Paul's Passing Thoughts

Sanctification: Romans 12:1,2; Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 19, 2013

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What is the gospel? The “gospel” means “good news.” All of God’s word is “good news.” This became a term that was used interchangeably with, “truth,” “word,” “law,” etc. (Paul Dohse: The Gospel; Clarification in Confusing Times pp. 9-39 Online source:  lessons 1-4).

The gospel includes the gospel of first importance (1COR 15:3) which is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and the full counsel of God (Acts 20:20, 27, 32) which includes justification and sanctification.

When Paul stated that he wanted to come to Rome in order to preach the gospel to them (ROM 1:15), he was speaking of the whole counsel of God, not the gospel of first importance that they had already received. Paul was hindered from coming there to do so, and was afraid that would reflect a bias on his part because the church at that time was predominately Jewish (ROM1:13-14). We see the same mindset also that likens to the apostle John that prefers face to face teaching rather than letters (2JN 12). That is why 2John is so short, John hoped to teach them face to face. Paul couldn’t wait any longer to teach the Romans the full counsel of God, so he begins to do so in Romans 1:16, that’s why his letter is so long!

Romans is an in-depth treatise concerning God’s plan for reconciling mankind to Himself. The first eleven chapters concern justification, or how God justifies mankind which makes reconciliation possible. This is mostly informative and wisdom based as opposed to sanctification which is mostly instructive and imperative based. And knowing the will of God for the Christian is very easy:

1Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,

This is the clear definition of sanctification (a setting apart for holy purpose). We call it progressive sanctification. Definitive sanctification is the initial setting apart at justification. Context will determine which of these is being spoken of in any given Bible text. Progressive sanctification entails gaining wisdom on “how to” “control” our bodies in “holiness and honor.” Sanctification is a how to endeavor; get over it. It is about a bunch of do’s and don’ts—get over it. It is about living by lists—get over it. Sanctification is the science of controlling our bodies to God’s honor. Proverbs 18:4 and 20:5 state that the issues of life are deep waters—the gospel of first importance is simplistic, but the gospel of sanctification is far from it. Listen to how the book of Proverbs begins:

Proverbs 1:2 – To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Wisdom does not pertain to justification per se, Justification is the beginning of knowledge, but mark it, those who despise wisdom and understanding for sanctification are fools. Those who park on salvation are also fools—they despise wisdom and instruction. A prime example are those who request prayer “for patience.” Prayer is easy, “Lord, give me patience!” But what does Proverbs say about obtaining patience?

Proverbs 19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (NIV).

It takes wisdom to obtain patience. Prayer alone will not bring you patience. Justification is free by faith alone; sanctification is not free; if you get any, you will work for it. As I said yesterday in a conversation, “People want to be happy, but they don’t want to do anything to get happiness. The Bible promises that we can be happy, but unlike justification, happiness in sanctification is not unconditional—there are conditions. Paul made it clear, especially in Chapters 9-11 that justification is completely unconditional, but that is not what we see in the first verse of Chapter one:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The word for “mercies” is literally (oiktirmos) “compassion.” A call to obedience is not burdensome, it is the compassion of God. Paul is making his appeal on behalf of God according to His compassion. It is the antithesis of depraved indifference. God is not the parent that lets a child grow up without wisdom and in the way that he/she would naturally go. Knowing this wisdom is a good start for patience. Like God, we should compel people to obey because it is the way of life, and not because we are inconvenienced by their wayward ways. I am not saying that it is never about us, because what is simply right and just does matter, but it should mostly be about caring for others. Our appeal should be by God’s mercy. Therefore, remember this: silence can qualify as depraved indifference. Our appeals should be with compassion, but no appeal at all is far from such—it is often depraved indifference.

The appeal to present our bodies as a living sacrifice harkens back to God’s acceptable sacrifices in the Old Testament. They had to be sacrifices without blemish. Our sacrifice is living, and the sacrifice is our service. Let’s reread Romans 12:1 without the added words that make it flow in the English translation:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

“Worship” (latreia) carries the idea of service to God according to the Levitical law. It also has the idea of service for hire. We serve God by continually presenting ourselves to Him as blameless. This harkens back to the definition of sanctification in 1Thessalonians 4:4. We are to control our bodies in holiness and honor. We are to be vessels fit for the Master’s use:

2Timothy 2:20 – Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

One way this is to be performed is to change the way we think as opposed to the way the world thinks. Agreeing with the world makes you like the world. This would be regarding, “life and godliness” (2Peter 1:3). There is the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. Hence, the “Christian” idea of “plundering the Egyptians” which came from Augustine is a really bad idea. What we believe makes us who we are:

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect

Sanctification is God’s will. By transforming our mind according to God’s wisdom we become more like Him. By His word we discern sanctification and how to apply it to our lives. This is what leads to change: transforming our ways of thinking from the worldly to the truth. Only truth sanctifies (John 17:17). Christians are to serve the law with their minds (ROM 7:25). The word “heart” in the Bible is more often than not an idiom for the mind (ZECH 8:17, MATT 9:4, MATT 13:15, MK 7:21). We are to guard our minds with all vigilance because it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4;23). Paul brings this issue into clarity in 2Corinthinas 10:5;

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

To say that Christians play fast and loose with ideas is an understatement. They simply don’t understand that ideas make us who we are (PROV 23:7). Every thought is to be taken captive and brought into conformity to the word of Christ. An exchange Susan and I had last week is indicative of where Christians go astray on this issue:

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The Pauline approach to sanctification is an affront to contemporary Christianity.  That’s the dilemma we face. Protestantism, which includes Baptists et al, is dumbed down by ecclesiastical design. On  April 25, 1518, Martin Luther declared war on the priesthood of believers and sanctification via his declaration of Reformed theology in Heidelberg, Germany. The 95 Thesis was a moral treatise against Rome six months prior, but the Heidelberg Disputation was the very foundation of Reformed ideology. It called on theologians to interpret all of reality from a dual perspective: the glory story or the cross story.

True theology (the cross story) would look at man as worthless and empty with eyes of faith that can only see outward to the glory of God. This made all reality good as the sum equation of God’s goodness and man’s evil. So, tragedy only reflects man’s worthlessness and his deserved plight and the glorification of God following. The glory story was anything that recognized anything IN man at all. No goodness or grace is infused into man. True theology is a purely outward look, and only looks within to find reason for repentance that then glorifies God (“deep repentance”). Luther believed that man can experience the grace of God, but cannot participate in it. That would be works salvation. Man must empty himself to be saved and remain empty till the final judgment.

Hence, any notion that man could become good through salvation was deemed heretical, and a damning false gospel. In many ways, it was predicated on the Platonist idea that all matter is evil, and that would of course include man. The first sentence of the Calvin Institutes (CI 1.1.1) is based on Luther’s dual construct, and then the rest of the Institutes build a full metaphysical statement on the foundation of that first sentence. Pretty impressive. In that sentence, Calvin states that all wisdom is derived from a knowledge of us and knowledge of God. The two opposites define each other. Both Calvin and Luther were followers of Augustine who was the undisputed first and foremost integrationist in Western culture. Plato integrated Eastern mysticism with Western science, and Augustine integrated Platonism with the Bible. A cursory observation of world history makes this plain.

Therefore, the good Luther/Calvin cross theologian heartily agrees with, “study to show thyself approved, a workman that need not be ashamed.” But in the Protestant construct that redefines sanctification (and actually rejects it totally), what does “study” mean? What does “approved” mean? And what does “workman” mean? The Reformers did not believe anybody is approved. They believed work in sanctification (the Christian life) was equivalent to works salvation. Augustine, Luther, and Calvin believed baptism replaced circumcision, and sanctification replaced the Old Testament Sabbath Rest. Working on the Sabbath would bring death, and in the same way, working in sanctification also brings death (John King: The Complete Bible Commentary Collection of John Calvin; Genesis, Ch.2 sec.3, Ch.17 sec.13. Ibid: The Harmony of the Law, Due. 5:12-15, sec. 15). A good example how this demonstrates itself in the contemporary mindset follows. It was sent to me by a reader of the PPT blog:

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Of course, as we have discussed many times, statements like this make no distinction between sanctification and justification.

So, “study” is really a focus on what ANY Bible text says about mankind’s wretched, sinful existence as opposed to God’s holiness. When the equation is seen, a steady flow of Christ’s obedience is imputed to our account and we remain justified. These manifestations may, or may not be experienced, but if they are, it is in the realm of the subjective where even the experience cannot be somehow attributed to us. This selfless, daily bearing of the cross and dying to self will lead to joy, but we do not know if this joy is directly linked to a Christ manifestation. The gospel is objective and remains outside of us, but is experienced subjectively. Any inward focus leads to inward subjectivity and as John Piper stated it, “imperils the soul.” It is merely an application of Eastern Mysticism to make sanctification by justification possible.

This is why Luther despised reason and called it a prostitute that should have “dung” rubbed in her face to “make her ugly.” Reason is the glory story. Our ability to reason has to do with an inner ability apart from God. Our “study” is limited to seeing the cross more by a greater and greater realization of our God unlikeness. Our “work” is this study and contentment in the ruin that God has sovereignly placed us in. But of course, “Contentment with godliness is great gain.” That is knowing our own place in the caste system which is sovereignly determined by birth. Supposedly, working hard at being content in our own wretched station of life is not work—it’s faith. Problem is, Luther et al considered that to be saving faith as long as it is practiced in sanctification. You do the math. There is a standard for what isn’t work in sanctification and what is work in sanctification for the purpose of remaining justified.

That is why we argue that justification must be a finished work separate from our Christian life. The conclusion of Paul’s treatise on justification in chapters 1-11 should lead to a free and aggressive sanctification. Though the Scripture has much to say about the colaboring of the Holy Spirit with us in sanctification and the reality that He makes it possible, I think the following quote by RC Sproul during a moment of sanity sums up the point well:

Sanctification is cooperative. There are two partners involved in the work. I must work and God will work. If ever the extra-biblical maxim, “God helps those who help themselves,” had any truth, it is at this point. We are not called to sit back and let God do all the work. We are called to work, and to work hard. To work something out with fear and trembling is to work with devout and conscientious rigor. It is to work with care, with a profound concern with the end result” (RC Sproul: Pleasing God p. 227).

If I am not mistaken, this is the only citation from Christian academia in this whole series on Romans, but again, I think it is worth getting in for the way it is stated. Though Paul was no less dependent on the power of the Spirit than anyone who has ever lived, he at times was brutally practical:

2Corinthians 9:1 – Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

Much can be learned from this passage about sanctification—not least of all in regard to the issue and application of accountability. Sanctification is a many-faceted, aggressive endeavor. It is full of practical and wise life application, and the Holy Spirit is ever willing to aid us accordingly.

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