Excellent Article On the Current Issues Surrounding Sanctification and Justification

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Backwoods Presbyterian, Aug 13, 2011.

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  1. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Last Sunday in our church. :D

    As your post suggests, that such an exhortation would be viewed as suspect is troublesome indeed.
  2. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Having been occupied with other matters recently, the debate that you guys are following is completely outside my ken. I don't want to comment directly on the WHI controversy, but I think that one of Rich's sentences, which does not directly address that controversy, may say something other than his precise intent.

    Some essential background first:

    I open the book I am presently in process of publishing by echoing the Psalmist's cry "O how I love thy law;" and by noting that it has been on my lips many times during my own pilgrimage through this world. Although I have not always followed its ways, God's law has indeed been THE "light to my feet and a lamp to my path" for over 30 years. Where I have followed its ways, I have been blessed; where I have ignored its warnings I have run into trouble. And so, one of the ways the law has been that promised light to my feet has by warning of inimical consequences thereby providing the fuel for the Holy Spirit to kindle a holy fear of those consequences. (And there are other motivations for evangelical obedience that arise out of the law and in these situations I would suggest that they are likewise kindling for the Holy Spirit's production of affecting power for sanctification.)

    But I would never dare describe any of the law's many blessings of this sort - for which I thank God-as the "sanctifying power of the law" as Rich seems to do.
    I think attributing "sanctifying power" to the law is either an inexact and confusing analysis of the nature of the law's blessings or a definite heresy.

    Why? Because any claim that the law has "sanctifying power" is a real contradiction with Paul's comment that "if righteousness came by the law, Christ is dead in vain." (Gal. 3:21)

    It seems to me therefore that if we attribute any sanctifying power to the law, we thereby implicitly claim Christ has died in vain. And I know Rich doesn't want to do that.
    (And I also know that Rich is no Theonomist, despite the similarity of his remark to Rushdoony's claim that "Sanctification is by the law".)

    I don't believe I have ever seen a Scripture which does attribute any power over sin to the law. In fact Paul tells us that we are in such a state that "The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me." (Rom. 7:10)

    As I understand the bible's teaching, the only power behind sanctification is the persons of the Godhead.

    For example, Paul in Rom. 6 tells us that Christians because of their union with Christ are to present themselves to God and their members as instruments of rightousness and in doing so, sin will not have dominion because we are not under law but under grace. (12-14)
    In Rom 7, he tells us that we died to the law "so that" we can belong to Christ "in order that we may bear fruit to God."
    in Rom 8, he tells us that we achieve the rightousness of the law by walking according to the Spirit by whom we put to death the deeds of the body. (4,13)

    If my suspicion is correct, we may continue to thank God for the many blessings contained in the law which make it the light to our feet and the lamp to our path without attributing to the law a power it does not have and, by doing so, robbing the Godhead of the praise due them for the power of their glorious grace.
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I think we need to be careful of equivocation here. Paul does not always use Law in the same sense. I'm not speaking of the Law in the sense of that righteousness by which we attain to a righteousness that is acceptable to God.

    I'm speaking of the Law in its third use, which assumes that the believer already possesses evangelical life and it is use in the upbuilding of the beliver.

    I believe you even quoted Psalm 119 where the Law is said to upbuild and give life. It is in the third use that the Lord uses the Law to preserve and, as the WCF notes,
    I actually find this last phrase pretty insightful. Notice how the WCF correctly notes that being "under the law" is equivalent to a covenant of works. Thuse in the final clause, it notes that the person who stands in relationship of union with Christ is not under law but grace. That's true even when the Law is being used by God for the spiritual upbuilding and preservation of the believer.

    Now, I am willing to modify my statement a bit because I can appreciate how it might be misconstrued. The ultimate sanctifying power is Christ's work in us. What I'm trying to note, however, is that there are no "magical clauses" or formula in the Scriptures where God can only use indicatives to sanctify us and not imperatives. God sanctifies us through His spirit. That sanctifying work includes both the facets of reflection on Christ's finished work as well as the other motivations that the Law gives to us to obey our heavenly father.

    Is this not noting that the law is making the psalmist wise? Is this not a sanctifying grace? Is this not evangelical wisdom? Of what kind of wisdom is this?

    I'm reminded what Sinclair Ferguson noted. We have to always be careful in the Scriptures about who the audience is. The above can only be understood in the context of the person who has Christ as His head for all others under the CoW could not experience the Law in this way.
  4. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I would also add that the Law does inspire Holiness and trust for me in revealing God's character to me. Because the decalogue reveals the Character of God I was able to see the being who is perfect and righteous. In that it inspired my affections to be more like him. It inspired a trust in him because He can't break it. It revives my soul when I contemplate on the whole of Christ and his voice. The Law is his voice. As Psalm 19 states, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."

    (Psa 1:1-3) Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

    (Psa 119:1-20) Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
    (Psa 119:2) Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
    (Psa 119:3) who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
    (Psa 119:4) You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
    (Psa 119:5) Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
    (Psa 119:6) Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
    (Psa 119:7) I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
    (Psa 119:8) I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
    (Psa 119:9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
    (Psa 119:10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
    (Psa 119:11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
    (Psa 119:12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
    (Psa 119:13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
    (Psa 119:14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
    (Psa 119:15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
    (Psa 119:16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
    (Psa 119:17) Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.
    (Psa 119:18) Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
    (Psa 119:19) I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!
    (Psa 119:20) My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

    Tim, one thing that has been impressed upon me is how people read Romans 6 and 7 and stop. They don't go into Paul's further explanation of Roman's 8. Roman's 7 is not a stand alone. And it actually moves into Romans 9 and 10 explaining it even further. You can't just stop at Roman's 7.

    (Rom 8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
    (Rom 8:2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
    (Rom 8:3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
    (Rom 8:4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
    (Rom 8:5) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
    (Rom 8:6) For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
    (Rom 8:7) For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
    (Rom 8:8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    (Rom 8:9) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
    (Rom 8:10) But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
    (Rom 8:11) If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
    (Rom 8:12) So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
    (Rom 8:13) For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
    (Rom 8:14) For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
    (Rom 8:15) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
    (Rom 8:16) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
    (Rom 8:17) and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

    The true Spirit of the Law is in Christ. Without Christ we have cut the law off and made it incomplete. But in Christ the Law points us and inspires us or St. Paul couldn't write this.

    (Rom 13:8) Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
    (Rom 13:9) For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
    (Rom 13:10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    Paul makes mention on the relationship between the Law and righteousness in Philippians 3. Once we aren't trying to establish our own righteousness the power of His resurrection and His voice in the Law actually become liberating and the thing we are to pursue in becoming more like Him since it shows us how He is, and what image we are being conformed into.

    (Php 3:8) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
    (Php 3:9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith--
    (Php 3:10) that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
    (Php 3:11) that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
    (Php 3:12) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
    (Php 3:13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
    (Php 3:14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

    Oh and may we never forget that every word of God to us is our food.

    (Mat 4:4) But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

    BTW, This is another post by Pastor Ramsey on Paul and the Law that I found quite interesting.
    Paul’s Use of Lev. 18:5 in Rom. 10:5 | Patrick’s Pensees
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2011
  5. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    And the reason, especially, that the Assembly was zealous to add that last clause to WCF 19.6 was because of the Antinomian controversy then raging, such antinomianism being one of its chief concerns. All of this is thoroughly addressed in Chad van Dixhoorn's dissertation on the Assembly and referenced in work that I have done in Confessional Presbyterian, also appearing in a different form in the just-published (by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) volume, Drawn into Controversy. Several essays in here, including mine on the "Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ," McKelvey's essay, and others touch on the Antinomian crisis. It was also revived later in the 17th c. and was going on in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (Cotton, Hutchinson, et al.) and elsewhere.

    The Divines, in other words, were quite well aware that the Antinomians were saying that if anyone claimed to do, or desist from doing, something because of the law, that they did not have the Spirit and were mere legalists, under the covenant of works. The Divines, then, troubled themselves to say, "No, because a man does or does not do something because of what God's law says does not make him to be one who is under law and not under grace." The Antinomians, claiming discernment, would call men false professors of Christianity when such men merely sought to walk according to the law in its third use. The Assembly took the time to deal with and publish other materials against the Antinomian party. And to make statements like that last clause in WCF 19:6., which, if you know the controversy at the time, was the nail in the coffin of antinomianism.

  6. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Oh yeah, And Pastor Ramsey did some blogs on the topic of this recent exchange between Sean Lucas and Evans. Sean communicated with Pat in them also. In fact Sean Lucas said this to Pastor Ramsey in the comment section of his last post.

    Sean Lucas says:
    August 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm
    Here they are in order.

    Evans, Sonship, and “Reformed Lutherans” | Patrick’s Pensees
    Lucas Weighs In | Patrick’s Pensees
    One Random Thought in Response to Lucas | Patrick’s Pensees
    A Second Thought in Response to Lucas | Patrick’s Pensees

  7. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Even restricting the meaning of "the law" to "the third use of the law" does not get us away from the problem Paul poses. In fact it makes Paul's point even more pointed. For if there is any sanctifying power in the third use of the law (and power is different from wisdom or light - see below), then Christ has still died in vain. Not in vain because his death did not achieve the human sanctification, but in vain because his death would not have been needed for human sanctification to be achieved.

    I find it noteworthy that the WCF does not affirm that there is sanctifying power in the law in the chapters on sanctification or the Law of God and also the answer to Q94 of the WLC explicitly denies that any can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law.

    I agree with your understanding of the Divines here and I think their point is a biblical one.

    As I tried to say, I was taking your remark outside the debate not within it. I affirm as strongly as anyone that God uses the imperative commands of Scripture (and all other Scriptural motivations) to be part of the light to our feet and the lamp to our path that we need

    I affirm as strongly as anyone that the law shines forth light and wisdom from God both his people and to the world at large: and I affirm that wisdom and light are great blessings. But wisdom and light are not power to sanctify the believer and they must not be confused with it.

    It is because I remember that Paul wrote Gal 2:21 to a body of people who, as Christians taught by the Apostle, would have known the third use of the law that I have written these posts.
  8. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Christ hasn't died in vain if the law sanctifies. That's just a misunderstanding of the difference between sanctification and salvation. If I don't marry a cow or my daughter I'm sanctified. If I steal old ladies' purses I'm not sanctified. Christ died to make me perfect in the sight of God. I'm saved even if I slip up and grab a wallet, or cuss God when I trip.

    How can the law not sanctify one? How can one be sanctified without the law? Sampson was saved, even while drunk and in the arms of a whore. Can't I say he was low on the sactification scale at that time? And still be saved???

    And the power to obey the law, while it comes from outside the law, and only by God's Spirit, doesn't change things.
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I'm sorry but you are simply not understanding Paul correctly if you think that he's denying any sanctifying utility in the Law of God. Paul's concern can best be summarized when he exclaims: "Have you begun in the Spirit that you are now being perfected in the flesh." You are simply not doing faithful exegesis here to allow Paul to define his terms in one context and then allow for another use of the word law in another context. There is a vast difference between being "under law" and "under grace".

    Tim, forgive me, but I am really shocked by your appeal to WLC 94.
    Attain to righteousness and life is not sanctification. I really do have some respect for you and this shocks me that you're failing to distinguish what the WLC is saying here about the moral law. It is stating that the law cannot save as a covenant of works. Note what the WLC does say:

    The moral law is said to provoke the regenerate to thankfulness and conformity.

    Your standard that one finds the phrase where someone actually says "the law has sanctifying power" neglects GNC. 2 Tim 3:16-17 states that ALL scripture builds up the man of God and fully equip him. The Law is certainly part of Scipture.

    If you think by sanctifying power, I mean that the words themselves contain some sort of force for the believer then I've already distinguished that I believe it is union with Christ through the Spirit that is the power of sanctification. Words of comfort or words of reproof are means to the end of sanctification and I'm willing to thank Christ for anything He uses to build me up to the perfect man.

    As our Standards noe:

    As I noted, I think you need to better discern the use of the word Law. There is a profound difference between being under law and being under grace. Of course the law can never perfect unto salvation but, as noted above "...officers, laws, and censures..." are used in the hands of Christ toward the Church's holy upbuilding. Laws and censures are sanctifying not in themselves but only insofar as Christ is our Covenant Head.

    Let's put it this way. Let me grant for a minute that Gospel=the kerygma and was strictly limited to the kind of presentation one sees by Peter in Acts 2 about Christ's miracles, that He is God, that He died on a Cross, rose again, ascended on high, and now commands all men to repent and be baptized. There is neither converting nor sanctifying power in those words just because someone names them "Gospel". It is the Spirit that brings life through the means of these words. Yes, it the kerygma that the Holy Spirit converts unto but then, broadly speaking, the Old and New Testaments are plain that those who belong to Christ are built up by ALL scripture.
  10. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The moral law was written on Adam and Eves' hearts.

    We are sanctified as it is re-written on our hearts by Christ by His Spirit.

    This was also the case for believers under the Mosaic administration, but now that the ceremonial form of the moral law, written on stone and placed in the ark of the covenant is no longer with us, it has become more apparent. The types and shadows, to help a childhood Church, have been removed.
  11. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    I'm actually clear on salvation and sanctification. I think you misunderstood the implied premise: which was that if the law has any power to sanctify, all one has to do to be saved is follow it perfectly. As one follows the law (if the law has power to sanctify) one is increasingly conformed to the divine nature the more one does so and the vivifying circle continues until one arrives at holiness.

    One can't be sanctified without the law, but the sanctifying power is not in the law. Perhaps an analogy may make this point clear. Think of a blacksmith, a hammer and the anvil. All three are essential to the task of making horseshoes, but only one, the blacksmith provides the necessary power. While the other components are essential, they lack power.

    If anyone is elect they are elect from before the foundation of the world and remain elect through whatever sins they may commit.

    You have just made the single point I am trying to make. - If you say the power to obey the law comes only by God's Spirit you are not disagreeing with me at all, unless you contradict yourself and say that some other element in the process has inherent power.
  12. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    In creation God spoke and it was created. The Word is connected to the creating power somehow. It seems to be a part of the whole of the source in creation. Would this not be true for us also. What do we do with Psalm 19:7 and the many other passages that we have quoted and you seem to be ignoring?
  13. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Rich, I affirm that Paul knew that the imperatives of the law would have a different result in lives of a believer and an unbeliever. But I still think my exegesis is fair: for if there is sanctifying power in the law, it is hard to see how Paul could have written: "Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?" as he did, because setting oneself to obey all the law would, in such a context, be a legitimate path to sanctification and holiness. Again, if we attribute sanctifying power to the law, it is impossible to see how Paul could have implied that Christians are not obligated to obey the whole law when he wrote: "every man who accepts circumcision . . . is obligated to keep the whole law." (Gal. 5:3)

    (Not for discussion but as background. There are additional problems that arise if we attribute sanctifying power to the law. For instance, exactly where is it? Is it scattered throughout all the stipulations of the Sinai covenant? The moral and the civil laws? Or does this power reside only in the moral law we keep today? If we choose the first answer we are Galatians, the second Theonomists, and so, as Reformed we must discover a biblical justification for the third alternative. Can we do it? I don’t know.)

    It appears to me that you haven't fully thought through how a law with "sanctifying power" would function under the C of W. ITSM in that context, that if it were possible for fallen man to perfectly keep a law which possessed "sanctifying power" in itself, any man could attain to righteousness and life by a process in which the sanctifying power of the law would increasingly mortify sin leading to his increasing conformity to the divine character. How would such a process differ from the sanctification the regenerate experience in the real world?

    I'm not sure that it does. For if we narrow the question to the means by which the law builds up the believer, as far as his sanctification is concerned, we discover afresh, as you agree, that the power to sanctify is not in the law but in the Spirit.

    Then there is no real disagreement present, either above or below. I'm just (strongly) suggesting that it may prove the better part of wisdom to refrain from attributing "sanctifying power" to the law. Why walk into a briar patch when we don't have to?
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  14. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Isn't the passage in Galatians about justification and not sanctification Tim? Your exegesis is lacking brother. You are poorly attributing sanctification on this text. And the text is about circumcision and justification. Not about the sanctifying power of the law as you put it.

    Is not the decalogue a means of grace for the Christian to know God's Character and His will? If it is a means of grace then it has sanctifying power in the Spirit.
  15. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    We simply interpret Scripture by Scripture and recognize that Scripture later goes into greater detail about how we are sanctified, matters not fully considered at this point in salvation history.
  16. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    It's an hypothetical argument. No one can do it. At least no human. Christ did it, and that holiness gets imputed to us (unless your some sort of NPP freak). If Christ had broken the law, He could not have imparted His holiness to His people, so the reverse must be true, that His keeping of the law was righteousness. And our feeble efforts at keeping the law are graciously seen by God as works acceptable, or acting righteously, or in a sanctified or holy manner.
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I've said that all along. I think the problem is that you very narrowly define "the law" as the Covenant of Works where neither Scripture nor the Westminster Standards do. If, by law, I only consider the law as a rule of life by which men might attain righteousness unto life then I fully reject any such notion. I do not believe that this is the only way that the Law is spoken of throughout Scripture. Again, all is conditioned upon being in the Covenant of Grace first (being in Christ) and then and only then is there even such a thing as sanctification. It is quite pointless to speak of sanctification if one is not in Christ because the Law only condemns men. Sanctification is (and only can be) by the Spirit.
  18. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Tim, you lost me on that one. Especially in light of all the exhortations about how scripture play a part in keeping the heart and feeding the soul.

    You are way out there in my estimation. And your defenses are very lacking. This one didn't even make sense to me. I hope I am not that dense if you are speaking in a truthful manner. There are just too many passages in the Old Testament about how the Word of God (His Law) is life and how He uses it in the soul of man.

    What is there not to consider about the sanctifying power of scripture in this passage. Are you implying that the following passage doesn't say anything or reveal anything about the sanctifying power of the Law of the Lord because King David at this time wasn't being precise about it? What scripture would there be to say or enlighten me as to how you would interpret this differently than what it says. The Law of the Lord is perfect reviving (converting) and making wise. I simply am not getting your point about interpreting scripture by scripture. And you seem to really be missing the point of Galatians 3 also.

    "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  19. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Randy, I am not sure we can limit the subject of this text to justification alone.

    For in v.2 we find "works of the law" opposed to hearing with faith as the means of receiving the Spirit. Then in v. 3 we get the second opposition "having begun by the Spirit" which is clearly justification and "are you now being perfected by the flesh." And if the Galatians were then presently-(the verb is present infinitive passive) trying to be perfected by the flesh in doing the works of the law, (which a lot of commentators, including some Reformed ones– e.g. Matthew Henry– agree that Paul here implies that the Galatians were doing this).

    Now if one is trying to be perfected in the flesh is this not sanctification?

    As Longnecker notes on this passage: "The main point of Paul's rhetorical question here, however, has to do with the incongruity of beginning one's Christian life on one basis ("with the Spirit") then shifting somewhere in progress to another basis ("by human effort"). What Paul wants his converts to see is that the Christian life is one that starts, is maintained, and comes to culmination only through dependence on the activity of God's Spirit (cf. 5:25; also see Phil 1:6 where the same verbs. . . appear and where the point is made that completion of the Christian life comes about on the same basis as its inception, viz. by God's working).

    The single point I am trying to discuss is whether we may correctly attribute sanctifying power to the law alone apart from the Spirit. I am not saying there is no sanctifying power in the law when God works through it.
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    If that is your point then you've been shadow boxing Tim. I never stated anything other than the above. This is why I took such pains throughout this thread to emphasize union with Christ and then and only then did I attribute sanctifying power to the law insofar as Christ (our Covenant head) is sanctifying us by the means of the law.
  21. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    You really didn't answer my question. This text is about falling from grace believing they were justified with works added to it such as circumcision. The Judiazers were telling them they had to be circumcised in order to be right with God. This book is about someone preaching a different Gospel which is no gospel at all. Galatians 3 isn't about our being conformed into the image of Christ in sanctification. In fact the book speaks about our sanctification and doing good which can be seen and is shown in the Decalogue as I pointed out what that looks like in Paul's writing to the Romans 13:8-10.

    Tim, Galatians 5 is a summation of the book and it's purpose. You can see what sanctification is as opposed to justification. Paul is combating false teaching about justification, not sanctification or being conformed to the image of Christ.
  22. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    In creation we are specifically told that God's creating word did create the universe. But we are not told that all scripture sanctifies us by it's own inherent power. While it is clear that the Scripture has a role to play in our sanctification, where the specific question of the sanctification is discussed, the power is attributed directly to God and distinguished from our response: e.g. 2 Thess. 2:13's "through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth."

    I'm not denying Scripture's role in keeping the heart and feeding the soul. But the psalmist is not directly going into the questions of how Scripture does this, whether by its own inherent power or by the Spirit quickening it to those who truly hear. It is at other places such as 2 Thess 2:13 where we learn that the latter possibility is correct.

    None of these passages specifically include sanctifying power in the law.

    Notice how you concluded your sentence: ". . . and how he (God0 uses it (his law) in the soul of man." I'm not denying that God uses his law. I'm just asking: if God is the blacksmith and his law is hammer, where does the power reside? In the hammer or the blacksmith?

    Although the blessings mentioned are great, they do not necessarily sanctifying power. "Reviving the soul" and "rejoicing the heart" may refer to our experiential warmness or coldness to things of God, which is something that must be carefully distinguished from sanctification. And wisdom is the capacity to see the best means to the best results. Similar comments may be made for the rest.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  23. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Why would anyone want to split God from His word? I can't believe any of the regulars here would do that.
  24. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member


    What conversation have you been having and who have you been having it with? As far as I can tell by your eisegesis of Galatians 3 we were having some of the same conversation but you were poorly defending your points. Now from reading your comment above you were shadow boxing. I can't tell who your foe was either. Especially since no one ever implied such a thing.

    No one ever said the Law apart from the Spirit would sanctify anyone. But the scripture does say.

    What you seem to be saying and arguing against is some kind of creation by mere words separated from the one who needs to be there to speak them. No one ever implied the Law can sanctify without the one who speaks the Law and is conforming us to His image by it.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  25. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    I'm certainly not defining the Law as the covenant of works but as the Mosaic law.

    ---------- Post added at 04:11 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:07 PM ----------

    Sorry that's an error, I am having posting troubles here and am also on a tight schedule hence a little less careful. My last sentence should have read "I am not saying there is no sanctifying power present when God works through the law."

    ---------- Post added at 04:19 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:11 PM ----------
    Galatians is about more than justification. Chapter 5:16-6:10 makes this explicit.
  26. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    The problem with this definition is that it is not consistent with Christ's own Jewish division of the Scriptures which consisted of Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings (TANAKH). Torah is what we translate Law and encompasses Genesis through Deuteronomy. Genesis 15 is part of Torah (Law) as an example.


    I fail to see how I could have more plainly presented what is in the Scriptures and is reflected in the Westminster Standards. I know very well that Galatians is principally about sanctification. I'll leave it to the Spirit to guide you into Truth.
  27. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Tim, I said this....
    I am not denying sanctification isn't mentioned and truly urged according the Law as I pointed out above. But the portion of Galatians Chapter 3 you are using is primarily set up to defend justification by faith alone and that is the context of Galatians 3. It is in relation to Justification as opposed to being found right with God by being circumcised.

    I agree with Rich. I think anyone reading this exchange can see what is going on. You have wrongly made some conclusions concerning some of the things that were being said and arguing against some things never implied in this discussion.
  28. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Rich, now I'm confused.

    This discussion started with me querying the propriety of using the phrase:
    When you used that phrase I read “the Law” as a reference to the Torah, the Law of Moses, or the first 5 books of the bible, and I’ve been understanding and using those words in that sense ever since. Did I misunderstand what you meant by the term? If I did misunderstand, then what did you mean by the term the Law in post 889457?
  29. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  30. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I explained clearly what I meant Tim. I used it as shorthand for the fact that it is the Spirit that sanctifies the believer and that the Law of God can (and is) used by the Spirit to sanctify the believer. You have insisted (in your appeal to Galatians) on a single definition or use of the term. In other words, for you, when Paul speaks in a certain way for a given situation, the use becomes normative for all other uses of the term and, consequently, there is no sense in which the word can have a wider semantic domain by your myopic application from one context to all contexts. I was pointing out an example where the word Law has a broader definition and the use of the word needs to be understood in the context where it is used.
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