Justification & Sanctification (2)
September 12, 2017
In my previous article, I summarized two points Obadiah Sedgwick (c. 1600-1658) made concerning his stated doctrine that God promises to sanctify and justify his people. He addressed a third point (I had mistakenly said there were two more points in the last article) and then discussed three uses. In this article, I will look at his third point.
The third point is the reasons God promises “these two great Gifts of holiness and forgiveness; to sanctifie his people as well as to justifie them.” There are six of them.
The first is that we need both gifts in order to be saved. We cannot be saved unless we are justified (Rom. 8:30; Mark 16:16); and we cannot be saved unless we are sanctified (John 3:5; Heb. 12:14). Sedgwick notes that we tend to think that we only need to have our sins forgiven in order to be saved. However, when we think or act that way “we are deceived; for as forgiveness is necessary, so is holiness necessary to our salvation; as no unpardoned person, so no unsanctified person shall be saved.”
The second reason we need to be justified and sanctified is because we stand in need of both gifts. These two gifts address the two-fold problem of all sinners: the guilt of sin and the pollution of sin. The former binds us over to wrath and curse, is comparable to debt and renders us in need of mercy. The latter stains and defiles us, is comparable to a disease and renders us in need of grace. Consequently, we need pardoning mercy and sanctifying mercy to fully address our sinful condition. In the words of an 18th century Anglican, we need the death of Christ to “be of sin the double cure” and cleanse us “from its guilt and power.” This double need of ours is analogous to the double need of a “sick Malefactor [criminal]” who needs to be pardoned and cured.
The third reason is that both gifts are necessary for God to accomplish his goal of having an everlasting communion or fellowship with his people (1 John 1:3). There are two obstacles that keep sinners from communing with God: “enmity” and “inconformity.” True fellowship cannot exist between two enemies and a holy God cannot dwell in the midst of unholy sinners. Indeed, “the heart of man is so sinfull, that God cannot endure us, being of purer eyes than to behold sin.” Communion with God, therefore, requires the removal of the enmity and the inconformity by means of the twin gifts of justification and sanctification.
The fourth reason is that we need to be sanctified in order to glorify God. God is able to glorify himself towards us but we are not able to glorify him if we are unholy. We can’t glorify God in our hearts “for what glory can God have by an unbelieving, impenitent, hardened, sensual, ignorant, proud, ungodly heart?” And we can’t glorify God in our actions “for they are as our hearts are; the fruit is as the tree is, etc. What can a dead or a sick man do for service?”
The fifth reason is so that we might have comfort and peace. Justification alone would bring us “small comfort and peace” because the domination of sin would “make our life uncomfortable.”
Finally, Christians are children of God and they should be like their Father in heaven. Sedgwick wrote, “Are not the people of the Covenant his children? And would you have the holy Father to be the Father of unholy children? Is this to be born of the Spirit (John 3:6)?”
In the next and final installment of this series, I will look at Sedgwick’s three uses of this doctrine.