Highlights from Walter Marshall's "Gospel Mystery of Sanctification" (3)

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So far, as we have pointed to some highlights of Walter Marshall's justly lauded book, "Gospel Mystery of Sanctification," we have learned the following from him about growth in grace in the Christian life:

1. Those who have been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone properly and by virture of regeneration and their new nature aspire to increase in holiness, in faithfulness to Christian duty and in obedience to God's law.

(In other words, this aspiration is not a sign that the believer "doesn't understand the Gospel," "doesn't understand grace," or is a "legalist," "moralist," or "Pharisee.")

2. The first step in this lifelong process is to learn from the Scriptures what are the powerful and effective means that God has appointed and provided in order that we may grow in holiness and obedience.

(Because, though we may rightly aspire to a growth in holiness, we may also wrongly assume that this increase in holiness can be gained simply through the exertion of our own wills, by our own efforts and via our own personal resources and resolutions.)

Then Marshall explains that the believer needs three things to go forward in grace-growth: propensity, persuasion and power. To expand on this, we'll put it in the form of a third point.

3. If we are to grow in holiness, we need a Spirit-wrought, grace-enabled (1) inclination to do so; (2) a firm persuasion of our reconcilation with and acceptance by God, and of our future heavenly hope; and (3) the strength both to want to do our Christian duty, and to do it.

This brings us to Marshall's "third direction" for sanctification, which has to do with the empowering source of our motivation and ability to grow in grace: Union with Christ. He says: "The way to get holy endowments and qualifications necessary to frame and enable us for the immediate practice of the law, is to receive them out of the fullness of Christ, by fellowship with Him; and that we may have this fellowship, we must be in Christ, and have Christ Himself in us, by a mystical union with Him."

So, where do we get the inclination to grow in holiness and obedience? Where do we get a strong persuasion of God's love, acceptance, and reconciliation, and a sure and certain sense of our future hope? Where do we get the power to want to be holy? And the power to actually live in a more godly way? Marshall says: in fellowship with Christ. And that fellowship is experienced only in union with Christ. So, our union with Christ is the fountainhead of our sanctification.

Posted March 3, 2012 @ 11:57 AM by Ligon Duncan

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