Open Letter on the Relation of Justification and Sanctification
One brother recently replied to John Kinnaird's views as follows:
Additionally, if it is not possible that one could possess one without the other two than coupling these causes and effects together the imputed righteousness of Christ which forms the foundation for what is to follow (i.e. sanctification and glorification) is sufficient for that purpose since one who is not justified cannot be sanctified or glorified and so justification forms the basis for sanctification and consequent glorification and so it is sufficient and efficient for the purpose of bringing us into conformity.
Are you sure you want to say that justification is the basis of sanctification and glorification? I think you might want to reconsider this. Consider our Confession:
"They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." (CF 13.1)
What is the basis of sanctification? According to the Confession, it is our effectual calling, whereby we are united to Christ, together with our regeneration. Union with Christ, not justification, is the Confession's basis for sanctification (and subsequently glorification). I recognize that John Murray calls justification the basis for sanctification on page 87 of Redemption Accomplished and Applied, but he uses it in the sense that sanctification is preceded by justification and cannot exist without it--whereas the quotation above uses "basis" to subsume sanctification into justification. The above quotation explicitly states that justification is sufficient and efficient to bring us into conformity with the likeness of Christ--whereas Murray, on page 143, makes it clear that even after regeneration (he doesn't even mention justification, since justification has nothing directly to do with conforming us to the likeness of Christ), "The believer is not yet so conformed to the image of Christ that he is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. 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." (Murray, 143)
Larger Catechism 77 makes it clear that justification and sanctification are inseparably joined, but it does not suggest that sanctification is based on justification. Regeneration, sanctification and glorification are all part of the restorative work of grace, while justification is a forensic act. They are placed in parallel in our Standards. Nowhere is justification made the basis for sanctification, but they come together as the forensic and the restorative aspects of our salvation, both of which are equally important to our standing in the Judgment.
This is because the Confession is insistent that all of the benefits of salvation are rooted in Christ, and our union with him. Therefore the Confession does not say that the imputed righteousness of Christ is all by itself sufficient to bring us into conformity to Christ. Indeed LC 77 makes it quite clear that the imputed righteousness of Christ is NOT sufficient for bringing us into conformity with Christ, because it insists that:
"Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection." (LC 77)
The imputed righteousness of Christ, according to Larger Catechism 77, is not sufficient to enable us "to the exercise" of righteousness. It is not sufficient to subdue sin. But that is like saying that general revelation is not sufficient to reveal the way of salvation! It was never intended for that purpose! Imputation was not designed to conform us to the likeness of Christ. It was designed to pardon sin and free us forever from the revenging wrath of God. Sanctification, the infusion of grace, is designed to enable us to the exercise of righteousness and subdue sin (though only brought to perfection in our glorification).
For someone who has said that the work of Christ is the basis of glorification, I am surprised that you would then state things so confusingly that you would go on to say that justification is the basis for sanctification. Methinks that you have not been very clear! Do you really wish to say that justification is sufficient and efficient for bringing us into full conformity to the likeness of Christ?
The brother goes on to say:
However, Kinnaird's statements tell us that the imputed righteousness or alien righteousness given to us by Christ is insufficient for this purpose. On what basis is it insufficient? He speaks of a righteousness required that is not alien but real and personal as Christ's was. It appears that a condition of our standing before God is based on a real and personal righteousness apart from that which is imputed since Christ's righteousness is insufficient to bring us into God the Father's presence and present us blameless and conformed into His image. If this is your gospel then best of luck to you but I want no part of it.
First, let me clarify one point: Kinnaird does not say that Christ's righteousness is insufficient to bring us to God. He said that the imputation of Christ's righteousness is insufficient for that end. Do you understand the distinction? Christ's righteousness comes to us in two ways: through imputation in our justification and through infusion in our sanctification. You seem to be saying that the infusion of grace in sanctification has no necessary place in conforming us to the likeness of Christ-since the imputation of Christ's righteousness in justification has already accomplished this.
And do you really want to say that a man can stand before God without any real and personal holiness or righteousness? If so, how do you explain CF 13.1?
"They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
Are you saying that sanctification is optional? Does your gospel include the necessity of sanctification--rooted in union with Christ and regeneration? According to our confession, if all you have is an alien righteousness, then you will never see the Lord. We are not saved by a Christ who remains distant from us, but a Christ who unites us to himself, and freely gives us all of his benefits.
As I said in my GA review, if all of your sins have been forgiven, and if all of Christ's righteousness has been first imputed to you, and then worked in you by the Holy Spirit, then what is left? Those good works that God created you in Christ Jesus to do. So when God judges you according to your works at the final judgment, what does he do but crown his own gifts?
I hope this is useful.
Rev. Peter Wallace