The death of Christ for the redemption of humanity is the gospel that rejoices the hearts of the redeemed. This redemption is Trinitarian. The Father decrees before the foundation of the world to redeem a people for Himself through His Son, not based on any merit of their own, but purely on the substance of Christ His Son, who would die to effect the ransom for their redemption (Eph 1:3-14). This work is produced in the believer’s heart by the Spirit of God, through regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.
This work of salvation, as revealed in scripture is not only Trinitarian in that each of the three Persons of the Godhead is involved, but also regarding the effects it brings to the being of the believer, on the continuum of time.
The threefold aspect of salvation is what is often called Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.
Justification is often spoken of in the past tense, in that we were justified. We are justified by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. This imputation is double, where our sin is imputed to Christ, while Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the sinner. This imputed righteousness is also called ‘alien’ righteousness, which only means that the righteousness a believer has is not intrinsically his, it doesn’t come from his nature or his works. The first six chapters of Romans labor to explain this.
Justification is positional. In this, the theologians mean that justification speaks of our standing before God. We are positioned in Christ, clothed in His righteousness and not only declared, ‘not guilty’ by the Judge, but also ‘righteous’ before His law. This declaration, as mentioned, is not based on our inherent nature.
Justification does not change our inherent nature; it changes our positional standing.
Sanctification is the process by which our inherent nature is changed and transformed into the likeness of Christ. There are two ways in which the Bible uses the word ‘sanctification’ or ‘sanctify.’
The first way in which the word ‘sanctification’ is used in scripture is hagiazó, which means only to ‘make holy’ or to ‘consecrate.’ When hagiazo is used, it refers to a past action, that was done together with justification when we were set apart and ‘prepared for the good works’ (Eph 2:10), and deals with an act of separation and dedication.
The second way in which the word ‘sanctification’ or ‘sanctify’ is used is hagiasmos, which refers to ‘the process of advancing in holiness’ and is ‘used of the believer being progressively transformed by the Lord into His likeness (similarity of nature).’ This process is ongoing, daily. It is a journey every believer must be on, where there is a continual growth in godliness, and victory over the sin in their lives.
For example, this is what 1 Thes 4:3-4 says:
‘For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.’
Also 1 Thessalonians 5:23:
‘Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
The last aspect of our salvation, other than Justification and Sanctification, is Glorification.
Glorification is a future reality where our corrupt bodies are clothed with incorruption, when ‘as He is, so shall we be’ (1 John 3:2), glorified together with Him. It is the doctrine of the future resurrection of our bodies, laid out mainly in 1 Cor 15, as well as Romans 8:18-25.
In this case, we WERE SAVED from the penalty of sin (Justification); we ARE BEING SAVED from the influence of sin (Sanctification), and we SHALL BE SAVED from the presence of sin (Glorification).
The Christian must keep these three aspects of our salvation in view continually, and it is unhealthy to minimize one or the other.
Romans 8:24 ‘For we were saved in this hope.’
1 Corinthians 1:18 ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’
Romans 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him
What Phaneroo Teaches
I think Phaneroo gets it right concerning justification and positional sanctification, in that it entirely a work done by God concerning us, through the cross. But it misses the mark when it comes to progressive sanctification.
Phaneroo teaches that Christians don’t sin, they only ‘make mistakes,’ and therefore don’t need to confess their sin before God, they just can be ‘regretful’ (The Doctrine of Repentance: By His Blood Alone, July 1, 2017).
‘Repentance is not about telling God how sorry you are for something you have or might have done. Some Christians still think that when they go to God and say: ‘I am sorry I did this…I am sorry I did that…’ then God forgives them. No!’ (The Doctrine of Repentance: By His Blood Alone, July 1, 2017)
When a man is dead to the law and married to Christ, he doesn’t continue to sin; because he married Christ, he brings forth fruit. God no longer regards you in the flesh. When you were under the law, you were in the flesh. This is the kingdom; this is true repentance. It is when a man walks out of the flesh and gets into the spirit. A spirit cannot steal because it does not need a necklace. Can you lust in the spirit? Have perversion in the spirit? That seed of the spirit, the Bible says, is incorruptible. The biggest limitation for every man is in the flesh. Everything that leads men to sin is the lust of the flesh. When you became born again, that was the thing that God dealt with. (Condemning the Guiltless, March 14, 2016)
Some people think that being incorruptible entails only not sinning. That is just part of it. However, incorruptible means that you cannot be corrupted. (The Increase Of Knowledge October 20, 2015)
What the Bible Teaches
Saints are Sinners saved by grace. By position and identity, we are saints, not sinners. But this position is not infused in us. It is by imputation. As Saints, we sin because we still have a sinful nature within us that the Spirit of God, through the word of God, overcomes, through our daily obedience. We call this transformation or progressive sanctification.
The need for daily obedience and sanctification is evident in the believer’s life. We are being saved from the influence of sin, precisely as a means through which our sinful nature is being daily dealt with, as God transforms us by the renewing of the mind. We are commanded to ‘put off,’ concerning (our) former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. We are also commanded to be renewed in the spirit of (our) mind, and that (we) put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 2:21-24).
We are also told to put to death OUR members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col 3:5). Those sinful members are ours. The Apostle Paul says this after telling us that we died and our life is hidden with Christ in God (v3).
In other words, there is a sense in which our sinful nature is crucified with Christ (Col 2:11, 3:3, Gal 2:20), and a sense in which our corrupt members remain and must be put away (Col 3:5, Eph 2:21-24). The first was done (past tense) through the death of Christ, for us, the second is being done (present continuous) through the internal agency of the Holy Spirit, through our daily obedience.
Again, we were saved, and we are being saved. The past deals with our position, the present deals with our nature.
Lessons from John’s First Letter
1 John 1:7-10 tells us that if WE say WE have no sin, We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in US. I emphasize WE and US because of Phaneroo’s teaching that this chapter is not addressed to believers, but to Gnostics.
But that’s a lie. To begin with, John’s inclusion of himself in the audience of those that do sin rules out this idea completely. Besides, John’s letter was addressed not to unbelievers but Saints. The Bible does not talk about Christians making mistakes; it speaks of their sinfulness, which it demands must be forsaken. Rather than face our sins and repent before God, Phaneroo teaches that we simply might have made a mistake, and have no reason to confess them before God.
But the Bible disagrees. In fact the whole first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians deals, not with the issues of positional justification, which they appear to know too well, but with their carnality, and sectarianism, and sexual immorality.
Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Professor Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary, in his commentary on 1 John 1:8 remarks that ‘If a Christian claims to be enjoying fellowship with God, he may think he is temporarily or permanently entirely sinless. Yet our sinfulness exceeds our consciousness of guilt. We have only a very limited appreciation of the extent to which we sin. We commit sins of thought as well as deed, sins of omission as well as commission, and sins that spring from our nature as well as from our actions. This verse warns against all forms of the heresy of perfectionism.’
On the next verse, Dr. Thomas L. Constable continues: ‘Acknowledging the sins of which we are aware is opposite to saying we are not guilty of sin. The Greek word translated “confess” (homologeo) means to say the same thing. Confessing, therefore, means saying about our sins what God says about them, namely, that they are indeed sins, offenses against Him, and not just mistakes, blunders, or errors.’
And St. Augustine remarks: “‘He who confesses and condemns his sins, already acts with God. God condemns thy sins: if thou also dost condemn them, thou art linked on to God.'”
Another often misquoted scripture is 1 John 3:9, which, if read in KJV and NKJV might leave an impression that believers cannot sin. But the meaning of this text is clarified just in the next verse, to refer to those who make it a practice to sin. In other words, John teaches that those who make it a practice in their life to live in sin are not born of God. And the NIV brings out this point in verse 9 very well; ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning because they have been born of God.’
Finally, let us consider 1 John 4:17: Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. We will handle this verse again, later, but let it suffice for now to say that this verse is used to teach of our ‘godhood’ and deification, and thus used to mean we are sinless.
But, as Dr. Constable explains, and I will quote him extensively:
“Our “love” becomes complete (“is perfected”), in the sense that we can now have “confidence” as we anticipate our “day of judgment” (i.e., the evaluation of our works at Christ’s judgment seat; 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12). The characteristic of God and Christians in view here is our love. We do not need to fear the judgment seat of Christ if we have demonstrated love to others. By loving God and others, we become like Jesus Christ our Judge (“as He is, so also are we”). Therefore to give love is to gain boldness (confidence).
Here John said that God’s love reaches perfection “with us” (Gr. Meth hamon), whereas in 4:12 he wrote that His love reaches perfection “in us” (Gr. en hamin). When it reaches perfection in us, a proper relationship to other people exists, namely, no hate. When it reaches perfection with us, a proper relationship to God exists, namely, no fear. As Jesus abode in His Father, and consequently had confidence in the face of trials and death, so we can abide in Christ, and have confidence in spite of the world’s hostility. Abiding in God gave Jesus confidence, and it gives us confidence too.”
The greatest problem someone who has any conversation concerning sin with those who attend this fellowship is that they quickly turn the conversation into a discussion about justification, even when it is a question of progressive sanctification, maturity in character and walk. The idea that we are called to ‘put off the old man,’ that we must deal with the sinful desires in us, that we are to flee from sin and sexual immorality, is intentionally ignored. This stems from the often intentional confusion between positional justification and progressive sanctification, which is so, because, as I mentioned here, there is a lack of proper biblical interpretation.
As believers, we are at war, within our members, against sin. The confidence we have is that our justification is entirely grounded on the cross of Christ. We need not fear the judgment to come, for we have been redeemed and purchased eternally by His blood.
We know this, however, through the evidence of the fruit in our lives (John 15, Heb 3:13-19, Jas 2:14-26, Gal 5:22-26). If your character is not being transformed, loving God and men more, living in holiness and purity more, kind, longsuffering, patient, rejoicing more, it could be evidence that you are not justified. As Christians, we sin, and if we say we don’t, we would have just sinned by lying.
If the fruit of the Spirit is evident in your life, revealed through a continued hatred for sin, then the Spirit of God is at work in your life, and you can faithfully look forward to the glorification to come.
In the next article, we will look at Dualism, Deification, and Phaneroo’s Anthropocentric theology.
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