The Order of Salvation: Sanctification (Definitive)

The Order of Salvation: Sanctification (Definitive)

Definitive sanctification encourages progressive sanctification. As the Apostle goes on to write, “So then brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” (Rom. 8:12) Through our union with Christ, we are empowered to live by the Spirit. Definitive sanctification does not take away our responsibility to pursue holiness, but it grounds it in a settled reality.

Nothing but the sight of death impresses on us so viscerally a sense of finality. As Christians, we are comforted by faith in the resurrection and the life to come, but death nevertheless strikes our limited and sin-affected minds with definitiveness. Do we think of our being made holy in Christ as just as definitive? When we continue to struggle with sin and unbelief, how can we think that our new life in Christ is real, definitive, decisive, and final? And yet it is the image of death that the Apostle Paul invokes in Romans 6 to describe our being made holy, separated from the power of sin. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2).

The Scriptural words for “holy” mean separate, set apart. God is holy because he is removed from all creaturely vulnerability. He is holy too because he is separate from all imperfection and sin. We are made holy when we are called and set apart for God’s purposes, and when we are decisively changed through union with Christ. Sanctity is another word for holiness. Sanctification is the process of being made holy. And while it is a process, and so we speak often about “progressive sanctification,” Scripture also teaches what John Murray called in his seminal article by the same name, “definitive sanctification”. There is, as professor Murray states it, a “decisive breach” with sin through our dying with Christ and rising again in him.[1]

Another way this is described in Scripture is as a cleansing, or purification. Because sin is defilement, sanctification is washing. And while we go on confessing our sins and being cleansed (1 Jn. 1:9), there is also a sense in which we have already been washed and have already been sanctified.

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