The Foundation of Sanctification

Our salvation is grounded on Christ’s blood & righteousness alone not on our holiness, for we have none. The Christian journey begins in justification, this is legal or forensic righteousness. Then, we are being made actually and practically righteous in sanctification, yet incomplete.

Once you are justified, your path of holiness begins, from definite/positional sanctification to progressive sanctification. We were given heart to walk this path.
The Christian journey doesn’t start with self, but in Christ’s Holiness reckoned to us and His righteousness clothed on us.

Again, justification happens once when we first believe. It is not a process. Actual holiness comes right after (logically but not chronologically, since justification and sanctification flows from our union with Christ. This is what John Calvin calls Duplex Gratia). Justification is a legal holiness granted. Sanctification is a actual holiness lived.

Justification is God’s declaration that a man is righteous by virtue of Christ’s righteousness alone (2 Cor 5:21). It is a single act of God from the heavenly court. Hence, it is monergistic. Sanctification (progressive) is living a righteous life. It is a lifetime and continuous act. Hence, it is synergistic.

Augustine notes,

Forasmuch as in beginning, He works in us so that we may have the will, and in perfecting, He works with us when we have the will. On this account the apostle says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1.6) Therefore He operates without us (i.e.. monergy), in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us (i.e. synergy). We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will.” —On Grace and Freewill, Ch. 33

Charles Spurgeon also speaks of this synergy when he says,

"But on other hand, grace saves no one to make him like a log of wood or a block of stone. Grace makes people active. God has been diligently at work with us, now we must diligently work together with him." 

We are to work out our salvation in holiness through the Spirit’s power without which no man will see the Lord (Phil 2:12, Heb 12:14).

Founded in Christ

Furthermore, we are not the foundation of our sanctification, Christ is. In John 15, Jesus exclusively claims that He is the vine and the believers are the branches. The believers cannot grow apart from the True Vine.

Our confession (1689 LBCF 13.1) affirms this, they who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally through the same virtue, by His Word & Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, & the several lusts thereof are more & more weakened & mortified, and they more & more quickened & strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

Life must be present before there may be growth. A man who has life in Christ will really grow. No growth, no sign of life. In Robert Letham’s Union with Christ, he emphasizes the transformative of the believers’ union with the Redeemer, he writes, the dynamic of union with Christ comes to present expression in the life experience of believers. Christ has risen, never again to submit to death. So we, in union with him, are no longer subject to the domain of sin and death, and so grow “more and more” in conformity to Christ by the inward work of the Spirit…

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul exhorts the believers that they excel still more as they received from them instruction as to how they ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk). In verse 7, he adds that sanctification is the will of God. We are …ought to walk… There is only one way, and that is to move forward. There is no static Christian. This is real sanctification.

The puritan writer, William Perkins says sanctification is by which a Christian in his mind, in his will and in his affections is freed from the bondage and tyranny of sin and Satan and is little by little enabled through the Spirit of Christ to desire and approve that which is good and walk in it.

Unbelievers can never give glory to God (Rom 8:7). Only the believers whose hearts are changed by God can truly give glory to God and live a holy life.

Walter Marshall in the gospel mystery of sanctification says, it is consists not only of external works of piety, but in the holy thoughts, imaginations and affections of the souls and chiefly in love from whence all other works must flow… not only in not obeying fleshly lusts but in longing and delighting to do the will of God, and in cheerful obedience to God, without repining and grudging at any duty as if it were a grievous work and burden…

Growing in Christ

Once we are founded in Christ then there is real growth in holiness, and it is growing in awareness that we are in God’s presence. We must grow in our awareness of God’s presence. The two verses below highlight this reality:

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.

Psalms 90:8 You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.

Utimately, it is to live a life separated and devoted to God. It is living in God’s presence. Anywhere we go we are aware that we are in His presence, that God is watching and looking at us.

The law is no longer a burden, but more and more glorious in our eyes because it reflects God’s holiness. Our joy in the Lord grows more, and grow in holiness. Our goal and aspiration is to give God honor. As our foundation, Christ is also the source of our joy. Through Christ, we are able to grow in our delight in Him and in His word to the glory of the Father by the power of the Spirit.

Reader, unless you are united to Christ, you can never have a heart that honors God, your concern is to honor yourself. Christ is the vine that gives life to the branches (John 15:4-5). You must be united with Him by faith. Only when Jesus is more glorious in your live there you can avoid loving sin.

Remember that the term “disciple” like “believer” is a generic term. There are those who are outwardly attached to Christ only by their false profession (John 2:23-25, John 6:66). Sanctification does not save you. True believers have remaning sins, but they grow in holiness.

You who profess to know Christ, are you growing in holiness? Are you truly in Him?

To the believers sanctified by God’s grace, may we grow in our awareness of God’s omniscience: living Coram Deo.



Grab a free copy of Augustine’s Grace and Free Will here.

  • St. Augustine, Nicene, Post-Nicene, and Fathers. A TREATISE on GRACE and FREE WILL. Christian Literature Publishing Co.
  • Letham, Robert. Union with Christ : In Scripture, History, and Theology. Phillipsburg, Nj, P&R Publishing, Cop, 2011.
  • Marshall, Walter. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. Lafayette, In, Sovereign Grace Pub, 2001.

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

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