April 11, 2013

Is Jesus plus nothing a formula for sanctification?

by Jesse Johnson

jen bookWhen D. James Kennedy fell asleep in Jesus, Coral Ridge Presbyterian found itself in a bind. A church with a massive building (dedicated by Billy Graham), Kennedy was their founding pastor and an icon of American Christianity. A leader like that is impossible to replace, but the longer Coral Ridge went without a pastor, the more their attendance dropped, and the more pressure there was to find someone who could follow Kennedy.

Meanwhile, only a few miles away, one of Billy Graham’s grandsons was pastoring a church plant with swelling numbers, and no building. In a match straight out of E-harmony, the elders from both churches realized that each congregation was incomplete. One had a building, the other had none. One was growing, the other not so much. One was famous, the other unknown. One had a pastor, the other was on the hunt. One was dedicated in the 1970’s by Graham, the other was pastored by his grandson. You don’t have to be a Calvinist to see how God was setting this up.

Eventually, Coral Ridge called Tullian Tchividjian to be their pastor, and the two churches merged. What happened next though, is not the stuff of fairy tales. To make a long story short, Coral Ridge seemed to revolt, and after a while the elders called a congregational vote to consider removing Tchividjian as their pastor. Before the vote, Tchividjian went away on vacation, and spent his vacation studying Colossians.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything is the story of Tchividjian and Coral Ridge, interwoven around a commentary of Colossians. At the center is the spiritual epiphany he experienced through his study of that book.  

Before I explain my concerns with J+N=E, let me say this: I wish more Christian books were like it. Tullian takes a theological concept (J+N=E) that he derived directly out of a passage of scripture, and then shows how that concept affected his life while he was going through a severe trial. This is not simply a theology book, it is not just a commentary, and is not merely a book on pastoral ministry. Rather, he combines all three, and he does so in a way that does not water down his theological point. This is a book that pushes the reader deeper into a refined point of theology, and applies that point to sanctification in a real world example.

The thesis of J+N=E is that the only thing required for your sanctification is to think more about what Jesus has done. That’s it. Jesus, plus Nothing, equals Everything for your sanctification.

But I don’t buy that approach to sanctification. I appreciate that Tchividjian clearly described what train he was on, and shows how it gets to his destination, but at the end of the day, I did not buy the ticket, and I’m not taking the ride. I believe that in Christ we are supposed to fight, labor, battle, walk, and work—and that all these efforts are more than looking back to Christ, but they are the active obedience to the commands of Scripture. I believe salvation is monergistic (it is only God’s work), but that sanctification is synergistic, and that God will reward me for how I do my work. This is an actual theological disagreement with J+N=E, and it affects the core message of the book, so in that respect I read the book entirely though that lens.

Law/Gospel and sanctification:

This book represents some of my objections to the way the Law/Gospel hermeneutic is often used. When Tchividjian wrote things like: “The law shows us what to do, the gospel announces what has been done” (188), I read into that the Law/Gospel distinction (see also 49, 154, 187, 192). When he explained why the Ten Commandments are different than the rest of the Mosaic Law because they are God’s moral law, which is the same law seen in Col 3:17-ff, I noted my objection. But then he went on to explain that the commands in Colossians 3-4 lack the power to sanctify your life because they are Law (188, 192), and I freaked out. When he said basically that it’s ok that those commands can’t sanctify, because sanctification-wise there is “nothing left to do” anyway  (137), I threw the book at my cat.

I have read J+N=E twice now, and I still can’t  get my mind around how the Law/Gospel distinction affects how believers are supposed to apply God’s commands. Tchividjian states over and over that Colossians (like Ephesians and Romans) is split between Gospel/Law, or indicatives/imperatives. For this reason, they all begin with what Christ has done for us, and only then do they tell us what we are to do in response. I completely agree with that, and wholeheartedly embrace this truth. Knowing what Jesus did for us is the fuel of our sanctification.

J e nBut then the N comes in (J+N=E). What he means by nothing is that the sum total of our sanctification has already been accomplished in Jesus. Thus the key for sanctification is to focus on the gospel (or the indicatives), and the more you focus there, the more sanctified you will be. You do Nothing except remember the first half of Colossians (or Ephesians or Romans), which is all about Jesus. That gives you Everything. Thus: Jesus (the first half of Col) plus Nothing (don’t do anything except remember the truths in 1:1-3:16) gives you Everything in terms of sanctification.

This leads to Tchividjian’s definition of sanctification: “sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification” (95). He says that we grow in our practical sanctification only by growing to a  “deeper understanding” of our positional sanctification (94). Or this: “Sanctification consists of the daily realization that in Christ we have died, and in Christ we have been raised” (117). So  when he finally wrote, “Sanctification is the hard work of giving up our efforts at self-justification” (172), I understood him to mean that fighting battles against sin are tantamount to trying to earn your own justification—as if we should give up repenting to focus on remembering (179). But the problem with that is a logical one: how do you tell some one to repent of repenting?

The whole time I’m reading the book—and I got to this point pretty early on—I was asking myself, “ok, so what is he going to do with Col 3:17-4:6? I mean there is more to Colossians than the first half. What’s going to happen when he gets to the places where Paul tells us to be sanctified by actually fighting sin?” And wouldn’t you know it: other than explaining why those passages are powerless to sanctify you, he doesn’t deal with them. You really do need to look at his Scripture index to believe me: he deals with almost every single verse in Colossians, except the ones that have imperatives in them.

I’m not implying that Tchividjian is antinomian; he does say we have to obey (152-53), but I was left asking “how? How are children supposed to honor their parents? By thinking more about the gospel? Is that what Paul meant?” I felt like the main equation he was working with was J+N=The Commands Of Colossians Don’t Matter, and I think this shows a real weakness of the Law/Gospel hermeneutic (which I brought up yesterday).

Not to be overshadowed

I want to make it clear that while I have reservations about sections of this book, there was much of it that is extremely helpful. Like I wrote above, Colossians 3:18-4:7 does flow out of what Jesus has already done. Because of the truth of the gospel, we are freed to obey. At the heart of biblical obedience is a love for the Lord and a love for his law. Both of those are given to us by the Spirit at salvation, and as we grow in our understanding of the word, we can’t help but grow in our love for it.

Earlier I said that the main point of J+N=E  was an approach to sanctification that I do not completely agree with. But if I can zoom out a little further, I think there is a main point that Tchividjian and I do agree on. Your sanctification cannot surpass your theology. Both of us would agree that if you want to grow more like Jesus, you need to grow in your knowledge of his word.

And this book does that. By drawing out the connection between the imperatives and the indicatives in Colossians, Tchividjian makes it clear that if you want to obey Christ, you need to love him, and the only way to love him is to find him in his word.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA.
  • http://www.facebook.com/ACupofKofi Douglas K. Adu-Boahen

    Reading your last few blog posts have assured me I wasn’t going mad in my mild disagreement with the Law/Gospel construct as an overriding principle for interpreting the Bible. Thank you!

    • jeff eckert

      Doug, what is your concern with the L/G herm?

      Also, are you reading the Gospel Mystery of Sanctification yet by Marshall?

      Good stuff.

      • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

        Not sure if you saw this or not Jeff. It is (I think) what Douglas was referencing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ACupofKofi Douglas K. Adu-Boahen

        Hi Pastor Jeff! Hope you and the Riverbend family are well :-)

        Like I said, I have a mild disagreement with the Law-Gospel principle and to be fair, I think my issues stem from the language used by some of its proponents.

        If everything commanded by God is indeed law (which I agree with) and everything done by God in salvation is Gospel (which I again agree with) and the purpose of law is to drive us to the Gospel (which I agree with), then I’m all for the L/G distinction.

        Where my concerns rise is when that is taken to mean that any emphasis on obedience is, as Pastor Jesse puts it, treated as an attempt at self-justification. Obedience that isn’t fueled by Gospel indicatives is well on the road to legalism – but does that mean we never discuss obedience for fear of putting people under the law? Does it then become a reformed version of “let go and let God?” (which is seriously the impression I got from reading J+N=E when it first came out).

        I’ve only just started reading Marshall so maybe he’ll clarify this for me but that’s kind of where I’m at. Wish we could have discussed it when you were here with us :)

        • Jeff Eckert

          Thanks for your response, Professor :)

          I think those are valid concerns, brother. I would personally be uncomfortable with that same definition of the Law/Gospel hermeneutic, but “let go and let God” was not something that Luther (who rediscovered the “L/G” hermeneutic) would consent to.

          I think the Law / Gospel hermeneutic is very sound, in fact, I would say it is foundational for an understanding of the Bible. But like any good thing, it can be twisted and distorted and made to teach things it doesn’t condone.

          For instance, here is a quick soundbite from Luther on why the the NT writers gave instructions/rules/Law along with preaching the Gospel. If the Gospel is pure promise, then why did Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, etc… give us instructions also? Checkout his response:

          “But why does Christ give many rules and much instruction in the Gospel if it is the business of the Law to do this? Likewise, why do the apostles give many rules in spite of the fact that they are preachers of the Gospel? My answer is: Teachings of this sort, which are transmitted in addition to faith (for in the Gospel salvation and the remission of sins are made known to those who believe, as is stated in John 1:12: “To those who believed in His name, as many as received Him, He gave power to become children of God”), are either explanations of the Law whereby sin should be recognized more clearly, in order that the more surely sin is felt, the more ardently grace may be sought; or they are aids and observances by which the grace already received and the faith that has been bestowed may be guarded, nurtured, and perfected, just as happens when a sick person begins to receive care.” – Luther’s works, vol. 27, pg 184.

          As you can see, Luther wouldn’t condone “let go and let God.” He calls for good works from Christians, but he realizes that good works are only possible through union with Christ. Therefore the Law either humbles us to seek grace more ardently OR it nurtures/guards/matures faith in believers.

          The commands are real. The instruction is real. God wasn’t joking when He said, “Be ye holy for I am holy.” He wasn’t just telling people that so we would be scared into believing the Gospel, and then be done forever with working. Faith wasn’t the end game, it was faith working through love (Gal 5:6). Eph 2:8-10 we were saved “to do” good works not “from” good works.

          I think the L/G hermeneutic is very sound, in fact I would say the Bible has that hermenuetic built right in as we have the Old Testament (Old Covenant – Law) and the New Testament (New Covenant – Gospel). Now there is Grace in the OT and Law in the NT but these 2 distinctions govern everything which is why Jesus spoke about things like the Old Wineskin (Law) and new wine (Gospel) and how they both should be preserved, but they should not be mingled/mixed together because if you do, you ruin both.

          In fact, if you reject a L/G hermeneutic, then how does all Scripture point to Jesus (Luke 24:27)? How can all Scripture be about Jesus if there are Scriptures in the Bible that do not:

          1.) Convict us of sin and drive us to seek grace in Christ, both before and after salvation, OR inform the grace that we have been purchased and given by Christ (per Luther). – Law

          OR

          2.) Comfort us because of what Christ has done. – Gospel

          Can there be a 3rd category independent of the work of Jesus?

          As D. A. Carson has said,
          “Every passage of Scripture – in both the Old and New Testaments – either predicts, prepares for, reflects, or results from the work of Christ. As you read Scripture in your daily devotions, identify how each passage relates to the cross.”

          I think the L/G hermeneutic is very sound, and that is why men like Luther,

          Melanchthon, Calvin, Beza, Spurgeon, etc… said it is the main governing herm of the BIble.

          What do you think, brotha?

          Also, please Tell Tom & Ross I said hello :)

  • http://twitter.com/matt_rollings Matt Rollings

    Another great article Jesse.

    What are your thoughts on Kevin DeYoung and his counsel to keep the terms synergism and sanctification apart? http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/09/21/is-sanctification-monergistic-or-synergistic-a-reformed-survey/ Semantics??

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Great question Matt. I read Kevin’s post as essentially conceiding that sanctification is synergistic, but that Reformed people hate the word so much it just is not helpful to use. Is that how you read that post?

      • http://twitter.com/matt_rollings Matt Rollings

        “I believe it is better to defend both of these points with careful explanation rather than with terms that have normally been employed in a different theological controversy.” Yes, that is how I read it. I recall my Prof. Dr.Scott removing the term synergism from sanctification class notes after reading Kevin’s post.

        Just wondering if you agree, should we as Christians continue to use the term to describe sanctification or instead use other words when describing the sanctification process?

  • Michael Coughlin

    Jesse – Thanks for your critique. Tchividjian has said and written some good things, to be certain. Realistically, anyone who tries to teach the bible will ultimately do that by accident at some point, since the scripture is so full of rich and deep teaching.

    I have been as unimpressed as you with this “semi-antinomianism.” But here’s the problem, Tchividjian isn’t taking into account the utter weakness of his hearer’s when he waters down the truth or, in this case, outright denies the scripture.

    My wife and I lost two friends because of this false teaching. The couple fell under this teaching and began to be utterly unable to discuss sin and repentance. The two ended up divorcing and basically leaving the faith (although they practice a sort of Christianity where it is taboo to label them unChristian now).

    Interestingly enough, the only rule becomes that we aren’t allowed to talk about rules. My wife and I were forbidden from talking about sins with this woman, which was ironic, because she was allowed to tell us we weren’t allowed.

    Anyway, I hope that made sense. You were very gracious toward this evil teaching and this probably overall pretty good Christian man, as you always are when you publicly disagree. I just hope some Christians read this and aren’t duped by this false teaching.

  • Will Thomas

    Jesse,
    Thanks for the book review. Categorically, it seems that he might be attempting to point the believer to definite sanctification that we already have in Christ before moving to practical sanctification that the believer is working out by the Spirit’s power. Would you affirm the distinction is important for the believer to know (indicatives) as they are obeying Christ’s commands (imperatives)? Or is your position something different?

    You have a cat? If so, I think rhetorical approach will be even stronger if you do not reference this slip in discernment, dear friend.

    • Jonathan Anderson

      You are so right about the cat. I understand that some people make poor decisions from time to time, but to broadcast it publicly seems unnecessary.

      It’s been too long Will, and tell the family hello from the Andersons!

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Ok, I don’t personally have a cat. Its my neighbors cat, and he loiters on my porch. And I also plead guilty to hyperbole. Maybe I didnt’ actually throw the book at the cat. But I did look around for her…

      • kevin2184

        :-)

    • Jeff Eckert

      Jesse,
      I think Will is onto something regarding the IND vs. IMP correlation. I cannot vouch for everything Tullian believes, but from what I understand, J+N=E was Tullians effort to cement a Christian in his positional acceptance before God b/c of the cross in order to motivate his obedience for Christ (which the book doesn’t really get into). I think people assume that because he spends the whole book addressing position, that he really isn’t concerned about progression. I think people tend to throw stones at Elyse Fitzpatrick for the same reason as she is another author who focuses on positional righteousness in order to drive the Christian to obey.

      • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

        That’s fair, and I want to be cognizant of that. I haven’t read Elyse at all, so I’m not helpful there. And I’m thankful for the reminder in this book that obedience has to flow from love for Jesus. I just ultimately end up disagreeing with his understanding of sanctification.

        • Jeff Eckert

          Jesse,

          Thanks for taking time to respond to all these posts, brother. I know you have a lot on your plate being “the guy” now and I so I appreciate you taking the time away from your flock to clarify these things.

          I think I see what you are saying. As you stated in your post above,

          “The thesis of J+N=E is that the only thing required for your
          sanctification is to think more about what Jesus has done. That’s it.
          Jesus, plus Nothing, equals Everything for your sanctification.”

          I too read the book and enjoyed it, but I do not remember him saying that particular thesis. I am not questioning you, I just dont remember him saying that (I read it last year). If he said that is all there is to sanctification, then I agree with you, he is wrong.

          We certainly have responsibilities (I personally like Jerry Bridges phrase “dependent responsibility” in his book The Transforming Power of the Gospel) as Christians have duties to carry out for our sanctification. As Augustine said, “The Law is the tutor that sends us to the Gospel so we can be justified, and then the Gospel sends us back to the Law to find out what pleases the Lord (Eph 5).” We are no longer under the curse of the Law but Christians remain obligated to the commands of the Law as a guide for life (The Reformers 3rd use of the Law).

          Again, I thought Tullian was just hitting positional righteousness, and assumed his readers would know “This is supposed to drive you to obey more” instead of “Hey, everything is done by Jesus for your sanctification so chill out, let your Bible collect dust and watch some South Park.”

          Anywho. I really enjoyed the book and it stoked my love for Christ and I have recommended it to others, though I could see how someone could claim the book is unbalanced because he focuses primarily on motivation and skims over application. I just think we have to be careful because we could make that same charge against similar books like The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent or the Gospel-Centered Life by CeeJ because both those books stress the positional side of our salvation.

          Lastly, for those who are curious, I think 4 great books that address both sides (Position & Practice) clearly and theologically – while leaving the amazing in grace – are:

          - Holiness By Grace – Bryan Chapell

          - Conformed to His Image – Bryan Hedges

          - The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Jerry Bridges

          - The Works of John Owen vol 6 :)~

          Anyway, my 2 cents.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      I totally affirm that distinction as being valid and helpful. I wouldn’t make it a rule or a law or anything…and neither dose Paul. I mean, after all the “appointed good works beforehand so you can walk in them” is straight from the FIRST half of Ephesians. But the principle is one I embrace.

  • kevin2184

    Hope your cat is ok.
    :-/

  • Jonathan Anderson

    Jesse, when you say ‘salvation is monergistic… sanctification is synergistic,’ are you referring to regeneration, as opposed to justification? I’m asking if you see a huge distinction between justification and sanctification regarding the active role of the sinner… i.e., in one God justifies through the active expression of faith and repentence, in the other God sanctifies through the active believing of the gospel and yielding of the will to God’s Word?

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      That is a great question Jon. I do see a difference between justification and sanctification in the role of the sinner. In justification, my nature is opposed to God, and through regeneration God changes my nature. In sanctification, the desire to obey is in my new nature. It is the real me, in other words. I have the freedom to obey from my heart. So in both it is God working a change in my heart. But in the second, it is working with my nature, not in spite of it.

      • Jonathan Anderson

        Agreed and very well put… Just one more–do you see the faith in justification as active? I mean, though in spite of their nature, you evangelize the lost by telling them that they must believe (exert active trust in Christ), right?

        • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

          Yep–stemming from regeneration, which is something that happens to you. Bam. You might even call it being born from above :)

          • Jonathan Anderson

            I think you strengthen your point when you highlight that there is a wonderful continuity between justification and sanctification. That’s the whole point of Galatians–the faith that justifies, sanctifies. So, when I’m counseling people who are coming from the J+N=E view, I have to show them that they aren’t actually walking by faith when them simply seek to remember that they’ve been forgiven. The faith that justifies actively entrusts and repents, just like the faith that sanctifies actually yields the will to God’s will. What honors God more: remembering forgiveness while neglecting submission, or yielding your will to His word because you trust Christ more than yourself, and you believe that what He says in His word is good, even when your fallen will doesn’t necessarily want to.

            With the J+N=E model, Jesus would never have yielded in Gethsemane–”not my will but Yours be done.” I agree with Mike Riccardi above, and I’m attempting to show that this is in a continuity with faith and repentance in justification (Gal. 3:1-5)… From the point of causality, both justification and sanctification are God’s work. From the point of active of passive human agency, sinners are actively believing in justification and sanctification.

            And yes, regarding the first domino of regeneration, we are entirely passive, and it is entirely monergistic.

  • scollins

    I think a part of the problem here is that you have a cat at which to throw a book.

    It seems clear to us both that Tchividjianidhgan is emphasizing WHY to work (i.e. love Christ and obey His commands). As far as the imperatives of Col. 3 & 4, Tchividjian simply makes clear that any actual obedience to those imperatives comes from Jesus + none of your own brute efforts. Efforts yes, but efforts which are gospel/grace driven (not brute human will) – cf. Bridges _Discipline of Grace_. If sanctification isn’t grounded in and powered by justification, what causes it and who then gets the glory? Yes, the child of God obeys and works, but the only reason any of it can occur or be pleasing to the Father is when it occurs by grace through faith in the gospel. If someone were to ask you if there is any sanctifying power in the law, what would you say? Tchividjian says no power there, the power is in grace through faith in the gospel. I don’t see the problem. Jesus + nothing equals a sanctified believer desirous to please his Father according to His holy standard is no affront to Colossians or any of the Bible.

    Also, I found Tchividjian’s concluding analogy (of course not 1 to 1) of the anxious girl in the class quite appropriate for how J+N=E translates into sanctification. As you will remember, the girl was terrified that she would fail the class, the teacher grants her an automatic A before she has done any (academic) good. The anxiety is gone, thankfulness abounds, and the girl performs well, therefore. Is there something missing?

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Thanks for reminding me of that analogy–which I think was from Tim Keller. I too found it very helpful. Part of the issue is that (if I may continue the analogy) is that not all students in the class are the same. Not all of them have that anxiety about the teacher, and not all of them are judging their performance by those around them. Some of them just love class because they love the teacher.

      John Piper talked about the effects of the Law/Gospel distinction this way: he said that those who hold it argue that sanctification has to be like eating apples. Those that don’t hold it treat sanctification like eating fruit. All of the arguements that apply to eating apples are held by both sides. I’m not saying the approach Tullian presents is bad/wrong. I’m just saying that it is ONE component of sanctification. Does that make sense? arguments

      • scollins

        That makes sense.

        But I am now wondering what approach to sanctification the apple-eater- theorist is excluding / missing out on?

        • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

          Yesterday I gave the scenerio of a guy who is about to sin, and you have the chance to talk to him. What do you say? That analogy I think fits here. Both of the possible responses I think are valid. So in the one TT would give, I”m not saying he’s wrong. I don’t need to argue against it. I’m just saying that there other ones as well, and I guess my beef with his answer is only if it is presented as the ONLY answer. Does that make sense?

        • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

          Also (in addition to my answer below), how about obeying for eternal rewards? That is actually what Piper had in mind I think when he used the analogy initially.

      • Jeff Eckert

        Jesse,

        I have not heard Piper’s critique on the Law/Gospel herm but could you please explain a little more the eating fruit analogy? Thanks, bro.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.bashoor Scott Bashoor

    This discussion gets into the larger issue of Gospel-centrism, a notion which I believe is right and rich in principle but sometimes amplified or applied incorrectly.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Very well said Scott.

  • MikeWorrell

    A sermon by Tullian of the same title, some great followup links to critiques, and elaboration can be found at http://www.sermonize.us/2012/09/jesus-plus-nothing-equals-everything-tullian-tchividjian/#comments

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Very helpful. Thanks Mike.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jroden39 John Roden

    I believe we need to view sanctification as an integral part of the “big picture” of God’s sovereign grace as set forth in Romans 8:29-30. In this unbreakable chain–which was conceived in the mind of God in eternity past, executed in time, and shall be completed in eternity future–God’s purpose is to conform His chosen people to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. This process of sanctification begins in this life after regeneration, and is consummated and perfected in our glorification when we shall behold our blessed Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory (1 John 3:2).
    The question which concerns every true believer is how this process of sanctification–being conformed to the image of Christ–is accomplished and carried on while we struggle with indwelling sin in this life (Romans 7:14-25). I believe the Word of God is clear that the process of progressive sanctification is the result of a combination of 2 vital ingredients:
    (1) Looking to and beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus by faith as He is lifted up in the mirror of the Word, while depending on the Holy Spirit to conform us to His image (2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 12:2); and
    (2) Striving after holiness and purity of heart and life (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 John 3:3; Hebrews 12:1).
    As we strive to “pursue holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), and to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1), it is forced upon to recognize that sanctification, like justification, is ALL OF GRACE, and therefore we must rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit who works in us “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), and “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
    The conclusion we must draw is that while sanctification is accomplished through the work of God the Holy Spirit within us, it does not exclude effort and diligence on our part, but rather requires it!

    • Suzanne T

      Very helpful, Thanks!

      • http://www.facebook.com/jroden39 John Roden

        The greatest motivation to strive after holiness of life is to dwell upon and recognize that we are sinners who have been “bought with a price”–the price was the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! Though the exhortation of 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 was given in the context of fleeing sexual immorality, it surely applies to all sin in general. When we consider the tremendous cost to the Lord Jesus to save sinners like us, it should promote an attitude of gratefulness and a sincere desire to obey and please Him who suffered so much to save us! We are no longer slaves of Satan–we have a new Master who rules over us in love unsurpassed (John 15:13, 13:34-35)! See C. H. Spurgeon’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Bought With a Price” at this link:

        http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1004.htm

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Thanks John.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Thanks for this, John. As you can see from my comments below, I agree very much with what you’re saying. I’m curious, though, as to what you would say that “striving after holiness of purity of heart and life” actually looks like in practice. I don’t disagree with the notion of striving at all; my question isn’t meant to cast suspicion. I’m just wondering what “striving” looks like in practice. Maybe if you could give a few examples that would help my thinking. Thanks!

      • http://www.facebook.com/jroden39 John Roden

        WHAT STRIVING IN THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS
        LOOKS LIKE IN PRACTICE
        According to the dictionary, “striving” means “exerting oneself vigorously; trying hard, making strenuous efforts toward any goal, contending in opposition, battle, or any conflict.”
        If that definition is applied to the Christian’s pursuit of holiness, we can see what “striving” looks like in the life of the apostle Paul, who wrote, ” Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). So we see from this passage that pursuing holiness is “striving” as in running a race.
        The writer of Hebrews also describes what this “striving” in the pursuit of holiness looks like in practice with the metaphor of running a race: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Note that this passage contains both aspects: striving after holiness and against sin, and looking to the Lord Jesus Christ and trusting Him who is the author and finisher of our faith.
        Without quoting Ephesians 6:10-20 here, I think we can say that in this passage Paul also describes what this “striving” in the pursuit of holiness looks like in practice by the metaphor of a soldier arming himself for battle. These 11 verses deserve to be studied carefully and applied diligently!

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          Thanks John. But I guess I’m looking for a couple of examples of “diligent application.” I get that sanctification is a battle to be fought and a race to be won. But those are metaphors. I’m asking what they’re metaphors for, specifically. What would be an example of “making strenuous efforts toward [the] goal” of having your affections conformed to the affections of Christ, in a specific situation?

          • http://www.facebook.com/jroden39 John Roden

            I am sure that each of us can give specific examples in our own experience of how we have “striven against sin” in order to be pleasing to God, and it’s a battle that we will continue to fight until we are finally delivered from indwelling sin by death or in the “blessed hope” of our Lord’s return (Titus 2:13-14). The writer of Hebrews wrote, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, STRIVING against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). I haven’t shed any blood yet…have you?

            Here is one specific example. Suppose you enjoy good movies, possibly on television, but sometimes you are convicted and feel guilty because in the course of the film you are watching, the name of the Lord Jesus is blasphemed and God’s name is taken in vain; further, you find that so many films produced in Hollywood glorify adultery, fornication, deceit, lying and cheating on the spouse, also picturing violent scenes of murder and rape. Then a movie comes out supposedly telling the story of “The Bible,” and you find that it grossly misrepresents the Word of God. You are drawn to this form of entertainment, but yet you know you should not be watching this kind of trash, allowing your mind to take it all in. You know you should be spending your time “letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). When you are faced with this temptation, you struggle against the desire of the flesh to watch it, but God gives you the grace to turn it off or change channels!

            Another example would be when you come in contact with unbelievers, you are reluctant to witness to them concerning their lost condition and the wonderful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). But what about us? Are we sometimes ashamed to be identified with the crucified, risen, exalted, glorified and enthroned Lord Jesus? Are we willing to humbly bear the offense of the cross? I believe every Christian struggles, or has struggled with this, and in some measure gains the victory over our pride in order to be bolder in our witness to others.
            Mike, I am sure you also could give some specific examples in this regard. I look forward to hearing it!

          • DelawareMom

            Mike,

            I debated about whether to respond to this post, since it is
            a couple of days old, but I thought the topic was important enough, so I hope you will find this helpful. I don’t believe one can “pursue” holiness or work on being holy. One “becomes” holy. But in an effort to become holy, there are two things that I find most helpful.

            The first is to sincerely pray to be as holy as I need to
            be. A few years ago, I asked Jesus to give me a heart like His. And I ask continually for the grace to do what is right in every situation. Ask that you may come to truly know Him as much as a human can. Ask Him to fill any gaps in your spiritual life. Trust me, He will answer this prayer!
            I asked that I would truly “get it.” And when I look back over the last few years,I am amazed at how far I have come, and kind of shocked at how I had been before, even though I thought I was doing okay.

            The second thing is something you can actually work on:
            humility. When we think about it, Jesus humbled Himself to come to earth to become one of us. So it follows that if we wish to be holy, we should strive to imitate Jesus, and humility is probably the best way we can do that. I think we all have room for a little humility in our lives. What does this mean in action? It means being open to the needs of those around you, putting yourself last, responding to unkindness with kindness (really, really hard to do!), giving without measure, going the extra mile even when I’d rather not, knowing that there is always room for improvement in myself, that there is always someone who is better than me at anything I can do (absence of ego). The list goes on. Basically, taking the Beatitudes to the next level might be a good way to put it. I find that the ones about being merciful and being peacemakers afford the most opportunity in my life on a daily basis. Doing a kindness without expecting return, still talking to someone who offended me, even though they haven’t apologized, looking at the most repulsive person through the eyes of Christ, etc. – these are challenges. This will test your mettle.

            When you do these two things, you will begin to see changes
            in yourself and you will look at others with the eyes of Christ. Am I the holiest person I know? No. Am I anywhere near perfect? No. But I am better than I used to be and hopefully I will continue to improve.

            I will leave you with a link to my favorite hymn and a quote
            from C.S. Lewis. I hope you will find the holiness you are searching for.

            “…remember that the dullest, most
            uninteresting person you talk to may one day
            be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly
            tempted to worship, or else a horror and a
            corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only
            in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree
            helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.
            It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities,
            It is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them,
            that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another.
            All friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
            There are no ordinary people.
            You have never talked to a mere mortal.
            Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal,
            and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
            But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with,
            marry, snub, and exploit –
            immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
            ― C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

  • Suzanne T

    Ok, here enters the theological rube-o-the-bunch with her response ;-)

    Very thoughtful, if somewhat challenging post, Jesse.

    I have learned alot reading these 3 articles, some theological tensions I didn’t even realize existed. Correcting the L/G distinctions represented throughout scripture as not ‘either / or’ was especially helpful. But I’m somewhat bewildered after reading the quotes from Tullian’s book here. They do seem troubling! I’m perplexed because I was greatly impacted and edified by a message he gave a few years back that I think coincides with this book. I’m not a Tullian-defender and havn’t read the book, just surprised at the problems pointed out here.

    So for what its worth..as a fairly young believer (in Spiritual age that is :) The part of the message that most hit me was this: Because of *who we are* in Christ we are free and fully equipped to kill those sins that continue to drag us down even as believers, those sins of the heart that might be more difficult to detect, or kill. I hadn’t fully (as such) grasped my new identity in Christ before, one that would allow me the freedom and ability (through the Spirit) to purge those sins of unbelief still ruling my heart, for instance “indignance”, “inconvenience”, “self-preservation”, “joylessness” etc…

    Tullian’s message helped me see this for the first time, and I didn’t come away with the understanding that I did not have plenty of work ahead of me-contrarily so! (as my own conscience testified/s). Or, that doing the monergistic work of sanctification meant I was trusting in my own ability, or, that an understanding/grasping of Justification and of Christ’s accomplished “already” work meant our full sanctification in the here and now…or any of the problems pointed out here (rightly so)–I just didn’t see these things in the message I heard. (I understand it’s not the same as reading the book).

    (again, as theological pup): I can see a place where the “nothing” equals “everything” paradigm rings true, (perhaps in the DoG?), but I also see where it can be dangerous if mis-applied. I
    s this mis-application really what what is being purported by Tchividjian?..(&Horton, et all?)

    Anyway, herein lies my consternation. I benefited from a mesage I perceived as an excellent word on the sanctification process, however, from reading this post, that same teaching, being discussed here, was purporting something errant that I just completely missed?

    I know I can be the princess of missing-the-point, (and I likely have here!) but I never expected it might work to my advantage. ha ha :)

    • Suzanne T

      *correction* – change “monergistic” to synergistic in “…doing the monergistic work of sanctification meant I was trusting in my own ability”

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      I wouldn’t dwell on that consternation. I too benefited from a lot in TT’s book. As I said, the reminder of how the imperatives are rooted and grounded in the indicatives was extremely helpful to me. His description of legalism, and his portrayal of complaining as legalism were convicting to me personally. And God often impacts us through preaching by causing internal conviction and internal encouragement to come from a truth in the word exposed by a preacher, even if it wasn’t the preacher’s main point. So please don’t discount any positive spiritual affect you have received from his book, preaching, or ministry in general. That would make me super sad. Thanks Suzanne!

      • Suzanne T

        I can’t discount them, they are truths from scripture! :) Consternation was too strong a word, puzzled is more like it, and just trying to put the pieces together. Thanks, Jesse!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=691868909 Teresa Stark Riordan

    Jessie i have been so blessed by your preaching , I am currently going through Mark with you.. i have not read this book, ..but from your summary I have to say I would agree with TT . My sanctification is no more works generated than my salvation .. both are the work of Christ. We love the law because of Christs ongoing work in us

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Thanks Teresa! We’ll be back in Mark in two weeks.

  • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

    This is tangential to the post, but very related to the whole “monergistic / synergistic” lables (which, btw, I’ve long thought to be inaccurate and unhelpful in the discussion on sanctification), and I’m interested to hear your thoughts. My question is: what does it actually mean to be conformed more into the image Christ? That is, what precisely is holiness/sanctification, most fundamentally? Is it something that is fundamentally external, such as (non-hypocritical) outward conformity to commands? Or is it fundamentally internal, a change of the affections/heart/loves that will issue in external obedience to commands?

    I think if we answer the “what” question very clearly — i.e., what am I after when I pursue holiness? — then the “how” question becomes more clear as well. What do you think?

    • http://www.facebook.com/jroden39 John Roden

      I believe the change must be internal, which results in external behavior. Through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we desire to submit to Christ as Lord in sincere obedience to Him. Here is one example: Bridling the Tongue. See James 3:1-12. How can we gain control of our tongues? Only by submitting our minds and hearts to Christ. We speak what we think. Therefore, if the Lord Jesus is to be magnified in the way we use our tongue, He must be magnified in the way we use our mind also. Paul writes of Christians “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Paul knew that there could be no purity of speech apart from a genuine purification of our minds. The Lord Jesus also taught this truth when He said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). If our hearts are daily surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, we will be meditating upon His Word and cleansed by that Word (Psalm 119:9, Ephesians 5:25-27)—and as a result, we will seek to be a sympathetic encouragement to other believers, rather than participating in backbiting and gossip about others. See Ephesians 4:29.

      • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

        I agree, John. So the question is, what role does the believer play in effecting this fundamentally internal change? Surely, if sanctification was a fundamentally external exercise, then it makes sense to say that even the brute exercise of my will in taming the tongue (to use your example) or to not look at sinful things online (to use Jesse’s example from yesterday) would be me playing a part in my sanctification. But if we agree that it’s internal before it’s external, how do I participate in that internal
        change?

        I think the answer is that we are to avail ourselves of the means of
        sanctification that God has ordained for us. We are to put ourselves in the way of God’s sanctifying grace. So what are those means? The many that are cited are the Word of God (which is an easy one: Jn 17:17), prayer, fellowship with the saints / church life (e.g., Heb 3:10-12; 10:24-25), suffering for Christ’s sake (Phil 3:9-11), anticipation of the second coming (2 Pet 3:10-12), and even that external obedience is a means of sanctifying grace (John 15:10). But I think underlying all of those means is a more fundamental, more primary means that God reveals to us in 2 Cor 3:18: beholding the glory of Christ revealed by the Spirit to the eyes of our hearts. All those things: the Word, prayer, fellowship, suffering, anticipation of Christ’s return, and obedience to commands, are all propped up by the notion that we are transformed into the image of Christ as we behold His glory.

        So then, what’s my responsibility in sanctification? How do I participate? Strictly speaking, I don’t actually make myself holy; the Spirit sanctifies me, progressively transforming me into the image of Christ. So should I just kick back and relax?

        No. It’s incumbent upon me to expose myself to the transforming glory of Christ through the various means through which that sanctifying glory is revealed. The prospect of beholding that delightful glory is precisely what propels and fuels my earnest efforts in to fight for holiness (John 14:21; the believer obeys because Christ discloses Himself to the obedient believer). But the notion that sanctification is most foundationally an internal work of the Spirit teaches me that my fight isn’t a fight to muscle down burdensome commandments, as if I can actually count myself sanctified if I manage to hold back an ungracious word by my sheer willpower, all the while cursing a brother in my heart. Rather, I think that the fight is to properly “see and savor,” as Piper would say, the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor 3:18; cf. 4:6).

        What do you (all) think? Is that accurately representing the biblical dynamic of sanctification? Am I off base? I ask sincerely desiring feedback.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jroden39 John Roden

          I heartily agree with what you have written, Mike. The first wall we come up against is that we can’t make ourselves holy solely by our own efforts. We learn from our own failures and from painful experience in that regard that it takes a power much greater than us to get the victory over sin, i.e., the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and therefore while striving against sin, we learn to rely more fully upon the Spirit of God to enable us to gain the victory. Brother, repentance is not a one-time experience, but a lifetime exercise in the heart of the born-again believer as he looks to Christ, glories in Christ, and trusts in Christ. I have learned, and continue to learn, from Arthur Pink’s book, “A Fourfold Salvation”: Salvation from the pleasure of sin, from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and from the presence of sin. You can read this excellent piece at this link:

          http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Four_Fold_Salvation/index.htm

        • Michael Coughlin

          So if sanctification is not monergistic, is it right to say that we don’t
          glory in God alone in the same sense that we do for ‘salvation?’

          Or do we still point back to the original regeneration which allowed the sanctification? Or is there room for a healthy form of “being proud of myself?” For example, if me and my buddy are both Christians who want to improve an area of sin, (let’s say lust), and I find success in that area and he does not. Is it right to say that God simply zapped me and fixed me and not him and that is the only difference?

          Or is it more accurate to actually place some level of praise on the worker who was more successful?

          I read these verses, and I get an impression that there is a biblical and healthy sense of pride we can have in accomplishments which were made for His sake.

          (Galatians 6:3-4) For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

          What do you think? If I compare myself with unbeliever, the only difference I can see if GRACE (monergistically), but what is the difference between the 2008-me and the 2013-me? Is it only grace, or was there ergos (effort) involved.

          • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

            Hey Michael. Sorry for the delay.

            So if sanctification is not monergistic…

            Just to be clear, I’ve not said that sanctification isn’t monergistic. I’m on record saying I don’t think the monergism/synergism terms are helpful when applied to sanctification.

            Is it only grace, or was there ergos (effort) involved?

            I don’t think the answer is one or the other. All the effort that’s invovled is entirely a work of God’s grace. Grace is the foundation and occasion for effort in sanctification, not the antithesis of it. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but our working out is entirely dependent on His graciously working in us (Phil 2:12-13). Paul says he worked harder than everyone, yet not him, but the grace of God in him (1 Cor 15:10).

            So it may be that the difference between you who have found victory over a sin and your friend who is still submitting to that sin is that you have availed yourself of the means of sanctification (beholding the glory of the Lord in Scripture, prayer, fellowship, etc.) more than he did. But even at that point you recognize that the faith to appropriate those means of grace was itself a gift of God, and owing to nothing native within you but entirely to the Spirit of God at work in you lusting against the flesh (Gal 5:17).

            The Gal 6:3-4 passage you bring up is an interesting thought, and I’m not quite sure what I think about that yet. I’m wondering if Paul isn’t being a tad sarcastic there, but I’d have to think more on his flow of thought. It’s hard for me to say that there’s such a thing as a “healthy being proud of oneself” when down in verse 14 he says, “May it never be that I should boast except in the cross of Christ.”

            Really good question.

          • Michael Coughlin

            Thanks for the explanation and the link you posted. It explained everything well and I understand and agree.

            As far as Galatians 6:14 goes, a cursory reading of it tells me that Paul is speaking of boasting in the cross alone in regard to verses 12 and 13 and in contrast to the judaizers’ teaching concerning salvation. It appears to be the concluding statement to the earlier thesis from chapter 1. This would leave room for verse 4 to be not sarcastic, but an actual explanation as to how we are to judge ourselves and our brothers in the realm of sanctification, and the reality that sometimes in the Xian life, we “actually do something right.”

            I had never considered the interpretation you offered as a possibility, so I am convinced to revisit this shortly and think about it more. I wasn’t arguing, just offering another option.

            Cheers, thanks for responding.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      There are some tensions in the Christian life, and this is one of them. But I think an understanding of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility helps this tension. God is sovereign over our desires, so he is at work in us, to cause us to act and walk in the deeds that he has laid out for us. So when I say that sanctification is both synergistic and monorgystic, I don’t mean in the chessy way of “both are true and opposites.” I mean it in the way that God orchestrates the events of this world to cause us to desire to do his will. Or, as RC Sproul often says, “God is free and man is free, but God is more free than me.” So I guess I agree with your post in that ultimately it is not so much a both/and, as it is a neither.

      • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

        Gee, that sounds familiar…

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      I thin your question of What is an excellent one. I’ve always defined sanctification is growing more and more into the image of Christ–seen predominately in your affections. I think you measure sanctification in what you love (God’s word, God’s Son, God’s people), and as you grow in your love for holiness (fueled by God’s word) then you become conformed increasingly to the image of Jesus.

      • Suzanne T

        I like Jesse’s answers :-)

      • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

        That’s helpful. “…seen predominately in your affections.” So if sanctification is the conformation of my affections to the affections of Christ’s (i.e., we love what Christ loves, hate what He hates, etc.), then we need to ask: how do my affections get changed? Can I change my affections directly, perhaps by the exercise of brute willpower? If so, then I think it makes sense to use the “synergistic” label.

        But if not, and the Spirit must change my affections (2 Cor 3:17-18), if God’s work is fundamental and prior to my work (Phil 2:12-13), then my work is to avail myself of the means that the Spirit, the agent, uses to do His work. And at that point the whole “monergistic” thing makes more sense, even though I don’t like it as a label.

        So in the moment of temptation, when you call up your friend as he’s looking at sinful things online (from yesterday’s post), do you say, “Dude! Flee immorality!” I think you do, but even if he closes the window, it’s possible that such an action was hypocritical, that it was merely external and hadn’t come from that prior internal change the Spirit effects through the means of beholding the glory of Christ in His Word, prayer, fellowship, etc. So unless that second paragraph from yesterday’s post is in there, where he is reminded of who he is in Christ, where he is re-exposed to the glory of Christ revealed in the Gospel and elsewhere in Scripture, then there’s the danger of that “obedience” merely being mechanical. Not only does that not honor God, because it’s not from the heart, but it’s also sure to let him down after too long.

        The tone of all that sounds very confident. But I assure you that I’m asking one humongous question in the form of many declarative statements. LoL. I’m still thinking through all this, and so I invite your pushback.

    • Suzanne T

      Definately internal.
      When I think of our “synergistic” part in santification I think of our obedience in action. Obdedience produces growth, right? We have a choice to do rightly (external) and think rightly (internal) and don’t always do what we should in either case. What I’m after in pursuit of Christlikeness is…wow, such a big question and not so easy to just trot out an answer as stand here convicted. . but for God’s patience, and grace I go. Ultimately, I want to be a sweet fragrance to him.

  • pastortommyclayton

    Jesse:

    I’m happy to see Cripplegate discuss the Law/Gospel Distinction. The issue touches on many facets of the Christian life—Bible interpretation, preaching, teaching, counseling, sanctification.

    Would you consider following up with a post on Sanctification? Judging by all the comments and questions over the past several days, I think that might generate some healthy, robust interaction and bring clarity to what has become a confusing topic. You could call it “Sanctification: Grace-Driven Effort” (D.A. Carson). I’d read it. :-)

    Thanks for maintaining such a civil comment thread by your example.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Thanks Tommy. I’d also encourage you to check out Mike’s post (linked below) on the topic.

  • Nate

    If you want to see some of the practical out working of this, check out Mark Galli’s talk at Tullian’s Liberate conference. Has anyone seen/heard it? Honestly, it’s pretty wild. At times I couldn’t believe what I was hearing….it seemed unashamedly antinomian.

  • Z

    Thank you for this book review, Jesse. I am glad you read it and provided your thoughts. A friend of mind who I am counseling brought up this topic to me about a couple of weeks ago.

  • http://www.truthtolove.com/ bmh

    “I’m not implying that Tchividjian is antinomian; he does say we have to
    obey (152-53), but I was left asking “how? How are children supposed to
    honor their parents? By thinking more about the gospel? Is that what
    Paul meant?”

    Jesse, I think it would be good to at least acknowledge that though most (Reformed) critics are quick to say Tullian isn’t antinomian that they are quick to treat him as such. Tullian is a functional heretic to many in Reformed circles and I think that’s telling against the backdrop of rampant legalism that remains unchecked in our camp. Our unwillingness to embrace grace in the full totality of how the Gospel defines it is probably more at the bottom of our collective resistance to Tullian’s ministry than anything else. But you raise a good question, “how do we obey?” First, is it fair to lay this burden on Tullian’s book here? Is that the thrust of his work? I don’t think it’s particularly reasonable to demand that every author be forced to mitigate the downstream effects of every book that they write. In this case, it would take several more volumes to answer everyone. Tullian is breaching a vital topic and we should allow him to make his case and then allow it resonate, without then demanding he then answer every possible objection.

    But as for the question: the how we do it is not how many are claiming the question should be answered: Just do it. That is many in our theological circles (ironically) treat sanctified grace as prevenient and that we must pull up our boot straps and get to work once we are justified by faith alone and then given God’s grace to then either choose or not to choose to do good works. I see this issue a lot like Lordship salvation debates – a doctrine to which I hold. Proponents who are the loudest in clamoring for more of it in the church are the last to embrace Jesus’ lordship when it comes to his commands requiring that we embrace things like humility, respect, gentleness and love…and those demanding the how here, who not surprising are many of the same folks yelling about Lordship salvation while practicing little of it, are using the exactly the wrong formula and one which ends up antithetical to grace and faith. The how comes from God alone, not from us. And since we are motivated by desire (think Edwards, Piper here) in everything we do, it shouldn’t surprise us that reflecting on what compels us to love Christ and embrace his Gospel would serve as the key motivation, energy and catalyst to do good works to Christ. If the how is just do it, it will never get done, at least not consistently…because it isn’t faith by grace, it’s just dead works done from fear.

    • Nate

      Bmh, I agree with some of the concerns you bring up, and I do think Tullian is bringing up some good issues, even though he might not be as balanced in his language as I would prefer.

      However, you really ought to watch/listen to the talk given by Mark Galli at Tullian’s conference. It is the most antinomian talk I’ve ever heard in my life.

      Anyone can say “I’m not antinomian” but if the speakers (some of them) are, what is that saying?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caleb-Andrea-Kolstad/100000835384566 Caleb Andrea Kolstad

    Really good stuff here Jesse. They have redefined the reformed understanding of progressive sanctification. The Ekklesia conference Q and A discussion panel on this very topic was just fantastic. http://ekklesiaconference.org/#/media/2012

  • Kyle

    Did Christ purchase our sanctification?

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      That’s an interesting way of phrasing it. Its tough for me to know what exactly you mean, without knowing if there is a particular verse you are thinking of. Jesus in his life fulfilled all righteousness. So through union with him in his death, we receive forgiveness of sin which he is able to give through his perfect life. Through union with his resurrection, we have the freedom from sin to walk in newness of life, which entails our progressive sanctification. It may be helpful in terms of your question to view sanctification in terms of progressive vs. positional. I don’t know if that helps you think through this or not. Good question though.

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