Today we continue in our readings in John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied. We are now eleven readings in with only three to go. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but this has without a doubt been one of my favorite classics to read together. I have learned a lot from it and have highlighted a huge percentage of the words. I know it’s a book I will return to often.
This week’s chapter deals with sanctification. Murray begins with a couple of presuppositions. Primarily, he wants to show the close relationship between sanctification and both calling and regeneration (both of which we’ve already discussed). “Sanctification,” he says, “is a work of God in us, and calling and regeneration are acts of God which have their immediate effects in us.” So these three are bound together in the fact that each of them is an inward act of change unlike, for example, justification or adoption which are instead changes of status about and outside of us. He would also have us know that sanctification particularly concerns the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer and who directs this work. And finally, he wants the reader to know that sanctification is a necessary work that will be present in the life of every believer. “Sin is dethroned in every person who is effectually called and regenerated. … The Holy Spirit is the controlling and directing agent in every regenerate person. Hence the fundamental principle, the governing disposition, the prevailing character of every regenerate person is holiness—he is ‘Spiritual’ and he delights in the law of the Lord after the inward man.” He says also, “He who died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion.”
Murray turns next to the concern of sanctification, showing what it is that the Holy Spirit actually does in this ongoing act. “This deliverance from the power of sin secured by union with Christ and from the defilement of sin secured by regeneration does not eliminate all sin from the heart and life of the believer. … Sanctification is concerned precisely with this fact and it has as its aim the elimination of all sin and complete conformation to the image of God’s own son, to be holy as the Lord is holy.” He offers several considerations:
First, all sin in the believer is the contradiction of God’s holiness. It is “the contradiction of all [the believer is] as a regenerate person and son of God. It is the contradiction of God himself, after whose image he has been recreated.”
Second, the presence of sin in the believer involves conflict in his heart and life. “The more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin which remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it.”
Third, there must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains it does not have the mastery. “There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin. It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capital; it is another for his defeated hosts to harass the garrisons of the kingdom.” He says also, “It is the concern of sanctification that sin be more and more mortified and holiness ingenerated and cultivated.”
Next, Murray discusses the agent of sanctification, showing that ultimately it is God who sanctifies and, specifically, the Holy Spirit. He shows that we must “realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We must not forget, of course, that our activity is enlisted to the fullest extent in the process of our sanctification. But we must not rely upon our own strength of resolution or purpose.” Though we are active in sanctification, we are active only through the power of the Spirit.
Further, “it is as the Spirit of Christ and as the Spirit of him who raised up Christ from the dead that the Holy Spirit sanctifies.” We must not think of the Spirit’s work of sanctification apart from Christ’s work on the cross.
Finally, Murray looks to the means of sanctification, saying, “We must also take account of the fact that sanctification is a process that draws within its scope the conscious life of the believer. The sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. … God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required results.” Rather, “the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing.”
This is a lifelong struggle and one that involves the whole being. “The exhortations to action with which the Scripture is pervaded are all to the effect of reminding us that our whole being is intensely active in that process which has as its goal the predestinating purpose of God that we should be conformed to the image of his Son.”
For next Thursday please read the next chapter—“Perseverance.”
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.