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The short answer is no. Though it sounds very Protestant, it is not correct to say “sanctification is by faith alone.”

That requires some explanation.

In saying sanctification is not by faith alone, I'm not saying the work we do is somehow owing to us and not to God. He works in and we work out. But if we say sanctification is by faith alone, aren't we severely reducing what we mean by saying justification is by faith alone? It was the mistake of Catholics to inadequately distinguish between justification and sanctification. If in trying to honor justification by faith alone we provide the same formula for sanctification, we are destroying the former as much as the latter.

Faith that Worketh

It’s true that we are sanctified by faith–both by believing in Christ’s complete work on our behalf and by trusting in future grace. Faith continues to play a crucial role in sanctification, but not in the exact way it does for justification.

Listen to J.C. Ryle:

Moreover, the Scriptures nowhere teach us that faith sanctifies us in the same sense and in the same manner that faith justifies us! Justifying faith is a grace that “worketh not,” but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ (Rom. 4:5). Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life is action: it “worketh by love,” and, like a mainspring, moves the whole inward man (Gal. 5:6). (Holiness, xviii).

Sanctification is a gift just as justification is (a double grace, or duplex gratia, as Calvin called it). Both are the gift of God, ours by virtue of union with Christ. Both are found in Christ alone. Both are necessary for salvation–justification being the root and sanctification being the fruit. As is often said: faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.

So we must never separate justification and sanctification. The former can’t help but produce the latter, and the latter must flow from the former. And yet we should not be afraid to talk about justification in a different way than we talk about sanctification. One calls us to rest; the other to fight. One reckons us righteous; the other makes us righteous. One allows for no increase or degrees; the other expects progress and growth. One is a declaration of God about us, the other a work of God in us.

Consider this paragraph from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. (16.3)

This paragraph summarizes what I’ve been trying to say in this series of posts and what I find some Christians reticent to say. In sanctification, we don't just fight to believe (though everything flows from faith). We actually will and do.  We don't just dive deeper into our justification, we perform a duty. We must be diligent to stir up the grace of God that is in us. This sort of language--willing, doing, perform, diligence--has no place in talking about justification. But if we do not use this language in talking about sanctification we have missed the language of the Bible.

If the words mean all that we want them to mean with regard to justification, then "faith alone" is not the right phrase for sanctification.

One Final Thought

The Bible is a big book with a lot in it. As such, the Christian has a lot of tools in his sanctification tool belt. Are we sanctified by remembering our justification? Yes. But God also motivates us by a sense of duty, by gratitude, by threats, by promises, and by the fear of the Lord. We are told to follow the Lord’s example and to live out our union with Christ. We’re also exhorted to make our calling and election sure. So while we never move past justification. We can do more than revisit our justification to grow in our sanctification.

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96 thoughts on “Is Sanctification By Faith Alone?”

  1. Jim Korth says:

    I’m just thrilled to see a discussion on sanctification!

  2. Andrew says:

    Steve…you’ve got blinders on man. Take them off and take in the whole counsel of God.

    Phillipians 2:12-13 says…

    12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

    In sanctification we work because God is working in us. It is not God works so kick back and don’t work he doesn’t need us. It is not we work because God helps those who help themselves. It is not even God does part and we do part. It is a mystery but the truth remains that we work with confidence that God is working in us.

    The same paradox is seen in 1 Corinthians 15:10…

    “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

  3. Andrew says:


    I have been preaching through the book of Matthew for the past year and carefully working through the text. Without trying to be harsh, you are simply very wrong.

    Sinclair Ferguson, Martin Loyd Jones, Hendrickson, Calvin, Carson, among other commentators all agree with the interpretation I have given above.

    Matthew 5…Jesus is talking about the righteousness of those who will be a part of his Kingdom by grace. Jesus calls a people who will fulfill what Israel was called to be in Exodus, namely a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation. No where does Matthew uses the word righteousness in his gospel for forensic imputed righteousness. In fact in context he uses the word in a way that cannot possibly mean what you say. The Sermon on the Mount certainly can function to drive a self-righteous person to Christ as all of God’s law can but it is not the primary point of the Sermon.

    Matthew 7…Jesus is talking primarily about false teachers being recognized for their fruit. Specifically in context the fruit of leading people to walk in disobedience like the false prophets of the OT saying peace, peace, when there is no peace. The principle is applicable to all believers. If they teach or live a life of disobedience they are no disciples of Christ. To say that being thrown in the fire here could be referring to believers is an exegetical butcher job.

    Yes John and James call us to look at our relationship with God…and in parts the question is do we have one at all. If the thrust of our life is one of sin the answer is no.

    The Lordship Salvation vs. Freegrace controversy is a dispensational debate using dispensational categories. You used percisely these categories in your interpretation of Matthew 7 as if believers in the OT were saved by works and now we are saved by grace through faith. The problem is this is not biblical. OT saints were saved the same way we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. Christ was put before them in shadow form through sacrifices etc. Now Christ is exhibited more clearly…the Lamb has come. Note that Paul uses Abraham and David as examples of those justified by grace through faith alone in Romans 4.

    In the Historic Reformed understanding of the Scriptures Lordship and Free Grace are not set at odds in any way. The reason is that justification and sanctification are seperate blessings but they cannot be seperated. We are justified by grace through faith alone in Christ alone but that faith is never alone.

    If God gives a man faith he also recieves regeneration and the Spirit. It is impossible for a man to trust Christ savingly for justification and not repent and fight against sin unto obedience by the power of God. The bible calls a man claiming to do so a liar (1 John) and calls such faith (dead) in James (again using a OT saint as an example for NT believer).

    No one is justified who is not sanctified. We are not accepted by God because of our sanctification but everyone who is accepted is sanctified. That is why Paul says in Romans 8 that everyone with the Spirit of Christ mortifies sin and if they don’t have the Spirit of Christ they don’t belong to Christ. He’s not contradicting justification by faith alone apart from works in any way.

    For a very clear treatment, I would encourage you to go read the sections in the Westminster Confession on Justification, Sanctification, Saving Faith, Repentance, Good Works, Perseverance, and Assurance of Salvation. (11-18)

  4. Jack Brooks says:

    What is being criticized here is Quietism, an error of which the Keswick/Deeper Life preachers of various denominational colors were guilty — Hannah Whittal Smith, Robert C. McQuilkin, Watchman Nee, L.S. Chafer, to name a few. Once the Quietism was roundly hashed over by better theologians, the Deeper Life doctrines were modified and modified until they really weren’t Keswick anymore. They became an Optimistic-Reformed spin on sanctification. Rather than harping on what can’t be accomplished in this life (perfection), the accent is moved over to what can be accomplished (consistent maturity).

    Now, the dispute tends to be whether or not Romans 6:11-12 or Romans 12:1-2 are post-conversion commitments. Hard-Free-Grace people say that no sanctification occurs as a result of regeneration, which is clearly untrue. In reaction, hard-Lordship people want to say that regeneration makes those commitments happen automatically, which is also untrue. Moderate-Lordship people (which is where I am) say that the believer’s heart is fundamentally changed by regeneration from loving sin to loving God, but that we still have a large ability to either quench or submit to the Spirit’s sanctifying work.

  5. Mitchell Hammonds says:

    If the primary purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to exhort us to be poor in spirit, meek, for us to not worry or be anxious about anything etc., then I would add we are all in a grave predicament. I will admit these are qualities we should strive to have but the more I try the more I find my inability to do them as Christ lays them out. As a parent I understand and want obedience from my children… but I understand failure even more. I don’t care where we place obedience or from what we are motivated to obey… if my entrance to the kingdom even partly requires me to never worry or be anxious about anything… I’m in for an extremely hot future eternity. Most Christians are adults who understand what they should be doing… what they lack is the fact that their standing before God is secure. How much sanctification is enough to give someone the confidence they are saved indeed? If they struggle with sin… that must say something.

  6. Andrew says:


    Please brother do yourself a favor and study the Westminster confession starting at justification and going all the way through chapter 20. Look over the Scriptures and I think a lot of things I’ve been saying will become clear to you.

    I’ll check back Monday or Tuesday and you can let me know what you think or ask me any questions.

    No we are not in a grave predicament if the sermon on the mount exhorts us. Imperatives are not the enemy of believers. Believers are called to obedience in the context of grace…not to earn our salvation. If justification is a settled matter we need not fear or minimize the call to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

    I’ve said many times that we in no way contribute to our justification. Our acceptance before God is grounded in the finished work of Christ alone. You need to understand the relationship between justification and sanctification and Tullian is not teaching it to you, though he subscribes to the Westminster Confession.

    As to your question…Scripture doesn’t give a precise “amount” of sanctification that must occur. It does tell us as in 1 John that if we claim to know him yet walk in the darkness we lie. If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from all sin. But to make sure we are not deluded (and so people like you don’t despair) John turns around and blasts anyone who would think that they don’t sin. They too lie and do not live by the truth. But Mitchell…listen…this doesn’t take away what was just said about the fact that obedience is an essential mark of a true believer. Daily true believers sin in thought, word, and deed, and true believers can also fall into serious sin or seasons of sin. But God will work through his Word and the dicipline of his Church to grant them repentance and faith if they belong to him. As first John says they cannot continue to sin (open sin, follow sin as a pattern of life) because God’s seed (the Spirit) remains in them.

    In genreal Scripture does not use precise language. It warns against a pattern of sin and calls us to make our claling and election sure by walking in God’s commands as a pattern of life. It also warns us against intentional sins in the Old (Num. 15) and New Testaments (Hebrews 10). As Hebrews makes clear no one who continues in intentional sin without repentance ought to have any confidence of their standing with God but only a fearful expectation of judgment.

    I don’t look on these passages smuggly. By God’s grace I trust Christ for my justification and ask him to help me walk in obedience to honor him, show him gratitude, because I know his commands are good and good for me, and so that I might have a greater confidence.

    God lays down obedience as a mark of true faith. You may not like it, you may not yet understand how that fits with justification by faith alone, it may cause you to tremble…but don’t deny the clear teaching of Scritpture.

    Cling to Christ and remember God promises you justification and sanctification by your union with him. God gives you the grace of imputation as well as the grace of impartation. Don’t deny the latter as if it is not compatible with the former. You only impoverish yourself and deny the abundance of grace God gives to his children.

  7. Steve Martin says:

    Here’s an excellent (and fairly short) mp3 audio on the work of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification:


  8. The just shall live by faith. Faith is lived out by works; but no one can come to God but by faith alone. Hebrews 11:6 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

    By faith alone in Christ alone do we love, do we sing, do we work hard, do we hear and heed the Word.

    Read the rest of Hebrews 11.

    We are sanctified by faith alone in our sanctified Christ who has given us His Spirit to energize us that we may walk in the Spirit rather in the flesh.

    Galatians 3:1-5 Galatians 3:1 ¶ O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? —

    By Faith we live,

    Galatians 2:20-21 20 “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. 21 “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

  9. Mitchell Hammonds says:

    You said many things I agree with. It isn’t that I think obedience/exhortations are bad/negative… they’re not. My issue is the fact that I believe most Christians live Godly lives (and I mean godly in the very human sense…imperfect). In my farming communities most live quite lives, minding their own business, raising families. Then one day a week when we could celebrate what Christ has done for us in His life death and resurrection we are made to feel as if we haven’t done anything at all. We are exhorted to ‘get really serious about God’ (whatever that means). Or I read an article that accuses all who aren’t pounding the streets evangelizing door-to-door or in some foreign land are guilty of being “functional universalists.” I mean by the end of it all I’m wore out. One guilt trip after another. I want to live the life of a husband father and son and enjoy the life given to me by God… and it’s almost impossible to do when your assurance dies the death of 1000 qualifications.
    I don’t think imperatives are the enemy of believers. My point is that I think most Christians are just as obedient as the next fallen redeemed individual… the only difference might/might not be what sin they struggle with. They may even struggle against the same sins… all the while rather than be reminded of our security in Christ alone… we are turned back to ourself to find assurance within. Amazing anyone goes to church anymore.
    If all Christians sin/struggle against sin… why the incessant need to pound the law into them. Even Paul says that only makes him want to sin even more.
    My issue is treat grown-ups like grown-ups not little kids at Vacation Bible School needing to learn to respect their elders. I think we would fair much better if we, as Tullian says, move deeper into the richness of the gospel.
    If it is God who works in us all things then He will work in us in all things. Proclaim the Good News of reconciliation to God.
    Enjoy the discussion my friend.

  10. Brandon E. says:


    I think it’s critical to see that L.S. Chafer, Watchman Nee and many “deeper life” preachers taught that the new life received in regeneration is not merely a matter of believer’s heart being “changed…from loving sin to loving God” but of Christ, who is life (John 14:6, 11:25), being added into our being (John 1:12; 1 John 5:12; Rom. 8:9-11).

    In other words, the new life received in regeneration is Christ Himself indwelling us, not a thing, nature, principle, change or substance that can be separated or abstracted from Him. Dispositional sanctification is therefore the result of the indwelling Christ living in us (Gal. 2:20), being formed in us (Gal. 4:19) and gradually/progressively making His home deep down in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17) after His redemption has been applied to us. Whether we mature in Christ or remain as infants depends upon how much we cooperate with His operation.

    Personally, I believe the tendency to systematically define “regeneration” and the “new life” received in regeneration as something less than the indwelling Christ, is a great deficiency within Reformed theology, which has profound effects upon our understanding of sanctification.

  11. paul says:

    Luther’s famous words from his “Preface to Romans” bears repeating:

    Faith is a divine work in us which changes us and births us anew out of God(john1:13), and kills the old Adam, makes us into entirely different people from the heart, soul, mind, and all powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. Oh it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith, so it is impossible that it should not do good. It does not ask if good works should be done, but before one asks, has done them and is always active. Whoever, though, does not do such work is a faithless person, peeking and poking about for faith and good works not knowing what either faith or good works are, who putters in much verbiage about faith and good works.

    faith simply does good works naturally and spontaneously.
    excerpt from “Justidication by Faith-A Matter of Death and Life” by Gerhard O. Forde

  12. Andrew says:

    Funny how many places don’t fit the “spontaneous” idea of Mr. Forde.

    Titus 2:11-14 11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    15Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

    Grace trains us? Exhort, rebuke? Earlier teach?

    All of the spontaneous we aren’t called, exhorted, and commanded to good works flowery gobbly gook sounds great until you open your bible and read for even 1 minute.

    And we aren’t to judge people? Sure we are not to judge in an arrogant pharisaical way but if you read Jesus passage in the context of Matthew he talks about not sharing your pearls to dogs and pigs…pretty judgmental. Then he gives the diciples tools to judge false teachers telling them by fruit…outward, external, obvious fruit they can be known. That is true of all Christians though not perfectly. We are charitable but we are called to make judgments. The idea that being a Christian is some inward hidden mystical thing that only God can know is GNOSTIC and not biblical.

    Without judgments, how can we fulfill the postive command to restore a brother or snatch them from the fire Galatians 6:1 and Jude??? Is Paul encouraging us to pride by calling some spiritual and some in need of restoration?

    Or what about when he tells us in 1 Corinthians 5 not to associate with those who call themselves brothers and yet are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards, or swindlers???

    Or how about Thessalonians when we are told not to associate with the man who won’t work that they might feel ashamed.

    Or how about the Churches call to discern the spiritual maturity of elders on the postive side and to exercise Church discipline?

    May the Lord have mercy on us.

  13. Andrew says:

    woops second part of that post is a response to a different post…we’ve got three threads going…confusing.

  14. Jack Brooks says:


    Reformed theology has always taught that new life is Christ, because Reformed theology has always taught that salvation comes through union with Him. The severe error of Deeper life remains Quietism, and emphasizing union with Christ doesn’t change that error.

  15. Brandon E says:

    Jack, hello brother,

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but most influential Reformed theologians today don’t teach that the very life or nature received in “regeneration” is actually Christ Himself. The prevailing notion concerning God’s work of “regeneration” is that the new nature is a change to our human nature from being rebellious to God-inclining, or, in J.I. Packer’s words, “an inner re-creating of fallen human nature,” and not the addition of Christ–who is the divine, eternal life of God–into our being. Hence, Reformed theologians today can speak of “regeneration” and equivalent expressions (“born again,” “born of God,” “new birth,” “new creation,” etc.) as something that happens logically prior to receiving Christ through faith.

    The Reformed emphasis (“union with Christ”) is on an objective union with Christ outside of us. Equal attention is not paid to the Christ who indwells the regenerated believers subjectively (not as a substance, power or influence but as a person). I believe this has a profound impact on our understanding of regeneration and sanctification, such that the understanding of those like L.S. Chafer and Watchman Nee (whom, among those you listed, I am the most familiar with) and other “deeper life” preachers are commonly misunderstood from a Reformed perspective.

    What errors of Quietism do you specifically have in mind? Passivity in sanctification, other-worldliness, annihilation of the soul?

  16. Susan says:

    Sanctification is cooperative. There are two partners involved in the work. I must work and God will work. If ever the extra-biblical maxim, “God helps those who help themselves,” had any truth, it is at this point. We are not called to sit back and let God do all the work. We are called to work, and to work hard. To work something out with fear and trembling is to work with devout and conscientious rigor. It is to work with care, with a profound concern with the end result.

  17. I am not a scholar. And I don’t pretend to be. I do have a few questions for clarification. And my thoughts on the topic.

    Was not part of champion motto of the reformation “Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, revealed with highest authority in scriptures alone.”? (or something close to that)

    If this be true wouldn’t sanctification be by grace alone through faith alone? Sanctification is part of the salvation package is it not?

    What scriptures seem to teach is that salvation is hard work/ faith however, as Tullian was saying the work is repenting of our righteousness and trusting in Christ.

    In John 6 Jesus teaches that one obtains eternal substance by feeding on Jesus. Jesus then clarifies that feeding on Him is believing in Him. At the close of the chapter He then states that the way we also abide in Him is feeding on Him. Which He already demonstrated was by believing on Him.

    In John 15 Jesus teaches us if we abide in Him we will bear much fruit. Thus, it seems clear that the same faith that justifies is the same faith that sanctifies.

    In this way we can secure that all of salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, while holding faithful to text that explicitly teach that those who are true Christians will be conformed to the image of Christ.

    Lastly, I believe this is Paul’s argument in Gal. 3.

  18. steve loeffler says:

    Amen! Stephen Wilcox. You are so correct. Bless you as you live out your sanctification by faith in Christ by the Spirit for the glory of God.

  19. Mike Hanlon says:

    Well done James Steer and David Petersen. It feels like this whole discussion is derailed from the bible by a misuse of the word Sanctification. The weight of biblical use of the word is positional or definitive. (1 Cor 6:11 “you were washed, you were sanctified , you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” for start.) It seems the weight of doctrinal and confessional use is misplaced.
    The real question is:
    How do we motivate and inspire people to live a live of love?
    Is it by command? obedience? law?
    or by being transformed by the love of Christ to love others.

  20. John Thomson says:

    Good post. Not read comments yet so this point may well have been made already.

    Justification leads to sanctification in the sense that any kind of christian life that is indifferent to personal sin and at peace with it is incongruous to justification. This is Paul’s point in Roms 6; how can we who have died to sin (in justification) want to live in it any more?

    If I have come to God for justification, that is for forgiveness of sin and a righteous standing before him, then it means I want to be finished with sin. Paul’s point is LOGICALLY justification leads to a desire for sanctification.

    However, he goes further. Our justification is actually accomplished through our death and resurrection with Christ. In his death our old self (in Adam and the flesh) died and in his resurrection our new self (in Christ and the Spirit) was created; our justification was a ‘justification unto life’. Thus in union with Christ both regeneration and the empowering of the Spirit are really closely involved with our justification. Because of this dynamic justification not only morally necessitates sanctification but actually realises sanctification. Sanctification becomes not only the logic of justification but the life that justification results in.

    Every aspect of the gospel is a motivation in one way or another to holy living. We should remember that justification is just one part of this gospel though a vital part. Further the gospel not only motivates to godliness but models it. The person and work of Christ (the gospel) shapes for us the life of holiness that we are called to imitate and live. We are to live lives ‘worthy of the gospel’.

    Finally, I find it salutory that in a book where Paul goes to such pains to undermine ‘works’ he describes sanctification in terms of ‘faith working through love’.

  21. John Thomson says:

    Having read some of the comments now allow me to add a couple of points.

    Firstly, I totally agree with Kevin on this issue and with the comments of Andrew and others like him above. Having said this, I do wonder at times at how ingrained sin is in my experience. I find my first and response is generally selfish rather than arising from the new nature of love within. Unfortunately too, all too often, not only my first response but my final response is selfish too.

    This dismays me somewhat. From one perspective as I look at my life I can see growth in grace from another I see the same sinful inclinations arising again and again and often as first response.

    How do I reconcile this with a belief that the gospel has changed me and demands change in me?

    a) I remind myself as a matter of faith that although I am no longer ‘in the flesh’ (in Adam)yet ‘the flesh is still in me’. When I focus on ‘me’ I soon discover that ‘in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing’. Looking within produces despair. It is here that I think Tullian’s emphasis on looking at the gospel (or Christ and his work) is correct.

    b) I recognise that I can be too easily drawn to an over-realized eschatology. This life is a fight between to worlds/ages active within me. It is a war between the flesh and the Spirit. If the Spirit is to prevail then it will be as by faith I apply all the gospel promises to my heart (including the promise that by the Spirit I can overcome the world, the flesh and the devil).

    c)I remind myself that I will overcome and conquer only as by applying gospel truths I determine daily even hourly (without becoming overheated or introspective) to sow to the flesh and not the Spirit, to put off the old and on the new, to die to self and sin and live to God and righteousness.

    Faith looks at inner temptations that arise so easily and readily and says this is not the true me. The true me is a new creature in Christ Jesus. I refuse this direction. How can I who have died to sin live any longer therein.

    When I give into temptation and sin I confess my failure and once again say I will not be cowed by my failure. I will not be defeated by accusation. My true identity is in Christ Jesus where there is no condemnation. And I pick myself up and carry on asking the Lord for his enabling and strengthening(which I find in the gospel).

    It seems to me this is the way the gospel invites us to think and live as Christians. I am already perfect in Christ and my life is hid with God in Christ. In this life I seek to be what I am in Christ. I seek to live as a new creature in Christ. In the words of Paul,

    Phil 3:12-16 (ESV)
    Not that I… am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

  22. Leslie Wolf says:

    I would say that santification is by grace alone, and that it is completely the work of God – we contribute nothing. Still, as Calvin explains, the works that result from sanctification can be attributed to us in following sense – they are performed by our bodies and are often accompanied by processes of deliberation etc. that occur in our minds.

    I’m not sure that santification always follows justification. What if one receives faith just before death? Did the thief on the cross undergo santification? I grant that in ordinary cases sanctification always follows true justification, but I’m not sure that every case is ordinary. I’d love to hear what others might say about this.

  23. Brian says:

    I know that this is an old post, but a year has passed and we are still on this topic, so I’ll comment.


    I don’t think that you have proven your case: Is Sanctification By Faith Alone? You say “No”, but have failed to prove it (here at least). You have actually argued well for the other side in this instance: “Sanctification is a gift just as justification is. . . . Both are the gift of God, ours by virtue of union with Christ.”

    You don’t work for a gift. That is protestantism 101.

    If sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Christ, then that clearly happens as we learn to place more and more faith in Him and less and less on ourselves. We are not becoming better and better, we are “walking in the Spirit” more and more. We are not the source of the power to obey the law, Christ is, and we harness that power through faith, just as in justification.

    We don’t begin the Christian life one way and then continue on in another. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” Col 2:6

    Having said that, there is effort and disciple involved in sanctification, and there is fruit and obedience, but the effort is toward faith, and the fruit is the fruit of faith (or abiding) “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15:4

    “One calls us to rest; the other to fight” This is the heart of the matter. This is where either I am misunderstanding you or you are in error. You talk as if faith were an easy thing. You think of faith only in terms of resting. That is simply not true. It’s not true for sanctification or justification. Faith, (and remaining faithful) is full of blood sweat and tears! It’s not a passive undertaking for spiritual wimps, which is why we are exhorted to “Stand firm”. This military term Paul uses is telling. It shows that faith requires bravery, fortitude, strength, and resolve.

  24. Kyle Ferguson says:

    We say “justification” by faith to say that nothing we do makes us justified. I would argue that nothing we do “sanctifies” us either. Rather it is the grace of God working through the spirit that sanctifies. Our effort is taking advantage (by faith) of the means of grace, just as justification is in the means of saving grace, Jesus Christ. Faith alone (but never alone) is just as true of sanctification as of justification. In faith, we repent and turn to Christ for salvation. In faith, we strive after holiness. In both cases, it is faith which is the means of grace, not our work.

  25. ChrisM says:

    Thank you for linking to this true, clear older post on Twitter– so good to read your affirmation of the process of sanctification leaning upon the fact of justification! I’m recently astounded to realize how pervasive and deceptive the sin nature is, in how selfish one can still be though he has trusted in Christ for His salvation. The fact of Christ and His atonement being completely all I need for salvation (justification) opens me to His process of transformation (sanctification). As I cooperate with His leading, His Spirit remains at work peeling back the layers of deception that shroud my soul to let in more of His light. Even when my cooperation grows very thin, when I hate that He won’t leave me alone and very foolishly grieve or quench His Spirit, He stays working and draws me back to Himself, for which I am very thankful! Nothing separates me from HIs love, not even the deceitfulness of my sin. He has saved me completely AND is transforming me into His image.

  26. Brighton Anglican says:

    It is amazing how Christless your understanding sanctification is. How little you understanding of the difference between Good Works and Sanctification is. “The hole in Kevin De Young’s Holiness….” is Christ.

    Maybe you can relate imputation to impertation? But that would actually take knowledge of the Reformed tradition and how they saw Christ’s life infused into ours through the Sacraments. In this way it can be faith alone accepting the benefits of Christ which result in active good works and deeds of righteousness truly in Christ.

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  28. gary says:

    Dear Christian,

    Someone has convinced you that a square can be a circle. Someone has convinced you that the blood-thirsty, psychopathic god of the Old Testament is the same being as the loving, compassionate Jesus of the Gospels.

    Squares can never be circles.

    Your belief system is an ancient middle-eastern superstition. If you choose to continue to hold onto it that it is certainly your right. However, you are teaching this superstition to little children. Please consider what you are doing. These children deserve to know the Truth.

    I encourage you to watch this five minute video on this subject:

    Best wishes,

  29. Bill says:

    This is pretty old, but let’s say that scripture teaches three times that “the righteous shall live by faith” Romans 1:17 – Galatians 3:11 – Hebrews 10:38 So to me it is pretty clear that sanctification is by grace alone through faith alone. The path to sanctification is by increasing our faith or knowledge of God which the holy spirit does. By focusing on the atonement, specially Romans 6 where I was crucified with Christ and was raised with him so that I can walk in newness of life. Faith in my own crucifixion with Jesus is at the heart of sanctification. Sanctification is not based on any effort or work that I do, but on faith alone, John 3:14 we must lift the son of man and look at him like Moses lifted up the serpent. So sanctification can only be found by looking at the cross of Christ, it is in the atonement, it is by faith alone.

  30. Bill says:

    And just to add to what I just wrote, every time I try to do something for God, I find myself like Paul in romans 7 I can not do it. But every time I try to do nothing but look at the cross of Christand see my old man pierced to it then I can produce good works in confidence. I have no confidence in myself or my own works, but have all the confidence in what Christ accomplished 2000 years ago, it is at Christ work that I look up to, at his sacrifice on the cross were all the works of the devil were destroyed and my sanctification accomplished which I receive by faith alone. Again the just shall live by faith.

  31. Bill says:

    This writing by John Murray, actually does clearly explain theologically how sanctification is by faith alone and flows directly from Christ’s work on the cross Sometimes we think like Kevin that justification is by faith alone, and our justification powers our sanctification, but we miss that our sanctification comes from Christ’s work of the cross as direct grace, as much as our justification does. And that our sanctiification is instantaneous by faith alone, so when we hear the word, when we look at baptism (and are reminded by Paul in Romans 6 that we’ve been baptized into Christ’s death so that we could walk in newnews of life), or when we are reminded of Christ’s shed blood for us in the Lord’s Supper we are not just reminded that this blood was shed for the remission of sins and the penalty of sin but also for the power of sin, the lamb of God that takes a away the sin of the world (penalty and power of sin). So as Murray says sanctification is by faith alone, and is also an accomplished work of Christ that requires nothing from us but be received by faith. As another writer mentions above and John Murray also refers in this article this is what theologically is called definitive sanctification. This definitive sanctification powers our progressive sanctification, and it is by meditating and apprehending by faith this definitive sanctification, that we are able to walk in newness of life. Our progressive sanctification is powered by our justification, but mainly by our definitive sanctification accomplished by Jesus Christ and received by faith passively in the same manner as we receive our justification. This is what Kevin De Young has missed.

  32. Ryan Fishel says:

    Sanctification: “God-dependent effort.” (Packer)

  33. Ryan Fishel says:

    Also for the record, Grudem has a fantastic article fleshing out obedience in sanctification:

    Pleasing God by Our Obedience: A Neglected New Testament Teaching | Wayne Grudem

  34. watchandpray" says:

    From the book “Holiness” by J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) with preface by J.I. Packer (1926- )….

    It is thoroughly scriptural and right to say, ‘Faith alone justifies.’ But it is not equally scriptural and right to say, ‘Faith alone sanctifies.’

    The very same apostle who says in one place, ‘The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,’ says in another place, ‘I fight’, ‘I run’, ‘I keep under my body’, and in other places ‘Let us cleanse ourselves’, ‘Let us labour’, ”Let us lay aside every weight’ (Gal 2:20; 1 Cor 9:26, 27; 2 Cor 7:1; Heb 4:11; 12:1)

    In justification the word to be addressed to man is ‘Believe’ only believe; in sanctification the word must be: ‘Watch, pray and fight.’

  35. Bill says:

    watchandpray, so I get it, we are justified by faith but we are sanctified by our own efforts. This sounds like the galatian heresy, you know, you are saying we start by faith but after we have come to faith we fight, we run, we labor. That’s totally heretical, Christ clearly taught without me you can do nothing, he told that to his disciples that were christians already. So our own effort profits us nothing, Christ alone by his grace alone received through faith alone sanctifies.

  36. tim welch says:

    For the most part there is a good article. but justification and santification or all practical purposes are distinct in scripture. People must make a choice under practical sanctification. its not automatic like the refomers care to think. 5 point calvinsits need to stop quoting the westminster confession that is only an opinion not scritpure itself. over 33 times in the new testament eph 2:10, Romans 6:4, and romans 6: are just the tip of the iceberg. santification deals with rewards not eternal life.

  37. Bill says:

    This is old but another comment just came up this week. You know I was just listening to a lutheran pastor who perfectly defined sanctification as our response to justification. It is the human response to what God has done to us in justification. We can only love (sanctificaiton) because God loved us first (justification). It could not be more clear that the sole cause of sanctification is our justification, and yet you read authors like John Owen ( his books Mortification of sin and Indelling sin ) that sanctification is something that I can consciously do, like be watchful, strive against sin, etc. This is pure legalism, sanctification is the spontaneous obedience of the Christian as a result of being justified, it is spontaneous, it is the work of the spirit. I can’t just say I am going to do good works, or be watchful, this nothing else than a return to legalism unless we do this spontaneously (in an unplanned manner) as the result of meditating on or being reminded of our justification or justified state). God solely rewards those works that are the result of our spontaneous response to justification, i.e. those works solely are the fruit of the spirit. Works that come from our striving or our decision to do good works are not properly christian works and are like the works of unbelievers which are performed in the strength of the flesh.. Thee works may be very pleasing and impressive in the eyes of men but are not properly the fruit of the spirit.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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