The first post in this series dealt briefly with the beginning point of relationship with God…Justification. We learned that Justification is a legal decree proclaimed in the eternal courtroom of Heaven. God, the Judge, will eventually pass verdict on every person that has ever lived. The Judge will only rule in one of two ways…condemned or justified. At the moment a sinful human cries out to Jesus and makes Him Lord of their life, God slams down His gavel and declares that person to be Justified for all eternity. This means that God forever more sees the new Christian as NOT GUILTY, not only that…He sees him as INNOCENT OF ALL CHARGES, but that’s not all, because in God’s mind it’s as if HE NEVER SINNED AT ALL. Isn’t that amazing!!! But that’s not even the full scope of the sweeping power of God’s Justification, because when God declares you Justified…
He forever more sees you as PERFECT!! That’s right God has declared you PERFECT!!
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “There’s no way God can look at my life and call me perfect!” Let me put it a different way. On what grounds can God say you are just, when you know in fact that you are not just? This is a very reasonable question…and one that deserves explanation. To understand how this is possible, we must discuss the concept of “imputation”. This is a funny sounding word, but if you grasp what “imputation” means, you will begin to understand how you can stand in the presence of God, and hear Him call you perfect.
The understanding of imputation will lead us to the idea of Positional Sanctification…so, if you are ready? Let’s get into the Word!
Imputation and Positional Sanctification
Explaining “imputation” begins with analyzing what took place on the Cross of Christ as it relates to our salvation. Dr R.C. Sproul teaches this supernatural act by illustrating a DOUBLE TRANSFER. Allow me to elaborate…
The first part of the DOUBLE TRANSFER deals with God transferring our sins to Jesus, while he suffered on the cross. I Peter 2:24…He himself (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on the tree. In John 1:29, John the Baptist, speaking of Jesus, declares the Agnus Dei…behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Here we have just two of the many verses that describe a “quantitative” transfer. In other words, the total amount of sin was taken off of the world (you and me) and was transferred to Jesus. Imagine your sin being represented by a heavy jacket that you are wearing. At the cross, God took your jacket and the full weight of its burden, and placed it on Jesus. This transfer can also be called an “imputation”. God “imputed” your sins to Jesus. Now, try to imagine the jacket of sin from every person that has ever lived transferred or imputed to Jesus…all of them…all at the same time. You see, there is no way to imagine the immense, crushing weight of such an “imputation”. But thank God…Jesus can.
So, at this point of the DOUBLE TRANSFER, God looks down from Heaven, and what does He see? He sees Jesus covered with an indescribable mass of sin, and at the same time He sees us, free of sin. Are you with me? Your sin has been transferred (imputed) to Jesus.
Now, I must make a very important point before moving forward. If this transfer of sin from us to Jesus stood alone, as great as this act was, YOU COULD NOT BE CALLED PERFECT. This single transfer is not enough for God to declare us Justified. Even though Jesus endured the punishment for all my sin…this is not, in itself, sufficient. Consider this, it is not simply innocence that grants me access to God, it is righteousness that is required. This is why the second part of the DOUBLE TRANSFER is essential…there must be a second “imputation”.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:20…For I say unto you, unless your righteousness surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Being innocent of sin might keep us out of Hell, or keep us from being punished, however righteousness is required to enter the presence of the Most Holy. Moreover, according to Jesus, the righteousness must be of a certain kind…human righteousness is of no use. Isaiah 64:6 makes this clear…our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. So the obvious remains: How do we obtain this “required” righteousness, in order that we might enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Enter the second part of the double transfer…
The righteousness of the spotless Lamb of God, the only Begotten of God, is transferred to us and we can be sure that the righteousness of Jesus is of the right and acceptable kind. So here we have the DOUBLE TRANSFER that makes the eternal difference. Let me describe it in another way. Imagine that every time we commit a sin we swipe a debit card that deducts money from our account in heaven…and by the way, we are born with our account balance at ZERO. Sin after sin, the card is swiped and the debt climbs. Transaction upon transaction…we sink further and further into our sin debt. And to whom do we owe this debt? God holds the lien. After a short time, it becomes obvious that we could never repay this mounting debt, yet we continue to swipe the card. Now we come to the point in which we decide to call upon the mercy of God to save us from this debt we cannot repay. Here comes the DOUBLE TRANSFER. First, God erases the debt...He completely wipes our account clean. Then, secondly, He transfers an unspendable amount of money from Jesus’ account into our own. Now our account will never be in the negative again.
You got it? DOUBLE TRANSFER! Imputation! Okay, now for positional Sanctification…
After the DOUBLE TRANSFER takes place, what does God see? He sees a human that has been declared perfect because he is no longer stained with sin…the sin was transferred to Jesus. Not only that, He sees a human that is completely righteous….because Christ’s righteousness was transferred to the human. Due to this new standing, God is able remain just even while proclaiming that person both Justified and Righteous. This declaration of righteousness is the divine act that grants us the “position” of being altogether sanctified in the eyes of the Almighty.
Hebrews 10:10…By this will WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all. The phrase WE HAVE BEEN signifies that it is a completed act. You see, the phrase is past tense…that means it’s done. The last phrase of the verse ONCE FOR ALL underlines this idea again. The sanctification is complete.
I Corinthians 1:2….To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED in Christ Jesus, saints by calling. Here again, HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED declares the finality of the process. With this in mind, we can conclude that if a person has been justified by God, they has also been sanctified. These are completed acts in the mind of God that took place at the same time, as a result of the DOUBLE TRANSFER of Calvary. You are innocent of sin and righteous in His sight. You have been granted positional sanctification!!!
Praise God! Halleluiah to the Lamb! All of this, just because you believed! He only requires faith. When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, all of this is freely given. How great is our God?
Now, if you are like me, a new thought arises in your heart…and a very valid thought it is. “He may say I’m perfect, but I know I’m not. I deal with my imperfection everyday. What about the fact that I still sin?”
With this question in mind, let's now deal with the idea of “progressive” sanctification.
Progressive Sanctification - Cottages & Palaces
One of my very favorite Christian thinkers/writers of all time is C.S. Lewis. His ability to tear apart and put back together the basics tenants of our faith was remarkable, a true gift to Christianity. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis begins to describe the process of progressive Sanctification. Read the following passage a few times…
“On the one hand we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as ‘decent’ people. If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded on the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.”
Ultimately, sanctification is a destination. The word sanctification means “to make holy.” Therefore, the destination of sanctification is when a Christian has become eternally holy. However, in the above passage, C.S. Lewis points out that sanctification is not just a destination, it is a journey. At the point of salvation, the DOUBLE TRANSFER allows God to declare us as righteous. This is our “position” or standing with God. At the same time, while we are here on earth, covered in flesh, and dealing with a sin nature, we are in the constant process of becoming more and more like Jesus. The Christian is becoming “progressively” holy.
Phillipians 1:6…Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. So, what is the “good work” that is posed here? The answer is found in Romans 8:29…for those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed into the image of His son. We are in a progression to become more and more holy…to become more like Christ. John the Baptist said it best, “I must decrease, so that He may increase.” In other words, our sun must progressively continue to set, so that the Son might progressively continue to rise within us. The “good work” of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to breakdown every stronghold of the sin nature that we are naturally inclined to follow…one at a time. In short summary, we are on the pathway to holiness, the Holy Spirit is our guide, and ultimate sanctification is the end result of the journey.
Romans chapter six deals in depth with the process of removing the affects of the sin nature from our lives. This process, in fact, IS progressive sanctification. Romans 6 points out the fact that…we are dead to sin, but alive in Jesus Christ (Rom 6:11). The power of the cross forever changed our relationship with the sin nature; we no longer have to live under its yoke. Now, look at what this fact offers us…but now having been freed from the sin nature and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and eternal life (Rom 6:22). This scripture outlines that, freedom from the sin nature results in sanctification! We now have the possibility, being set free from the sin nature, to experience progressive sanctification, by the means of the Holy Spirit. Okay one more verse...therefore, do not let the sin nature reign in your mortal body that you obey the lust thereof (Rom 6:12). Look at the phrase “do not let”; this is a Greek prohibitive imperative. This is better translated….”I command you; do not let the sin nature reign.” God has commanded us to live apart from the effects of the sin nature. I can tell you with confidence that our heavenly father would not command us to do anything that was impossible to accomplish. So, how does God know that we can accomplish such a great feat? He has predestined that we will become like Jesus, and He will finish the good work that He has begun.
He commands us to live free from the sin nature based on His ability to keep His Word…not on our ability to follow His Word. His Word will never return unto Him void. Let me tell you, the completion of our sanctification going to happen. You can take that to the bank...God said so.
Our progressive sanctification is written in stone. It will not fail. One day our progression of holiness will meet up with our position of righteousness…in that moment, when our progression meets our position, we shall be GLORIFIED. I John 3:2…Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be, we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Let me give you a great illustration in closing…it’s not my own…it’s C.S. Lewis, at his finest…
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
Check back next time as we tear in to…The Flesh vs. The Spirit