Progressive Sanctification, View One: Grace Plus Works or Cooperation
In this view, grace and works are usually seen as more or less balanced. Theologian Wayne Grudem is one representative of this view. He believes that sanctification is “a work in which God and man cooperate each playing distinct roles” (“Sanctification (by Wayne Grudem)“). Although admitting that an “initial moral change is the first stage in sanctification” (ibid.), he says “this moral change is actually a part of regeneration [but] we can also see it as the first stage in sanctification” (ibid.). His emphasis is largely on progressive sanctification. He writes, “Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives” (ibid.). To Grudem, sanctification is not just a work of God; it is a work of God and man.
In the first part of this article, we saw how our spiritual battle is not against flesh and blood, and that the opposite concepts of what our spiritual armor pictures show what we are fighting against in our spiritual battle (for example, the opposite of truth is lies, the opposite of faith is unbelief). In Part 2, we will see that our spiritual battle is a rational one founded upon the truth of the Word of God.
I’ve heard preachers attack what they call “mere human reasoning.” Some might just mean erroneous arguments. But I know that others truly believe that Christians should avoid logic to
support their ideas. This is unfortunate. Jesus is the Logos of God. Logos is the word from which we get the English word “logic.” Logos is often translated as “word” (as it is in John 1:1) because words express logical propositions. We arrange words in grammatically correct syntax in sentences the way computer programmers arrange computer code.
In Ephesians 6:10, Paul tells his readers to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might,” which, in the next verse, he pictures as putting “on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Paul is making an analogy between the Christian life and an armored soldier standing his ground in a battle. What the Christian must stand against are “the wiles of the devil.” The devil has methodeia—”clever ways,” “cunning schemes”—that we must stand up against.
I used to do some freelance editing for a man who ran a Christian publishing, Internet, and speaking ministry. A few years before his death, he found that he was unable to, in good conscience, continue his membership in the church of which he had been a member and elder. Soon afterward, “Christian” forums had threads about him that went something like this: “Did you hear that so-and-so is no longer under the accountability of a church?” “What? Do you mean that he’s not under a church covering?” “This is outrageous! How can he continue his ministry while being unfaithful?” “Well, all I know is that as long as he’s not under the authority of a church, I’m not listening to him any more.”
16 December 2015: A tradition that many people have at this time of year is watching Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Capra made the film “to combat a modern trend toward atheism.”1 Individual opinions of the film range from its being the best movie ever made to its being too sappy to endure. I happen to enjoy it—a lot, and so does my whole family. Not only that, but I think it has more depth than many people realize. Some of the central themes of It’s a Wonderful Life are soundly biblical, and they are good lessons for Christians to know and live by. So, I’m going to do something unusual. I’m going to use It’s a Wonderful Life to illustrate some biblical principles.
A. Many, perhaps most, preachers teach that when a Christian sins, he or she must confess that sin to receive God’s forgiveness. They base this primarily on 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But if it is true that we must always confess a sin for God to forgive us, it would seem to contradict the fact that God has already completely forgiven believers because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. What, then, did John mean when he wrote 1 John 1:9?
This article is adapted from The Word of His Grace radio program, "Living Sacrifice."
In Romans 12, verses 1-2, Paul writes, “Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.”