what is "unworkable" for him is not the regulative principle itself, as articulated by Calvin or the Westminster Assembly. Instead, what is unworkable is a notion about Reformed worship that is divorced from the doctrine of church power; that confuses "worship as all of life" with "worship" as the first-day gatherings of God's visible covenant people; that redefines "circumstance"; and that fails to appreciate the place of "forms" and "rubrics" alongside the elements of worship.
Ironically, I agree with Gore in preferring Calvin's worship to that of the Puritans. On almost every point where Calvin and the Puritans diverged on some formal issue, or some matter of rubric, I agree with Calvin. For nine years, I pastored a church where we used an order of service that differed only in small details from Calvin's Strasbourg liturgy. I believe in weekly communion and in corporate prayers of confession, especially but not exclusively those found in the old Book of Common Prayer, followed by scriptural declarations of pardon. I believe it is wise to confess the faith weekly using either the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed; and I think the nonsacramental worship typical of the Puritans has tended to remove mystery from worship, and to make the Reformed tradition more ascetic than aesthetic. Yet none of these differences requires me to repudiate the fundamental principle of both Calvin and the Puritans: that when the Christian assembly gathers in the presence of God, it should approach him only by means of his own appointment.
T. David Gordon is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and associate professor of religion at Grove City College (Grove City, Pennsylvania). 
This article originally appeared in the 2003 Sept./Oct., Vol. 12; 5 edition of Modern Reformation and is reprinted with permission. For more information about Modern Reformation, visit Modern Reformation or call (800) 890-7556. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Calvin and the Church of England

To continue the topic addressed at The World's Ruined concerning the reformed nature of the English Reformation, here is an excerpt from a Gerald Bray essay commemorating the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth - making the same case, only better!


The precise shape of that Protestantism [in England] however owes more to John Calvin than it does to Henry VIII, who never really broke with the traditional Catholicism of his youth. Calvin never visited England, but he corresponded with people there and welcomed British exiles in Geneva during the reactionary reign of Mary Tudor. It was in Geneva, under his auspices, that the best and most influential early English translation of the Bible appeared (in 1560) and relations between the Swiss city and the British Isles would remain close long after his death.

Calvin’s mentor, Martin Bucer, fled to England in 1548, and although he died there within a year, he made an impact on English theology and worship that can still be detected in the Book of Common Prayer. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion follow the outline of Calvin’s Institutes to a surprising extent, and their content is similar. It is no exaggeration to say that the theologians who shaped Anglican identity in the Elizabethan era were deeply indebted to Calvin, whose major works were quickly translated into English to become the staple diet of the new-style ordinands being turned out by the universities during those years. Not everyone was equally enthralled by this, of course, but opposition was muted and divided. Anglo-Catholic apologists have tried to find a coherent anti-Calvinistic Anglicanism which they attribute to such figures as Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes, but modern non-partisan research has generally shown that their claims cannot be sustained. They are based on the widespread but false assumption that Calvinism and Puritanism are essentially the same thing and that both go back to Calvin himself. In reality, conformist opinion in England was just as imbued with Calvin’s mindset as any Puritan was. This can be seen from the career of Archbishop John Whitgift (1583-1604), whose theology was as Calvinist as anyone in Geneva could have hoped for but who was implacably opposed to Puritanism. It was not until the reign of Charles I (1625-49) that a small group of anti-Calvinists was able to influence the development of the
Church of England, largely thanks to the king’s patronage, but the end result of that was civil war and the overthrow of the high church party, which was seen by most people as an aberrant blemish on the doctrinal purity of the national church, a purity which they identified with the teachings of Calvin.


But although that is undoubtedly true, it must be said that Calvin’s reputation among Anglicans today is not high. Presbyterians and other Reformed Protestants continue to honour him as a foundational theologian comparable to Martin Luther, but while modern Anglicans are often ready to embrace Luther, they generally turn their backs on Calvin and think of him as somehow alien to their own outlook... 


Read the whole thing HERE.

Who is Gerald Bray?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Predestination: 39 Articles of Religion

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

Is the above article from the the Church of England's confession of faith consistent with the Reformed confessions as noted in my last post?  Well, among most Anglicans today the answer would be an emphatic "No!"  Yet that answer, I think, would be strongly contested by the English 16th century reformers such as Cranmer, Ridley, Jewell, Grindal, Whitgift, and Hooker.  H. Bullinger of Zurich was referred to as "the pillar of the Church of England and a Second Elijah" by Jewell and Grindal.  Hooker clearly affirms his belief in the Calvinistic tenet of final preservation of all such true believers in Christ. “The faith of true believers,” he declares in his Sermon on the “Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith in the Elect,” “though it have many grievous downfalls, yet it doth still continue invincible, it conquereth and recovereth itself in the end.” [The Church Society]  And Cranmer, according to Ashley Null, "described the justification,sanctification, and eternal salvation of the elect wholly in terms of divine activity." [pg. 225, Thomas Cranmer's Doctrine of Repentance]

Let's take a look.  The first clause sets the parameters for the rest:  Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God...  The article then goes about teaching what that is and how God accomplishes it -

whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.  

To argue that this is not a sovereign work of God's grace alone which reaches back before time, as God alone purposed, is to miss the plain reading and clear import of what is written.  Saved man is the mere recipient of gratuitous grace from "before the foundations" all the way through to the attaining "to everlasting felicity."  Some might object that man has his part to add in this scheme by noting the article states "they walk religiously in good works."  Yes, but that clause is descriptive of the previous one - "they be made like the image of of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ:"  Notice the colon.  That image of Christ is expressed in believers as "good works", i.e. the good works are evidence of "being made like the image"... not how man himself acquires that image.  It is the moral (good works) image of Christ that is in view here.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons...  

Why is that?  For the good work that God has begun in his people He shall complete according to his decreed purpose stated earlier.

and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God:   

It is the Spirit of Christ who is working within us, mortifying the flesh, drawing up our minds up to the heavenly things, where Christ (who is our life) is seated at the right-hand of God.  That "working of the Spirit" in the believer inevitably establishes and confirms our faith of this "eternal Salvation"; that it is ours to enjoy through Christ as the Spirit's working rightly kindles love and gratitude towards God in us.

So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.  

Hmm...  this is where the article gets a bit vague upon first reading.  The clause speaks of a "sentence of God's Predestination" before the eyes of those without or "lacking the Spirit of Christ."  And that that condition is "a most dangerous downfall."  The implication here is that there is a sentence of condemnation upon those lacking the Spirit of Christ (who is freely given out of God's sheer mercy, not earned or attained), a sentence that flows from God's Predestination.  In other words, God has "decreed by his counsel secret to us" not only Predestination to life, but also a sentence or predestination upon those not by God's mercy predestined to life, i.e. without Christ; a sentence unto "a most dangerous downfall", i.e. God's just wrath and judgment upon the ungodly.  They confirm and deserve that sentence against them by either their desperation of life or the "wretchedness of most unclean living" that results from being under the Devil's dominion.  So it can be argued that in this part of the article one finds the outline of God's predestination of the reprobate, i.e. those not marked off for mercy who thus receive their just sentence of condemnation for their sinful alienation from God.  As the Apostle Paul writes in 
Romans 9:
18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
 22What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
and Romans 11:
5Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
 6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.


So then, predestination or election to Life is entirely of God's grace and not resulting from any works of man.

Romans 9:
13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
 14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
 15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Update [2-11-2011]
A final thought... Cranmer wrote in the above Article the words, "decreed by his counsel secret to us", reflecting the words of Augustine: 


"Therefore, as much as it pertains to us, who are not worthy to discern the predestined from those who are not predestined, and because of this we ought to wish all people to be saved, a severe rebuke ought to be applied medicinally by us to all people, lest they perish or destroy others.  However, it is God's [place] to make the rebuke useful for those whom he foreknew and predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." [Of Rebuke and Grace]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Double Predestination

R.C. Sproul has written this excellent essay on predestination, which is much misunderstood and maligned.

The Westminster Confession of Faith: 1643
As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected . . . are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power. through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice. (Chap. III — Art. VI and VII)
One can certainly deny the truth of the above, but it seems rather difficult to make the claim that double predestination is not taught therein. Does this make God the originator of evil and sin in man? No.
The Second Helvetic Confession: 1566
Finally, as often as God in Scripture is said or seems to do something evil, it is not thereby said that man does not do evil, but that God permits it and does not prevent it, according to his just judgment, who could prevent it if he wished, or because he turns man’s evil into good. . . . St. Augustine writes in his Enchiridion: “What happens contrary to his will occurs, in a wonderful and ineffable way, not apart from his will. For it would not happen if he did not allow it. And yet he does not allow it unwillingly but willingly.” (Art. VIII)


What's the problem?

As I have given thought to some of the problems ailing the the Anglican Church in its various representations I find myself focusing on something that too often gets overlooked.  That something is the word of God, the Scriptures.  How is that?  Well, it's not that Scripture is not given a prominent place in the worship of Anglicans, nor (depending on the minister) in their preaching.  Rather, when discussions and debates take place as to the "what ails" the church of Cranmer, Jewel, and Hooker the remedies seem to congregate around the Book of Common Prayer, the auxiliary formularies, historical councils, and writings of various men such as those I just mentioned.  These considerations are obviously indispensable if a reformation of sorts is to take place.  Yet what seems minimized in the hunt for the true way is the Scripture itself, the ultimate compass for a true and faithful church.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Of Hymns and Confessions...

 There is a voice of consensus that speaks from the Reformed churches of the 16th and 17th centuries concerning the doctrines of the Christian faith, but none more than that of the indispensable centrality of Jesus Christ's life and death as the basis for the believer's reconciliation to God and the ground of the believer's life lived now.  You find it inferred and invoked in many of Thomas Cranmer's collects and prayers in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer-
    -For the precious death and merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord...
    -by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood...
    -by the merits of his most precious death and passion...
You encounter it in the Reformed confessions such as in the Westminster Confession of Faith, 
Ch. 8:5-
     The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the
    eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and
    purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven,
    for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.
And how wonderful that one also encounters this precious truth in many hymns of worship that have been penned over the centuries as I did this Sunday morning in our church's worship.  I was gladdened and edified as we sang these 6th century words from the hymn, Praise the Savior Now and Ever by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609)-
   Praise the Savior now and ever;
   Praise Him, all beneath the skies;
   Prostrate lying, suff’ring, dying
   On the cross, a sacrifice.
   Vict’ry gaining, life obtaining,
   Now in glory He doth rise.

   Man’s work faileth, Christ’s availeth;
   He is all our righteousness;
   He, our Savior, has forever
   Set us free from dire distress.
   Through His merit we inherit
   Light and peace and happiness.

   Sin’s bonds severed, we’re delivered,
   Christ has bruised the serpent’s head;
   Death no longer is the stronger,
   Hell itself is captive led.
   Christ has risen from death’s prison,
   O’er the tomb He light has shed.

   For His favor, praise forever,

   Unto God the Father sing;
   Praise the Savior, praise Him ever,
   Son of God, our Lord and King.
   Praise the Spirit, through Christ’s merit,
   He doth us salvation bring.


How beautifully written, the path for believers to the heavenly inheritance is through the merit of Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh - the merit of his perfect life lived before the Law of God... and the merit of Christ's full and perfect  satisfaction for sins in His death on the cross.  It is the Righteous One, the Lamb of God by and through whom the ungodly are justified, sanctified, and glorified; not by any works of our own righteousness.  This seems pretty well understood when speaking of justification, being declared or imputed righteous by God on the basis of Jesus' obedience as a man and his death for our sins.  
The hymn reads:  Through His merit we inherit.  But do we add anything in this life that contributes to the merit of that inheritance?  What of our practical living unto the Lord - walking worthily of Him who has called as holy ones to be conformed to His righteous image?  Commonly called our sanctification, this path likewise is walked only through the merit of our blessed Lord and Savior:  Praise the Spirit, through Christ’s merit, He doth us salvation bring.  

The WCF Chapter 13 - Of Sanctification:
I. They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
II. This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

Given the "remnants of corruption" within our holiest works, and even though through faith they be acceptable and pleasing to God, yet in and of themselves these works fall short of the perfect obedience that the Law demands.  Thus the words:  They... are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them.  Ours is to obey; an obedience, though imperfect, born of gratitude as the reasonable service or duty we owe in light of the abundant grace bestowed on us in Christ.  To what purpose?  The making of ourselves gradually more holy by our grace-assisted works offered?  No.  God needs neither our works of righteousness (Christ the Perfect Man has fully supplied them already) nor are we able to truly offer such righteous works, as they fall short.  Yet through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection and His Word and Spirit dwelling within we are being changed, yet not of ourselves.  As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:
   -But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness
    and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written:  "Let him who boast, boast in the Lord"  (30-31).

That all the glory would go to God in all we say and do.  He has done it!

So the sojourn here is that of not looking to ourselves and the commands of God with the Spirit's help as the means of sanctification and something we must fulfill in order to inherit.  Rather, as the writer of Hebrews says,
    Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every
   encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race
   that is set before us,
   fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him 
  endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  (12:1-2)
This follows fast on Hebrews 11 and the cloud of witnesses who gave testimony, through their suffering, godly living and even death, to the one true and faithful God... and all by faith - a faith that looks away from self (and our subjective measure of keeping law) to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.  Yet one asks, shouldn't we seek to live obediently to God's commands?  Yes, but by a faith that dependently and gratefully puts its whole trust in God's fulfilled promises and mercy in Christ; that looks to Jesus who, by His obedient life lived and sacrificial death on the cross, bearing the full penalty of all our sin, has become both our justification and sanctification:

   Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
   For  what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son
   in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
   so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the
   flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
-And it is the Word and the Spirit that point us to the all-sufficiency of Christ Jesus, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

At the evening service later on Sunday as the church gathered, a stanza in another hymn spoke to my heart that drove home this reassuring truth of God's full provision for us in Christ.  From O Love of God, How Strong and True by Horatius Bonar:
   We read thee best in Him Who came
   To bear for us the cross of shame;
   Sent by the Father from on high,

   Our life to live, our death to die.