How a Desire to Be Sanctified Testifies to Our Justification
While it may seem odd to take all three of these at once after giving so much space to justification there is a sense in which it is helpful to see the way the fruits of regeneration brought about by the application of the righteousness of Jesus Christ to the believer work themselves out in time. Each benefit aids us to better understand not only why effectually calling is effectual, but to know that those who claim Christ as their own are by necessity moved in a way that if there is no real change of mind and body it proves their confession to be one of Judas or Alexander the Coppersmith. To quote Matthew 5:14, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”.
Part of the work of the keys of the kingdom possessed by elders in the church is to examine those seeking membership, either by transfer or by a blessedly new confession of faith. The purpose of the interview is two-fold: 1) It is to protect the flock of Christ from those who may enter in under false pretenses (see Simon Magus), and 2) to protect the individual themselves from making a vow they cannot keep (see Simon Magus). Our form of government in the ARP in Ch. 4.5 notes:
Applicants received by profession of faith into church membership shall be examined by the Session in private with regard to a knowledge of their spiritual need, their faith in Jesus Christ, and their intention to be obedient to Him.
This responsibility is a serious one. To help us to better understand what that all means we have before us today three Q/A’s:
Q. 74: What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow heirs with Christ in glory.
Q. 75: What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.
Q. 76: What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.
There are many aspects of adoption that could take up our time, but the one I want to focus on illustrates for us well the point made above about the work of the body of Christ and her officers. In Q. 74 it is said that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are in adoption, “. . . under his fatherly care and dispensations . . .”. One of the things we believe is that the Church is not an accidental part of the plan of God. It is purposefully created in order to shepherd and disciple the sheep and encourage them forward in life, even to life eternal. God in His grace has granted us means by which to mature and be conformed to the image of His Son. Our adoption into the family and receiving the title of sons and daughters includes what Paul will describe as church discipline. We often only have a negative reaction to such a term, but Calvin called it a mark of a true church, one that maintains the call of God for His Son’s bride. Its purpose is, “. . . that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. ”. (Eph. 5:27). Seeing that the people under their care might be seeking where sin might lie in their hearts and lives and then putting it to death is a central part of the life of an elder as well as a minister, at least those who love their flock.
That’s why sanctification follows adoption. There is a natural 1:1 correspondence between the two primarily because those who are brought into the family by the love of God and granted His name will necessarily take on the activities of the house and follow the rules of the manor. As Q.75 notes, “. . . those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life . . .”. God desires our being cleansed and smartly dressed, taking off the dirty rags of our pauper existence and experiencing the richness of habitation inside the palace grounds of the king. We do that in this life through the work of the Spirit and the means of His grace. Sanctification and Repentance Unto Life are spurred on through the preaching of the Bible on the Lord’s Day, regular study in the word, and through seeking that turning in prayer and Christian conversation with other believers.
In closing, while we most certainly agree and confess that sanctification is as much a work of God as justification there is an understanding that the Spirit delivers us from the stain and power of sin in our current time and place and through that we “co-operate” in the sense that we show forth the reality of our justification in the heart moving desire to be sanctified and deal with our remaining sin. An unconcerned “Christian” is a non-Christian. A “Christian” who actively refuses to attend to the worship of Christ knows not the Father of the House, but rather sadly is under the sway of a different prince, and needs the gospel in its fullness that he/she may see the error of their false trust and come and rest in Jesus, who alone is able to save the lost.
This grieving for and hating of sin in the heart is part and parcel of those who are justified, saved, redeemed, and loved by the Beloved.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church