Archives For holiness

The indicative and imperative are at the heart of the Christian faith. Understanding these truths, both their content and order, are critical because the gospel and spiritual life are at stake.

John Webster has applied the indicative and imperative to sanctification and holiness. Holiness is both indicative and imperative, and sanctification is both the holiness the gospel declares and commands. The fruit of this in the lives of believers is action. Because this truth is rooted in “double grace,” it is not only a grace that justifies, it is a grace that sanctifies, it is “election to activity.”

Webster writes, Holiness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 87:

Evangelical sanctification is not only the holiness the gospel declares but also the holiness that the gospel commands, to which the creaturely counterpart is action. Holiness is indicative; but it is also imperative; indeed, it is imperative because it is the indicative holiness of the triune God whose work of sanctification is directed towards the renewal of the creature’s active life of fellowship with him.

Indicative holiness is no mere inert state in which we find ourselves placed and which requires nothing of us beyond passive acquiescence. Indicative holiness is the revelation of the inescapable conclusion under which our lives have been set—namely, that as those elected, justified, and sanctified by the mercy of God, we are equally those who are determined for the active life of holiness. Because grace is ‘double grace’, it is election to activity.

Double grace is always, of course, wholly grace; the active life of holiness is never apart from faith’s assent to God’s sheer creativity. But in a Christian theology of the holy life, grace is duplex, extending into the generation, evocation and preservation of action. ‘Grace’—which is, of course, nothing other than a shorthand term for the great history of God’s mercy, at whose centre is the passion and resurrection of Christ and his sending of the Spirit—is the gift of life, and life is active holiness in company with the holy God.

A few questions to ponder:

  • When considering justification and sanctification, the declaration and command, how do you understand these truths?
  • How are they different?
  • How are they related?
  • What are the problems when these two doctrines are separated from one another too far?
  • What are the problems when they are treated as synonyms?
  • With what do you agree, and what do you find helpful from Webster’s explanation?
  • Finally, practically and pastorally, why does it appear that holiness is not something addressed or pursued by many Evangelicals?

Sanctification and Transformation

Greg Strand – February 22, 2013 2 Comments

David Peterson has written many helpful books. Recently Sandy Grant interviewed Peterson about “using biblical words in biblical ways” focusing on two of his books addressing sanctification and transformation.

In the first book discussed, Possessed by God: A New Testament theology of sanctification and holiness, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995), the following paragraph sums up Peterson’s key thesis (p. 27):

Sanctification is commonly regarded as a process of moral and spiritual transformation following conversion. In the New Testament, however, it primarily refers to God’s way of taking possession of us in Christ, setting us apart to belong to him and to fulfil his purpose for us. Sanctification certainly has present and ongoing effects, but when the verb ‘to sanctify’ (Gk. hagiazein) and the noun ‘sanctification’ (Gk. hagiasmos) are used, the emphasis is regularly on the saving work of God in Christ, applied to believers through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Peterson’s concern is that there was a problem created by the interface between systematic theology and biblical theology.

With regard to sanctification, we have a problem regarding the interface between systematic theology and biblical theology, as well as a complex history of debate between different schools of thought about how we make progress in the Christian life. The use of ‘sanctification’ as a cover-all term for everything that happens between justification and glorification is misleading. Consistent with OT teaching about consecration and holiness, the verb ‘to sanctify’ is used in the NT to describe the beginning of the Christian life, not its progression and development. There are different ways in which related terms are used to challenge us about living out or expressing that sanctified status as the ‘saints’ of God under the New Covenant.

The second book they discussed built on the former book and spelled out further what Christian growth and maturity means by focusing on the term transformation: Transformed by God: New Covenant Life and Ministry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2012). Peterson claims that the term “transformation” is a better term to describe/explain the process of moral and spiritual growth, even though it is a word that is rarely used in the New Testament (cf. Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). But, states Peterson, there are good reasons to use the term.

Although ‘transformation’ vocabulary is fairly rare in the NT, it puts the focus emphatically on God’s work in changing us into the likeness of Christ. That theme is more widely expressed in other contexts where related terminology is used (e.g. Rom 8:29; Gal 4:19; Eph 4:13; 1 John 3:2-3). The call is for us to expose our minds and hearts to God’s word and the influence of his Spirit and to respond with faith and obedience, looking for God to change us in his own time, according to his own will.

These are two excellent books to read!

Another important book written by Peterson is Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992). This is one of the best books on a biblical theology of worship I have read; it had a profound impact on my understanding and practice of biblical worship.

His most recent commentary written in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series edited by D. A. Carson is also, as with everything else he writes, very good: The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009).

Infographic on the Attributes of God

Greg Strand – March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

—comment by Greg Strand, EFCA Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing

Tim Challies, a master blogger, has begun putting some theology charts together in the form of infographics. There are two so far. Consider using this one on “The Attributes of God” in a small group or personal study.

Note: The resources used in “The Attributes of God” chart are Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, and A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God.

The Attributes of God Infographic

Qualities of an Evangelical Leader

Greg Strand – March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

–comments by Greg Strand, EFCA Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing

Iain Murray, John MacArthur, Servant of the Word and Flock (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011).

Murray has written some excellent bibliographies: Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Arthur Pink, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Murray. One of his most recent is on John MacArthur.

As he begins this biography, Murray uses MacArthur’s teaching to emphasize five qualities or marks of an evangelical leader. They are worthy of consideration and emulation!

An evangelical leader is one who leads and guides the lives of others by Scripture as the Word of God.
An evangelical inspires the affection of followers because they learn Christ through him, and see something of Christ in him.
An evangelical leader is a man prepared to be unpopular.
An evangelical leader is one who is awake to the dangers of the times.
An evangelical leader will not direct attention to himself.
It follows that genuine spiritual leadership will lead others to the conclusion: ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth’ (Psa. 115:1).