Gospel Mystery of Sanctification
Over the weekend I read one of the finest, if not the finest, treatments on sanctification I have ever run across. The title of the book is The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ by Walter Marshall (written in 1692). Since the topic of sanctification has historically generated so many errors and convoluted ideas among Christians: acetecism, legalism, perfectionism, mysticism, higher life and antinomianism, there are actually very few books on sanctification worth recommending. But this rare exception places the gospel and union with Christ front and center as the key to true sanctification.
Sanctification is the process of conformity to the image of Jesus Christ, something all Christians are called to. Whether we are obligated to obey God's law and live in holiness is not really debatable. The question is - how do we actually do it?
Many schemes give a kind of lip service to grace and union with Christ but fail to put this into practice to empower holiness in the Christian life. Just as the gospel proclaims we must lose of all self-confidence if we are to be saved, so also dispairing of our own ability (and rather live in union with Christ) is key to growing in grace. Unfortunately many today are claiming that salvation by grace through faith alone leads to sinful living and so they tell us that we must maintain our justification through our own covenant faithfulness.
But the gospel refutes this error ...."The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:15-17). Paul told the Ephesians that, after they had believed, "they were sealed with the Holy Spirit, who was the down payment of their inheritance" (Eph 1:13-14). They were sealed right at the time the believed the gospel. Now, why does the Spirit testify that you are a child of God? Why does the Spirit enable you to cry "Abba, Father?" Is it because you are so qualified in yourself? No! The Holy Spirit places this assurance in you. He gives you saving faith. He enables you to understand that you are God's adopted child. He enables you to call God Father, without looking to your own qualifications (for indeed, you have none!). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of comfort and adoption to all who receive Him. You assurance of faith does not depend on your own sincerity. It depends upon the testimony of the Holy Spirit in your heart. pp. 137
"It is not humility to live in a state of doubt about your salvation. It is proud disobedience, because you will not submit to the sufficiency of Christ and His promise. [In this case] You think that the assurance of salvation really depends on you - not upon Christ." pp. 134
The gospel not only delivers from hell but also delivers from the bondage to sin. Not only does it forgive the sinner but sets him on a course of holiness. And the only way to keep the law is through union with Christ. Only the gospel itself can bring about or produce obedience with a glad heart. We must look to the cross both to save AND to sanctify. Not only are we saved by grace through faith, completely apart from works, but also we are given the ability to live holy lives by that same grace.
It is my belief that if pastors would preach sanctification after the patern of the Bible, as elucidated in this book, the church would benefit immensely.
To learn more about this book, click here