Justification & Sanctification (3)
September 27, 2017
In this article, I will conclude looking at Obadiah Sedgwick’s discussion of the doctrine that God promises to sanctify and justify this people. Thus far we have seen the differences and similarities between these two salvific gifts (article 1), and the reasons God in the covenant of grace promises both of them (article 2). I will now take a look at three uses of this doctrine.
The first use is that it reproves people who teach the importance of justification but not that of sanctification. Sedgwick speaks of people who “would have men to be believers of Christ, but they would not have men to be holy.” The reason these people emphasize justification by faith to the exclusion of sanctification is because “holiness cannot justifie us.” In this scheme, justification is equated with salvation and thus if something does not contribute to our justification then it is at best superfluous and at worst to be rejected. The problem with this, as Sedgwick points out, is that justification is not the whole of our salvation. God would not have made Christ our sanctification if our holiness wasn’t an integral component of our salvation.
The second use is that it reproves people who presume that all they need is forgiveness in order to be saved. These people, Sedgwick says, speak often about mercy for pardon of sins, even in affectionate terms, but they have no time for pursuing holiness. Indeed, they “oppose holiness, and scoff, and scorn at holiness.” Once again, the problem with this is that justification is not the whole of our salvation. Sanctification is equally necessary for salvation. “You must have your sins pardoned, or else you cannot be saved; and so you must have your hearts sanctified, or else you cannot be saved.”
Sedgwick suggests that there are two possible reasons people are eager for justification but shy away from sanctification. The first is that holiness goes against the grain of our sinful nature. Although mercy (justification) and holiness both “relieve the sinner,” the latter does so in a way that is abrasive to our “sinfull love” because “it fights against our sins, and doth purge, and work them out from our hearts, and will not suffer sin to bear Rule there.” In this sense, justification is like soothing ointment on a nasty cut, whereas sanctification is like rubbing alcohol. One is pleasant and the other is not. The other possible reason people balk at holiness is that they do not view it as “the way to heaven (see this post).” Instead, they see it as the way of hardship and thus something to be avoided.
The third use of this doctrine is that Christians should not be content with only justification. Justification provides us with a right and title to heaven and sanctification makes us fit for heaven. Both are necessary, therefore, for entering heaven. Moreover, God never gives one without the other. If God justifies you then he also sanctifies you; and if you are not sanctified, then you are certainly not justified. In order to support his point that God always gives both gifts together to his people, Sedgwick turns to union with Christ. He writes: “when you are by Faith united to Christ, your communion immediately falls in for sanctification as well for Righteousness.” Faith binds us to Christ and in Christ we are both sanctified and justified. Sanctification, therefore, doesn’t flow from justification. Rather, both justification and sanctification flow together from union with Christ. Sedgwick notes, however, that not everyone agrees with this. He says that “Some hold that sanctification is an inseparable effect of justification.” Unfortunately, Sedgwick doesn’t tell us who the “some” are (Lutherans?) but he does go on and say that sanctification is “unquestionably” a “companion” of justification. They flow together hand in hand from union with Christ.