Tonite’s Bible Study focused on Chapter 6 of The Gospel Uncensored, which discusses the three reasons that Paul gives for being so sure that the gospel message that he preached was the only gospel message, and that anything else was not a mere variation, but the utter eradication of the real gospel. It was an interesting night, giving me an even better understanding of Paul’s argument presented in Galatians 2. As we processed this, I kept thinking of a quote I had recently read by Gerhard Forde (as quoted on the Mockingbird blog) that “sanctification is thus simply the art of getting used to justification.”
I love it when synthesis and clarity happen — and especially when they happen to me.
So what does the gospel have to do with sanctification? A whole lot, actually. Many of us are used to thinking of the gospel as the message of salvation, and then the rest of the Bible kicks in to give us the practical teachings that will take us the rest of the way. However, Paul’s rhetorical question in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (ESV)” What Paul is getting at is that the gospel is not just for justification, it’s also the key to sanctification, “the art of getting used to justification.”
Paul’s 3-part argument
Paul begins his argument by appealing to a higher authority — the gospel came to him by direct revelation in the person of Jesus. However, knowing that revelation is subjective, his second point was that he submitted his revelation to the apostles, and after hearing Paul’s explanation of the gospel, they “added nothing.” If this weren’t enough, he put his gospel to the test by confronting Peter — not regarding an issue of salvation, although Peter’s actions had certain ramifications concerning the inclusion of the gentile Christians, but about an issue of daily life, dietary laws and who to sit with at dinner.
The issue with the Galatians, circumcision, was not an issue of salvation, but an issue of moving to the next level, or becoming more holy, as some might say. Paul’s point: adding any kind of rules or behavioral expectations to the work of Christ makes the work of Christ of no benefit. If you’re going to keep one iota of the law, you’re accountable for all of it. You can’t supplement the gospel, even when it comes to holiness.
Many of us are certain enough of our salvation, although there are those who do their best to undermine even that with questions like, “Do you have saving faith?” If that isn’t a question from hell, I don’t know what is. But, there are very many of us who at times wonder if we are doing enough or if we did more, would we get sanctified quicker?
If we take Forde’s definition, that question becomes nonsensical. If sanctification is really just us growing into our justification, or gaining understanding as to what being saved really means, then we can’t do anything to become more sanctified. The very act of trying to do more prevents us from grasping the reality of justification. In other words, adding human effort of any kind to the work that Christ has already accomplished hinders us from ever being certain that the gospel has any effect whatsoever.
Paul was certain — and, as he wrote in Romans, “not ashamed” — of the good news gospel that Jesus has justified us and that only by resting in that certainty will we become acclimated to the reality of our justification that we call sanctification. We are certainly justified by faith apart from works, and so are we being sanctified.
I’m certain of it.