Believer, You Are Being Graciously Sanctified

If any part of our salvation (justification, sanctification, glorification) is by works, then it is not by grace (Rom 11:6).

As those who have been united to Christ we ought not, we may not live as if we have not died with Christ to sin, as if we have not been raised from the dead. We ought to, we must present ourselves to God as the offerings we are, “as instruments of righteousness.” Sin no longer dominates us because Christ conquered it on the cross. A decisive break has been accomplished.

 

An HB reader writes to ask “in what senses are we under the covenant of works?” I reply

Christians are in no sense under the covenant of works for our standing with God or for our salvation. Our justification and our sanctification are by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide).  It is not as some seem to be suggesting that our salvation is begun by grace but is ultimately completed by works. This is a false gospel that Paul himself repudiated in Galatians 3:1–6:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (ESV)

If any part of our salvation (justification, sanctification, glorification) is by works, then it is not by grace (Rom 11:6). These are two inimical principles in salvation. The very idea of a “two-stage” salvation (by grace now, by works then) is a flat repudiation of Paul’s explicit teaching in Galatians 3. When he says “Spirit” in v. 3 he is saying “grace.” None of us was regenerated (brought to spiritual life) by works. We were regenerated by grace alone. In regeneration the Spirit also gave us faith and through faith justified us, adopted us, and united us to Christ. It cannot be that what the Spirit began (by unconditional sovereign grace) we are to complete by works. In the apostolic period Paul applied this principle to the existence of supernatural gifts. They were not by works but by grace. Our entire Christian life is not by works but by grace.

This is the burden of Paul’s teaching especially in Romans 6:12-19:

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For 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 (ESV; emphasis added).

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