Category Archives: 7 – The Doctrine of Salvation

Union With Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

For the past couple months my family and I have been considering the steps in salvation guided by Part 5: The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our family’s after-breakfast Bible reading. Those steps are election, the Gospel call, conversion, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, death, and glorification. During the past week we read its final chapter, Chapter 43: Unity With Christ. However, as Grudem points out, rather than being an additional step in salvation, unity with Christ is a comprehensive concept which includes the whole of salvation.

Grudem identifies and considers four aspects of union with Christ: 1. we are in Christ; 2. Christ is in us; 3. we are like Christ; and 4. we are with Christ. Although my family and I read his whole exposition, all that I’m going to share from it here is a little of the Biblical evidence that he gives for the two aspects referred to in the passage with which I opened this post, our being in Christ and His being in us. I’ll also list some Scriptural illustrations of the union, some characteristics of it, and some of its implications for us from other presentations on union with Christ that I have.

We Are in Christ

Grudem devotes almost four pages to considering how we are in Christ. He shows that “in Christ” refers to our relationship with Christ in God’s eternal plan, during Christ’s life on earth, and during our present life and views our present life in Christ from four perspectives: we have died and been raised with Christ; we have new life in Christ; all our actions can be done in Christ; and all Christians are one body in Christ (the church). In his presentation, he cites numerous Biblical passages, including these:

(In God’s Eternal Plan)
– “He [God the Father] chose us in him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
(During Christ’s Life on Earth)
– “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
(During Our Present Life)
– “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
– “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

Christ Is in Us

– “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
– “If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
– “[I pray that God may empower you with His Spirit] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17).

Scriptural Illustrations of Union with Christ

– the union of a building and its foundation (Ephesians 5:20-22; Colossians 2:7; 1 Peter 2:4-5).
– the union between husband and wife (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:31-32; Revelation 19:7-8).
– the union between the vine and its branches (John 15:1-6).
– the union between the members and the head of the body (1 Corinthians 6:15,19; 12:12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15-16).
– the union of the race with the source of its life in Adam (Romans 5:12,21; 1 Corinthians 15:22,45,49).

This list is taken from Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1907, pages 795-97.

Characteristics of Union with Christ

– It is an organic union. Christ and the believers form one body. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:29-30).
– It is a vital union. Christ indwells and animates us. “Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
– It is a union mediated by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit originates and maintains the union. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
– It is a union that implies reciprocal action. The believer unites himself to Christ by faith, and Christ unites believers to himself by regenerating them. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
– It is a personal union. Each believer is personally united directly to Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
– It is a transforming union. Believers are changed into the image of Christ according to his human nature. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).

This list is taken from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, fourth edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1939, pages 450-51.

Implications of Union with Christ for Us

– We are accounted righteous. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
– We live in Christ’s strength. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
– We will suffer. “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20; Jesus to the eleven).
– We have the prospect of reigning with Christ. “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).

This list is taken from Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, third edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013, pages 882-83. Those given by Strong (pages 802-09) and Berkhof (pages 452-53) are much different but also good.

Glorification

When will we receive our resurrection bodies? What will they look like? In the past few days my family and I have read Wayne Grudem’s discussion of those questions in Chapter 42: Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body) of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our family’s after-breakfast Bible reading. Here I’ll share just a little of what he says about them.

Glorification is the last step in the application of redemption. The previous steps, each of which Grudem devotes a chapter to and of which I’ve made one or more posts on are election, the Gospel call, conversion, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and death. Glorification will occur when our bodies are raised and reunited with our souls.

When Will We Receive Our Resurrection Bodies?

The primary New Testament passage on the resurrection of the dead is 1 Corinthians 15:12-55. In verses 51-52 of it Paul says that our bodies will be raised and reunited with our souls when Jesus Christ returns: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be changed imperishable, and we shall be changed” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 Paul explains that the souls of those who had died and gone into the presence of God will return with Jesus and be reunited with their bodies before those who are alive meet him: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

Grudem cites other New Testament passages which affirm the doctrine of glorification (pages 829-30) and several Old Testament passages which support the doctrine (pages 830-31). Please let me know in a comment on this post if you would like me to provide references to some of the passages and I’ll do so in a reply to your comment.

What Will Our Resurrection Bodies Look Like?

In the first passage referred to above (1 Corinthians 15:12-55) Paul describes our resurrection bodies thus: “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (verses 42-44). Thus our resurrection bodies will remain healthy and strong forever, be attractive and perhaps surrounded by a brightness, be strong and powerful, and subject to the Holy Spirit. Paul also observes in the passage, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam after the fall], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Jesus]” (verse 49).

Grudem presents considerable Biblical evidence for continuity between our present bodies and our resurrection bodies (pages 833-35). Please let me know in a comment on this post if you would like me to provide some of the evidence and I’ll do so in a reply to your comment.

Related Topics

When we receive our resurrection bodies, the whole creation will be renewed. Paul refers to this in Romans 8:21, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

When we receive our resurrection bodies, unbelievers will also be raised but they will face judgment. Jesus told the Jews, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his [the Son’s] voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

Death and the Intermediate State

Why do Christians die? How should we think of our own death and the death of others? What happens when people die? In our family’s after-breakfast Bible reading, we’ve just finished reading Wayne Grudem’s discussion of those questions in Chapter 41: Death and the Intermediate State of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share just a little of what he says about them.

Why Do Christians Die?

According to the following Bible passages, death is a punishment for sin but Christians are free from condemnation for sin:
– “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
– “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1).

why then do Christians die? Grudem suggests three reasons:
1. Death is the final outcome of their living in a fallen world (1 Corinthians 15:26).
2. Death (and suffering) is a means used by God to complete their sanctification (Hebrews 12:11).
3. Death completes their union with Christ (Philippians 3:10).

Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). We too should reckon being faithful to God as more important than preserving our lives. According to Revelation 12:11 such faithfulness will contribute to Satan’s ultimately being conquered–“They [our brothers] have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their own lives even unto death.”

How Should We Think of Our Own Death and the Death of Others?

The New Testament encourages us to view our own death with joy because of the prospect of going to be with Jesus. For example, when Paul was a prisoner in Rome, not knowing whether he would be released or executed, he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23).

However although we may rejoice when Christian relatives and friends die and go to be with the Lord, there is nothing wrong with our expressing sorrow on their death. Thus the ones who buried Stephen “made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2). But this mourning should be mixed with worship like Job’s and David’s were on the death of their children (Job 1:20-21 and 2 Samuel 12:20). That this is easier said than done I know from how I reacted to the death of my first wife. See “O God, Why Did You Let Esther Die?”.

Unfortunately the sorrow that we feel when unbelievers die cannot be tempered with joy that they have gone to be with the Lord. All that we can do is to hope that knowing that they were going to die brought them to saving repentance and faith.

What happens when people die?

Although Roman Catholics believe that on death their souls go to Purgatory until they’re ready to enter Heaven and some others believe that between death and Jesus’ return their souls will be in a state of unconscious existence (a belief called “soul sleep”), the Bible seems to teach that the souls of believers go immediately into God’s presence. Some passages indicating this are:
– “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43; Jesus to the criminal crucified with him who expressed faith in him).
– “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
– “My desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23).

Grudem presents and responds to the arguments made for the doctrines of Purgatory and soul sleep (pages 817-21). He also considers whether Old Testament believers entered immediately into God’s presence and whether we should pray for the dead, concluding “Yes” and “No” respectively (pages 821-22).

The Bible also seems to teach that the souls of unbelievers go immediately to eternal punishment. This is indicated in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-30) by the rich man’s being “in torment” and being told by Abraham in response to his plea that Lazarus cool his tongue with water that there was an impassable chasm between them.

For both believers and unbelievers their dead bodies will remain in the grave until some time in the future, Jesus’ return for believers and the final judgment for unbelievers. Then their bodies will be resurrected and united with their souls.

Perseverance – Part 2: Assurance of Salvation

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

A few days ago my family and I read and discussed “Assurance of Salvation” from The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version (edited by Donald C. Stamps and J. Wesley Adams. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992; page 1982). However since then between the grade 12 graduation activities of my younger daughter, Shekinah, and the windup of the visit to us by my older daughter and her husband, Allison and Andy, I’ve been too high emotionally to settle down and report here on what we read.

In the article Donald Stamps identifies nine ways set out by 1 John for us to know that we are in a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. Here I’ll list the nine ways and for each give a Bible passage cited by Stamps in support of it.

1. We have assurance of eternal life if we “believe in the name of the Son of God,” Jesus Christ (1 John 5:13, quoted above).

2. We have assurance of eternal life if we are sincerely trying to keep Christ’s commandments. “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him” (1 John 2:3-5).

3. We have assurance of salvation if we love the Father and the Son rather than the world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

4. We have assurance of salvation if we habitually practice righteousness rather than sin. “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1 John 2:29; see also 3:7-10).

5. We have assurance of salvation if we love our Christian brothers and sisters. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers” (1 John 3:14).

6. we have assurance of salvation if we are conscious of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. “By this we know that he [God] abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:24).

7. We have assurance of salvation if we strive to live as Jesus did. “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6).

8. We have assurance of salvation if we continue to hold to the message of Jesus Christ and the New Testament apostles. “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

9. We have assurance of salvation if we long and hope for Jesus Christ’s return. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

In our family reading of the article we discussed if one or all of the ways had to be true for a person to have assurance of salvation. I’d be interested in hearing in a comment on this post what you think.

Perseverance – Part 1: The Believer’s Security

In view of the Biblical teaching that the security of the believer depends on a living relationship with Christ Jesus (John 15:6), in view of the Bible’s call to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:16; Hebrews 12:14); in view of the clear teaching that a man may have his part taken out of the Book of Life (Revelation 22:19); and in view of the fact that one who believes for a while can fall away (Luke 8:13); The General Council of the Assemblies of God disapproves of the unconditional security position which holds that it is impossible for a person once saved to be lost (Assemblies of God bylaws, Article VIII, Section 1; quoted at The Security of the Believer).

For the past ten months my family and I have been reading from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our after-breakfast Bible reading. Currently we’re reading what he says about the doctrine of salvation. We’ve already read what he says about election, the Gospel call, conversion, regeneration, justification, adoption, and sanctification. We’re now considering perseverance or eternal security. After doing so we’ll read what Grudem says about death and glorification.

In my May 24 “The Order of Salvation” post, I said that instead of reading what Grudem says about perseverance or eternal security in “Chapter 40: The Perseverance of the Saints (Remaining a Christian)” we’d read an article from The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version (edited by Donald C. Stamps and J. Wesley Adams. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992), “Assurance of Salvation” (page 1982). However before we read it, we read an Assemblies of God position paper on the believer’s security, “The Security of the Believer.” Here I’ll share from it. In my next post I’ll share from “Assurance of Salvation.”

The reason for our reading “The Security of the Believer” and “Assurance of Salvation” instead of Grudem’s “Chapter 40: The Perseverance of the Saints (Remaining a Christian)” is that, like the Assemblies of God (see the quotation with which I opened this post), the denomination which my family and I are members of disapproves of “the extreme so-called Eternal Security teaching” (General Constitution and By-Laws, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, June 1998, page 62) presented by Grudem.

“The Security of the Believer” opens with the quotation with which I opened this post. It goes on to explain the position taken in the quotation under four headings:
1. Salvation is available for every man.
2. Salvation is received and kept by faith.
3. Continued sin will adversely affect the believer’s faith.
4. The believer’s salvation is forfeited by rejecting Christ.

Here I’ll just provide for each of the four statements a few Biblical passages supporting the statement. For explanations of the statements see The Security of the Believer. Feel free to post comments here on them, remembering the policy of Open Theism expressed in its About: “when I created Open Theism, I observed that it was not intended for advanced discussion of open theism or for arguments between supporters and opponents of open theism, other sites being available for both of those activities. The same is true regarding the other topics considered in Open Theism. Thus I will approve the publication of only those comments that are made in a non-technical and friendly manner.”

Salvation is available for every man.
– “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16; ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
– “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:11-13; the quotations are from Isaiah 28:16 and Joel 2:32).
– “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Salvation is received and kept by faith.
– “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
– “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).
– “My righteous one shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38, quoting from Habakkuk 2:4).

Continued sin will adversely affect the believer’s faith.
– “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14).
– “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
– “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8).

The believer’s salvation is forfeited by rejecting Christ.
– “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
– “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
– “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20).

“The Security of the Believer” concludes by observing that although the Bible recognizes the possibility of forfeiting one’s salvation, it offers hope for those who do (and all others) in such passages as Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (quoting Joel 2:32).

Sanctification – Part 2: God’s and Our Roles

Sanctification is growth in holiness and likeness to Christ. My family and I are currently studying it guided by Wayne Grudem’s chapter on it in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). In my first post on it I shared from what we read in Grudem about its three stages and noted how my church’s view of it differs from Grudem’s view. In this post I’ll share from what we read in Grudem about God’s and our roles in sanctification, how it affects the whole person, and motives for obeying God.

God’s Role in Sanctification

Recognizing that sanctification is primarily a work of God, Paul told the Thessalonians, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely” (2 Thessalonians 5:23, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). Each of the three Persons of the Godhead is involved.

Two roles of God the Father in sanctification are equipping us to play our role in it and disciplining us as children. The former is referred to in Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will” (Hebrews 13:20-21), and the latter is described in Hebrews 12:5-11.

Two roles of God the Son in sanctification are earning our salvation for us and being an example to us. The former is referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “[Christ] became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” and the latter in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

However it is God the Holy Spirit who works within us to sanctify us. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul encouraged them to “walk by the Spirit” and to be “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16,18) and went on to describe the character traits that Christians display as they grow in sanctification as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our Role in Sanctification

Our role in sanctification is both passive, depending on God to sanctify us, and active, striving to increase our sanctification. The passive role that we play in sanctification is seen in Romans 6:13, “Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” And the active role that we play in it is seen in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

The New Testament doesn’t suggest any shortcuts by which we can grow in sanctification but just encourages us to follow the traditional means of Bible reading and meditation, prayer, worship, witnessing, Christian fellowship, and self-discipline. Grudem gives references for each. Ask in a comment on this post if you’d like me to provide them.

An old hymn emphasizes the importance of both our passive dependence on God to sanctify us and our active striving for holiness by saying, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Sanctification Affects the Whole Person

Sanctification affects our intellect and knowledge. “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge, after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10).

It affects our emotions. We will increasingly display such emotions as “love, joy, peace” (Galations 5:22).

It affects our spirit, our nonphysical part. “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

It affects our physical body. See 2 Corinthians 7:1 above.

Motives for Obeying God

Certainly the key motive for obeying God is to show our love to Him. Jesus told the twelve, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” and “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:15,21).

However the Bible gives many other motives for obeying Him, Grudem’s listing these and citing Bible passages for them (ask in a comment on this post if you’d like me to provide them):

(2) the need to keep a clear conscience before God… (3) the desire to be a “vessel for noble use” and have increased effectiveness in the work of the kingdom… (4) the desire to see unbelievers come to Christ through oberving our lives… (5) the desire to receive present blessings from God on our lives and ministries… (6) the desire to avoid God’s displeasure and discipline on our lives… (7) the desire to seek greater heavenly reward… (8) the desire for a deeper walk with God… (9) the desire that angels would glorify God for our obedience… (10) the desire for peace… and (11) the desire to do what God commands, simply because his commands are right, and we delight in doing what is right (pages 757-58).

Sanctification – Part 1: Its Three Stages

Sanctification is growth in holiness and likeness to Christ. My family and I are currently studying it guided by Wayne Grudem’s chapter on it in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share from what we’ve read in Grudem about its three stages and I’ll note how my church’s view of sanctification differs from Grudem’s view.

The Three Stages of Sanctification

Sanctification has a definite beginning when we are born again. Bible passages indicating this include:
– “He [God] saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
– “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).

Sanctification increases throughout our Christian lives. Bible passages indicating this include:
– “Just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:19).
– “We all…are being transformed into the same image [the image of God] from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Sanctification is completed at death for our souls and when Jesus returns for our bodies. Bible passages indicating this include:
– “You have come to Mount Zion…to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23; souls).
– “From it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

My Church’s View of Sanctification

I attend a church that is part of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAONL), which includes this item in its “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths”:

Entire sanctification is the will of God for all believers, and should be earnestly pursued by walking in obedience to God’s Word (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15,16; 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24; 1 John 2:6). In experience, this is both instantaneous and progressive. It is wrought out in the life of the believer by his appropriation of the power of Christ’s blood and risen life through the person of the Holy Spirit, as set forth in the Word of God. (General Constitution and By-Laws, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, June 1998, page 7)

To understand what the item means by “instantaneous” and “progressive” sanctification, I reread Stanley M. Horton’s “The Pentecostal Perspective” in Five Views on Sanctification (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1987).

About instantaneous sanctification Horton says, “By Christ’s sacrifice, sinful persons are put into perfect relationship with God. We are sanctified, dedicated, consecrated, set apart for God and for His worship and service. As we walk with Jesus in simple faith, we are made partakers of the fruit of His obedience. We are set free to do God’s will” (page 116). Among the Bible passages that he cites are:
– “Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
– “By that will [the will of God accomplished in Christ] we have been sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Horton begins his consideration of progressive sanctification by citing several Bible passages that show that it is needed, such as Paul’s addressing the Corinthians as “people of the flesh [and] infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1) and his many exhortations to grow in grace including “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…be renewed in the spirit of your minds…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteosness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Horton then describes continuous sanctification in much the same way as I describe it in the first half of this post and in my next post.

Although I appreciate from Horton’s account of the debate over holiness which took place among early Pentecostals why the PAONL refers to “instantaneous” and “progressive” sanctification in the item which I quoted above from its “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths,” I find it easier to include “instantaneous” sanctification in justification and to limit sanctification to “progressive” sanctification, as Grudem does. Thus I’m limiting our family reading about sanctification to what Grudem says about it. However I welcome here comments favouring the PAONL position as well as those favouring Grudem’s view.

Adoption

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)

Adoption is an act of God in which He makes us members of His family. In the past few days my family and I have been considering in our after-breakfast Bible reading what Wayne Grudem says about it in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share some of what we read.

Some passages in the Bible referring to adoption besides the passage with which I opened this post, Galatians 4:4-7, are:
– “But to all who did receive him [the true light, Jesus Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
– “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).
– “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:26).
– “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

Although we are God’s children now (“Beloved, we are God’s children now,” John 3:2), there is a sense in which we do not receive all the benefits of adoption until Christ returns and we receive our resurrection bodies, as Paul observes in Romans 8:23, “Not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

After considering the Biblical evidence for adoption, Grudem explains how adoption follows conversion and is distinct from regeneration and justification. He affirms that John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26, both of which I’ve quoted above, “make it clear that adoption follows conversion and is God’s response to our faith” (page 738). And he observes that God could have made us spiritually alive (regeneration) and forgiven our sins and made us legally righteous before Him (justification) without making us His children, concluding, “It is important to realize this because it helps us to recognize how great are our privileges in adoption” (page 739).

What are our privileges in adoption? Grudem identifies the following:
– We are able to speak to God and to relate to Him as a Father.
– As our Father God not only takes care of our needs but also gives us good gifts, including the Holy Spirit, and an inheritance in Heaven. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:11; see also Luke 11:13) and “He has caused us to be born again … to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
– As His children we can receive daily forgiveness for our sins which disrupt our relationship with Him. “Our Father in heaven … forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:9,12).
– We can be led by the Holy Spirit. See Romans 8:14, quoted above.
– God disciplines us as His children. “[When He disciplines you] God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … he disciplines us for our own good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7,10).
– God allows us to share in Christ’s suffering and glory. See Romans 8:17, quoted above.
– We have a family relationship with other Christians. They are our “brothers” and “sisters.”

As usual we discussed the questions for personal application provided at the end of the chapter by Grudem. This time there were six of us taking part in the discussion, my daughter and son-in-law (Allison and Andy) being with us on their annual visit from Nebraska. Here I’ll refer to just one thing that came out in our discussion of those questions. Before reading the chapter, we’d associated with our being born again (regeneration) some of the privileges that Grudem associates with adoption. However we now can see how they, except possibly sharing in Christ’s suffering and glory, come with our becoming children of God rather than automatically being ours because of our being born again.

Justification

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:27-28, KJV; all Biblical quotations are from the KJV.)

What is justification? Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology my family and I are reading in our after-breakfast Bible reading, defines it as having two elements, the first’s involving God’s forgiving our sins and imputing Christ’s righteousness to us and the second’s involving God’s declaring us righteous in His sight. He considers the two elements in reverse order. I’ll share some of what he says here.

Some passages from the Bible which show that “justify” can have the meaning “to declare righteous” are:
– “If there be a controversy between men, and they come into judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked” (Deuteronomy 25:1). Clearly “justify” means “declare to be not guilty” just as “condemn” means “declare to be guilty.”
– “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). Again “justifieth” and “condemneth” clearly mean respectively “declares to be not guilty” and “declares to be guilty.”
– “And all the people that heard him [Jesus], and the publicans, justified God, being batized with the baptism of John” (Luke 7:29). God’s already being righteous, obviously the people declared, not made, Him righteous.
– “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” (Romans 8:33-34.) Since “justifieth” is contrasted with “condemneth,” which means “declares guilty,” it must mean “declares not guilty.”

Some passages from the Bible which indicate that God’s declaring us righteous in His sight involves His declaring our sins to be forgiven and His declaring Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to us are:
– “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2, quoted in Romans 4:7-8; sins forgiven).
– “There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1; sins forgiven).
– “He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10; righteousness imputed).
– “The righteousness of God is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ [literally, through faith in Jesus Christ] unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:21-22; righteousness imputed).

God’s declaring us righteous comes to us entirely by God’s grace, without any merit in us, and is received by faith.Some passages in the Bible which assert this are:
– “By deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:20,22-23; grace).
– “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9; grace).
– “[God is] the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26; faith).
– “A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ [literally, through faith in Jesus Christ], even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ [literally, by faith in Christ], and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16; faith).

Martin Luther’s recognition and proclamation of justification by faith alone sparked the Protestant Reformation. However the Roman Catholic Church still holds that salvation depends on acceptance of its teachings and adherence to its practices as well as on faith in Jesus Christ, and even some Protestants hold that it depends on good works as well as on faith. Grudem affirms that “a right understanding of justification [namely, what I’ve described above] is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith” and describes the basing of salvation on good works as a “false gospel” (page 722; see pages 728-29 for a description of traditional Roman Catholicism).

But what about James 2:24, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone”? The context reveals that James is addressing the teaching that a simple profession of faith is enough and that it doesn’t matter how a person lives as long as he or she makes that profession. He argues that a true faith will manifest itself in love towards our neighbours and other good works. Calvin comments on the verse, “A man is not justified by faith alone–that is, only by a bare and empty awareness of God. He is justified by works–that is, his righteousness is known and approved by his works” (A Harmony of the Gospels…Volume III and The Epistles of James and Jude, translated by A. W. Morrison, Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1972, page 286). He concludes, “We agree that good works are required of righteousness, but we do not allow them the power of conferring it, since at God’s tribunal they must draw back (page 287). Both Grudem (pages 731-32) and I agree.

Grudem concludes his consideration of justification by pointing out two practical implications of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It “enables us to offer genuine hope to unbelievers who know that they could never make themselves righteous before God” and “gives us confidence that God will never make us pay the penalty for sins that have been forgiven on Christ’s merits” (page 732).

Regeneration

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:3-8, KJV; all other Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)

Regeneration is the act by which God gives us a new and better spiritual life and, as in the above passage, is generally referred to as being born again. It follows the Gospel call and conversion and is accompanied by justification and adoption. For the past few days my family and I have been considering it in our after-breakfast Bible reading time guided by Chapter 34, “Regeneration,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994).

Regeneration fulfils the promise that God made to Israel through Ezekiel, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). However, as suggested by John 3:8 (see the quotation with which I opened this post), how God does this is a mystery to us.

In most cases when adults become Christians, there is a clearly recognizable time when the person is regenerated. “The results can usually be seen at once–a heartfelt trusting in Christ for salvation, an assurance of sins forgiven, a desire to read the Bible and pray…, a delight in worship, a desire for Christian fellowship, a sincere desire to be obedient to God’s Word in Scripture, and a desire to tell others about Christ” (Grudem, page 701). However we can’t always identify when regeneration occurs. For example, children growing up in a Christian home may not display a radical change from sinner to saint.

Nevertheless that regeneration has occurred can be seen by its results, which include:
– A person who has been regenerated lives a life free of continual sin. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).
– A person who has been regenerated is enabled to overcome the pressures and temptations of the world that would keep him or her from obeying God’s commandments. “His [God’s] commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:3-4).
– A person who has been regenerated is protected from Satan. “Everyone who has been born of God does not keep sinning, but he who was born of God [Jesus Christ] protects him, and the evil one [Satan] does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).
– A person who has been regenerated manifests the fruit of the Spirit–“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 6:22-23).