Author: Michael L. Gowens
Excerpted from Christian Sanctification, by Michael Gowens. Sovereign Grace Publications. http://www.sovgrace.net
…The flesh is not changed in regeneration (John 6:63). In–dwelling sin is not rooted out. And throughout the Christian’s life, the nature of the old man will remain unchanged. It will not be changed until glorification when “whole soul, and body, and spirit” is sanctified by the very God of peace (1 Thess. 5:23). It can, in the meanwhile, merely be subdued, and daily mortified, freeing the physical body from it’s tyrannical rule to be offered as “a living Sacrifice” to do the will of God (Rom. 12:1). No doubt, this is a fine line, but a scriptural one.
So, I must distinguish between that aspect of Sanctification in the Holy Scriptures as a Divine gift of grace, referring to it as Divine Sanctification and that aspect as a Christian duty, referring to it as Christian Sanctification. This treatise is entitled “Christian Sanctification”, so I will not deal at length with the Divine aspect. Only will I say, “Divine Sanctification” is the work of the Father (Jude 1), Son (Heb. 10:14), and Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:2) whereby the sinner is regarded by God as “holy” (Eph. 1:4) through the meritorious offering of Jesus Christ, and actually made holy in the essence of his soul simultaneously when regenerated (Titus 3:5). Regeneration involves a change in the soul’s nature from natural to spiritual (gr. Metamorphosis) by the imparting, or should I say, creating of a new principle, a living principle, within, and Sanctification, a change in the soul’s nature from impure to pure. Permit me to make a further observation. Just as Justification has both eternal and temporal implications, that is, it is an objective reality which declares the sinner to be “without blame before God” (Eph.1:4), but the peace and joy which are produced in the soul by a knowledge of this fact are only available to the believer, and in that sense the eternal and temporal aspects are interwoven, so Sanctification, in it’s two respective categories, as a Divine gift and a Christian duty are interwoven. The fact that the believer is “holy” before God (Eph.1:4) is a fact, an unalterable fact; however, only in a course of Christian life wherein the believer “grows up into Him who is the Head” (Eph. 2:20) will he gain assurance of this fact and be changed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. So, in this sense, the two aspects are harmonious and not disjointed and separate… (Pages 17-19)
…the aim of Christian Sanctification is not to root out, cast away, obliterate, and annihilate indwelling sin. This would be an impossibility and certainly, a vain pursuit. Indwelling sin will not be eradicated until glorification. Nor will it be made less and less sinful. The “carnal mind” which is at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7) will not slowly lose it’s antipathy and become more and more holy. The flesh will not be “won over” after a period of time. Just as surely as a hog will not eventually be won over to the niceties and refinements of life by a change of environment and some training in culture and etiquette, but will immediately return to it’s wallowing in the mire, for it’s nature has not been changed, so the flesh, although it may seem to have been refined by religious exercises, will, upon first opportunity, seize again the vilest elements of corruption, for neither is it’s nature changed. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” said Jesus, “and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John. 3:6) Again, I say, the eradication of indwelling sin is not the aim of Christian Sanctification. Were this the aim, then I would agree that the task is a vain pursuit.
The aim of Christian Sanctification is to constantly mortify indwelling sin, and thereby suppress it, and bring it under subjection, as a slave to do the bidding of the indwelling Spirit. As sin is mortified, the inward graces can grow and flourish and the Christian can be more and more “filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19). Progress can be made in this respect. The Christian’s hope should grow brighter, his faith stronger, his love more fervent and unwavering, and his understanding brighter and brighter. Only when Jesus comes and this “vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His own glorious body according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phi. 3:21) will indwelling sin be eradicated. The grace of glorification is the only power sufficient to change the nature of this body of sin. It may seem, as the Christian grows and progresses in his course, that he is not as sinful as he once was. But let him leave off the mortification of sin for a season, and it will rage with all of the vehemence and violence of former times. Christian Sanctification respects the inner man, the new man, and it’s progress to maturity. Justification respects the position of the sinner before God. Regeneration respects the state of life in the soul whereas Christian Sanctification respects the spiritual condition of the soul, and Glorification respects the whole man, particularly the uprooting and obliteration of indwelling sin in the flesh.
…The Christian can make headway and be more and more like Jesus as he “grows in grace and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord.” (2 Pet. 3:18) He can “grow up into Him, who is the Head, in all things” (Eph. 4:15)…Sanctification, it’s aim being, again, not to work any change in the flesh, but to perfect (bring to maturity) the inward man. (Pages 37-39)
Christian Sanctification. Michael L. Gowens. Sovereign Grace Publications. http://www.sovgrace.net