Thursday, December 18, 2008

0 Justification, Sanctification, Glorification and the Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ

This morning, as is our usual practice, a long-time friend of mine and I got together online to read Flavel's Keeping the Heart (from volume 5 of the Complete Works of John Flavel, which I cannot recommend highly enough). In this morning's reading, Flavel has one of his great expressions that he is wont to compose. The section of the work in question concerns our willingness to die - as compared to the temptations we have to want to remain here in this life. The case he is taking up is prefaced as follows:
Case 12: How the people of God, in times of sickness, may get their hearts loose from all earthly engagements, and persuade them unto a willingness to die. (Volume 5, page 490, Complete Works of John Flavel, Banner of Truth)
In his last point, he argues thus:
If still thou linger, like Lot in Sodom, then lastly, examine all the pleas and pretenses for a longer time on earth. Why art thou unwilling to die? (Volume 5, page 493, Complete Works of John Flavel, Banner of Truth)
The third of the objections he explores, is concise, and powerful, and worthy of remembrance, to be posted on a 3x5 card in every bathroom:
Objection 3: I am not yet fully ready, I am not as a bride, completely adorned for the bridegroom.

Solution: Thy justification is complete already, though thy sanctification be not so; and the way to make it so, is to die; for til then it will have its defects and wants. (Volume 5, page 494, Complete Works of John Flavel, Banner of Truth)
Pithy, but true. Sanctification is a life-long process, and truly until we have passed through the gates of this earthly life, and been changed through the glorification Paul writes of in Romans 8, we shall not be perfectly adorned. We won't reach it, though we live 1000 years in our flesh. Our salvation, if it depended on this striving, and a reaching of this perfect attainment, would be lost. If our passage through the gates of heaven into eternal communion with Christ was dependent upon the accomplishments we have made here below, then forget about it. We have no hope, if that were true.

But the good news of the Gospel is that Christ Himself died, took on our sins, and passed to us the righteousness of his complete, active and passive righteousness. We live, justified by faith - in a right standing before God through his decree of justification. And, while we yet live, our conformity to that righteousness, which is increasing daily in sanctification through the ministration of the Holy Spirit, will never be complete. Not until that last day, when like the twinkling of an eye "we shall be changed."

The fact of our final perfection is no disincentive to strive daily for the holiness of Christ in our walk before the Lord - but rather an encouragement to continue despite our failings. Those who have tender consciences because of the sin which still entices us should take heart - sanctification is continual - a process of renovation that will continue until we die (and even then, not be perfect until we are perfectly conformed to Christlikeness in our persons through a final immediate act of God described by Paul in Romans 8 as being 'glorified'). Hallelujah! What a Savior!



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