Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A footnote on Justification and Sanctification

I'm currently reading and enjoying Kevin Vanhoozer's latest, Remythologising Theology. The book has proper footnotes rather than endnotes. Endnotes are a bit of a pain as it means having to flick back to the end of the book to look up the note. Life's too short for that.

I would be an exaggeration to say that some of the best material in the book may be found in the footnotes, but they are always worth a glance to the bottom of the page. Here is a choice note on justification and sanctification, where Vanhoozer elaborates on this point,
Participation in the triune God - otherwise known as salvation or eternal life - ultimately hinges on the nature of one's communion with Christ. Subsequent doctrines - justification, sanctification, ecclesiology, to name a few - all work further variations on the essential evangelical communicative act that is God's being "for us."122 (p. 279)
Footnote 122 then reads,
Justification and sanctification have to do with the way in which God "communicates" his righteousness and holiness to the ungodly. God declares those those who place their faith in Christ forgiven and directs and enables them to live accordingly by having the Spirit minister the gospel to them. In this way the forgiving word of Christ "dwells richly" in them (Col. 3:16). By means of word and Spirit, then, God calls or gathers a community of the word, a company of communicants (the church). In each case - declaring righteous, enabling holiness, summoning fellowship - we see that Christian doctrine is essentially a schema of triune communicative action, a description of what God is doing in, with, and through is Word.
Vanhoozer's emphasis is reminiscent of Calvin's insight that on union with Christ the believer receives the "double benefit" of justification and sanctification. The two aspects of salvation are distinct. Justification is a declarative act of God, while sanctification is a transformative act of God. But they are inseparable because union with Christ is union with the complete and undivided Saviour,
These benefits [justification and sanctification] are joined together by an everlasting and indissoluble bond, so that those whom he illumines by his wisdom he redeems; those whom he redeems, he justifies; those whom he justifies, he sanctifies.....Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker of his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces [I Cor. 1:13]. (Inst. III.16.1)

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