Saturday, August 17, 2013

Are we justified and sanctified by faith?

Justification and sanctification are both by faith, but not in the same way. In justification, the believer lays hold of Christ and His righteousness by faith alone and is declared righteous in God's law court. Faith alone justifies us (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:15-16). No other Spiritual graces are instruments of justification but faith only, which is the “empty hand” and “open mouth,” that merely receives Christ and His satisfaction of God's justice.  Louis Berkhof calls faith the "appropriating organ" of justification. Faith, which itself is God's free gift (Eph 2:8-9), contributes nothing legal/judicial to our justification, since the believer's faith itself is imperfect and sinful (Mk 9:24). Faith is merely the suitable/fitting means of our being united to Christ who alone is the ground and cause of our justification.

In sanctification, the same faith that justifies us also sanctifies us (Gal 3:1-6).  As we cling to Christ by faith, we trust Him in all of His offices (prophet, priest, and king) and our minds and hearts are renovated and made more and more holy after the likeness of Christ. Faith justifies by extra-spectively grasping Christ and resting in Him alone for a right standing before God as judge.  That same faith sanctifies us by continuing to grasp and rest in Christ alone for justification as well as by trusting Christ's authority as lawgiver, the goodness of His commands, the blessing of fellowship that comes from His kind hand to those who obey Him, and the filial fearfulness of His discipline, etc. for the joy of communing with God as our Father.  Saving faith is, therefore, always active and energetic.  It is the foundation and spring of the believer's effort, striving, discipline, and self-control to keep God's good law in order to know and enjoy Him more.

That's why Paul says, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,” etc. (2 Pet 1:5).  James says of Abraham, "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works" (Jas 2:22).  Galatians 5:6 says, "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."

Hebrews 4:10-11 captures both the justifying and sanctifying aspects of saving faith: "Whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.  Let us therefore strive."  Faith as justifying rests in Christ and His finished work.  Faith as sanctifying strives for the "holiness without which none will see the Lord" (Heb 12:14).  Thus, while both justification and sanctification are by faith, justification only involves faith grasping Christ for righteousness before God as Judge, while sanctification involves faith actively working in love and obedience to God's good commandments for communion with God as Father.

The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith 1677/1689, Chapter 14, Paragraph 2 says that faith is the means by which the believer receives all of God's saving graces:
"By this faith a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself,4 and also apprehends an excellency therein above all other writings and all things in the world,5 as it bears forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in his workings and operations: and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth consequently believed;6 and also acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands,7 trembling at the threatenings,8 and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come;9 but the principle acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.10" 
          ____________________
4 Acts 24:14
5 Ps. 19:7-10, 69:72
6 2 Tim. 1:12
7 John 15:14
8 Isa. 116:2
9 Heb. 11:13
10 John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Gal:20; Acts 15:11