“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6)
We each come to an understanding of spiritual things in God’s time and we each have our own thought process. Words mean different things to each of us and so the Lord is gracious to bring these spiritual thoughts captive, even in a simple way, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are having a bible study on the book of Galatians and in discussing the great truth of justification taught by Paul so vividly the conversation led to questions and a discussion on sanctification as well and we each went away thinking on these things.
Sanctification …….is it being set apart, is it holiness, is it progressive, is it works, is that the correct word to use, is it all of these and can we become confused by the opinions of others? These are all questions, plus many more, that I have asked myself for many years and so as we were reminded by our study teacher………….”having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh”?
I have always stumbled at the words ‘progressive sanctification’, thinking that something should be getting holier. I knew, of course, that in my flesh nothing would ever improve or change, nothing, and my new nature, born of the Holy Spirit, is 100% all of Christ, holy and set apart in Him, so I was confused. For the most part, I honestly believe it is semantics and as believers we are truly meaning the same thing, unless one is actually meaning that the old man, the flesh, improves, gets better and becomes less sinful….oh I hope not!
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption”. (1 Co 1:30)
Did Christ accomplish all of my salvation, all of the aspects of it in His very life, death, resurrection and His ascension or did He leave some of it for me to do? In Christ I have been elected (Eph 1:5) called, justified, glorified (Romans 8:30), redeemed, sanctified (1 Co 1:30) adopted (Gal 4:5) and reconciled (Col 1:21). We are complete in Christ!
When I became totally assured of my justification in Christ, that His righteousness had been imputed to me and that is how God sees me, the works issues, the grasping for some perceived holiness in my flesh (as so aptly put by our study teacher) the guilt, all of those fleshly things have been set aside in Christ. It is only if I take my eyes off of Christ’s Righteousness & forget that I am justified ONLY in Him that I struggle with sanctification apart from Christ.
If our boasting is all in Christ I don’t think we need to be afraid and in fact should (although we will always, in this life, struggle with sin) rejoice in the fact that we have grown in Grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus by the truth (John 17:17) , rejoice that there is a battle within us between the old man and the new, rejoice that we have begun in this life to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh, rejoice that we have begun to bring our thoughts captive to Christ, that our minds have been renewed and rejoice that a sin we used to love, now we hate! We grow in realizing just exactly what we are already in Christ!
I think when people call this growth or this fruit of the Spirit ‘works or progressive holiness’, the flesh can latch on and cause confusion, at least in my mind. As Christians we abhor any ‘works of the flesh’, but we love ‘serving in newness of spirit’ (Romans 7:6)