Monday, January 30, 2012

Concerning Sanctification as the Effect of Justification...

Concerning the meaning of the phrase "sanctification has its ground in justification," some out there in bloggo-land may be getting hung up on the term ground and reading more into to it than is warranted. Certainly there is no justification or sanctification to be found outside of our union with Christ. So that his gracious person and work are the ultimate ground and source of salvation, from election to glorification. Christ Jesus is the water we believers swim in and the water in which and through which God mercifully does all things.  That being said, sanctification and justification are not parallel blessings independently given in Christ.  Rather they are connected as effect is to cause as stated by this obscure reformer:

In short, I affirm, that not by our own merit but by faith alone, are both our persons and works justified; and that the justification of works [sanctification] depends on the justification [forensic] of the person , as the effect on the cause (John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote)

Calvin further explains in Institutes 3.14.21:
(Outline) 21. A third objection--viz. that the good works of believers are the causes of divine blessings. Answer. There are inferior causes, but these depend on free justification, which is the only true cause why God blesses us. These modes of expression designate the order of sequence rather than the cause.
21. Moreover, when Scripture intimates that the good works of believers are causes why the Lord does them good, we must still understand the meaning so as to hold unshaken what has previously been said--viz. that the efficient cause of our salvation is placed in the love of God the Father; the material cause in the obedience of the Son; the instrumental cause in the illumination of the Spirit, that is, in faith; and the final cause in the praise of the divine goodness. In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes. But how so? In this way: Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works. What precedes in the order of administration is called the cause of what follows. For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works; not because it is to be ascribed to them, but because those whom he has elected he justifies, that he may at length glorify (Rom. 8:30); he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause, because it is a kind of step to that which follows. But whenever the true cause is to be assigned, he enjoins us not to take refuge in works, but to keep our thoughts entirely fixed on the mercy of God; "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life," (Rom. 6:23). Why, as he contrasts life with death, does he not also contrast righteousness with sin? Why, when setting down sin as the cause of death, does he not also set down righteousness as the cause of life? The antithesis which would otherwise be complete is somewhat marred by this variation; but the Apostle employed the comparison to express the fact, that death is due to the deserts of men, but that life was treasured up solely in the mercy of God. In short, by these expressions, the order rather than the cause is noted.  The Lord adding grace to grace, takes occasion from a former to add a subsequent, so that he may omit no means of enriching his servants. Still, in following out his liberality, he would have us always look to free election as its source and beginning. For although he loves the gifts which he daily bestows upon us, inasmuch as they proceed from that fountain, still our duty is to hold fast by that gratuitous acceptance, which alone can support our souls; and so to connect the gifts of the Spirit, which he afterwards bestows, with their primary cause, as in no degree to detract from it.

Calvin uses the phrases free justification, the mercy of God, and gratuitous acceptance to point to the same thing, that the primary cause of everything pertaining to salvation flows from God's sovereign grace and mercy as freely offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  That which secures a man's salvation is ultimately not dependent upon his works, i.e. his progressive sanctification.  As both the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Westminster Confession of Faith teach, good works are the evidence of faith, the fruit of a true and lively faith, i.e. the effect.  The reformers jealously guarded this understanding of salvation with the words by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, lest the error of Rome would again find a foothold in the church.  And it is this that the apostle Paul taught in order that - "... in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:  for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory." (Eph. 2:7-9) ASV.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Ground of Sanctification...

Regarding the liberty from sin for which man so thirsts, I ended my last post (first post here) with these words of Owen's:    
    Fourthly; Christ is not in the law; he is not proposed in it, not communicated by it, - we are not made partakers of him thereby.  This is the work of grace, of the gospel.  In it is Christ revealed, by it he is proposed and exhibited unto us; thereby are we made partakers of him and all the benefits of his mediation.  And he it is alone who came to, and can, destroy this work of the devil.... This "the Son of God was manifested to destroy."  He alone ruins the kingdom of Satan, whose power is acted in the rule of sin.  Wherefore, hereunto our assurance of this comfortable truth is principally resolved.  And what Christ hath done, and doth, for this end, is a great part of the subject of gospel revelation.

Again, the subject matter under discussion by Owen is summarized by the verse from Romans 6:14, "Sin shall no longer have dominion over you; for ye are not under law but under grace."  The law is limited by God's purpose for it.  It can only point the way.  The law gives no aid in freeing the sinner from the rule and tyranny of sin.  That office is found alone in God's sovereign grace declared in the gospel of Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the grave.  Through faith in Him by grace alone, sins are pardoned, the believer is justified with the righteousness of Christ, and the reign and rule of Sin is broken.  The believer has been delivered from sin's dominion and translated to the kingdom of Christ Jesus, now under God's reign of grace unto righteousness.  And this good news, the power of God unto salvation as witnessed to and transmitted by the Holy Spirit, is the effectual ground upon which the believer walks in sanctification.  It is not a walk free of sin or battles with the flesh - but a walk, though with many limitations and weaknesses, that nonetheless increases in faith and godliness through trusting dependence upon the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that which He has secured for the redeemed. 

From the last section in Owen's A Treatise of the Dominion of Sin and Grace:

     It is that which the law and all the duties of it cannot procure.  The law and its duties, as we have declared, can never destroy the dominion of sin.  All men will find the truth hereof that ever come to fall under the power of real conviction.  When sin presseth on them, and they are afraid of its consequents, they will find that the law is weak, and the flesh is weak, and their duties are weak, and their resolutions and vows are weak; - all insufficient to relieve them.       ... They sin and promise amendment, and endeavor recompenses by some duties, yet can never extricate themselves from the yoke of sin.  We may therefore learn the excellency of this privilege, first, from its causes, whereof I shall mention some only:-      1.  The meritorious procuring cause of this liberty is the death and blood of Jesus Christ.  So it is declared, 1Pet.1:18-19; 1Cor.6:20, 7:23.  Nothing else could purchase this freedom... "Christ died, and rose, and revived," that he might be our Lord, Rom.14:9, and so deliver us from the power of all other lords whatever.      
   ... Let those that are believers, in all the conflicts with sin, live in the exercise of faith on this purchase of liberty made by the blood of Christ; for two thing will hence ensue:- [1.]  That they will have a weighty argument always in readiness to oppose unto the deceit and violence of sin... See Rom.6:2.  [2.]  The internal efficient cause of this liberty, or that whereby the power and rule of sin is destroyed in us, is the Holy Spirit himself; which farther evinceth the greatness of this mercy.  Every act for the mortification of sin is no less immediately from him than those positive graces are whereby we are sanctified.  It is "through the Spirit" that we "mortify the deeds of the body," Rom.8:13.  Where he is, there, and there alone, is liberty...      
     ...Wherefore, a great part of our wisdom for the attaining and preserving this liberty consists in the acting of faith on that promise of our Saviour, that our heavenly Father will "give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him" of him.  When sin in any instance, by any temptation, urgeth for power and rule in us, we are ready to turn into ourselves and our own resolutions, which in their place are not to be neglected; but immediate cries unto God for such supplies of his Spirit as without which sin will not be subdued, we shall find our best relief.  Bear it in mind, try it on the next occasion, and God will bless it with success....      
     ... We are called into a theatre, to fight and contend; into a field, to be tried in a warfare.  Our enemy is this sin, which strives and contends for the rule over us....      
     ... First, The conflict with sin, making continual repentance and mortification absolutely necessary, will continue in us whilst we are in this world.  Pretences of perfection here are contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to the universal experience of all believers, and contrary to the sense and conscience of them by whom they are pleaded, as they make it evident everyday.      
     ... This is our lot and portion; this is the consequent of our apostasy from God, and of the depravation of our nature thereby....      ... It is so ordered that the continuance of sin in us shall be the ground, reason, and occasion, of the exercise of all grace, and of putting a lustre on our obedience.
     ... Herein lies the spring of humility and self-resignation to the will of God.      
     ... Wherefore, the continuance of us in this state and condition in this world, - is best for us, and highly suited unto divine wisdom, considering the office and care of our Lord Jesus Christ for our relief.
     ... There is mercy administered in and by the gospel for the pardon of all that is evil in itself or in any of its effects:  "There is no condemnation unto them that are in Christ Jesus."  Pardoning mercy, according to the tenor of the covenant, doth always disarm this sin in believers of its condemning power; so that, notwithstanding the utmost endeavours of it, "being justified by faith, they have peace with God."      
     ... The great rule for preventing the increase and power of vicious habits is, watch against beginnings.  Sin doth not attempt dominion but in particular instances, by one especial lust or another.
     ... The strict charge given us by our Lord Jesus Christ to "watch," and that of the wise man, "above all keepings to keep our heart," have especial regard unto these beginnings of sins's obtaining power in us.      
     ... Make continual applications unto the Lord Christ, in all the acts of his mediation, for the ruin of sin, especially when it attempts a dominion in you, Heb.4:16.  This is the life and soul of all directions in this case, which needs not here to be enlarged on; it is frequently spoken unto.  Lastly, Remember that a due sense of deliverance from the dominion of sin is the most effectual motive unto universal obedience and holiness; as such it is proposed and managed by the apostle, Rom.4.