Sanctification - Positional or Experiential?

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by mesly, Sep 9, 2003.

  1. mesly

    mesly
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    I came across a group of believers who hold to the doctrine of sanctification as a positional truth only (i.e. our sanctification is secured by Christ at salvation - PERIOD). In other words, we have no experiential aspects to our sanctification here on earth. While I believe that sanctification is positional, I also believe that there is an experiential aspect to it as well. By holding to this belief, it seems to contradict the concept of spiritual growth and goes against my own experiences with the Lord.

    Does anybody else hold to the doctrine of Positional Sanctification only? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on it.
     
  2. IfbReformer

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    mesly,

    This is an excellant subject you are asking about. It goes to the heart of how you believe about assurance.

    I personally believe from my own studies of the scriptures that Positional righteousness(the righteousness of Christ credited to our account) is all that is needed for our salvation.

    Having said that, I do believe practical sanctifacation does occur in any true believer, but to lesser and greater extents.

    You cannot judge another person's salvation by the level of practical sanctifacation in their lives.

    Some believers believe that a large, visible amount of practical sanctifacation is necessary to prove that someone has true saving faith.

    For instance, going to church would be one way we show our practical sanctifacation, giving would be another. How we treat people and so on these are all fruits and works which demonstrate practical sanctifaction is occuring.

    But what if someone's practical sanctifaction is not very visible, perhaps there was some change at the time they professed faith in Christ, but they still have some habits they have not given to the Lord - or maybe they are not very faithful in attending church.

    I think it is dangerous to say that because someone has not gone through the same process I have that they are not saved.

    It is the same as saying Positional sanctifaction(Christ's righteousness) + practical sanctifaction(our feeble attempt at righteousness) are both necessary in order to obtain eternal salvation.

    To sum it up -
    Positional Sanctifaction is necesary for salvation.

    The quality of our Practical Sanctifaction is what determines our rewards in heaven.

    IFBReformer
     
  3. rufus

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    I prefer to think of both positional and practical sanctification. The Book of Romans makes a good case for both, after discussing Condemnation and Justification.

    Rufus [​IMG]
     
  4. mesly

    mesly
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    IFBReformer,

    I agree with you that positional sanctification is needed for salvation - that is a good point that I am glad you brought out. Given that, I do not mean to imply that practical sanctification has any bearing on our salvation or eternal security (i.e. Pentecostal Holiness Movement).

    I think that the danger of holding to a "positional only" doctrine is that it relegates our relationship with Christ to a past, one time, event. It also causes us to think of the doctrines of Christianity as nothing more than a philosophy that we can learn and discuss, but has no bearing on our lifelong walk with Christ. I can't help but think of what Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8-14:

    This doesn't sound positional at all, but rather practical (experiential).

    I like your statement that practical sanctification determine our rewards in Heaven. I would add that it also adds to our over-all quality of our relationship with the Lord.
     
  5. IfbReformer

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    Your Statement:
    "I like your statement that practical sanctification determine our rewards in Heaven. I would add that it also adds to our over-all quality of our relationship with the Lord."

    My Response:
    That is a good point that I forgot to bring out. It not only for rewards in heaven that we strive to please God through our practical sanctifaction process, but it is to really experiance the joy of our salvation here on earth.

    1 Timothy 4:8(NIV)
    "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

    In serving the Lord here and now we can really do enjoy our salvation much more. I have always said the most miserable person in the world is a Christian(true believer) who is not in the will of the Lord and the happiest is one who is. I think we can all testify to that.

    I agree that Philippians 3:8-14 is talking of practical sanctifaction for the most part. There is a phrase in verse 9 "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" which clearly is a reference to positional sanctifaction. The rest of the passage is refering to practical sanctifacation.

    Unfortunately though, there are some of my good brethren who like to take verses 12-14 to say that works are not only an evidence, but a requirement to gain eternal life.

    They take phrases like "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" and make a doctrine out of it that says Paul was saying we should not and cannot be looking back to our conversion for our security - only forward. If we do not continue in righteous living and continue in growth we are not saved.

    The problem with this interpretation is that it ignores passages that do tell us to look back at our belief as our guarentee of eternal life like Ephesians 1:13-14:

    "13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory."
    Ephesians 1:13-14(NIV)

    So what was Paul saying in Philippians 3:8-14?

    He was saying that he had not yet obtained perfection - but he strove for it and would continue to strive for it until Christ redeemed him someday. His striving for perfection brought him to a closer walk with Christ, and his striving would bring him rewards in heaven.


    Your Statement:
    "I think that the danger of holding to a "positional only" doctrine is that it relegates our relationship with Christ to a past, one time, event. It also causes us to think of the doctrines of Christianity as nothing more than a philosophy that we can learn and discuss, but has no bearing on our lifelong walk with Christ."

    My Response:

    I would disgree with someone who say we experiance no practical sanctifaction our life. I may have not made that clear. I think a true believer will experiance at least some.

    I think we need to make a clear distinction that yes our relationship with Christ only begins at our conversion - it does not end there. But there is one thing that does begin and end at conversion - our justifaction and positional sanctifaction. These are guarenteed to us for all eternity regardless of the quality of our practical sanctifaction and the quality of the realtionship that we build with Christ during this life. That point has to be made clear.

    IFBReformer

    [ September 09, 2003, 05:35 PM: Message edited by: IfbReformer ]
     
  6. Trotter

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    Sanctification is an ongoing process. At salvation, the right-standing of Jesus is imputed to our account, but the process of sanctification will continue until God calls us home.

    Our eternal destination is never in question, but our personal position in view of reward is an ongoing process. Daily mortifying the flesh and following Christ are all a part of it, as is the struggle against the old self and our old nature.

    In Christ,
    Trotter
     
  7. Caretaker

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    Sanctification

    The word sanctification means to be set apart. The Holy Spirit is endeavoring to make the believer holy (set apart from the world), and spiritual (set apart to reflect the character of God). This is being accomplished in four phases.

    First, the believer at conversion in receiving Christ, is set apart from sin (forgiven) and set apart to Christ, this is preparational sanctification. Matt. 23:19 “Ye fools and blind; for which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift.”

    Second, the believer is set apart from the worldly realm and is set apart to the Heavenly realm, this is positional sanctification. John 17:21 “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

    The third form of sanctification sets apart the believer from the “old man” (sin nature), to the “new man” (thirst after righteousness). This is practical sanctification. 1Thess. 5:23 “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    The fourth form of sanctification sets apart from the stain of sin and sets us apart to be presented pure and without blemish before the judgment seat of Christ. This is prospective sanctification. Eph. 5:27 “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

    A servant of Christ,
    Drew
     
  8. Matt Black

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    FWIW, my own opinion is that we have to be a bit careful about confusing salvation with sanctification, subject to some caveats , which I shall endeavour to explain below.

    It is clear that Paul talks about the concept of ‘unfinished business’ between us and God quite a bit. Important verses here include Rom 6:18-22, 1 Cor 9:24-27, Phil 3:12-16 and, perhaps most perplexing of all, Phil 2:12. The Romans passage is of particular interest since it contains the ideas of both salvation (Rom 6:18) and sanctification (Rom 6:19-22). Both these terms need looking at.

    The distinction between salvation and sanctification has been the subject of a great deal of writing and preaching, especially by evangelicals, and I don’t really want to add a great deal to what has already been said here. Broadly speaking, most evangelicals would draw a clear-cut line between salvation, which they would see as being a once-and-for-all event occurring when an individual repents and gives his/her life to Christ, and sanctification, which is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit within that individual beginning at the point of salvation and working out the consequences of salvation within this/her life. Putting it simply, whilst salvation is a crisis, sanctification is a process.

    I think it is fair to say that, in contrast, the interpretation of the more traditional churches, such as the Catholic and Orthodox churches, appealing more perhaps to Phil 2:12, is to blur the difference between the two terms, and also to down-play to a degree the role of the individual in both whilst emphasising the agency of the Church (the Holy Spirit is seen more as acting in the Church collectively, through for example the hierarchy of the Church). Salvation and sanctification are more interwoven, and sanctification is seen more as a means of effecting salvation rather than as a consequence of it (see for example the notion of purgatory and, perhaps also, suffering as an agency of sanctification).

    To a degree, I find both approaches to salvation and sanctification inadequate. Whilst agreeing with the general principle that salvation is a once-and-for-all occurrence (and thus disagreeing with the Catholic view), I take issue with it necessarily being a crisis event; I know many people for whom conversion was far more of a process, and perhaps evangelical soteriology needs to recognise this and be couched more in terms of individuals making a series of steps towards Christ rather than just one great leap. As an example, I understand that apparently Billy Graham can put his finger on the exact moment when he came to faith (crisis) but his wife cannot and her experience is better described as a journey to faith (process). As some wag once put it: "Some meet Christ on the road to Damascus, others on the road to Emmaus". Phil 2:12 is however a verse that cannot simply be ignored. It could be, adopting an exegetical approach, that Paul is admonishing the Philippians for taking their salvation lightly. It can also be interpreted as the results of salvation working themselves out through sanctification, but this does not explain the use of the words “fear and trembling”. Personally, I do not believe that Paul is here warning the church against forfeiting their salvation; he is perhaps reminding them just what they have been saved from and also heightening their awareness of the sheer wrongfulness of sin, something that maybe we Western Christians need to remember as well.

    Sanctification also is a term that can cover a multitude of sins (if you’ll pardon the double entendre). The very word itself has connotations of holiness, which is one of God’s defining attributes, so one way of looking at it is to regard sanctification as being the process by which we are made more like God (cp Rom 12:1-2). Clearly, therefore, on one level this is a life-long process; as obvious evidence of this I know of no Christian who does not sin (even those who have been baptised into Jesus’ death and resurrection) and who is therefore already perfect ‘on the ground’, as it were, and accordingly we all have some ongoing business with God that we need to attend to in this area (some, like me, more than others!). On the other hand, Paul also talks in terms of sanctification having already occurred in 1 Cor 1:2. Applying exegetical principles to this passage, we need to ask ourselves whether Paul was correcting an imbalance within the Corinthian church here, as he sometimes did with his churches elsewhere. For example, he is keen to stress grace to the Colossians and Galatians, who were still bound up by the Law to a large extent, but is by contrast harsh with the Corinthians’ licentiousness. It seems unlikely, given the Corinthians’ general arrogance in their spiritual gifts etc, that Paul is trying to reassure them that all is well between them and God; in fact, if there is any corrective soteriological concept which is addressed to this church’s over-confidence it is the idea of beholding God “as through a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12 and 2 Cor 3:15-18). I think therefore we need to take what Paul is saying here at face value; that there is a level on which sanctification is already accomplished – having been declared righteous, God regards us as being holy already and treats us accordingly. (Elsewhere, Paul does seek to correct the possible attitudinal problems arising from this way of thinking (Rom 6:1-2)).

    I would prefer accordingly to see a fine tuning of the definitions of the terms salvation and sanctification. I see salvation (and sanctification too, in the way set out in the above paragraph) as being accomplished by a combination of grace and faith, grace being a past act (the crucifixion and resultant forgiveness) with continuing consequences, and faith being a response-decision to that (whether taken instantly or over a number a graduated steps). The life-long ongoing process resulting from that I see more in terms of developing and deepening our relationship with God which flows from our salvation and in that way, God being Love, we are fitted for heaven; we try not to sin, not so much because it is wrong, but because it wounds God – love, not Law, should be the motivating factor.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  9. IfbReformer

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    Matt,

    Your Statement:
    "FWIW, my own opinion is that we have to be a bit careful about confusing salvation with sanctification, subject to some caveats , which I shall endeavour to explain below.

    It is clear that Paul talks about the concept of ‘unfinished business’ between us and God quite a bit. Important verses here include Rom 6:18-22, 1 Cor 9:24-27, Phil 3:12-16 and, perhaps most perplexing of all, Phil 2:12. The Romans passage is of particular interest since it contains the ideas of both salvation (Rom 6:18) and sanctification (Rom 6:19-22). Both these terms need looking at."


    My Response:
    I agree that with you that many evangelicals, especially in the last 15 or 20 years have been confusing salvation with sanctification.

    It is also clear that Paul does speak of un-finished business - what is this business? It is practical sanctifaction. While justifaction and positional sanctifaction are secured for eternity at the moment of our salvation, practical sanctifaction only begins there.

    Your Statement:
    "I think it is fair to say that, in contrast, the interpretation of the more traditional churches, such as the Catholic and Orthodox churches, appealing more perhaps to Phil 2:12, is to blur the difference between the two terms, and also to down-play to a degree the role of the individual in both whilst emphasising the agency of the Church (the Holy Spirit is seen more as acting in the Church collectively, through for example the hierarchy of the Church). Salvation and sanctification are more interwoven, and sanctification is seen more as a means of effecting salvation rather than as a consequence of it (see for example the notion of purgatory and, perhaps also, suffering as an agency of sanctification)."

    My Response:
    It is very scary how close some evangelicals are coming to interwoving sanctifaction and salvation. This is something that has to be guarded against.


    Your Statement:
    "To a degree, I find both approaches to salvation and sanctification inadequate. Whilst agreeing with the general principle that salvation is a once-and-for-all occurrence (and thus disagreeing with the Catholic view), I take issue with it necessarily being a crisis event; I know many people for whom conversion was far more of a process, and perhaps evangelical soteriology needs to recognise this and be couched more in terms of individuals making a series of steps towards Christ rather than just one great leap."

    My Response:
    I used to hold to the belief that for Salvation to be considered genuine it had to be as you say "a crisis" event. You had to pray a certain prayer and have this big emotional event happen or you were not saved.

    I do not hold that position anymore - I do believe that it can be a gradual process. NOT THAT SALVATION IS A PROCESS. I wanted to make that clear.

    What I mean is that God can sometimes take someone through all the necessary steps to salvation in 5 minutes and other people in 5 months or 5 years.

    Let me give you an example.

    Two people are in a worship service, they hear the presentation of the Gospel.

    One of them has a "crisis event" - he realizes in minutes that he is on his way to hell. That he is a lost and a dying sinner in need of a Savior.

    He believes that Jesus was the Son of God, God in the flesh and his Savior, and place his faith and trust in him right there in the pew and he is saved.

    The other man hears the same gospel presentation but struggles with the fact that he is a sinner. Or maybe he struggles with the fact that Jesus is God. Maybe he struggles with the fact that Jesus is the only way. It might be a list of things. He is not saved yet.

    He walks out, and maybe never goes to another church again for 5 years. Over that 5 year period, he begins to become convinced of the reality of the fact that he is a sinner in need of a savior. And then at another point he accepts that Jesus is his Savior and God. At the very point where he accepts all the necessary components of the Gospel, He is a sinner, Christ is the atonement for sins, Christ was God in the flesh, Christ was the only way - he is saved. He may have come to a belief in different components at different times, but it is not until he believes all the Gospel that he is saved - so it is still an event, not a process in this sense.

    He may not remember the exact moment that he believed in his heart in all of the components of the Gospel, but he is saved.

    Then he might go back to that church he heard the Gospel in 5 years earlier and tell them he is now saved.

    So if that is what you mean by a process, I agree whole heartedly.

    IFBReformer
     
  10. Tim too

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    The Bible presents salvation as a saving relationship that we enter when we repent and in faith accept Jesus as our Savior. In that sense only is it a one-time event. The Bible also presents salvation as an ongoing relationship, whereby we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to become conformed to the image of Christ.

    If we continue or stand in this relationship we are saved, or are being saved, if not the saving relationship, like any other relationship dies.

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV

    Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NIV

    Incidentally verse two literally translated says:

    through which also ye are being saved, in what words I proclaimed good news to you, if ye hold fast, except ye did believe in vain, 1 Corinthians 15:2 YLT

    I am not trying to turn this into a Once Saved Always Saved debate. I agree that salvation is not a process, IT IS A RELATIONSHIP!

    In the love of Christ,
    Tim
     
  11. Matt Black

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    Thank you, IfbReformer; it would appear that we're on the same wavelength [​IMG] One point that bugs me though - if one of my 'Emmaen' conversions or your 5 year man were to drop dead halfway through - heaven or hell for him? The easy answer is of course "The LORD alone knows", but you don't get off that easily! The question-behind-the-question is "does only arrival count or is it OK just to be on the journey?"

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  12. IfbReformer

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    Matt,

    I would say if he dies before accepting all the components of the Gospel(the entire Gospel) he goes to hell. The event is when he finally believes all the components(even if he can't point to an exact date) - he must believe them all.

    IFBReformer
     
  13. IfbReformer

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    Tim too,

    Your Statement:
    "The Bible presents salvation as a saving relationship that we enter when we repent and in faith accept Jesus as our Savior. In that sense only is it a one-time event. The Bible also presents salvation as an ongoing relationship, whereby we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to become conformed to the image of Christ.

    If we continue or stand in this relationship we are saved, or are being saved, if not the saving relationship, like any other relationship dies...

    Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NIV"



    My Response:
    The key phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 is "if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you". I believe this means we must persevere in our trusting in Christ as our Savior. While a true believer may fall into sin, or may not grow as he should, the one constant in his life will always be his faith and trust in Christ for his salvation.

    He may even deny Christ in a moment of fear as Peter did, but he will never loose that believe in the depths of his heart.

    I would take issue with your statement "The Bible also presents salvation as an ongoing relationship, whereby we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to become conformed to the image of Christ.".

    Salvation is not an ongoing relationship, the Christian life is. We begin our relationship with Christ AFTER our conversion(salvation) in which we are justified and positionally sanctified thus guarenteeing our eventual glorifaction and eternal destiny with Christ.

    While I believe practical sanctifaction will occur to some extent in any true believer, our good works and the quality of our relationship with Christ is not the determining factor of whether we get to keep our salvation that God has already secured for us.

    Through practical sanctifaction, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to conform me to the image of Christ(the best he can in this sin-cursed body) I experiance the joy of my salvation. I also earn rewards in heaven.

    To blur the lines between positional and practical sanctifaction is to blur the foundations of the Gospel.

    We do nothing to merit our salvation before we are saved, and we can do nothing to keep it or maintain our salvation after we are saved.

    IFBReformer

    [ September 10, 2003, 05:09 PM: Message edited by: IfbReformer ]
     

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