The Reality & Hope of Sanctification
Written by Matthew D. Adams |
Monday, March 27, 2023
The sanctifying power of the Spirit is much like uprooting and killing all the weeds that threaten to overtake us. Without the sanctifying power of the Spirit, sin would overrun our lives and choke us to death, but since we have a Helper – One who comes alongside of us in our weakness – we can be sure that we will be sanctified. We will be conformed to the image of Christ; we will be enabled to put to death sin our lives.
As many of you know, presbyteries (and local sessions!) of the Presbyterian Church in America are again proposing amendments to our Book of Church Order that will be considered at this summer’s General Assembly. In the mass of those amendments there are three that are gaining the attention. Why you might ask? Well, it’s a pretty simple answer…they are pertaining to our continued sexuality debates that have dominated our Assemblies for the past number of years. That’s right! There is a continued push to add language to our Book of Church Order that would outrightly disqualify a man from serving as an officer if he identifies with a sinful desire (like the term, “Gay Christian”). By being on social media, I have seen the frustration (even to the point for calling for a fundamental “purge”) from the progressive side of the denomination.
They do not understand why we need to do this “song and dance” for another year.
However, I believe that these three overtures are of utmost importance concerning the orthodoxy of our Church. Overtures 9, 16, and 17 seek to make a clear statement, and at the same time, sets up needed guardrails for Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders.
Admittedly, out of the three overtures that will be considered in Memphis by the Assembly, I am a proponent of Overture 17 which comes from the Session of Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian Church. Let’s take a look at the wording for that overture,
“7-4. Men who refer to a particular sin struggle as descriptive of their personhood, being, or identity are disqualified from holding office in the PCA”
This is a clear and concise statement, and personally, I believe that this is an overture that we should all be able to get behind. I have written about the Christian’s identity with before. You can find that article here. However, the identity conversation flows naturally into the conversation that needs to be had regarding sanctification. From what I have witnessed throughout the debates in the PCA regarding sexuality and identity, here is the crux of the argument – there is a real denial of the reality and hope of progressive sanctification.
It needs to be noted that sanctification is a vital part of our understanding of the ordo salutis – the order of salvation. In fact, the Westminster Divines include a definition of sanctification in our Shorter Catechism, Question 35,
“Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”
Sanctification is a work of God’s free grace. We know this, and yet, it has been consistently denied in many conversations circulating around our denomination. In fact, we even heard comments stated openly about how a former Teaching Elder’s sinful desires have not been sanctified…at all. That they are just as attracted to their sin now as they were when they were first converted. That flies in the face of what our catechisms, better yet, what the scriptures, teach.
Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus to continuously “put on the new man” which is created in “righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:23-24) These words are reminiscent of the words that he writes in Colossians, and its a declaration that their identity has been changed through their justification and adoption; therefore, they are to take off the old rags of their sin and find the joy of putting on the clothes of Christ’s righteousness. And this happens, as our catechism states, “…more and more…” as the Spirit works within us. This is good news! Believer, by the power of God’s indwelling Spirit, we are going to be enabled more and more to die unto sin and pursue Christlikeness. The Spirit is sent by God as a part of his grand plan of salvation, to conform us to the image and likeness of His Son. Our salvation is much more than just a rescue mission; its a complete and total renovation! It is a transformation.