November 3, 1991
First Document: Views
1. Sanctification is that work of God within the regenerate person through the indwelling Holy Spirit, in which the believer by faith grows into the image of Christ and displays the fruit of the Spirit. The imputed righteous of Christ comes at conversion, but the actual righteousness in daily behavior comes through sanctification in which the believer is made pure in life. One is set apart to God (positionally sanctified) at the time of conversion, and grows to Christ-likeness during life (moral sanctification).
2. All Christians believe in sanctification, but there is more than one view on how it works within the believer. Each view has a contribution and an emphasis which the other traditions should understand and appreciate. None of them are the owners of a perfect explanation of the process of sanctification.
3. One view encourages every believer to thirst and hunger for righteousness in its complete form of human perfection. This tradition challenges the Church to set aside lesser pursuits and to focus on the question, "What will make me holy?" It calls us strongly to the centrality and power of love. This view treats seriously God's call to holiness, and emphasizes the grace of God and His intention of making us holy.
4. Christ commanded us to pursue this ultimate goal, but no one but Christ has ever or will ever reach the goal of perfect conformity to the perfect standard of Christ-likeness until they arrive in heaven and are made perfect. The hope of having all indwelling sin disappear during this life is unscriptural and will lead to great disappointment when the struggle for righteousness continues for a life time. The Spirit and the flesh will always be in a war until we are full renewed in heaven and receive a resurrection body.
5. A second view emphasizes a type of "crisis" experience which unleashes God's power for service and sanctification, giving total conviction of the reality of God and deepened intimacy with God. It also teaches that a "process" follows the "crisis", in which the believer grows in Christ-likeness through cooperation with the indwelling Holy Spirit and the application of the Word of God. This view reminds us that God is sovereign and He should not be put in any human box. God's power often came mysteriously and suddenly, with instantaneous evidence of miraculous power. Other strengths are the emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, and the conviction that a high degree of sanctification is possible in this life. Sanctification is not just the renewing of the mind but of the entire person, including emotions.
6. Sanctification does have its "crisis" moments when the Spirit works faster and deeper than usual in revival. Sanctification, however, does not depend on one particular Scriptural "crisis" which believers must experience to grow in holiness. Such a view tends to separate Christians into "haves" and "have-nots". The seeking of a particular experience repeatedly, in order to confirm one's relationship with God, puts faith in that experience rather than in God and His Word. This can lead in some cases to faking spiritual experience, or identifying an emotional experience with the work of God. Christian joy needs to be differentiated from emotionalism, and from flip triviality. Also to be avoided are short cuts to sanctification such as inner healing or demonic deliverance.
7. God's power should never be minimized but the gifts of the Spirit are not evidence of sanctification. God gives the gifts sovereignly and their effective use depends upon their godly use. Baalam, Judas and the Corinthians had miraculous displays, but they lived fleshly or ungodly lives. Hungering for experiential dramatic moments often leads to unbalanced and undisciplined living. Such experiences as being "slain in the Spirit" are not commended by Scripture as a means to holiness. Seeking dynamic personal relationship with God, however, should be the hunger and thirst of every believer.
8. A Third view softens the holiness of the first view and softens the crisis of the second view. It teaches a "crisis followed by a process." The crisis is a total act of dedication which is followed by a process of growth. The victorious life is gained not by eradicating the sin nature, but by "counteracting" it like a plane that overcomes gravity. The fully dedicated believer moved into a higher realm, and can overcome the downward pull of sin by the upward power of the Spirit. Sanctification thus involves the "exchanged life" of trusting God for the ability to live righteously. Strengths of this view include its emphasis on the believers identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, the seriousness with which it treats sin, and its stress on the need for surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
9. In this view, effort, struggle, or striving to endure are at best ineffective, since believers cannot change until God changes them. One should therefore wait for God's working and refuse to engage the personal will. This is not self-annihilation, but it may be a passivism which is really the abandonment of responsibility. Such a passive-ism which does not see the believer's active involvement of heart, will and mind falls short of seeking first the kingdom of God and pursuing holiness. This view often promises too much sanctification this side of heaven, teaching that total surrender to Christ leads to effortless victory and the end of the struggle with sin. Since the crisis experience is central, what is one to do with the sin that remains in their life?
10. We all need God's power and to live fully dedicated lives. It can be misleading to think that one is literally completely filled with the Spirit or completely fleshly, completely "spiritual" or completely "carnal". The reality of sanctification is that it is progressive and partial. Motives are not perfect or utterly evil, but mixed, and the amount of the godliness in motives reflects the extent that sanctification that has been attained. Believers are simultaneously strong in some areas and weak in others. In each area a level of sanctification short of perfection is present. "Letting go and letting God" can correctly describe the abandonment of self trust, and the fact that we can do nothing without Christ. The believer, however, must actively cooperate with the grace of God, and strive according to God's might.
11. A variation on view three softens the crisis experience still more. The Christian needs to abide in Christ to bear fruit and enjoy the abundant life that Christ offers. This is possible through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and can be experienced by dedicating one's life to the Lord, and being filled with the Spirit. Such an experience may come at any time, but is usually subsequent to conversion. While lack of growth may be due to disobedience or lack of faith, many Christians fail to experience this "Spirit-filled life" because of ignorance, striving instead to please God in their own power. The major difference between this and view three is that sanctification is seen as a process in which the believer takes an active part, through the use of means (the spiritual disciplines). This view seeks to do justice to the Biblical balance on the role of God and man in sanctification.
12. A major weakness of this view is that it makes sanctification an optional, not necessary, result of justification. Justification is understood as the result of an initial, passive acceptance of Christ as Savior. Sanctification then is the result of an active process, which begins with a subsequent dedication to Christ as Lord. A believer may go through their whole life and never surrender to the Lordship of Christ. There is thus the acceptance of carnality as an (admittedly bad) option. This view tends to forget that all those who are justified are also regenerate, resulting in a new spiritual orientation away from sin and towards God, which will naturally result in changed behavior.
13. A fifth view puts the most emphasis on the process and the means of sanctification. While it is God who causes growth in holiness, He does this by working through the believer's everyday actions, through the individual's thoughts, words, and deeds. The spiritual disciplines (e.g prayer, Bible study, meditation, service, fasting, obedience) thus play a major role in sanctification. As believers walk with God each day in humble submission, they are renewed little by little into the image of Christ. This view emphasizes that Scripture brings sanctification through the renewal of the mind, and stresses faith rather than feelings. It emphasizes the purity of God and the sinfulness of man.
14. This emphasis can result in gloomy and morbid believers without the equal emphasis on the grace of God over all of our sin. It may refuse to see what is victorious or joyful, intent instead on pointing out the sin in everything. This often leads to a self-righteousness, which may be cold and unevangelistic. An excessive forensic emphasis may replace the family relationship with God and others. The doctrine of election and overemphasis on the sovereignty of God can lead to a denigration of the individual.
15. The study and memorization of Scripture are means of developing faith, but knowledge alone does not produce godliness. The role of Scripture is a needed emphasis in our day, but must not lead to the pride that often comes with knowledge. Disciplined devotional regiment, fasting or lengthy prayer can promote sanctification, but as an end in itself the result will be knowledge and pride. This view may lead to a legalism which amounts to sanctification by works, and it often fails to give adequate place to the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. Striving to live up to the law of God is a result of loving God, but the believer cannot view his relationship or acceptance with God as based in anything but God's free grace.
16. A sixth view stresses that for those who have eyes to see, everything is sacred. All of life becomes an experience of the supernatural, which constantly breaks through into this world, destroying the boundaries between the sacred and the secular. Believers are to love God with all their being, and to do all to His glory. The goal and desire is union with God, and life must be lived in such a way to facilitate this. This does not mean one expects miracles or ecstasy every day, but believers are to live in light of eternity, transformed by their relationship with the Lord. This view may limit the hope of real sanctification to the select few. It also tends to become legalistic and works oriented.
17. Meditation on the Scripture is a healthy discipline, but mystical contemplation that claims union with God outside of the Scripture leads ultimately to replacing the truth with one's inward feelings. The Word and the Spirit also work in dynamic organic unity. The Word without the Spirit is a dead letter. The Spirit without the Word leads to wayward fanaticism or lawlessness.
18. The believer must seek a balance between the heart and mind. The Scriptural goal for believer is to think like adults, but believe like children. Simple childlike faith must be united with complex adult thinking about the content of our faith. Each view would do well to look to the other traditions for examples of how to be either more childlike or more adult-like, and bring their own tradition into a more Scriptural balance.
19. Sanctification is obeying by faith every commandment of God believing that the requisite power will be supplied no matter how one feels. Every step of faith-obedience brings a measure of growth or sanctification. Every step makes us more able to put away sin and to put on Christ. Every sin makes it easier to fall deeper into the clinging web of sin. Sin stops growth and if not repented of will turn into backsliding. Every step of faith increases the speed of sanctification, but will never eliminate the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit.
20. The sanctification story of every individual has elements that are common with all other Christians. Sanctification begins with conversion, must be lived by faith, guided by the Scripture, empowered by the Spirit for enablement and is based in the death and resurrection of Christ. For each believer there will also be unique elements that were used by God to being them to dedication, faith and repentance. These unique and personal elements must never be taught as a pattern or paradigm of how God will work in the lives of others.
21. The church plays a key role in sanctification. This is opposed to isolated sanctification apart from relationship. We grow in Christ-likeness in the body, not apart from it. Fulfilling the first commandment results in fulfilling the second one too.
22. Role of Holy Spirit.
23. Optimism of grace.
24. The primary motivation to pursue godliness is love for God, and the desire to please Him, not the fear of the negative consequences of sin. Law and consequences oriented teaching on sanctification undermines the biblical teaching on regeneration. The believer's true nature is oriented towards God and away from sin. At conversion a person's basic orientation changes. One's character changes as they obey.
25. Legalism may lead to a fear to act, lest one sin.
26. There is a type of angry attitude which is often associated with self-righteousness. This is opposed to the gentleness which is commanded in 1 Peter 3:15-16. An angry, prophetic temperament.
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