Ralph Erskine – Gospel Humiliation

Introduction

After great convictions of sin, and great denunciations of judgments against Israel, in the preceding part of the chapter, the Lord here, in the close, remembers mercy in the midst of wrath, and ends all his sad and heavy words with a sweet nevertheless, (v 60). And, indeed, mercy must begin on God’s side: “Nevertheless, I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth; and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.” And what will be the effect of this, we see in verse 61, “Then shalt thou remember thy ways and be ashamed.” It is worthy our observation, that when God says, “I will remember my covenant,” then he adds, “Thou shalt remember thy sins.” Hence it is evident, that never a good thought, never a penitent thought would have come into our hearts, had not some thoughts of peace and good-will come into God’s heart. When he remembers his covenant of mercy for us, so as not to remember our sins against us, then we remember our sins against ourselves with shame.

To continue reading Ralph Erskine’s article, click here.

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A. W. Pink – The Importance of Sanctification

What is “sanctification”? Is it a quality or position? Is sanctification a legal thing or an experimental? That is to say, “Is it something the believer has in Christ or in himself? Is it absolute or relative?” By which we mean, “Does it admit of degree or no? Is it unchanging or progressive?” Are we sanctified at the time we are justified, or is sanctification a later blessing? How is this blessing obtained? By something that is done for us, or by us, or both? How may one be assured he has been sanctified: what are the characteristics, the evidences, the fruits?…Are sanctification and purification the same thing? Does sanctification relate to the soul, the body, or both? What position does sanctification occupy in the order of Divine blessings? What is the connection between regeneration and sanctification? What is the relation between justification and sanctification?…Exactly what is the place of sanctification regarding salvation: does it precede or follow, or is it an integral part of it? Why is there so much diversity of opinion upon these points, scarcely any two writers treating of this subject in the same manner? Our purpose here is not simply to multiply questions but to indicate the many-sidedness of our present theme.

The great importance of our present theme is evidenced by the prominence that is given to it in Scripture: the words holy, sanctified, etc., occurring therein hundreds of times. Its importance also appears from the high value ascribed to it: it is the supreme glory of God, of the unfallen angels, of the Church. In Exodus 15:11, we read that the Lord God is “glorious in holiness” —that is His crowning excellency. In Matthew 25:31, mention is made of the “holy angels,” for no higher honor can be ascribed them. In Ephesians 5:26-27, we learn that the Church’s glory lieth not in pomp and outward adornment, but in holiness. Its importance further appears in that this is the aim in all God’s dispensations.2 He elected His people that they should be “holy” (Eph. 1:4); Christ died that He might “sanctify” His people (Heb 13:12); chastisements3 are sent that we might be “partakers of God’s holiness” (Heb 12:10).

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A. W. Pink – Sanctification: Its Progress and Practice

Normal Christian experience is a progress in practical holiness. Where there is life there is growth, and even when growth ceases there is a development and maturing of what is grown, unto increasing fruitfulness or usefulness. We say “normal,” for even in the natural (which ever adumbrates the spiritual) there is such a thing as stunted growth and arrested development-alas that we so often see examples of this among the Lord’s people. Yet those very failures only emphasize the fact–testified to by every Christian conscience–that we ought to go on “from strength to strength” (Psa. 84:7), that we should be “changed into” the image of the Lord “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18), that is, from one degree of it to another. That such progress is our duty is clear from many passages: “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1).

It seems strange that there are those who not only repudiate in toto any such thing as “progressive sanctification,” but who are bitterly opposed to those who contend for the same, even though our contention be scripturally and soberly conducted; stranger still that those very men belong to the same denomination as John Gill. They know quite well that those whom they condemn do not advocate any refining of the old nature or spiritualizing of the old man, nor have the slightest leanings to the evil dogma of fleshly perfection. Nevertheless, they continue to misrepresent and denounce them. It is quite true that the believer possesses a sanctification which is absolute and perfect, admitting of no degrees or improvements. Yet that does not alter the fact that there is another sense in which the believer’s sanctification is a relative and imperfect one, and that the pursuit of holiness is to be his chief quest. Why confuse two totally different aspects of the subject, and refuse to recognize they both exist?!

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Mark Johnston – The ‘More and More’ of Holiness

Holiness has too often been embroiled in confusion and distortion within the Christian community and, sadly, ends up being neglected rather than cultivated within the church. This is especially true in times, like our own, when the gospel becomes more ‘me-focused’ than ‘God-focused’.

Holiness is the great goal of Christ’s saving mission. According to Paul, his purpose in redemption was ‘to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good’ (Tit 2.14). The author of Hebrews urges his readers to ‘pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (He 12.14 [NRSV]. And Jesus himself states it even more bluntly with the words, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 6.48).

Holiness matters. And it matters far more than we are willing to admit. We may be quite happy to engage in argument and debate over the meaning of the concept in Scripture, but make little effort to fight the inward battles involved in the pursuit of holiness in our daily lives.

This struck me recently while reading Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Summing up the main thrust of his letter, he tells them,

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord to do this more and more (1Th 4.1) [NIV – italics added].

He goes on from there to walk them through some of the glaring failures that were literally a blot on the landscape of the church’s witness in that town and surrounding area. Reminding them that ‘it is God’s will that you should be sanctified’ he goes on to catalogue the list of sexual sins (private as well as public) that were clearly a matter of common knowledge in their wider community. He then says, ‘For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life’ (4.7).

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John Owen – Sanctification is a Progressive Work

Sanctification described, with the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in this; which is progressive — The way and means by which holiness is increased in believers, especially by faith and love, whose exercise is required in all duties of obedience; and also those graces whose exercise is occasional — The growth of holiness expressed in an allusion to that of plants, with an insensible progress — Renders grace in this to be greatly admired; and is discerned in the corresponding work of the Spirit in sanctification and supplication — Objections against the progressive nature of holiness are removed.

Having passed through the consideration of the general concerns of the work of sanctification, I will, in the next place, give a description of it, and then explain it more particularly in its principal parts. And I will do this only under this express caution: that I do not hope or design at the same time to represent the life, glory, and beauty of it, nor to comprise all things that eminently belong to it; I will only set up some way-marks that may guide us in our progress, or future inquiry into the nature and glory of it. And so I say that —

Sanctification is an immediate work of the Spirit of God on the souls of believers, purifying and cleansing their natures from the pollution and uncleanness of sin, renewing in them the image of God, and thereby enabling them, from a spiritual and habitual principle of grace, to yield obedience to God, according to the tenor and terms of the new covenant, by virtue of the life and death of Jesus Christ.

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Daniel Hyde – Continually Washed by the Gospel

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Right after you were born, the blood and vernix on your body was washed off by a nurse or even your mom or dad. Have you taken a bath or shower since the day you were born? Of course you have. Our bodies continually become dirtied, requiring new cleansing. It is the same way with us spiritually. Even after we are born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:1–8), we continue to sin. We have to be washed for the first time by Jesus, but He also continues to wash us of our sins.

The Lord said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.” (Exodus 30:17-21)

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Keith Essex – Sanctification: The Biblically Identifiable Fruit

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Introduction

The apostle Peter exhorted his Christian audience, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:14-16). Just as OT believers were called to reflect the holy God in their character and behavior (Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7), NT believers are called to the same standard. This holy life-style that is to characterize the Christian is defined by theologians as an aspect of “present
or progressive sanctification.” The need for the believer to grow in progressive sanctification is underscored by the exhortation in Heb 12:15, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

The seriousness with which Christians in the past responded to this appeal for progressive sanctification (i.e., holiness) is articulated by J. I. Packer:

There was a time when all Christians laid great emphasis on the reality of God’s call to holiness and spoke deep insights about His enabling of us for it. Evangelical Protestants, in particular, offered endless variations on the themes of what God’s holiness requires of us, what our holiness involves for us, by what means and through what disciplines the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, and the ways in which holiness increases our assurance and joy and usefulness to God.

Packer adds,

Formerly, then, holiness was highlighted throughout the Christian church. But how different it is today! To listen to our sermons and to read the books we write for each other and then to watch the zany, worldly, quarrelsome way we behave as Christian people, you would never imagine that once the highway of holiness was clearly marked out for Bible believers, so that ministers and people knew what it was and could speak of it with authority and confidence.

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William Plumer – What is the Difference between Justification and Sanctification?

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The answer is that they do not differ in their importance. Both are essential to salvation. Without either we must perish. Indeed God has inseparably joined them together. Christ Jesus is always made sanctification to those, to whom he is made righteousness. Nor do they differ in their source, which is the fiee grace and infinite love of God. We are justified by faith, and our hearts are purified by faith. Faith is the instrument of justification. Faith is the root of sanctification. In justification sin is pardoned, in sanctification it is slain. In justification we obtain forgiveness and acceptance; in sanctification we attain the victory over corruption, and obtain rectitude of nature. Justification is an act of God complete at once and forever. Sanctification is a work of God begun in regeneration, conducted through life and completed at death. Justification is equal and perfect in all Christians; sanctification is not equal in all, nor perfect in any — until they lay aside the flesh. In justification God imputes to us the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification he infuses grace, and enables us to exercise it. Justification always precedes sanctification. Sanctification always comes after justification.

A late writer says, “Justification and sanctification DIFFER,
1st. in their causes. Justification comes by the righteousness of Christ; sanctification by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd. In their effects. The effect of justification consists in our external restoration to the favor of God, and the bestowment on us of a covenant title to eternal life; that of sanctification, in the removal of our inbred corruption, and the renewal of the divine image in the soul.
3rd. In their locality. Justification is an act of God, done amid the solemnities of his court in Heaven; sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit, wrought on the dispositions of our inner man on earth.

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Tom Hawkes – Holiness is Our Goal

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You shall be holy, for I am holy.

Recently Dr. Ed Welch, a man for whose ministry I have great respect and have benefited from immensely, wrote a blog post entitled, “https://www.ccef.org/resources/blog/holiness-not-goal” I wish to respectfully, and carefully, disagree. I wish to disagree, not so much with the sentiment of his article, to which I can say a hardy amen, but to the title and some of what I think are misunderstandings about holiness, which this article unfortunately propagates.

But first let me express my agreement with a core sentiment of his article. He invites his readers to consider holiness as “progressive nearness” to God. This is an excellent understanding of holiness. Holiness is rightly seen as a relational category and to the extent that Dr. Welch intends to clarify that truth, more power to him. Holiness is in large part a heart that turns to God and away from the world, the flesh and the devil. A mind that delights in the beauty of God. A soul that runs toward the Father’s love, not away from it.

Similarly, his caution against thinking of Christian faith as simply the to-do-lists of Scripture is abundantly correct and helpful. Christ did not call us to a mere external obedience to the Law. Indeed, the Law was never meant to be a list of external to-dos. Jesus made that clear when he declared in his summary that the Law was to be fulfilled by our love for God and neighbor, relational categories.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39 ESV)

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Tim Chester – How True Change Happens

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How Are You Going to Change?

“Please forgive me and set me free.” I don’t know how many times I’ve prayed this prayer; it must be in the hundreds. “Father, here I am again, confessing the same sin to you again.” Every time I have to remind myself of God’s merciful character and gospel promises. I am forgiven. But I also really want to change.

Have you despaired of ever changing? Do you think you’re a lost cause? Maybe you think it’s different for you. Other people can change, but your history or temptations or problems make it different for you.

The glorious good news of Jesus is that you and I can change.

Part of the problem is we often try to change in the wrong way.

It seems our first instinct when we want to change is to do something. We think activity will change us. We want a list of do’s and don’ts. In Jesus’s day, people thought they could be pure through ceremonial washing. Today it can be spiritual disciplines or sets of laws. I’ve tried these approaches. I’ve written out little rituals to perform every morning. I’ve tried to regulate my behavior with lists. Many of these things are good in themselves, and we’ll discover the role they can play in helping us grow in holiness. But our rituals and disciplines can’t change us.

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