Lordship, Justification and Sanctification
We continue our studies on the theological differences involved in the Lordship controversy. In the last issue we considered some of the major differences in respect to the doctrine of repentance. In this, our 9th study, we will be considering some of the important differences in respect to the doctrine of sanctification and its inseparable relationship to justification. (Though justification and sanctification cannot be separated they must be distinguished.)
Justification and sanctification are the two most important doctrines of the Christian faith and a visit to any communion service should prove this point. Every time we observe the Lord’s Supper we are brought face to face with justification and sanctification.
The New Covenant
In any communion service the minister always refers to one or more of the following passages of Scripture and they all speak of the new covenant.
And He took a cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:27, 28).
And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed on behalf of many” (Mark 14:24).
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20).
In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:25).
What is the new covenant? If you do not know then these passages do not make sense to you–they have no meaning to you.
Thousands of preachers all over the world hold a little cup of grape juice or wine before a congregation and say, “this cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Many of those, to whom it is said, have no idea of what the new covenant is.
Someone may be saying, “Well, is that all so important? We know that the juice symbolizes the blood of Christ.”
Let me underscore just how important that covenant really is. Spurgeon said, “The covenant is the marrow of divinity.”
- 2 Cor. 3:6 tells us that ministers are “able ministers of a new covenant.”
- Heb. 12:24 tells us that “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.”
- Mt. 26:28 teaches us that forgiveness of sins is bound up with the new covenant: “for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness of sins is tied to the new covenant–that makes it very important.
- Bound up in the covenant are these two most important doctrines in the Christian faith – justification and sanctification.
Therefore, we must conclude:
- What ever Christ purchased were benefits and blessings of the new covenant. He was the mediator of the new covenant.
- Whatever the apostles preached, as the gospel of Christ, was the gospel of the new covenant: “able ministers of the new covenant.”
- Whatever sinners received when they were savingly called by the Spirit, they were brought into the benefits and blessings of the new covenant.
If believers are brought into the benefits and blessings of the new covenant just what are these blessings? Well, they are the two greatest and most essential blessings of the gospel, in fact, all other blessings of Christianity, and there are many, flow from these two foundational blessings.
The Two Greatest Problems
But before we identify these two foundational blessings, let us address a prefatory question: What are man’s two greatest problems?
Some might say, “My husband is my problem,” or, “my wife,” “my children,” “my parents,” “my school teacher,” “my health,” “my finances,” or “my environment.”
No! No! All of these miss the point. You have two greater problems. What are they?
- A bad record in heaven because of your sins of thoughts, words and deeds.
- A bad heart on earth which produced the sins which causes the bad record in heaven.
Jeremiah, in his prophesy of the new covenant, (Jer. 31:31-34) points out the answer to these two problems: “I will make a new covenant . . . I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts.” (a changed heart). Also, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (a new record). A New Testament passage that underscores these two things is Heb. 10:16, 17: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (new record, new heart. See also Heb. 8:10-12.)
Well, then, what are man’s two basic problems? He has many but they all have their beginning in these two: a bad record in heaven and a bad heart on earth.
Therefore, what are the two basic blessings of the new covenant?:
- A changed record in heaven by the blood of Christ. That is justification.
- A new heart on earth by the power of the Spirit. That is sanctification begun.
This new covenant is one covenant with two inseparable aspects.
The Relationship of Justification to Sanctification
Now, I want to make one of the most important statements that I will make in this study. The working of God’s Spirit in the heart on earth and the cleansing of our sins by Christ’s blood in heaven are inseparably joined together in the application of God’s salvation. Justification and sanctification always go together in salvation.
Therefore, any attempt to place the basic act of submission to Christ subsequent to conversion is to cut the living and vital nerve of the new covenant and to pervert biblical Christianity.
To separate these blessings that God has joined together in one covenant is to bring dishonor on the blood that was shed to enact the entirety of the new covenant.
Oh, how I wish every one who heard these words, “This is My blood of the new covenant” would know, experience and understand the blessings and benefits of that covenant.
The non-lordship teaching would not agree with the fact that the doctrine of justification and the doctrine of sanctification are inseparably joined together in the application of God’s salvation. They make sanctification optional and therefore a justified person may or may not be sanctified. This means that it is not necessarily a holy making gospel. The non-lordship teachers would not agree with Robert Murray M’Cheyne when he said, “It is a holy making gospel. Without holy fruits all evidences are vain. Dear friends, you have awakenings, enlightenings, experiences, and many due signs; but if you lack holiness, you shall never see the Lord. A real desire after complete holiness is the truest mark of being born again. Jesus is a holy Saviour. He first covers the soul with His white raiment then makes the soul glorious within – restores the lost image of God, and fills the soul with pure, heavenly holiness. Unregenerate men among you cannot bear this testimony.”
If God ever gives you salvation be sure holiness will be a part of it. If Christ does not wash you from the filth of sin, you have no part with Him. Jesus said to Peter, “If I wash you not you have no part with me.” It is a strange kind of salvation that does not have a desire after holiness. Such a salvation was never purchased by the blood of Christ. “He shall save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).” Not in their sins, but from their sins.
Thomas Adams, an old Puritan said, “They know not Christ who seek to divide His blood from His water, and they shall fail in justification in heaven that refuse sanctification on earth.”
There are many reasons why this should concern every serious Christian. Why is it so important?
- It involves true conversion.
- It should concern us because of the many self-deceived church members, who have walked aisles, troubled our baptismal waters, signed the decision cards, have their names on our church rolls, yet give no biblical evidence of Holy Ghost regeneration. Can a serious person look at the present day church members and not be moved with holy concern and compassion?
- It should concern us because it would put repentance back in the evangelistic message.
- It would put a death blow to all these second work of grace teachings, such as, Higher Life, Crucified Life, and Deeper Life. It is the wrong view of sanctification that teaches, “let go and let God.”
- It would end the Lordship controversy over view of the Savior that makes Jesus not much more than a hell insurance policy and makes obedience optional.
Dr. Ryrie, in his book, So Great Salvation, on page 150, writes, “But what of sanctification? No where does it appear in Paul’s list in Romans 8:29,30 – only predestination, calling, justification and glorification – why is sanctification not included? Could it be that Paul did not want to base our guarantee, our ultimate glorification on our sanctification?”
This is a commentary on the non-lordship view of the relationship between justification and sanctification. I could use his reasoning with the passage in 1 Cor. 1:30 “But of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Notice that justification is not mentioned. Why? I suggest that if sanctification is mentioned justification is understood to be inseparably joined to sanctification, likewise, in Rom. 8:29,30 where justification is mentioned but not sanctification. Why? Because where justification is there sanctification will be also. It is the same with faith and repentance. Where there is true belief there will always be evangelical repentance and where true repentance is mentioned there will always be saving faith (see FJ 10, 11).
The serious error of the non-lordship teaching is that it does not see that justification and sanctification, like faith and repentance, are inseparably joined together in the application of God’s salvation.
Justification and sanctification will always be found in a true Christian. The Bible knows nothing about a justified man who knows nothing about sanctification begun. Nor does the Bible know anything of a sanctified man who has not been justified.
The Bible says, without holiness (sanctification) no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). This is not referring to some sort of positional sanctification which every believer possesses. This passage (Heb. 12:14) is referring to personal holiness which every believer is duty bound to pursue.
Let me put it one more way: no one will attain to a right standing before God by pursuing holiness. Likewise, none who fails to pursue holiness will see God’s face in peace. Please note, I said, pursue, only One has attained–He was perfect.
In closing this study let me emphasize again: though justification and sanctification cannot be separated in the application of God’s salvation they must be distinguished. As faith is not hope, yet faith and hope are held together by a permanent bond, required to be joined rather than confused, so it is with justification and sanctification–they cannot be separated but must be distinguished and held together by a permanent bond.
The non-lordship teachers have a repentance and a sanctification that is not necessarily a part of God’s salvation. The non-lordship teachers are not only out of step with historic Christianity, but out of step with the analogy of faith and the analogy of Scripture as rules of interpretation.
The answer to question 77 in the Larger Catechism should be very helpful at this point.
Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued; the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.
Let me sum up this study with a statement of John Owen, the prince of the puritans:
“There is mention in the Scripture of a two-fold sanctification, and consequently in a two-fold holiness. The first is common unto persons and things, consisting of the peculiar dedication, consecration, or separation of them unto the service of God, by His own appointment, whereby they become holy. Thus the priests and Levites of old, the ark, the altar, the tabernacle, and the temple, were sanctified and made holy; and, indeed, in all holiness whatever, there is a peculiar dedication and separation unto God. But in the sense mentioned, this was solitary and alone. No more belonged unto it but this sacred separation, nor was there any other effect of this sanctification. But, secondly, there is another kind of sanctification and holiness, wherein this separation to God is not the first thing done or intended, but a consequent and effect thereof. This is real and eternal, by the communicating of a principle of holiness unto our natures, attended with its exercise in acts and duties of holy obedience to the holy law of God” (Works -Vol. 3, p. 370).