Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Confusing Justification and Sanctification

Yesterday at church I picked up a John Piper book called "When I don't Desire God: How to fight for Joy", I had heard of this book but never thought seriously about reading. I decided to go ahead and pick it up. In the car on the way to lunch I opened the book up (to skim) and this is what I read:

"God gives us his Holy Spirit to transform us morally and progressively into the image of his Son. This progressive change is not justification but is based on justification. This change is what we call sanctification. "Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Rom 6:22). First the legal issue must be settled. In the courtroom of heaven, an ungodly sinner is declared righteous by faith alone! Christ's righteousness is imputed to him. He does not have a righteousness of his own when God accepts him (Phil 3:9). His faith is all receiving. He has not yet become loving. Christ's faithful life of love, which perfectly fulfilled the law of God is imputed to the ungodly. This is justification. This is the settling of the legal issue first.
When that is settled - and it is settled in the twinkling of an eye - then the moral progress goes forward (sanctification). Both are gifts, and both are bought by the blood of Christ. They are inseparable but different. Both are by faith alone. Justification is by faith alone because only faith receives the declaration that the ungodly is counted righteous. Sanctification is by faith alone because only faith receives the power to bear the fruit of love. It is crucial in the fight for joy that we not confuse or combine justification and sanctification. Confusing them will, in the end, undermine the gospel and turn justification by faith into justification by performance. If that happens , the great gospel weapon in the fight for joy will fall from our hands."

I think that says it all!

(Update: I actually found this video this morning and knew I wanted to add it to this post, I actually wrote this post Sunday)


Michelle said...

Interesting quote and good explanation of the difference between justification and sanctification.

Towards the end of the video, it reminded me of the scripture in Jeremiah 31:33 and 2 Corinthians 3:3. God's commandments are not on stone but on/in our hearts.

BUT...I find I still try to fulfill "duties." I still see that I should do "this, this, and that." Not for my justification and I know sanctification is also a gift of God...I see people around me and the Spirit they have in them is the Spirit I desire. I see it in their speech, their homes, and even in their children's behavior...but I see nothing but unworthiness and "work" to be done on my own Spirit. God has so far to take me. So, as a result of my "unworthiness" I turn to the "duties" while await God's work on me.

Deborah Ann said...

I have several of John Piper's books. I love what you have just shared about justification and sanctification. I was just reading about Abraham, and how God said he was righteous just because he believed! God isn't looking for our works, all He wants is our hearts...

Nick said...

I skimmed over the book myself, but I think Piper is jumping to conclusions. For example, he doesn't look at 1 Cor 6:11, which is the only place where 'justify' and 'sanctify' appear together, and where sanctification is listed first. That's pretty odd oversight when one is claiming the two are being confused and yet this text isn't examined.

Other texts like Titus 3:4-7 and Phil 3:9-11 (Piper leaves off 3:10-11, which is key context) also show justification entailing an inner transformation (ie 'sanctification') as before/during justification.

Ticia said...

I love John Piper books. I'll have to pick that one up sometime.

Amber said...

Nick, I wanted to address your comment and began to do a little bit more research tonight to address your specific issues, but to be honest, I'm not really sure what you are trying to say. In order to not go off on an unnecessary trail could you please explain a bit more.
Are you saying that justification is a process and not an instant declaration of righteousness?
Or are you saying that justification and sanctification are the same thing?
Looking forward to hearing from you.

Nick said...

What I was trying to say was that Piper's ordering of justification and sanctification isn't derived from Biblical evidence. Texts like 1 Cor 6:11, Titus 3:4-7, and Phil 3:9-11 (among others) show justification is based off of an inner transformation/cleansing of the person. In otherwords, the Bible teaches sanctification precedes justification.

Amber said...

Nick, I have posted a response to you as a post here http://journeyof-grace.blogspot.com/2010/02/clarification-on-justification-vs.html
Thanks for getting back to me, I hope that this helps clear up some of the confusion.
God Bless.