Thursday, October 8, 2009

He who Sanctifies

Hebrews 2:10-13 (ESV)
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. [11] For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, [12] saying,
"I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise."
[13] And again,
"I will put my trust in him."
And again,
"Behold, I and the children God has given me."
For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have one origin. The Holy Spirit sanctifies by the blood of Christ. We are sanctified. I return to this topic so often because it is perhaps the most pernicious topic of the day. I hate it when people talk of sanctification as a process. I know we grow in faith, love, and knowledge by the work of the Holy Spirit in us. There is much to learn even after one becomes a Christian. But let’s not talk about this in legalistic terms like our “evangelical” neighbors that have no idea what the evangel is. When the Book of Concord talks about the third use of the law, it is not talking about American evangelical sermon exhortations. It is talking about function of the law operating in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. You don’t preach “third use”. You preach law. Then you preach Gospel. We don’t train our members to be hypocrites, and Pharisees. We don’t measure how sanctified or unsanctified we are based on the law. Sanctification is the result of the gospel. You are or you are not sanctified. If you are not sanctified you are not saved. How can God save that which is not Holy? How can he save it without making it holy? How can he pour his blood over us, and atone for our sins with it, without making us Holy? Sanctified=made Holy. When we do as so many are proposing, and blend the “3rd use of the law” (as if it was a blond we picked up at the bar for the third time, being as you used her twice already.), and throw it in the realm of sanctification as something we need to achieve because we “cooperate in sanctification,” we are back in Rome. The whole third use controversy is nothing but an attempt of 3rd rate theologians to cloak Wesleyan Progressive Sanctification in Lutheran terminology. Stop. If you want to be an evangelical go rent a store front and do it. I can’t stop you. But please stop calling yourself Lutheran.

16 comments:

Jonathan said...

Is it proper "third use" to say that, because we have been sanctified, we can/should look to the law to show us how we ought to live in grateful response to our gracious Lord...so that others see our good deeds and give glory to God in heaven?

I never learned sanctification itself as a process. But, in terms of Christian living, I think it's pretty safe to say that that is a process, and some are better at it than others.

Steve said...

The One who is really good at it is the Lord.

He sanctifies...not us.

Great post, Bror.

Steve said...

"If you are not sanctified you are not saved."

Amen!

Bror Erickson said...

Jonathan,
"Third use" is a bastard of a translation. And therein comes the problem. We want to use the law, like a blond we picked up at the bar. That is sort of the tendency that comes with this bad terminology. The law isn't there to be used by us. Neither is the blond, by the way. It is the other way around. The law uses and abuses us. The better terminology is that of function. The man who did the most research on this and is very good is Dr. Scott Murray. The law will function how it wants with you. For some it will have the function of more or less reforming them, but normally only after the second function has taken place. Whenever the law is proclaimed both of these functions will be at operation in the hearers to varying degrees. That is why the gospel needs to be on its heels. It is the Gospel we look to for life. Always the gospel. The law can show us how to live maybe, but it can't allow us to live. It must kill. It always accuses. But when we start in the Spirit, we dare not try to finish in the flesh. Paul is there saying we live in the spirit, the gospel. The law appeals to flesh.
As for Christian living. If it isn't living a forgiven life, I don't know what it is. and if we are living a forgiven life, then we have no basis to judge whether some are doing a better or worse job of it than others. That isn't to say we can't grow in faith and love. We can but we do so at the direction of the Holy Spirit working through Law and Gospel.
Problem is process implies end result. We may never actually look all that different, feel different, etc. We may and more than likely will find that when we thought we were improving we were merely exchanging sins. In the end all we have is forgiveness, that justifies and sanctifies.

Brigitte said...

Do you think it would be right to think that the "3rd use" was come up with as a reaction to "antinomianism" and maybe the "epicurean" life-style people worried about in the confessions (everything is due to God's election, it does not matter what I do.), and that it does not make any sense whatsoever outside that reaction?

Personally, I don't think I've ever met any/many antinomians, so in that case it makes no sense in any circumstance that I know of. It is kind of an artificial controversy that has little to do with real people, certainly not people who are honest Christians. They are not antinomians.

As for the rest of the times, the law is just simply the law, makes the most sense. As simul justus et peccator, we can't even separate out when it is slaying the sinner and when it is exhorting the saint. It would be happening to some degree "simul", as in it never ceases to accuse or exhort.

Jonathan said...

OK, it sounds very much like the same 2-sided controversy over "third use" identified in the FC,SD, VI, is still in play today.

Seems like the father confessors are saying the proper distinction of "third use" lies somewhere in between the "you gotta" of the law and the "freedom" of the Gospel. In other words, it's a tough one, but nevertheless we believe teach and confess there is a "third use."

Wayne Dawg said...

Bror - Good morning!

Is ther not a process of santification after we are saved?

In other words..

I was sanctified when I was saved.

I am being sanctified by the Holy Spirit as I grow closer to Christ.

I will be sanctified when I pass from this life to eternity with Christ.

Is it not sanctification that is happening right now as I grow in Christ?

I'm not talking about works or using the law to 'measure' my spiritual growth, but a real and constant change from where I was almost 15 years ago when God saved me to where I am now.

Thanks

Nancy said...

@ Wayane Dawg

Maybe you are confusing acts of deliverance with sanctification...

Truly we are delivered, initially, continually and ultimately from the work of the enemy and ourselves and there is indeed a renewal of our "mind" that is happening as we are changed image to image and glory to glory, prompted by the Holy Spirit to repentance and renewal of our faith in Jesus on a daily basis.

We are however, fully sanctified upon regeneration. Education and understanding are processes.

Bror Erickson said...

"I'm not talking about works or using the law to 'measure' my spiritual growth, but a real and constant change from where I was almost 15 years ago when God saved me to where I am now."
Well Wayne,
there is a sense in whch the holy spirit is constantly sanctifying the believer. just as I am justified by faith alone every day, I am sanctified by Grace alone every day.
But do you really think you have come all that far in 15 years. I'm going to put my money on the table here, and bet that you are still a sinner in need of God's Grace. I'm even willing to bet that God looking at your heart doesn't see much improvement there over the last 15 years.
And I counted it all skubola.
Don't get earthly righteousness, mixed up with the righteousness of God. No one is good but God alone.

Brigitte said...

On a Methodist blog, there was this discussion about whether it would be right NOT to talk about what God is doing in your life (all kinds of wonderful things and improvements, I would guess, since a type of perfection is obtainable in their books.)

OK, let's say Wayne's life has really improved a lot: he was a crass sinner, falling into all manner of vice, and left all that behind.

If this is what happened, then I'd rather let other people discover that about me and say something about it than me telling them.

Something like Jesus talking about the seating arrangement at the table. Sit at the low end and have the host move you up, rather than sit at the high end and be moved down. Or just stay at the low end, whether you get moved around or not. It does not really matter if anyone notices or not. You know Whose you are and that's what matters.

Bror Erickson said...

Wayne,
We aren't trying to pick on you here. I don't know who you were before you were saved.
I think though that sometimes it is hard for people to grasp that they never really have improved in their condition. Especially when they have gone from being on skid row, to Mr. Family man.
Sometimes when I listen to baptists and others talk, especially when they open up for testimonies. I get the impression that the only way I can be saved in their system is for me first to become a womanizing drug addict. It may even be better that I murder a couple people first. And that the only reason I should be saved is so I can go about leading a boring middle class life, with all the luxuries associated with that. That way I can go about a back handed bragging with others in church, standing up to tell them all that God has done for me, like the new boat he bought for me last week. And we'll put all this under sanctification, which we know will be totally accomplished when we get out mansion here on earth rather than in the Father's house.
What about the rich middle class man, morally decent by society's standards, who doesn't change much in the outward externals, but just continues to take the trash out on Wednesday? Can he be saved? Do his children have to listen to sordid stories of sex, drugs, and rock and roll when they go to church?
Paul talks of all his exceeding righteousness before he became a Christian, then he says of all of it, that it is skubola, a Greek word, the English equivalent being not suitable for use in church these days, but roughly meaning dung. He doesn't brag about his righteousness or how far he has come. He just talks about Christ, and what Christ did for the world on the cross.

Wayne Dawg said...

Sorry Bror, I have been away this weekend and just now getting back to visiting blogs.

You said,

"But do you really think you have come all that far in 15 years. I'm going to put my money on the table here, and bet that you are still a sinner in need of God's Grace."

I think what we have here...is a failure to communicate. Sorry, I love that line from Cool Hand Luke.

I think we are talking in different lingo and each of us are trying to understand the other.

Yes,,,oh yes. I am a sinner in the need of God's grace every day. I am a sinner. I break His law every day....and I hate it.

Maybe I need your definition of what sanctification really is.

I understand sanctification to be process.

Like I said; was, is and will be sanctified.

But am I where I was 15 years ago...God forbid.

J.I. Packer said;

"Sanctification says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), 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." The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated (that is to claim too much) or merely counteracted (that is to say too little), but of a divinely wrought character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues."

Is it not in this description of sanctification that all believers should be evolving towards?

I don't feel anyone is picking on me....On the contrary, I want to learn and grow in the likeness of Christ.... is that not being sactified?

Thanks!

Bror Erickson said...

Wayne,
J.I Packer isn't necessarily an authority to quote with me. Neither the Westminster Catechism.
You are correct we are using different definitions, and to some degree using different lingo. What we are not doing is talking past each other. I understand how you are using the word Sanctification. It is what 99% of all American Christians mean when they use the term, inundated as they are by reformed commentary. It is not what I mean by sanctification. In fact I am opposed to the word being used in this way.
Sanctification is a Biblical word, and the Bible should be used to ferret out the meaning. Sanctify means to make something holy. Either you are or you are not holy. If you are not holy you are not saved. People instinctively know that by the way. They know that salvation and sanctification are words expressing the same thing. This is why saying sanctification is a process is so dangerous. Ultimately, no matter how acrobatic you are with the words, you make salvation the result of works, when you make sanctification a process. This results in either despair or hypocrisy.
It is also sort of peculiar. Inevitably the person with this doctrine looks back, say 15 years. 15 years ago they were a drug addict, a whoremonger, an alcoholic, etc. And they stick in their thumb, pull out a plumb and say what good boy am I. Really?! and then it comes out well it's not me, all glory to God. Which serves more often than not as nothing more than a thin veneer of orthodoxy to cover up a rotten core. And it doesn't do that very well because we just heard you bragging. The only thing is the devil has used former sins to distract you from present sins. Good thing I'm not a whoremonger now, much better off being a hypocritical pharisee.
And how much of this is really due to the Holy Spirit? I don't know. I see Mormons claiming the same B.S everyday. In fact I've watched guys kick drugs and womenizing without Christ at all. They blame it on the ball and chain. But you don't see them darkening church doors.
Perhaps this is why so many reformed claim Lutherans don't have a doctrine of Sanctification. They refuse to see it. But as a matter of fact we do, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Because we believe that we cannot, "by our own reason and strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to him, But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls gathers and enlightens the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christi church he daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers, on the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true."
Call me Lutheran, but I like that definition of sanctification much better than the westminster. That would be the Third Article of the Creed, the explanation. Work of the Holy Spirit.
The only process there would be the daily and richly forgiving my sins.

Frank Sonnek said...

The law is the law is the law.

Think always this way:

The Will of God= The Law/Decalog

The terms are interchangable.

The command that it is necessary to "act like a christian" is the command to do EXACTLY the thing demanded of pagans or any other human on the planet. and this explains why pagans often do law ALOT better than us christians do.

as to the comment " we, as christians, should gratefully look to the law to know how to act in response to the gospel": one word: Law. This is law. We do not do this. We need to repent of this too.

Sanctification is not a process. We "are Holy" saint paul says. "State of being", not "process".

The part that is process is this: The law mortifies the flesh, it kills the idea that our willpower is of any use in "getting better" or "moral betterment". The law is to make us submit to this fact that all is hopeless in terms of becoming better and to bring us to rely on christ alone. This is also the purpose of suffering by the way, which God does not wish for us.

Frank Sonnek said...

the historical context of the third use of the law is this:

the church had invented all sorts of "spiritual" acts to do to be a better christian. things like pilgrimages, and collecting religious items, and doing alot of masses to get folks outta purgatory, and becoming monks and nuns and taking religious vows..

The reformer´s response was a simple one: humble yourselves and try keeping the same second table of the ten commandments that the pagans do... be a father or mother or employee or whatever and be a good one, and that should a) keep you so busy trying to be good that you won´t have any time left over, and b) it will knock all the religious stuffin outta you when you see just how impossible it is to actually DO what the law demands.

They say that THIS is what the christian life looks like, nothing more and nothing less.

This is the 3rd use of the law.

There is no confusion here.

Wayne Dawg said...

Thanks Bror and Frank!