Great title (wish I’d thought of it).

Great writer (wish I had Tullian’s talent).

Great quotables (wish I could remember them all).

But also great confusion (and I really wish I didn’t have to say that).

I benefitted from reading Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Tullian Tchividjian writes beautifully about Christ’s sufficiency, and is especially skillful at exposing legalism and explaining justification. Each time I read the book, I was brought to a new love for Christ and a new appropriation of and appreciation for justification.

Tullian also models how to apply the Gospel to very painful life situations, not just to the beginning of spiritual life but to all of life. He’s amazingly honest about his own character flaws and personal failings, but that does allow him to demonstrate the way the Gospel relates to his life and transforms it. I hope I can model that transparency a bit better in my own life and ministry. It probably comes easier to a surfer than a Scot!

I also benefitted from Tullian’s emphasis on the need to found sanctification on justification, the need to base daily growth on the daily preaching of the Gospel to oneself. Too often we separate these, and I’ve been guilty of this at times as well.

So, thank you Tullian. These are not small achievements. You’ve done the church a great service.

And let me say that I also love Tullian’s enthusiasm for Christ. Although I will express some concerns about this book, I do believe that most people who read the book will catch Tullian’s infectious Gospel enthusiasm and be the better for it. I know I did and am.

However, I’m concerned about three confusions at the heart of Tullian’s book.

  • The confusion between justification and sanctification
  • The confusion between personal experience and universal experience
  • The confusion between standing with God and enjoyment of God

I’ll deal with the first confusion today and the others in the next couple of days.

I do believe there is a fundamental confusion in this book between justification and sanctification. More specifically, the confusion is between justification and the outworkings of sanctification (not the basis or beginnings of it).

I doubt anyone could do a better job of explaining justification and its benefits as Tullian. Also, as I’ve said above, Tullian is very clear on the need to found or base sanctification on justification. Instead of beginning with “I resolve…” we must begin by igniting the rocket fuel of justification.

However, it’s when Tullian lifts off the rocket launcher and into the realm of what sanctification looks like in ordinary everyday life that confusion begins to arise.

Maybe I can sum up my concerns by highlighting a phrase in the Shorter Catechism’s unrivalled definition of sanctification (which I would imagine Tullian’s church also adheres to).

Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

The work of God’s free grace in us enables us to die to sin and live to righteousness. In contrast to justification, which is accomplished for us with no reference to what we’ve done or not done, sanctification involves our not doing certain things and doing certain things, all by God’s enabling grace.

The problem in Tullian’s book is that he keeps sliding from sanctification to justification. For example, here he is writing about a wrong view of sanctification, but ends up saying things that are only true about justification.

I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on. Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an advocate, mediator, and friend. But what we need most is a substitute—someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves. (94, Kindle Edition)

I agree that the Gospel is certainly a message about Christ’s external substitution. But it does not stop there. The Gospel is also a message about internal transformation (a major part of sanctification). Christ saves us from our sins objectively and subjectively, from the penalty of sin and the presence of sin.

In this next excerpt, Tullian says that Christian growth (sanctification) is looking away from self and looking to Jesus and His performance for us. But is that the whole of sanctification? It’s certainly the essence of justifying faith, and the beginning of sanctifying growth. But it’s not the whole of growth, it’s not the sum of sanctification.

The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective. (95)

In this next paragraph, the confusing overlapping is even more obvious:

Again, think of it this way: sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. (95)

If all he is saying is that sanctification begins with our appropriating justification, and is fueled by it, then yes, I agree. But I think he’s going further than that, by suggesting that the totality of sanctification involves going back to our justification. This seems to be confirmed by what he writes in the same context:

Think of what Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” We’ve got work to do—but what exactly is it? Get better? Try harder? Pray more? Get more involved in church? Read the Bible longer? What precisely is Paul exhorting us to do? He goes on to explain: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (v. 13). God works his work in you, which is the work already accomplished by Christ. Our hard work, therefore, means coming to a greater understanding of his work. And so it is that we move further into the gospel, into a deeper, bigger, brighter understanding of all that God has already achieved for us in Christ. (95-96)

Is it correct to say that the “work” that we are called to, and that results from God’s work in us, is simply understanding more, believing more, trusting more? Sure, this is the core of justification, and the foundation and cement of sanctification. But it’s not the whole of sanctification. It’s not every brick of it.

Here are some further quotes that only heightened my anxiety about Tullian’s emphasis:

Growth in the Christian life is the process of receiving Christ’s “It is finished” into new and deeper parts of our being every day, and it happens as the Holy Spirit daily carries God’s good word of justification into our regions of unbelief—what one writer calls our “unevangelized territories.” (78)

In this definition of growth (sanctification), where is the “being enabled to die to sin, and live to righteousness” as described by the Westminster Catechism? Where is the doing and not doing?

I like to remind myself and others that the only thing you contribute to your salvation and to your sanctification is the sin that makes them necessary. (104)

Contribution to salvation = nil! Yes. Contribution to sanctification = nil! No. We are enabled to die to sin and live to righteousness. We are enabled to do and not do. Our (enabled) doing and not doing is part of our sanctification. For example, when Peter protested his love to Jesus, Jesus told him to start feeding his lambs, which involved stopping doing one thing and starting to do another (John 21).

He urgently wants them to see that we’re justified by grace alone, we’re sanctified by grace alone, and we’re glorified by grace alone. (104)

Again, there is a failure to distinguish what “by grace alone” means in each of these doctrinal categories. In justification, by grace alone means we do nothing. In sanctification, it means we are enabled to do/not do many things.

As G. C. Berkouwer wisely remarked, “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.” (190)

Yes, the heart of sanctification, but not the whole body of it. In this next quote the heart of sanctification, a good grasp of justification, is again made to stand for the whole of it:

Sanctification consists of the daily realization that in Christ we have died and in Christ we have been raised. Life change happens as the heart daily grasps death and life. Daily reformation is the fruit of daily resurrection. (117)

This quote begins to highlight why my concerns are not merely theoretical. Tomorrow I hope to show that this view of sanctification results in an unusual mix of internal activity and external passivity. There’s huge internal activity involving more understanding and more faith, but virtually nothing about dying to sin and living to righteousness outwardly. Tullian seems to assume that if you put the fuel of justification in the tank, outward sanctification takes place automatically (e.g. “Life change happens as the heart daily grasps death and life.”) However, as I hope to show tomorrow, you still have to put your foot on the pedal, your hand on the wheel, and begin to expend some energy to make any spiritual progress.

There are other places in the book where Tullian is much clearer and much more consistent with historic Christian definitions of sanctification. Chapter 10 is probably the best chapter in this regard. But I don’t think you can make up for confusion in such important matters in the majority of the book, by returning to a more accurate explanation in one chapter of it, and in a few other places scattered here and there.

I fear Tullian’s commendable desire to re-connect sanctification with justification (a very necessary message) has led him to conflate them, and identify the one with the other. But maybe he’s also fallen into this mistake by making his own experience a rule for others, something we’ll consider tomorrow.

In summary, though, does Jesus + Nothing = Everything? Yes and no. In justification, yes. In sanctification, no. And if you want to say “yes” to both, you’re going to have to go to great lengths to successfully explain why the sanctification “yes” is not identical to the justification “yes.”

I know Tullian’s worthy aim is to exalt justification by making it a vital part of daily sanctification. But by confusing justification with sanctification, we not only risk losing the fulness of sanctification, in the long run I’m afraid that we we may lose the doctrine of justification too.

In the meantime, if you want some clarity on the relationship between justification and sanctification, may I recommend J C Ryle’s opening chapters in Holiness (see especially numbers 1 & 2 in Ryle’s Introduction and the differences between justification and sanctification in Chapter 2).  You may also want to read Tim Challies’ summaries of John Owen’s teaching on the Mortification of sin.

All page numbers are from the Kindle Edition of the book.

Part 2: The danger of making our experience the norm for others
Part 3: Does Jesus respond to our obedience with love

  • http://alivingoak.com Jacob Young

    Very helpful clarifications David. Thank you. Do you find this distinction rooted in a Lutheran verses Reformed understanding of sanctification? Thanks for your time David!

    ~Jacob

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      I don’t know the answer to that one, Jacob.

  • http://www.grace4sinners.blogspot.com Mathew Sims

    Thank you for your careful thoughts. I recently found myself engaged in a conversation about this very thing. Your words were kind, careful, & instructive looking forward to upcoming thoughts.

  • http://www.seektheholy.com/ Chris Roberts

    Would you say there are some strong similarities between his presentation of sanctification and the Keswick understanding of it?

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Good question, Chris. The thought crossed my own mind a few times, especially when I read J C Ryle’s Holiness again, where he seemed to be contending with a Keswick-like approach to sanctification. However, my answer would be that while they may end up in a similar passivity, they get there via different routes.

  • msthorley

    I haven’t read the book but I wouldn’t have thought that Tullian would deny that we must work in order to work out our salvation.

    I think two questions are key to this:
    1. What motivates us to do the works in which we are called to walk? Is it love for Christ or essentially, regardless of outward appearance, self-centred? How did someone who is faithful in many duties of the church and yet is proud and cold-hearted get to be that way? I answer: because the hidden motivation behind their good works is self-promotion, self-justification. Conversely why do so many Christians seem to have given up on ever really growing in sanctification? Why do some seem to be constantly beating themselves up because of their failings? The answer in all cases is that it is they who have confused sanctification with justification. Thus the antidote in all cases is to preach the gospel to oneself as Tim Keller, Jerry Bridges, Paul Tripp and others before Tullian have called us to do. We could say it like this: I’m accepted, therefore I obey. Yet, to the extent that we forget the gospel, without even realising we’ve done it, we will try to turn it into I obey, therefore I should be accepted.

    2. What is the enabler or ‘power’ of our santification? It is, of course, a work of God’s grace but how is this grace ‘appropriated’? Through our own efforts or through faith? Surely it is through faith! Thus, how does one stir faith where is it lacking? By reminding oneself of the gospel (see e.g. 2 Pe:1:9)

    Hope this helps,
    Martin

  • Tullian

    Hi David!

    Thanks for your kind and encouraging words and also raising your thoughtful concerns.

    I don’t normally comment on blogs and don’t therefore intend to address all of the issues you raise but I thought it might be good to say something brief here by way of clarification regarding something specific.

    The overarching concern you raise is the confusion of justification with sanctification. This is understandable to me because for a long time some have concluded that justification is step one and sanctification is step two and that once we get to step two there’s no reason to go back to step one. Sanctification, in other words, is commonly understood as progress beyond the initial step of justification. But while justification and sanctification are to be clearly separated theologically, the Bible won’t allow us to separate them essentially and functionally.

    Sanctification is NOT the process of moving beyond the reality of our justification but rather moving deeper into the reality of our justification. If sanctification could be likened to our responsibility to swim, justification is the pool we swim in. Justification and sanctification go together. As G. C. Berkouwer wisely remarked (and you quoted me quoting him), “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.” Sanctification feeds on justification, not the other way around. This is why Luther wrote, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards. We are to work at fighting the sin that so easily entangles us and robs us of our freedom by fleeing to the finished work of Christ every day.

    Sanctification, as someone once put it, is not something added to justification. It is, rather, the justified life.

    I hope this helps.

    Martin’s comment above is a remarkably accurate representation of what I say over and over in the book.

    Here are a couple of blog posts that might bring some clarity as well:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/12/05/the-gift-of-self-forgetfulness/

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/11/25/the-root-of-all-sin/

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/06/16/first-things-first/

    Blessings, brother!

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Tullian: Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate that. And thanks for the links – I’ll certainly click on over there.

    • Rob Edwards

      Tullian: rather than saying that sanctification is moving deeper into the reality of our justification, I wonder if it would be better to say that sanctification is moving deeper into the reality of Jesus who both justifies and sanctifies. In the pool analogy, it’s being “in him” that we enjoy the water (justification, so to speak) as well as swim in it (sanctification). I think this is important and often missed. The focus must be on Jesus for each of the benefits. They are first tied immediately to him. Sanctification does not rest on my mental ‘work’ of ‘getting’ my justification, but immediately on Jesus death and resurrection, overcoming the guilt and power of sin. In other words, we’re not called to turn to our justification but Jesus himself as we struggle against sin. Of course as we do we’ll see the Jesus who has justified as we struggle. But it appears to me there is a subtle danger of missing the true dynamic in our sanctification, which is Jesus himself.

      • http://www.nowuntohim.posterous.com Reuben Huffman

        Rob,
        I like that analogy of the pool. Christ Jesus is made to be our righteousness (justified, I’m in the pool) and also our sanctification (sanctified, i can swim in him now).
        It’s always a bit of mystery to me, exactly, where the divine and human responsibilities overlap…which is probably what all this buzz is discussing. I’m sure enjoying the discussion, thanks for underscoring the ‘True dynamic in our sanctification’- – Jesus the Christ.

        • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

          Yes, I like that analogy too, Rueben. And I also prefer the focus on Jesus.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406008290 Rolando

            This was really funny. I used to tell peploe in my old church that it was like running you get tired after running for so long, finally you give in and have to sit down and take a break for a while but while you are sitting down, you start feeling guilty and say, What am I doing! I should be running, not sitting around! (or else the leaders say this, whichever) so you get up and start running again, only to tire out in a few more minutes.But then, Jesus comes and you fall at His feet, and grace is given you from Him and now you run without growing weary, since it is Him running in you. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me Galatians 2:20

  • http://www.trinitygracechurch.co Jon Tyson

    What seems to be missing is a discussion of the power and filling of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. Trying to reset ourselves 1000 times a day and remember our justification sounds just as exhausting as trying to read the bible or get better at prayer. We are called to surrender to, walk, and keep in step with the Spirit.
    He gives us the power to change. Any talk about sanctification without the Spirit seems underdeveloped.

    Just a thought offered in humility, with deep respect for you both.

    Cheers.

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  • Bob Kuo

    “Tullian seems to assume that if you put the fuel of justification in the tank, outward sanctification takes place automatically.”

    Doesn’t regeneration guarantee that?

    I’m not denying that we participate in sanctification. However, if we are born again God has given us a new nature and sovereignly begun to change our desires. The new covenant promise – that the law would be written on our hearts – hasn’t just been made possible (and contingent upon our cooperation) but actual. For those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son – it *will* happen.

    I think we should discard the ambiguous word “automatic”: there is a sense in which sanctification is automatic, and there is a sense in which it’s not. Sanctification is guaranteed to happen. But sanctification does, to some extent, require our participation. Sanctification is also difficult – the struggle described in Romans 7 will be ours until the Lord returns or we die.

    • http://www.seektheholy.com/ Chris Roberts

      Philippians 2:12-13 answers that question for me. Yes, there will be sanctification in the life of the believer because of the work of the Spirit, but it is work that we must do. It is guaranteed because of God, yet it is a guarantee that is worked out through us. We must work, we must labor, we must obey – and having done so, we will recognize that it is God who has worked through us. This does not mean sitting back and waiting for God to do it, or resting in the assurance that God will accomplish this work; it means the justified person will work for growth and yet will know that his work is not his work but God at work within him.

  • http://learningandlivingtheword.com Bert

    David,

    Good article. I think your concerns about Tullian conflating justification and sanctification were a simliar concern for Kevin DeYoung. It may helpful to read the interaction between Tullian and Kevin on this subject.
    http://theaquilareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4898:the-role-of-effort-in-sanctification–a-dialogue-between-kevin-deyoung-and-tullian-tchividjian&catid=79:commentary&Itemid=137

    By the way I agree with you as to the enthusiasm and skillful writing that Tullian brings to the subject of justification. I would also recommend his book Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels.

    blessings

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Thanks Jacob. I’ll read that interaction and also get a copy of Surprised by grace.

  • http://www.puritanboard.com/blogs/puritancovenanter/ R. Martin Snyder

    I firmly adhere to believing that justification and sanctification are a two fold benefit of grace and not two graces that proceed from our Union in Christ. Our justification proceeds from it as well as our sanctification.

  • http://www.puritanboard.com/blogs/puritancovenanter/ R. Martin Snyder

    We had a rather lively discussion on this topic over on the Puritanboard.
    http://www.puritanboard.com/f48/excellent-article-current-issues-surrounding-sanctification-justification-69279/

  • http://www.graceandtruthcc.com Bob Schilling

    David and all – great discussion and all are to be commended the gracious spirit; good to see Tullian join in with a response. I heartily agree with your concerns David and as you suggest I think we’d all do well to reacquaint ourselves with older discussions of sanctification. To answer David, Yes – Tullian is advocating the historic Lutheran confusion of sanctification with justification. No doubt Tullian and others here have the title, “Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification to which Sinclair Ferguson contributes the ‘Reformed’ perspective. This first chapter is a defense of the Lutheran View by Gerhard O. Forde, in which he states the commonly heard quip, “Sanctification is a matter of being grasped by the unconditional grace of God and having now to live in that light. It is a matter of getting use to justification” (22-23) and “our sanctification consists merely in being shaped by, or getting use to, justification” (29). That model is graciously critiqued by Ferguson. All that is involved in sanctification is just getting use to our justification? Really?

    Tullian’s comment above, “But while justification and sanctification are to be clearly separated theologically, the Bible won’t allow us to separate them essentially and functionally” is to make or allow a distinction without there being a distinction. The Bible does separate them ‘essentially and functionally.’ We’re not sanctified by faith alone, but we are indeed justified by faith alone. Simply because we’re concurrently justified and definitively sanctified does not mean that the terms have no functional or essential differentiation.

    What I see happening (so many things can be said) is an overcorrection/over-reaction to legalism and moralism. I am all for the Christocentric, gospel-centered focus of Tullian and many of us in the modern “revangelicalformed” movement, but we always need to guard against overcorrection. Antinomianism really is another viable and real error. It is not enough to simply boast in the self-flattery that “if someone is calling you an antinomian, than you’re probably really preaching grace.” That may be the case, and it may also be the case that you really are an antinomian or an unwitting advocate of licentiousness. Those also really are dangers and also really are alive and well. When words like “obedience” and “duty” and “self-discipline” and “law” are immediately reacted to as “unChristian” and legalistic, we are guilty of over-reaction. Such distorted views of grace make all OT believers nothing more than moralists and legalists. When it is said of Joshua that “He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses” (Josh. 11:15) was Joshua pleasing to the Lord? Was it merely ‘self-promotion and self-justification’ as Martin mentions above (with Tullian’s commendation)?

    Regarding motives, why do we set up the false exclusive extremes of either “love for Christ” or “self-justification?” Gratitude, fear, duty, love of my brother – are lesser motives never legitimate motives? Amen, as David says above, to the foundational emphasis on justification and the practical, revolutionary “discipline” of preaching the gospel to ourselves everyday – but let us not reduce the synergistic work of sanctification to “merely getting use to your justification.”

    Someone has used the useful phrase “impressionistic theology” to describe vague, ethereal, spiritually rich framing that sounds so good, but ultimately is devoid of practical, helpful meaning and application. Now that is to overstate the case here, for Tullian is articulating much that is very, very helpful. But, sometimes I fear that our over-reactive talk of ‘gospel-everything-sanctification’ omits much that is needful and as David says above, confuses and conflates – and strangely ignores the wrestlings and articulations of many that have gone before us.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Thanks for this helpful historical background, Bob. I agree with your over-reaction analysis too, and hope that my posts will re-balance somewhat, without losing Tullian’s much-needed emphasis.

      • http://www.graceandtruthcc.com Bob Schilling

        Appreceiate your labors David. I had a chance to visit PRTS last week, our daughter lives in Grand Rapids. I’m looking into a ThM there. Look forward to meeting you sometime.

        • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

          I’m sorry I missed you when you were here. Let me know when you’re next up this way.

  • msthorley

    Thank you very much Bert for that link to the irenic discussion between Kevin De Young and Tullian. It is well worth reading. It provides some helpful clarifications and I found myself largely in agreement with both of them. :-)

    The grace and irenic spirit which permeates the discussion is also commendable and glorifying to our great God of Grace.
    Martin

  • Jeremy Martinson

    I’ve enjoyed reflecting on this post at the Pyro blog which addresses the same concerns you’re raising.

    http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2009/01/stunned-stymied-and-sidelined-by.html

    Perhaps you’ve already read it? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Haven’t read this Jeremy. But I will.

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  • Freddy

    I just can’t jump on board with his proposal that sanctification is growing in a deeper understanding or grasping better the reality of our justification. Sure that adds fuel to the fire, but there’s more to a fire than just wood, right? It seems to be an oversimplification. Where is the Holy Spirit in that if it’s just my intellectual grasp of it? What is the use all of the “put off/put on” language that Paul uses? Seems to be much more than just understand your justification better. That’s like saying to be saved you just need to understand the gospel rightly. No. There’s more to it than that.

  • http://www.aggressivesanctification.com Bobby Blakey

    My pastor expresses a similar concern about the blurring of justification and sanctification over at his blog: Aggressive Sanctification. So far he has written 9 posts pointing out biblical aspects of sanctification that are lost in the Jesus+Nothing=Everything approach. Thanks for writing about this! http://www.aggressivesanctification.com

  • http://www.compassworship.wordpress.com Ben Blakey

    Hi David. Thanks for this blog. I struggled with the same “confusion” as I read the book. We have been trying to biblically explain the distinctions between justification and sanctification at our church (our pastor started a whole blog just on this topic: http://www.aggressivesanctification.com)

    I also struggle with some of the imagery Tullian used even in his comment. Defining sanctification as “going deeper into our justification” and “swimming in the pool of our justification” may sound nice, but are they really helpful or even biblical?

    Why not use biblical imagery? The Bible speaks of the gospel as foundational. (Heb. 6:1) Once the foundation is laid, we don’t spend the rest of our lives trying to make it deeper – we begin to build on it! Of course, by no means would we want to leave that foundation and go build elsewhere, but we would also not want to end our lives with nothing but a foundation!

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Thanks for the link, Ben. I’ll have a look at this blog. I agree with your foundation imagery.

      • gabe

        David,

        Thank you for your honest and humble critique of Tullian’s book. I do have a question though: how is, “the hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us,” the same as “contribution to sanctification = nil”? As I’ve stumbled through the journey of sanctification, it has always seemed like my work of understanding and believing the radical lavish grace of God in justifying me despite the God’s-wrath-deserving indwelling sin still in me is the most difficult and satisfying work I have ever done! Mainly because it is the most contrary thing to my old life (thinking myself as approved and worthy, essentially god, based on my performance regardless of the standard of performance I determined which would sometimes be obedience and sometimes disobedience to God’s standard of performance, his law). The equation seems to me, based on my deficient performance, to look more like: Contribution to sanctification = yes = 100% working at believing gospel indicatives in light of real-time sin conviction = 100% hardest work ever. If you have time, do you have any thoughts helpful thoughts as I work through this? Also, if you have time, can you exegete any additional scripture that contradicts my understanding (there wasn’t much in post so I was having hard time being persuaded :)? That would help me the most in understanding your position.

        Again, thank you for your time and understanding.

        Bro in Christ,
        gabe

        • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

          Gabe: Sorry for taking so long to get back to you on this. I agree that the mental and spiritual apprehension of our justification is the vital foundation upon which every inch of sanctification is built. Usually, though, this exercise has been called “faith.” So, yes, we must believe again and again. However, my point is that that this faith, this fighting to believe, is only the beginning of sanctification, not the sum and substance of it.

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  • Scott Leonard

    I love the discussion, and propose that many have not been able to deal effectively with this issue while exegeting critical passages. For starters, there tends to be nothing but cricket sounds whenever it is asked why Paul says twice within four verses (Romans 7:17-20) “…it is no longer I who sins, but sin that dwells in me.” Many are hoping for a more honest discussion where we can look at how someone who has literally been born a second time and placed in union with Christ can still be called “depraved.” My suspicion is that it will begin to resolve in one’s definition of the flesh. A look at Paul’s bold statement that we are no longer “IN the flesh, but IN the Spirit” will no doubt stimulate that discussion.

    There’s a lot more where this comes from, and I think a lot of light can be shed on a subject that has been long on tradition and lacking good wrestling with the nitty gritty of Romans 6-8. There is a startling change of understanding around the corner even when we let Paul say what he says in 6:17-18–”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.” It remains beyond my understanding how wise men can talk about sanctification and the nature of the believer at length, while virtually ignoring rigorous exegesis of Rom. 6-8. At some point we are going to allow Paul’s (former) mystery to be fully enjoyed, and we will accept the following verses for what they are as well: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God….” (2 Corinthians 5:16-18 ESV)

    When properly understood, it in no way implies the Christian living in this world has reached perfection, nor does it foster antinomianism. It simply allows us to rejoice in what it really means to be IN Christ, and to expect saints to act more and more like the new creatures they are. Both D. Martin Lloyd-Jones and John MacArthur, among others, handle this well.

    Thanks, and God Bless.

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