f The Wittenberg Door: Is Sanctification By Faith Alone?

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Sanctification By Faith Alone?


We contribute nothing, save sin, to our justification. We do, however, participate in our sanctification. Unlike justification, sanctification is not by faith alone. Kevin DeYoung reminds us of this distinction in a post over at the Gospel Coalition site. He begins his piece by answering the question, Is sanctification by faith alone?

The short answer is no. Though it sounds very Protestant, it is not correct to say “sanctification is by faith alone.”

That requires some explanation.

In saying sanctification is not by faith alone, I’m not saying the work we do is somehow owing to us and not to God. He works in and we work out. But if we say sanctification is by faith alone, aren’t we severely reducing what we mean by saying justification is by faith alone? It was the mistake of Catholics to inadequately distinguish between justification and sanctification. If in trying to honor justification by faith alone we provide the same formula for sanctification, we are destroying the former as much as the latter.

You can read the entire post here.

--The Catechizer

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We do not contribute to our sanctification. Both the Scottish Confession and Westminster Confession (16.3) teach that sanctification is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. Our 'effort' does not contribute to our sanctification anymore than our repentance contributes to our justification.

8:44 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer and The Deacon said...

“Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of his good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”

I don’t know enough about the Scottish Confession to comment, but you are incorrect regarding the Westminster Confession. The above portion is the one you claimed teaches that sanctification is entirely the work of the Spirit. It does not. Instead, it teaches that the Spirit enables us to do good works, and it goes on to teach that those works are not meritorious (even contrasting it with supererogation). Chapter 13 is the section on sanctification. There you’ll find that we do indeed participate in our sanctification (just read the verbs applied to us).

I’m curious, though, did you even read the article to which I linked? It lays out the case clearly. If you did, where did you find fault?

5:36 AM  
Anonymous Kyle Ferguson said...

I'm not suggesting that we do not participate. The error that your post, and Kevin DeYoung's makes, is that you have made involvement synonymous with 'contribute' or in DeYoung's case, effort synonymous with effect. The Westminster Confession Chapter 13 also never mentions any 'effect' or 'contribution' from a persons effort. Rather, the 'effect' or 'contribution' to holiness is entirely the work of the spirit "by the spirit" and I pursue and participate in sanctification in faith that it is the Spirit which is effecting holiness in me. If I 'contribute' or if my effort has the 'effect' then my faith and confidence can be partly in my effort and I should get some credit for my contribution. If, however, the 'effect' and 'contribution' is entirely the work of the spirit, then I pursue sanctification in faith that God is at work in me (Philippians 2:12, Colossians 1:29, Acts 26:18)

Consider the doctrine of preservation. Who preserves? God in His grace, yet I am called to persevere. Justification? God's in His grace, yet I am called to repent. Preaching? Power lies entirely in the Word of God through the Spirit, yet I am called to proclaim. Evangelism? Entirely the power of the Spirit to change hearts, yet I am called to witness. Power of Communion? Entirely the spirit, yet I partake by faith. Participation does not mean contribution. Effort does not mean effect. Faith without works is dead, and I work out my faith in the 'effect' and 'complete contribution' of God to my holiness. In this way, sanctification by faith in no way goes against my participation but it does correct the notion that I, with my imperfect, sin affected effort, in some way contributed or affected my holiness. That is entirely the work of God.

In DeYoung's posts, he says we see many Christians give no effort. Yet Martin Lloyd Jones says if we see no 'evidence' and I would suggest this includes effort, we don't call for effort, we question whether they are really Christians. If, however, I participate in the means of grace and pursue holiness out of faith that God is going to use them entirely by His Spirit to sanctify me, then my very participation is an evidence of my faith and God's work with in me, even if He is the one who does it all. All of which to say, my participation is not a contribution, but an act of faith.

8:55 AM  
Blogger The Catechizer and The Deacon said...

Kyle, I think we agree in principle. You make a good point regarding “participate” vs “contribute,” so I’ve updated the post. I appreciate you taking the time to weigh-in.

--Shawn

7:23 AM  

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