Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall was first published in 1692. Marshall was an English Presbyterian minister – a Puritan born in 1628. He was forced to leave his parish in the infamous Great Ejection of 1662, but being faithful to the call of God, he soon found another congregation which he pastored until his death in 1680.

It was out of his own struggles and striving for Christlikeness that The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification came to be written. He had originally sought counsel from Richard Baxter, but soon realized that Baxter was preaching sanctification by way of the Law...this led him to seek counsel from Thomas Goodwin, who spoke to him of sanctification by way of the Gospel.

Goodwin said something to Marshall, which changed his life and got him going down the road of true holiness. When Marshall had spoken about the great struggle and weight of his sin and how he was trying to be free of it, Goodwin pointed out that Marshall had never even considered the greatest sin of all...lack of faith in Christ to save and sanctify him.

In this volume, Marshall propounds the forgotten, Reformed, truth of sanctification by faith in Christ alone, and this is a much needed message today. Too often it is preached, or at least insinuated, that we are justified by the Gospel, but sanctified by the Law. Marshall shows how and why this is such a damnable heresy, and why it never can help a person progress in holiness.

I will be laying out Marshall's "Directions" in a series of entries here at Linkin' bLogs, and I hope that you will not only be edified by the content of each direction, but that you will pick up a copy of The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification and read the whole thing yourself.


chemicalsams said...

Awesome! Thanks, Dave. I have been so immersed in the sanctification-by-law doctrine all my life. It has been a long journey to re-train my brain, and your recent sermons have been a tremendous help.

One question...I get that I am sanctified through Christ by means of word and sacrament, and that will ultimately lead to the type of living that is Christ-like. (Not to be confused with christ-like living that will lead to sanctification). My question is what do I do in the mean time? or as Schaeffer put it..."how should we then live?"

Builder Dave said...

Aaron, that will become more and more clear as we move along here, but for now let me just put a couple things before you. First, the call is to walk by faith in Him. That means that you do not go into a situation hoping that "this time" I will be stronger (in my will) than last time, but "this time" I go in consciously in light of the fact that I died with Christ, and that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. That is to say, you must "live" now in light of that reality. When you feel the power of that sin tugging and pulling you, you need to address it, as Jesus did Satan, with the truth of the Word of God, "How can I who died to this keep living in it?". Secondly, you need to begin hearing the Law's demands as creative words of destiny for you now that you are in Christ. Satan would love for you to approach the Law as it thunders from Sinai, but Christ wants you to receive it out of His hand, as fulfilled for you, and now as the gracious blue-print for your life. If you sense your own weakness to keep it, and Satan's mocking that you never have been able to and never will, you need to again counter that by faith and remind yourself that obedience and progressive conformity into Christ's image is part of what you get in the Gospel. Don't let Satan lie to you. Believe the truth and walk in it. The Word and Sacraments should build up your faith so that you can walk in the truth...

There will be more details and discussion of these things, but that is what I will say for now. Please keep asking pointed and more detailed questions, as this will help us flesh it out more and more.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I'm grateful that you're preaching on this subject. I've become aware over time that my desire for sanctification is often motivated by self-righteousness, and a desire to appear righteous in my own sight or in the eyes of others. It doesn't work! "Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world." Part of the problem is my attitude toward sin. Growing up, I tried to avoid sin simply "because God says so," and not from any real understanding and abhorrence of the thing itself. Sin often seemed like an arbitrary construct, undesirable mainly because an omnipotent and wrathful God existed to punish it. But if I truly love the Lord, if I "taste and see that the LORD is good," then sin cannot savor of anything other than corruption, misery, and death. My appetites for sin will weaken as my regard for the things of God increases. Another error of mine is focusing on the results while neglecting the means. How many times have I felt helpless and despondent before the power of my fleshly lusts, while failing to spend time in prayer and the reading of the Word? I'm learning to attend to the means, to focus on what I can do instead of what I can't, and to accept the grace of God as given as sufficient. But I agree with Aaron, it's hard, and so easy to go astray.

Builder Dave said...

Anonymous, there is so much wisdom and help in Marshall's work, I hope that you will check him out for yourself sometime. Thanks for your honest and edifying words. In all our pursuits after holiness, we must get it from Christ. If sanctification is found in Him-and it is (1 Cor. 1:30)-then our salvation includes this benefit. It is just that we are not accustom to walking by faith in Him and receiving our righteousness from Him. We need to be re-taught, and learn how to work, because it is Him who works within us both to will and do His pleasure...which is holiness!