Faith in Conversion & Sanctification

It may appear to some as more than just a bit strange to make so many posts on this issue. On the other hand, it appears to me that this is a hidden issue in the modern day and yet it is utterly vital to justification. If anyone is inclined to think that justification is not important, that person cannot have a very high view of the Gospel. We live in a day where sincerity is thought to be more important than doctrinal precision and fidelity to Scripture. As Luther wrote, “one little word will fell him.” The Word of God is still the Word of God and we must be utterly submissive to it in all parts. Understanding the Gospel of Christ alone and grace alone requires us to think with precision in order to cut off the routes and inroads of error into it. In our day there are many exits and escapes that people are taking from the Gospel of Jesus Christ while still holding to the name of Christian. Francis Turretin is quite precise in blocking off many of those exits and escapes. This is more than just an intellectual exercise; it is an attempt to take every thought captive to Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Faith is viewed in different lights: either in the act itself of justification or in the person of the justified or in the effect of justification. In the person of the justified, it is well called ‘the beginning of righteousness’; not imputed but inherent because it is the root of all virtues. Thus in the effect of justification, it is the principle and cause of new obedience; but in the act of justification, it can be nothing else than an instrument apprehending and applying to man that which justifies. Thus he is justified not by the merit of faith, but only by it as a means.”

In many congregations and “revival” meetings, people are told that they must come to the front of a building and pray a prayer. They are told that if they do that they will be saved. The prayer or perhaps believing is said to be an act of faith. Reformed people do the same thing. The goal it appears is to get the sinner to do an act that is interpreted as an act of faith. The Arminian will say that the person did it from a free will and the Reformed person will say that God gave the person faith. Nevertheless, the result is the same. Neither theological camp is giving the person a true account of faith. The person that prays the prayer understands that the act leads to something or s/he would not do the act. Does the person believe that it is the faith itself that saves? If so, that person does not believe on Jesus Christ alone for salvation and is not looking to be justified as an act of God’s grace alone.

Our primary concern must be the biblical message and not just lining up under a particular theological banner. But surely it is obvious that if a person is trusting in the act of believing or in the prayer to save, that person is not resting on Christ alone by grace alone to be saved. Now, if that person goes on in the practice of sanctification with that same idea of faith, they will also be given over to works for sanctification and will think that since all is being done by faith that all is well. Faith is the instrument that receives Christ for justification but also continues to receive grace to live by in sanctification. If a person starts off with a wrong view of faith in terms of justification, that person will continue to live under a wrong view of faith. We must always remember that “it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace” (Romans 4:16). We are not justified by a work (not even of faith) or many works, but by Christ alone through faith alone. We are not sanctified by a work or many works either, but instead by Christ alone through faith alone. Faith receives grace and is not something of self that we do.

If we take people and only tell them to pray a prayer or make an act of belief, then fallen human nature will think that faith is their own act. If they go to church and make a moral change, they will think that this validates their faith. As long as they have a belief in Christ and believe enough to do what is externally correct, they will think they are converted. It is utterly vital that the biblical teaching of faith be taught. We are told to be gracious, yet if we are gracious in the modern sense and never get to the offense of the Gospel, we will graciously deceive people. Some will say that we must have unity with all that hold to the basics of the Gospel. That is all well and good, but we must get down into the Word of God and determine what the Gospel truly is and what it is that is consistent with the Gospel of Christ alone. Paul was very clear in Galatians 1:10 that if we are striving to please men (which is what being gracious can be) we are not bond-servants of Christ. By nature human beings hate God and will hate the glory of God as it shines out in the grace of the Gospel. They want to do something. When we try to appease men and not make it clear that they can do nothing, we are unfaithful to the Gospel. Assuredly justification is by faith alone, but to be faithful we must teach people what faith really is. A Calvinist or Arminian who says he holds to the doctrines of the Gospel but will not deal with the souls of men and instruct them about true faith has some deep beliefs in the heart that are quite different than what is espoused by the mouth.

5 Responses to “Faith in Conversion & Sanctification”

  1. michael Says:

    Well, at least I am coming in here regularly now!

    You wrote:

    “We are not justified by a work (not even of faith) or many works, but by Christ alone through faith alone. We are not sanctified by a work or many works either, but instead by Christ alone through faith alone.”

    I would only make the point differently, agreeing with your words above too.

    We are not justified by a work we do, a work of faith even, or many works, but indeed, our salvation is by a “work” done! Someone did a work. So you can say, as I do, we are justified by a work, one work and one work only is all that needed to be done to save us.

    There is a property in math called the “zero” property. 0 + 1, or 2 or 1 + 2 + 0 will always be the sum of the numbers, not the zero. If you subtract 1 or 2 or 3 from 0, 0 will remain constant, “0”.

    Seeing God works, Jesus works and the Holy Ghost works, you cannot say there is no work being done, but rather, there is no work I am doing that is being done that effects my salvation!

    We are saved by “a work”, just not ours!

    Anyway, if I become to much of a bother, just let me know and I will restrain myself from commenting so much now that I have been introduced to your blog?

  2. Richard Smith Says:

    Hello Again:

    Indeed it is true that I am denying that it is our works that save and not one thing we can do can or will contribute to our salvation. We are in agreement in a sense when you say that the works of Christ save. In much the same way you agree with what I wrote and then bring out another side of the issue, I would say it is not the works of Christ that saves sinners but Christ Himself. When I say that I am not arguing that the works of Christ are not necessary for salvation. It is still true in a sense that the works of Christ save sinners. What I am trying to do by saying what I said above is to focus on Christ Himself and not just what He did. We can look at the example of sin. We know that sin is nothing apart from a moral agent that acts. There is nothing that we can point to as sin apart from a moral agent that has intent and motive in an action. In reality, then, sin is what the moral agent does and is what the moral agent is.

    Without denying your point but instead affirming it, I would just point out that the works of Christ are nothing apart from Christ Himself. The works were righteous and can be imputed to sinners now because Christ was and is righteous. In one sense the imputed righteousness of Christ only happens when the sinner is joined to Christ and becomes one with Him. We are not joined to the righteousness of Christ, but we are joined to Christ Himself and as a result of that union His righteousness is reckoned as ours because Christ Himself is ours. What Christ the righteous One did was clearly righteous works. When we are united to Christ His works are considered ours but only because of Christ the righteous One. Just a few more thoughts on the issue.

  3. michael Says:

    Richard,

    thank you for the tenor of your words. It is refreshing and inspires hope in me for my fellow corrupt human being, saved, sanctified, justified by the saving Hand of Almighty God, you, would take the time and go over these remarks with me that I am making hereon.

    May I go a bit further in here with you? Because you have the moderation tool on, I will soon find out if I can?

    I make the distinction because of something, unlearned as I am and no scholar at all in anything, I heard taught by Dr. R C. Sproul, the “Covenant of Redemption” I believe it was and is?

    I have been trained a Minister of the Gospel and so ordained.

    One of my teachers, my “mentoring” Pastor, taught us many things out of the books of Genesis to Revelation in the four plus, beginning the process, years of training in Ministry I came through to be ordained to Minister on Their behalf in these days.

    At “….Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, Col 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross….” he pointed out that there are more than one “him” being referred to by the writer, Paul in those verses.

    Do you agree with that?

    Who is “him” and Who is “him”? There is a distinction that has grown and grown within me since that was understood by me many years ago as taught.

    Who is Who here?

    Who is making Peace with me? Is it Christ or God, the Only True God Who sent Jesus to do an equitable deed whereby I am acquitted of my real works of wickedness and evil and sin in thought, word and deed?

    As I understand it now, it is Our Heavenly Father Who is “making” peace with me because of the “equitable deed”, the only work of justification by Christ’s bloody cross on Good Friday, Christ provided God our Heavenly Father so that He, Our Heavenly Father can now “make peace” with me too, and you.

    As Colossians 2:13 points to, Paul is saying God, Our Heavenly Father is “working” with His Own Hands conjoining me, reanimating me to Christ making peace with me so that I can now, by the work Christ’s death on the cursed tree effects upon my sinful nature and soul, receive that certain and sure “inheritance” because of the work done, finished already, well in advance of my birth and now, my living today!

    So, while, again, whole heartedly agreeing with your remarks above and your post, I am making that work known in a slightly different way and context.

    Would that be an error on my part in doing that in your opinion?

  4. Richard Smith Says:

    > At “….Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fullness
    > of God was pleased to dwell, Col 1:20 and through him to
    > reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in
    > heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross….” he
    > pointed out that there are more than one “him”
    > being referred to by the writer, Paul in those verses.
    >
    > Do you agree with that?

    The NAS translation with my notes in brackets:
    19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him [Christ], 20 and through Him [Christ] to reconcile all things to Himself [Father], having made peace through the blood of His [Christ] cross; through Him [Christ], I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

    It is the Father who planned salvation, the Son purchased it, and the Holy Spirit applies it. It is the Father that reconciles sinners to Himself through Christ. It is the Father who made peace with sinners through Christ. We must always keep in mind that whatever Christ said He was given from the Father and whatever He did it was from the Father as well. Jesus Christ was the outshining of the glory of the Father (Hebrews 1:3) and was the temple of the glory of God (John 1:14). The miracles He did and the teachings He delivered were the very glory of God shining through the Son. This glory that shone and resided in the human body of Christ was a glory that was full of grace and truth. It is because that Christ was and is the outshining of the glory of God that when Christ saves sinners it is to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:6). When Jesus turned the water into wine in John 2, what happened there? “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” When Jesus did a miracle, the glory of God shone through Him. It was a sign that He was the messiah.

    Jesus, the only begotten God, came to explain the Father to us. That is why we must read the Gospel of John looking to Jesus to show us the Father and in all He said and did He was manifesting the Father to us. Another way to put it would be to say that all He did was the Father manifesting Himself through Christ. Look at the text below and see how we are to view and see the Father.

    John 14:8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘? 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.

    John 17:1-3 tells us that Jesus came to give eternal life and that eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. John 17:26 tells us that Christ “made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” 2 Corinthians 5:18 says this: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Indeed it is the Father who reconciles sinners to Himself. It is the Father who makes peace with sinners through Christ. By making peace it is more than just the absence of hostilities, but it is by the blood of the cross that God comes to dwell in us and share His love for Himself as triune with us. So this peace is the absence of hostility and the presence of true love.

    The Father is in perfect unity with the Son and sends the Son to take away the sin and disunity of sinners that they may be united to Christ and so share in the love that flows within the triune God. 1 John 5:20: “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” God gives eternal life as a gift through Christ, but here we see that eternal life is not just something He gives but in fact is Himself. The Son has come and has given us understanding that we may know and be in Him. Jesus Christ is the true God and is eternal life itself.

    Another way to see that is in 1 John 1:1 “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us– 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” God the Father has sent the Son as the very manifestation of His eternal life and all who have Christ who is eternal life have fellowship with the Father and with the Son. When we have eternal life, we have the life and love of God in our soul and so we have fellowship with Him. He sent the Son to carry this out and so as you correctly point out it is the Father who does this.

  5. michael Says:

    yes, yes, yes!

    I also like these ones too:::>

    Mat 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
    Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

    Without the Holy Ghost coming in the Authority of Our Heavenly Father, no one would know Christ to come to Him.

    1Co 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

    It’s clear to me “Who” put all things in subjection under “Him”.

    Finally:

    Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
    Rev 1:2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
    Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
    Rev 1:4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
    Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
    Rev 1:6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    What can anyone who “knows” say? “Amen” perhaps?

    Amen?
    Amen!

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