Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
2 Peter 3:11,12
“We believe, teach, and confess that, although the contrition that precedes, and the good works that follow, do not belong to the article of justification before God, yet one is not to imagine a faith of such a kind as can exist and abide with, and alongside of, a wicked intention to sin and to act against the conscience. But after man has been justified by faith, then a true living faith worketh by love, Gal. 5:6, so that thus good works always follow justifying faith, and are surely found with it, if it be true and living; for it never is alone, but always has with it love and hope.”
Epitome of the Formula of Concord Article III
Lately I have heard some pretty disturbing things said in the name of Lutheranism. One of those things I heard was ” I can be 100% justified and yet 0% sanctified to be saved”. While I agree that we are 100% justified by faith alone via grace alone given by Christ alone. While I agree that we in our sinful birth could do nothing to merit justification under the Law or even God’s grace from the penalty of disobeying it. A very important thing to understand is the role of sanctification on the Christian and others in the faith. I would extend this also to evangelism and I speak on that later.
The sad state of things is that these kind of sayings are emblematic of the trend some call “radical grace” or ” soft antinomianism”. This notion to reduce the sanctified life of the Christian as nothing more than being “aware of our sin and God’s grace” which by itself is not a bad notion but it is not biblical to imply that this is what sanctification is. Furthermore the risk of this kind of theology does a disservice to anyone wanting to know what true justification is (which is ironic given that the people suggesting these ideas claim to be doing it in the name of justification).
What seems to be the center of confusion for some is how good works impact us in the faith. It is true that some evangelicals would like to muddy the waters when it comes to proper distinction of justification and sanctification. They would like to either make sanctification justification or add it as a prerequisite to it. The radical grace movement though does not realize that they are making similar mistake. They also are confused on distinction and when one begins and the other ends.
The true confessional reformational stance which I would argue as the most Biblically accurate one as well is this:
Sanctification is the state and process in which every justified believer (aka Christians) live according the free gift of faith which in turn requires us to bear good fruit. This requirement is not based on our merit or ability but rather it the real work of God in us. The justified Christian living in their sanctification are doing good works because they first God’s Works given to us for growing of the kingdom both in our faith and in others. Santification is the work of God to make us holy as much as possible. This is so that we do good works which as Luther says are “for our neighbors”. These not only are signs of the faith which was given freely but also to keep us in the faith. A healthy love for the Law which no longer condemns the justified is what helps to encourage us. This should never be misunderstood as anything other than one way in which the Spirit gives and grows us in the faith.
Sanctification is also for evangelism. No one I know really talks about that. The kingdom working in us and through us how we confess our faith and love for what God has done and continues to do for us. We should also realize that being a Christian is not just living as heirs to our heavenly kingdom which was FREELY GIVEN; but to also live according to that duties and commands that are natural to being new heirs. Now I am not saying this is a perfect obedience because that will never happen. I am not saying that if we mess up on one we are out, no. All I am saying is that being a citizen of God means living as one. The good news about sanctification is that just as in justification we are freely given the *means to do as such.
Sanctification is how we live our lives in the victory of Christ’s resurrection. It is living a life that is humbled and thankful for the Grace of God. It is living vocational as well communally. Sanctification is a process that works to help us focus on Christ and maintain the free gift of faith. Just as with a doctor, we follow his instruction not to merit being saved but rather to ensure that we maintain it through his help. This of course is where a proper distinction of sanctification comes in and that is important. We must obviously never confuse it with being preliminary or as part of the requirements of justification. Rather to see how that justified believer lives in the hope so given freely.
It seems some really do struggle with the concept of sanctification and that is a shame. We know from the Bible that santification is how we maintain that free gift of salvation through the free gift of faith. Some indeed do a ratchet job on sanctification and reduce it down to nothing more than some weird form of gnosticism. This should be a concern to everyone. While I agee some in Christianity are either tempted or confused to take this bait, we ought to rrealize that sanctification is for the Christian already justified. The questions I have for anyone wanting play reductionism with sanctification is this. Is our faith is vital to remaining in Christ and his free gift of salvation? If so how do we make of the many Scripture verses and not to mention the parts of the Confessions that tell us sanctification is related to that. Why then do you want to play loose with the very process used to help us in that faith? I think this is the best way to start the conversation.