There is no further sanctification required after justification. Everyone who is justified through Jesus Christ is fully and completely sanctified.
I developed this notion while researching what is wrong with the idea of “Christian accountability”, the teaching that Christians need to have “accountability partners”. Noticing that Bible teachings against “Christian accountability” are the same as that against the Judaizers from the days of the apostles Peter and Paul, I realized that legalism in any form can be identified by the teaching of “after accepting the grace of Jesus Christ, you must now start to do this”. To wit:
Judaizers circa 1st century AD: “Christians, now that you have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ, you must now be circumcised and obey the Laws of Moses”.
Catholic legalism: “Christians, now that you have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ, you must now go to church every Sunday, confess your sins to a priest every week, pray the rosary every morning, and receive the sacraments.”
Charismatic legalism: “Christians, now that you have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ, you must now also be baptized in the Holy Spirit and start speaking in tongues.”
Latter-day Saints: “Christians, now that you have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ, you must now also become a missionary, be sealed with your spouse(s) in celestial marriage, and never again consume alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco.”*
Christian accountability proponents: “Christians, now that you have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ, you must now also be held accountable by accountability partners in Christian accountability.”
In other words, “Grace is not enough. After grace, this:”
I noticed that the “this” is always presented as a form of sanctification, some means to make a believer “more holy”. Christians who practise the “works of sanctification” are held to be better than those who do not. Legalists may admit that the grace of Jesus Christ is enough, but they will say that it is only enough for you to be a “minimal Christian”. In order to be a “good Christian”, you need to practise the works of sanctification, as per the legalist’s prescription.
In contrast, the Bible describes all Christians this way:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)
For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Notice the absence of any distinction between “minimal” versus “good” Christians in these passages. All followers of Jesus Christ are the same in nature.
This is not to suggest that Christians cannot grow closer to Christ through time and willingness to cultivate intimacy with God. Being a relationship, however, we grow close to God by a desire in the heart, and not by following rules. To take marriage as an example, no matter how close the spouses are as newlyweds, they would want to be even closer to each other on their 50th wedding anniversary. And if that’s the desire in their hearts, they will! But can anyone say, because of that, they are now only a “minimal husband” or “minimal wife”, and will not become a “good husband” or “good wife” until their 50th wedding anniversary? Or can anyone say that, in order to be a “good husband” or “good wife”, they need to follow a bunch of rules such as obligatory kissing routines, mandatory greetings, and prescribed activities? I don’t think that anyone would enjoy getting “obligatory kisses” from their spouse anyway, since those are false, and feel that way. If one desires to become closer to one’s spouse and to express one’s love, one will automatically and authentically do those things that would accomplish that goal, and the proficiency in which one does those things will be better and better. Likewise, if we desire to become closer to God and to express our love for Him, we will automatically (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in us) and authentically do those things that would make us more like Christ and would achieve God’s will of us. And we will do those things better over time as well.
So, just as someone becomes a husband or wife fully and completely on the wedding day, anyone who is justified through faith in Christ was also fully and completely sanctified at that same time. To say that there is some mandatory process of sanctification that needs to happen after justification, is just legalism.
This video message is also worth pondering:
*Note: That being said, the Book of Mormon declares in Moroni 10:33, “And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” It seems that, had the LDS stopped there, many Mormons today just might be fans of Starbucks lattés.
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