Sunday, September 6, 2020

Four Views of Sanctification: Lutheran, Calvinist, Keswick, & Wesleyan

Last week we talked about three views of the atonement of Jesus. Today we’re going to continue forward and talk about the concept of sanctification. That’s a big theological word, but in general sanctification is defined as the process by which a believer in Jesus is conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, sanctification is the process by which we are made slowly over our lives more and more holy, pure, and like Jesus our savior.

Salvation happens for us at the moment that we believe in jesus Christ as our savior. At that moment we are born again, we receive the holy spirit who lives in us, and we begin a new life as a follower of Jesus. That is the moment of salvation.

But now that we’ve become Christians, we live the rest of our lives following Jesus, and slowly growing to be more and more like Jesus. That is the lifelong process of sanctification. It’s also referred to as growth in holiness, growth in purity, and growth in maturity. The scriptures make consistent reference to the process of sanctification is these various ways, another way it’s referred to is as putting to death the sins of the flesh, and living by the Spirit in us.

Are you taking notes? I hope so. We’re going a bit deeper today. So I want to give you first of all the four chief views of sanctification within the church, and then we’ll focus on the Wesleyan view, which as The Salvation Army, is the theology we follow. And I think you’ll see why, it’s quite beautiful. But I want you to be aware of all the various perspectives on sanctification.

Before we start I want to tell you that is issue of sanctification really hits on a huge, huge massive issue within the Christian faith, and it’s how Christians wrestle with sin after becoming Christians. This is to me the grand question of following Jesus: How do we resolve the fact of sin in the life of the believer? Do we ignore it? Do we throw up our arms and quit? Do we focus in on Christ? Do we work to overcome it? And these viewpoints each tell us a different response to the question of what should a Christian who keeps sinning do?

First of all we have the Lutheran view. I had quite a debate with one of my professors at Liberty university who held the Lutheran view of sanctification, and I found it to be quite an unacceptable viewpoint. But in any case, the Lutheran view suggests that the moment of salvation and sanctification are one in the same. So at the moment that you get saved, you are also fully sanctified. Which makes absolutely no sense to me. Because I haven’t met many Christians who seem to be instantly just like Jesus, though perhaps it does happen from time to time, I don’t know. But from my perspectives when I see Christians growing, it’s a lifelong process of slowly, sins being weeded out one by one, and a slow growth in maturity. So this perspective believes that it’s a sort of one and done, you get saved in Jesus, and at that same time you are fully sanctified as well.

So this perspective answers the question by saying we are new in Christ, any attempt to live a holy life is just man trying to be saved by his owns, and so we just focus on Jesus, grace through faith alone, and we don’t worry about it when we struggle in sin. To me, this perspective decides to ignore and push aside the sin problem in a believer’s life.

The second view is the Calvinist view. The Calvinist suggests that sanctification occurs both at the moment of salvation, and also as a progressive process through our whole lives. Believers are considered a new person, who is also being progressively renewed in Christ. So it’s lifelong process of slow growth in sanctification that never really meets an end. So a Calvinist would say, generally, that a believer will always sin in this life. And not to worry about it, you won’t be sanctified like Jesus until coming into heaven.

Once again, the question, what about sin in a believer’s life, the answer for the Calvinist is: Yes, you keep on sinning in this life. You can never be free from sin. So this perspective simply embraces sin as a reality of this life. They would say you can resist sin in Christ of course, but you can’t ever be fully free from sin.

The third view is the Keswick “Deeper Life” view. The Keswick view is best described from the Keswick movement that took place in the late 18th century from their first publication which states, “We believe that the Word of God teaches that the normal Christian life is one of uniform sustained victory over known sin… that a life of faith and victory, of peace and rest, are the rightful heritage of every child of God, and that he may step into it… not by long prayers, and laborious effort, but by a deliberate and decisive act of faith. The normal experience of the child of God should be one of victory instead of constant defeat, one of liberty, and rest, and that this may be obtained not by a lifelong struggle after an impossible ideal but by a surrender of the individual to God, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” The Keswick view indicates that Christians fight a battle within themselves between the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the Spirit. And as much as believers try to fight this battle to live in the Spirit, instead of the flesh, they can’t win the battle.

So the solution for the Keswick view is a single moment at some point in the future where the believer fully surrenders to God. A complete surrender and turning over of all to God. They would say this moment of surrender usually happens along with some sort of crisis in the life of the believer. They believer realizes in this moment of crisis that they are totally powerless to sin, and so they come through this crisis to a complete surrender.

And it means, first of all that the believer completely surrenders to the fact that they can’t beat sin on their own, and secondly they put a complete resting faith in Christ. This ends the battle with a total surrender to Christ, and no more striving to be holy and pure. At that moment of surrender, the believer is given by the Holy Spirit the power to resist sin, and live holy in Christ.

So there’s a lot of good stuff there. There’s plenty to like in this view. You surrender to God, and God removes the problem. Sounds a lot like say the twelve steps of recovery groups in society.

So to the answer of the question of sin in the life of a believer, the Keswick view would say the answer is a time of crisis, that brings us to a complete surrender to God, and that resting faith in Christ delivers us from all sin. So the answer changes now, for the Lutheran and Calvinist view, sin must always remain. But for the Keswick view, sin can be overcome.

But now let’s look at the fourth view, the Wesleyan View, which is the idea of entire sanctification as perfect love. This view considers all sin a problem of the heart. Because the scriptures say that man looks at actions but God looks at the heart. It’s all a heart issue. Sin is the problem and Christ is the solution. All this growth in holiness is only done by Christ in us, and by the Spirit working in us, we simply cooperate with that and respond as God moves in us toward growth.

And I think you’ll see that the Wesleyan view actually combines a lot of the best elements from the other views.

Let’s take a look at the chart. 

So you see the moment of salvation, justification, that Jesus makes us new, washes away our past sins, and gives us a new life, we receive the Holy Spirit and we begin our Christian journey. Then we see the slow progressive growth in holiness. Similar to part of the Calvinist view. We slowly over the months and years, watch as God removes sins from our lives, removes things like pride, and ego, and gossip, and coldness, and we repent, and God removes those things.

We come to a moment of surrender, where we give ourselves fully over to God, this really heralds a time when we realize we’ve given our whole lives to God. And we’ve humbled ourselves before him. This is a time when victory begins to become the new normal. So sanctification continues, and eventually at some time in the future, we come to this point of what we call “entire sanctification” where our hearts are filled with the love of Christ. Now, this is not the removal of the constant temptation to sin, but it is the moment when we reach the point where we no longer sin in this life. We’ve repented of our sins, because God has done the work in us. And we now have the mind of Christ, and live with the love of Jesus.

You might think it ends there, but growth continues after entire sanctification. God continues to grow us in so many ways, continues to prune, and expand our ministry and we continue in life.

Then one day we die, and we come before Jesus, and at this moment we receive glorification, which means the sinful nature is removed from us, and we no longer are predisposed to be tempted by sin. We come into eternal life, and have received our inheritance.

And I think of all these views the Wesleyan perfect love view gives us the most complete version of the Christian life. We find the whole process, growth, surrender, freedom from sin, and glorification after death.

Entire sanctification is stated in the word, from 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So as Wesleyans, to the question of what do believers do about sinning in their lives after coming to know Jesus? We would say continue to grow in sanctification, continue to walk with Christ, continue to repent of active sins, and one day you will reach the point of entire sanctification, when you will no longer sin in your life. You will live out true holiness in Christ.

And it’s important to remember, this is not something we do in our own strength or by works. This is a work of God, miraculously done in us over time, eventually reaching the point of full and complete freedom from sin. So we would answer: Continue to walk with Jesus, be zealous in repentance and closeness with God, and you will be free from all sin. But fear not, you are saved today. You are born again today. Live a lifestyle of repentance in the meantime and you will reach that moment of freedom from sin, entire sanctification. We affirm the truth that nowhere in the new testament are we told, nowhere, are we told that Christ and sin can abide together in the flesh. One will push out the other. Either sin will push out Christ, or Christ will push out sin. It’s a process, and it does reach a point of consummation.

I hope that makes sense. I hope you’ve been taking notes and will put this into practice in your own lives.

So in conclusion, how does this apply to us today? Well, if you are a Christian who currently struggles in active sins, have hope, Christ will set you free. Be zealous, and live a lifestyle of repentance. But not in your own power. Give these issues over to Christ, and he will set you free. Your part is the practice the opposite, and steadfastly continue in growth. Christ does it in us. We can have hope. Sin will not reign in us. We are free to live holy as Christ is holy, and as God is holy.