Sunday (D.V.), I am preaching on 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, and the pattern of sanctification. Below are some of my favorite passages on sanctification as well as key quotes that summarize what we believe about how Christians are sanctified or increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. It took me over 20 years to collect these. . .
“We try to change ourselves. We take what we think are the tools of spiritual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christlike specimens. But spiritual transformation is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the Master Sculptor . . . Grace and the personal discipline required to pursue holiness, however, are not opposed to one another. In fact, they go hand in hand. An understanding of how grace and personal, vigorous effort work together is essential for a life-long pursuit of holiness.” (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, Colorado Springs (NavPress, 1994), 11,13).
“The root meaning of the word ‘character’ refers to something cut or engraved into an object, that marks its unmistakably for what is. So it is with moral character: it persists day aft day whatever happens. It is not just a collection of occasional behaviors or of good intentions that never get implemented, but it is what I am solidly through and through, a matter of the heart . . . someone who is ‘true blue,’ solid all the way through, all the time, inwardly and outwardly alike, we say has moral character, a moral identity of his own. But character does not just grow like Topsy; it must be carefully, painstakingly cultivated (Holmes, Shaping Character, 59).”
“We believe that Sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration; and that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means–especially the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and prayer (“THE NEW HAMPSHIRE BAPTIST CONFESSION, (1833), DECLARATION OF FAITH, X. OF SANCTIFICATION” Grudem, 1198).
The New Testament does not suggest any short-cuts by which we can grow in sanctification, but simply encourages us repeatedly to give ourselves to the old-fashioned, time-honored means for Bible reading and meditation (Ps. 1:3; Matt. 4:4, 17:17), prayer (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6), worship (Eph. 5:18-20), witnessing (Matt 28:19-20), Christian fellowship (Heb. 10:24-25), and self-discipline or self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 1:8). (Grudem, 755).
“We may define sanctification as that gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, involving our responsible participation, by which he delivers us from the pollution of sin, renews our entire nature according to the image of God, and enables us to live lives that are pleasing to him (Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 192).”
“Sanctification, says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), is ‘the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.’ The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated (that is to claim too much) or merely counteracted (that is to say too little), but of a divinely wrought character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues (Packer, 169, Concise Theology).”
“Although the work of strengthening holy dispositions is chiefly a divine and not a human work, believers must cooperate with grace by the proper use of spiritual means. These include the Word of God, the sacraments, prayer, the constant exercise of faith, confession of sins, and providential discipline (Lewis and Demarest, Vol. 3, 187).”
“…God effects the work [of the Holy Spirit] in part through the instrumentality of man as a rational being, by requiring of him prayerful and intelligent co-operation with the Spirit. That man must co-operate with the Spirit of God follows: (a) from the repeated warnings against evils and temptations…and (b) from the constant exhortations to holy living (Berkhof, 534).”
“Sanctification takes place partly in the subconscious life, and as such is an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit; but also partly in the conscious life, and then depends on the use of certain means, such as the constant exercise of faith, the study of God’s Word, prayer and association with other believers (Berkhof, 534).”
“And, indeed, this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year; but through continual and sometimes even slow advances God wipes out in his elect the corruptions of the flesh, cleanses them of guilt, consecrates them to himself as temples renewing all their minds to true purity that they may practice repentance through their lives and know that this warfare will end only at death (Calvin, Institutes., 3.3.9, page 601).”
“All true knowledge of God is born out of obedience.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, quoted in CT, 1/10/2000, page 78).
“It is the grace of God only that will secure us, and that grace is to be expected only in the use of the means of grace. (Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997).
But we have no reason to be afraid if we are on the Lord’s side. Appropriation of that strength comes through the means of grace (MacArthur, John F., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press) 1983).