Rick Phillips and Kevin DeYoung join a panel to address the doctrine of sanctification. This is an important conversation that addresses the work of the Holy Spirit in applying the death and resurrection of Christ to believers. Join us for a fascinating conversation on this aspect of soteriology.

Rev. Phillips is Senior Minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC and the author of several books including Jesus the EvangelistWhat’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?, and the Hebrews and Zechariah Reformed Expository commentaries. Rev. DeYoung is Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan and the author of several books including Don’t Call it a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day and What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission with Greg Gilbert.

Participants: , ,

Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.


8 years ago

Great discussion! Thanks for arranging this. Just wanted to add my thoughts on the subject. There is obviously an intimate relationship between justification and sanctification, and one of them is that in justification we attain a legal or institutional/social status that properly belongs to Christ. It is only within that institutional body or reality headed by Christ our high priest that we can have the proper environment, status and relations to achieve the goal of sanctification – to become the image of the Son that the Father delights in. Without the institutional reality that justification brings, our works of obedience are too flawed to be accepted by God as pleasing and we cannot relate to him as our heavenly Father, nor can we be confident (have faith) that the Father is pleased with our imperfect attempts at obedience. In this way, justification empowers our sanctification (the communion of sonship) by being the institutional reality and environment which makes any sanctification possible.

Jason D.

8 years ago

Very helpful regarding all the recent discussion.

Thank y’all (yes, I’m a Texan) 🙂

Pastor Bill Slack

8 years ago

Great discussion! This is so helpful. I have pointed out to those in our church that I have a problem with the NIV (1984) translation of Romans 10:4 for the very reasons that you put forward here. The NIV reads:
“4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” To me (though I believe it is not intended) it says – “Jesus is the absolute END of the law – that it is abrogated completely. The NASB, ESV NKJV, KJV are all SO much clearer i.e. the ESV “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The law is the character of God – the character to which we are all to be conformed! Praise God for the power of His grace that delivers us from the power of sin!!


8 years ago

Hi all.
Just wondering who exactly are these proponents of passive sanctification that are being talked about in this broadcast?
Are you just talking about Tullian T here? Or Michael Horton, too? Or both? Or others?
In your efforts not to attack the person and instead focus on their ideas (which is honourable), you’re in danger of attributing ideas to people that they just don’t hold.
For instance, sure, Michael Horton emphasises that gratitude for our justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is the chief driver of sanctification, but he never (as far as I can see) say Christians should remain inactive when it comes to holiness.
He consistently calls Christians to mortify their old nature and vivify the new. However he does repeatedly tell people that even if they fail in their holiness endeavours they’re still right with God because legal verdict ‘righteous’ still stands.
Nothing wrong with that, surely?
This is an important pastoral topic, so maybe names need to be named so the wrong people aren’t slandered and faithful ministers aren’t undermined.
In Christ,

Nick Batzig

8 years ago

Hi Conner,

Thank you for taking the time to listen and to write. We didn’t name specific people because there is a spectrum and each one would need to be dealt with specifically. I don’t think anything we said, or anyone we did not name, will lead to slander. In fact, just the opposite is the case. Our not naming everyone we think may be de-emphasizing all the factors of the biblical doctrine of sanctification, in fact, is an attempt not to slander them. Clearly, Tullian is in view in part due to the very obvious interchange between he and Kevin. That being said, I may even want to parse things a little more thoroughly than we had time to do in one sitting.

As far as your question about Horton is concerned, it is true that legal justification is all that we need for acceptance before God, but you would agree that if there is not a process of holiness occuring in the life of a professing Christian than that either means that the said Christian is not truly regenerate or that he or she are serious backslidden and in a dangerous path in which their assurance is jeapordized, right? I do fear that a hyper-forensicizing of the Gospel (to the exclusion of the transformative grace of Christ) will lead to a neglect of the teaching of biblical doctrines such as apostasy, hypocrisy, chastisement, etc.

Any further thoughts?

E. Burns

8 years ago

Great conversation and program! Seems the issue here is that both sides of this debate are concerned with an over emphasis of sorts. In that sense they are both right. The question is which side is correct about understanding the times in which we live in terms of what is really going on across the wider landscape? What is really being over-emphasized more? How does that relate to the wider Reformed tradition and history? More important, which side best gets the Biblical understanding?

“As far as your question about Horton is concerned, it is true that legal justification is all that we need for acceptance before God, but you would agree that if there is not a process of holiness occurring in the life of a professing Christian than that either means that the said Christian is not truly regenerate or that he or she are serious backslidden and in a dangerous path in which their assurance is jeopardized, right?” — Nick Batzig

My question for Nick is,,, do you really think Horton disagrees with what you say here?

” I would totally agree. I think Horton (and most others) would, too. Horton seems to put an emphasis on the fact that sanctification is by faith (and is driven chiefly – but not exclusively – by our gratitude for our justification) because he’s reacting to a teaching that says sanctification is all a Christian’s own work.” –Conor

Indeed Horton, myself and many others would agree with all these points by Nick and Conor.

Nick goes on…… “I do fear that a hyper-forensicizing of the Gospel (to the exclusion of the transformative grace of Christ) will lead to a neglect of the teaching of biblical doctrines such as apostasy, hypocrisy, chastisement, etc. ” — Nick Batzig

Nick, do you think Horton and those in his camp are hyper-forensicizing and leading to the woes you mention? Seems like that is what Reformed Forum has been saying in a nut shell for months now.

I might add that I think Horton is not only reacting to a teaching that says sanctification is all a Christian’s own work , but also he is concerned with the over emphasis on our works, our fruit, our testimony our obedience within the dominant Christian (even Reformed) world. Not that those things are bad it is just all the focus and all the cause celeb these days. Antiqdotale example……… I have been Reformed and in and around NAPARC circles for 14 years. In that 14 years among those NAPARC circles without a doubt the book in the Bible most often voted on to study as important for the group is the book of James (80%). Why? James is ever as much God’s Word but why the over emphasis? It is because the cause celeb right now (last 10 plus years) is all about an over emphasis on what we do and our works. In a majority of NAPARC circles the vast majority of the ethos and power brokering is leaning in the direction of the “social justice” “we need to do/be the gospel” type stuff. Meanwhile we have a majority of NAPARC pew sitters who are clueless about historic Reformed doctrines. Not that Horton thinks obedience, fruit, etc. are bad things when done in Christ, again it is the over emphasis he (and I, and many others) are concerned with. When a majority of time in sermons, Sunday school is used to talk about what we should do, and a minority time is given to what has been done in Christ or the Person and character of God we have real problems. That’s where we are. Its all about us. Even when done in and with good motives this over emphasis is dangerous, and we believe the bigger problem. We all have a window to the world, Reformed Forum seems to think that the big issue these days is that folks out there are just to forensic, etc. and in danger of antinomianism. While that is a concern, I think their window is a limited view. Horton is more concerned that the larger landscape of Christendom is over emphasizing our works and in danger of a form of Pelagianism. I think Horton is walking out in the landscape seeing a bigger picture. Both sides have much agreement, much truth and many valid points.

However, I must say with all due respect to those on the Reformed Forum side of this, I don’t see how one looks out at the landscape of Christianity and sees the majority issue /problem one of that we are just not focused enough on good works and obedient fruit. As if we are just to darn forensic in the church today. What world are you living in? Everthing these days is about the “pratical application”. Just turn on Christian TV or radio, go to the Christian book store, sit in a PCA Sunday school class, see the evangelical leader cozy with Larry King or Oprah and in general just open ones eyes to the over arching landscape within the Christian ethos. Its all works works works. Be the gospel, do the gospel, etc. etc. Frankly I think some if not a lot of this is just overly self deprecating to our historic Reformed tradition. Its as if many are just plain sick of being on the unpopular side of this. Then along comes Tim Keller, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, coalitions and a host of “we have to do/be the gospel” types letting us have our experiential cake and eat our Reformed doctrine too, or so it it seems. Problem is that in most cases it seems experience is driving that train. Disciples of Jonathan Edwards seem fine with it all. Darryl Hart gets a lot of this spot on. Which brings us back around to over-emphasis.

Let’s widen our gaze a bit here and see what is clear. The larger world and indeed the larger Christian world is clearly over emphasizing the dangers that Horton types are concerned about. That is not to say that antinomianism is not a serious sin or that Union with Christ is not very important. No one on this side is saying other wise.

Also I think Horton gets it right when out lining the theological, Biblical and historical emphasis. Therefore while not perfect, I think Horton and those in his camp get it closer to the mark. All parties to this debate are in Christ and as Horton so aptly pointed out we have more in common and are closer than many would suggest.

If you have not read, here is Horton giving more insight on the topic……………..


“So it always is. A low view of law always brings legalism in religion; a high view of law makes a man a seeker after grace.”
– J. Gresham Machen

E. Burns

8 years ago

Edward Fisher’s “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” with footnotes by Thomas Boston extremely helpful. Sinclair Ferguson’s lectures on the Marrow Controversy are also very helpful. Found at this site.. .


I do think this has some correlation to this entire conversation as well.

Nick Batzig

8 years ago


I apologize for the misspell on your name, brother!


8 years ago

No worries with the name, mate, I’ve had worse (Corner/Condor).
I appreciate your efforts to debate the ideas and ‘slander’ was probably not the right word for me to use. You’re right, too, that there is a spectrum of beliefs in this debate. It’s just that the ideas from those on the extreme of this spectrum don’t fit everyone who puts an emphasis on the priority of the forensic, and so I think it’s unfair to put them all in the same boat by not putting specific names to specific ideas. It’s easier, too, when not being specific to create a straw man, and to denounce doctrines that no one actually teaches.
That said, I understand you’ve got a limited amount of time per edition, and can’t do everything.
With regards to your question (‘would agree that if there is not a process of holiness occuring in the life of a professing Christian than that either means that the said Christian is not truly regenerate or that he or she are serious backslidden and in a dangerous path in which their assurance is jeapordized?’), I would totally agree. I think Horton (and most others) would, too. Horton seems to put an emphasis on the fact that sanctification is by faith (and is driven chiefly – but not exclusively – by our gratitude for our justification) because he’s reacting to a teaching that says sanctification is all a Christian’s own work.
You guys, then, seem to be reacting to those who teach that you have to be totally passive in sanctification. As such, I think you might be talking past each other a little bit.
Finally, I think if we could get a consensus on what exactly the Gospel of Jesus is (is it Christ for us, or Christ for us + Christ in us), then we might be able to agree on what the Christian life should look like. Till then, with these differing understandings of what the Gospel is, it should be no surprise we have different expectations of how to live out our faith.
Is that fair?

Nick Batzig

8 years ago


Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply. I think you have accurately pinpointed some of the main issues. I agree that sanctification is by the same faith as justification. The faith that sanctifies us is a faith that keeps us abiding in Jesus. I also agree (as does Rick Phillips) that there is a logical priority of justification to progressive sanctification in the Ordo Salutis. I think that one of the major points of disunity comes from our understanding of the Historia Salutis. We at the Reformed Forum believe that Jesus is, in the history of redemption, the elect One (Isaiah 42:1), the regenerate One (Heb. 12:20-21), the justified One (1 Tim. 3:16), the adopted One (Rom. 1:3-4), the sanctified One (John 17:9), and the glorified One (John 17: ). It is Him becoming all these things for us that makes all those blessings ours by virtue of our union with Him. We are united to Him in the eternal election (Eph. 1:4), in redemptive history (Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:20-3:4), and in time (Rom. 16:13). When we talk about what the Gospel is, there is clearly a logical priority in the forensic dimension (i.e. sins forgiven and righteousness imputed), but what Jesus actually accomplished at the cross includes the radical breach with sin’s power too (definitive sanctification). Both judicial forgiveness and the radical breach with sin occurred in Christ’s death on the cross. There is so much involved in this discussion that I do not have the time to flesh out here, but I would love to talk with you more about it if you want to. My email is nbatzig@gmail.com. Please don’t hesitate to write me! Thanks again brother.

Steve Cornell

8 years ago

Part of the problem comes when we separate what God has joined. Salvation is experienced sequentially in three dimensions but must always be understood (with deep gratitude) as one completed act of God for undeserving, helpless, powerless, ungodly sinners who are God’s enemies (Romans 5). The apostle explained it as five completed divine actions for sinners (although we are recipients of each, we did not and could not participate in any of them). God:

1. Foreknew: (us) (Προεγνω)
2. Predestined: (us) (Προωρισεν)
3. Called: (us) (Εκαλεσεν)
4. Justified: (us) (Εδικαιωσεν)
5. Glorified: (us) (εδοξασεν)

But the tension seems to come from the fact that this one-time-gift received from God by grace (Romans 8:29-30) permanently unites us to God in Christ but is experienced sequentially. Yes, it’s completely based on redemption accomplished — with an eager expectation of the final redemption of our bodies (Romans 8; Philippians 1:6; 3:20-21). But the three dimensions of “Already, In between and Not yet” are real – so real that we groan. We must be careful not to divide what God has united because understood together, they help us when (in this “not yet”) we wait and groan — to do so with patience and hope (Romans 8).

We are undeserving recipients of everything but we’re called to be active participants during the “not yet.” And as we “continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” even this must be done (can only be done) based on the fact that, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). God is restoring His image in us by His Spirit (II Corinthians 3:18).

The image of God is the starting point for how we think about humanity. Not just so we can rush to the fall of humanity. It’s the shared reality of all people without exception or distinction. God singled out humans when He said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” ”So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27; James 3:9).

At the beginning, God “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Humans (by God’s intention) had a very good and noble beginning (and we intuitively know it). But those intended for greatness have fallen. Sin is a tragic and culpable falling short of a glory we once knew– “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

This discussion must be taken into another area – change via cultural/political agents — a focus that has captured evangelical vision. Humans need ontological transformation— change of “being” before “behavior”– by spiritual regeneration.

God said, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). We need a recreation or new creation by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) for the restoring of the image of God in us. We need the God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” “to make his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). We need to be reconciled to God to become a “new creation” in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). And “all this is from God” (II Corinthians 5:18).

On this account, we must consider transformation in the overall picture of:

A glory we had at the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27).
A glory we fell from in disobedience (Romans 3:23; 5:12; James 3:9).
A glory being restored in us (through God’s gift of salvation and the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 6:23: II Cor. 3:18)
A glory fully restored (despite our present suffering, Romans 8:18; Revelation 21:1-5).

From a Christian perspective, these are matters that foundational to culture and political agents of change. I am not suggesting that we must impose this on culture and politics. Nor am I suggesting that other kinds of goods can’t be offered unless the spiritual is included.

But transformation of human existence (both individually and in community), from a Christian perspective must prioritize the ontological dimension (i. e. “being,” not just behavior). This change is not subtraction but addition. The flesh is not eradicated but God gives the Holy Spirit – “whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:6-7). It’s the foundational priority for all change (see: II Corinthians 4:16-18).
And it includes a strong teleological focus (a hope and a future beyond the temporal world) (see: Titus 3:3-7; II Corinthians 4:16-18). The teleological dimension of transformation is God’s provision of hope and purpose — things that matter at some level to rational people and that must shape a Christian understanding of influences like culture and politics. Christian thinking and living cannot happen (as intended) apart from telos.

External mechanisms like laws, customs, cultures and politics will not address the depth of the human problem. On a full Christian view, these external pressures are necessary (even divinely ordained) but not adequate. So we insist that making external adjustments like putting the “right” party in political office or changing laws and policies will not address our deepest needs.

On another level, humans are social beings. We are not meant to be alone (and we know it). Our lives depend on others and we were designed to flourish in community. But human relationships are the source of some of our deepest problems. Maintaining peace is a perplexing and painful project on almost every level. Although we still find that it’s not good to be alone, it’s complicated, difficult and sometimes even dangerous to be together.

God’s answer for our social and community needs is the Church. The work of Christ on earth cannot be thought of apart from the Church. He’s the one who said, “I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18).

Those who are deeply concerned about transformation must apply their thoughts and concerns to the Church. The Church (as God’s new community) is not merely an organization but an organism. In some ontologically organic way, each believer (upon faith in Christ) is immersed into a living community or body of believers to form God’s new society.

Each local Church is made up of people who have experienced and are experiencing ontological transformation — though outwardly perishing, yet inwardly being renewed day by day — with a shared teleological vision — “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18). Should not these communities (local Churches) be exemplars of the kind of ideal toward which human flourishing happens at its best? Sound a little too idealistic?

We know that this side of God’s new world (Revelation 21:1-5), we will not experience utopia. Churches (i.e. Church members) have to “work hard to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). This is because, as believers, our ontological change is not subtraction of the flesh but addition of the Spirit. Therefore we are told to “walk by the Spirit” if we desire to “not gratify the desires of the flesh.” In some way, the Spirit breaks the power/mastery of sin over us. Yet the conflict remains— “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other” (Galatians 5.16-17).

In Galatians 5:15-16, there is an interesting connection between community life or relationships (at their worse) and walking by the Spirit as the solution. “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not…”

A direct connection is made in these verses between protecting relationships from destruction (bite, devour, destroy: metaphors from the animal kingdom) and the role of the Holy Spirit. To avoid destructive relationship, we must,

v.16 – walk by the Spirit;
v.18 – be led by the Spirit;
v.25a – live by the Spirit;
v. 25b – keep in step with the Spirit

Galatians 5:16 says, “so I say”, (or ςέ “but I say”). Here is my advice.” Or, “Here is the remedy for the situation described in v. 15.” (Phillips). To protect Christian community (relationships) from destruction, each member must “live or walk by the Spirit.”

What kind of community is possible (or should be expected) when ontologically changed believers are immersed by one Spirit into organic life together?

Individual and community life of this kind (from Christian marriages, to families, to local Churches) among those who are walking by the Spirit (being filled by the Spirit) will be distinguished by pervasive practice of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Against these qualities no law is needed. Imagine any relationship where these qualities are flourishing. Interestingly, back to some of this discussion, each of these qualities also appears as a command in the NT reminding us that we are not passive recipients of the activity of God. Clearly — unworthy recipients, but not passive (see: Philippians 2:12-13).

Embarrassingly too long,

Steve Cornell


8 years ago

i think the guys at reformedforum are super nice and sincere believers in Jesus Christ, but I do think they are making some errors as I explain below.

I love what Tullian wrote in his debate with kevin on the gospel coalition web site:

1) Sanctification, as someone once put it, is not something added to justification. It is, rather, the justified life.
2) I’ve said before how sanctification is the hard work of getting used to our justification.
3) Growth always happens “in grace.” In other words, the truest measure of our growth is not our behavior (otherwise the Pharisees would have been the godliest people on the planet); it’s our grasp of grace–a grasp which involves coming to deeper and deeper terms with the unconditionality of God’s justifying grace.

Tullian gets the gospel right, Kevin in my opinion does not get the gospel as clearly. This is critical, justification is the gospel and the whole gospel, salvation (justification) is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus in the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector sumarized it perfectly “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. This is the gospel and the whole gospel, the forgiveness of sins summarizes the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now good works flow necessarily from the gospel of justification, but they are not the gospel, they are the fruit of the gospel. You see sanctification (good works) and justification (faith), are opposite to each other, as in the parable of the tax collector and the pharisee, when the pharisee thanks god in prayer for his sanctification and the tax collector thanks god for his justification. The pharisee’s prayer was rejected by Christ and the tax collector’s accepted. So sanctification when made a component of faith is equivalent to salvation by works and works righteousness, while justification is equivalent to salvation by grace through faith. So sanctification has to be understood as the fruit of the christian faith, but is not a part of the christian faith or we become pharisees, the christian faith is justification alone.

Now how do I answer to the folks at Reformedforum in this clip when they say that God uses other means to sanctify beside justification or justifying faith. What they are saying is that there are other motivation beside justification for doing good works. I say they are right, but I also need to point out that these other motivators or means (beside justification) that God uses are common grace and unrelated to the christian faith. The other means of sanctification that God uses benefit both believers and unbelievers alike. There’s no doubt that both believers and unbelievers are sanctified and receive gifts unrelated to justification, but it is only the christian that receives sanctifying gifts that arise from justification. So the essence of the christian faith is justification, out of which sanctification flows. First John couldn’t be more clear, we (christians) love because he loved us first (justified us, pardoned our sins),

And by the way Romans 8:4 is 100% forensic unlike kevin deyoung says in this clip.


8 years ago

And adding to what I just wrote in my previous post. Martha and Mary is a classic example where christians are called both in justification and sanctification to receive from the Lord. It’s a passive righteousness that characterizes the christian life and not an active righteousness. While Martha view of sanctification was about doing good works (performance), and she got busy trying to serve the Lord and his guests cooking a meal, Mary rightly understood that she had to sit down, listen to the Lor’ds teaching and not get busy doing things for Christ (cooking a meal). Sanctification like Tullian points out in the Gospel Coalition website where he replied to kevin, is 100% of grace and not of works, where the christian is a recipient of that grace and accepts that grace from God, it’s not about actively performing good works. Grace and works are in opposition to each other, and sanctification is by grace alone through faith alone. So sanctification is not something that we can add to justification, but it is to live the justified life, to receive justification. Now i do not deny that good works (active righteousness) will flow out of justification, and are the fruit of the gospel. But justification on the other hand is the gospel itself.

It is also important to clarify that good works are not good in themselves, God only accepts them because of the christan’s justified state, otherwise those same works would not be able to stand in God’s sight. Luther put it beautifully in the Heidelberg disputation, when he stated that the works of the christian are only good because they are performed in the fear of the Lord, meaning that the christian knows fully knows all his works offend God and need God’s pardon. Heidelberg disputation number 6 and 7 summarize it beautifully. I will quote in full the this right after this post, because it’ll prove that the good works of the christians, are only good forensically in Martin Luther’s eyes. And by the way Calvin agrees, in his Institutes he teaches that good works are justified, meaning its sin is pardoned. Otherwise God would reject those works.


8 years ago

But Luther in the Heidelberg disputations 6 and 7, puts it brilliantly and sets the standard on what good works are, and that what defines whether a work is good or not doesn’t have to do with the work itself, but rather with the belief of the christian that the work is sinful and needs the pardon of Christ. So good works are forensically good, but not good in themselves Her’s Luther in his own words:

6 The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.

In Eccles. 7:20, we read, »Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.« In this connection, however, some people say that the righteous man indeed sins, but not when he does good. They may be refuted in the following manner: If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words? Or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble? For this meaning would then be adequately expressed by the following: »There is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin.« Why does he add »who does good,« as if another person were righteous who did evil? For no one except a righteous man does good. Where, however, he speaks of sins outside the realm of good works he speaks thus (Prov. 24:16), »The righteous man falls seven times a day.« Here he does not say: A righteous man falls seven times a day when he does good. This is a comparison: If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us.

7 The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

This is clear from Thesis 4. To trust in works, which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.

In the second place, it is clear from the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 143:2), »Enter not into judgment with thy servant«, and Ps. 32:5, »I said: I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.« etc. But that these are not venial sins is clear because these passages state that confession and repentance are not necessary for venial sins. If, therefore, they are mortal sins and »all the saints intercede for them«, as it is stated in the same place, then the works of the saints are mortal sins. But the works of the saints are good works, wherefore they are meritorious for them only through the fear of their humble confession.

In the third place, it is clear from the Lord’s Prayer, »Forgive us our trespasses« (Matt. 6:12). This is a prayer of the saints, therefore those trespasses are good works for which they pray. But that these are mortal sins is clear from the following verse, »If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses« (Matt. 6:15). Note that these trespasses are such that, if unforgiven, they would condemn them, unless they pray this prayer sincerely and forgive others.

In the fourth place, it is clear from Rev. 21:27, »Nothing unclean shall enter into it« (the kingdom of heaven). But everything that hinders entrance into the kingdom of heaven is mortal sin (or it would be necessary to interpret the concept of »mortal sin« in another way). Venial sin, however, hinders because it makes the soul unclean and has no place in the kingdom of heaven. Consequently, etc.

Ian Hall

8 years ago

Excellent show. A very clear presentation of the biblical doctrine. With so much confusion on this issue, I suspect this episode should help to return folks to a more biblical and confessional view of sanctification. Thanks guys.

Steve M

8 years ago

Just wanted to say thanks for a really excellent episode!!
Over the last couple of years In have repeatedly gone back to Ephesians 2:1-10 as a theme passage, and the Lord has been using it to change my life. This episode tied in very well to that.

Tim Goodman

8 years ago

Excellent episode guys! This brings much clarity to the discussion. I’m still puzzled why some (including some who made comments here) want to reduce the Gopsel to it’s forensic dimension. Being united to Christ by Spirit wrought faith is central in this discussion. All the benefits of salvation come to us in the person and work of Christ. Praise God the exalted reigning Christ lived for us, died for us, was raised for us, and is now interceding for us. It brings great comfort and assurance knowing that He is at work in us so that we can now walk in Him by His Spirit in faith. We are no longer slaves to the power of sin because Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin. My gratitude for my justification is imperfect and continually fails. But knowing that His Spirit is a work in me encourages me to press on in the Christian life as I pursue holiness. So while I look to my justification to remind me of my status before God, I look to the promise “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to complettion” for power and encouragement. Praise God that the guilt AND power of sin has already been dealt with in Christ and applied to us by the Spirit in our effectual calling. Now I’m free to live a life of obedience (however imperfect) to the Lord with confidence. Thanks Rick, Nick, and Kevin for your insights in this discussion.


8 years ago


‘sanctification is by grace alone through faith alone. ”

if that is the case, then it is the same as Justification. Sanctification actually involves in inner life of the believer and his works

Justin Stone

8 years ago


I was listening to this podcast (great job, btw!), and around the 43 minute mark, Nick quoted something Al Martin said. In the midst of quoting him, he stated it probably isn’t helpful to drop his name into the discussion.

Out of curiosity, why is that? What is the view of Al Martin and his ministry, particularly as it pertains to the discussion of sanctification in reformed circles? The reason I ask is, I love his preaching, and always perceived him as a solid minister, but this comment by Nick raised a red flag.


Bob LaForce

6 years ago

I like what Derek Thomas said at the PCRT conference where he spoke on Philippians 2:12, pointing out that Paul does not say we are to work FOR our salvation [heresy] but we are to work OUT our salvation. This cannot be passive!


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