The Sources of Our Sanctification -- By: Tom Wells

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:4 (Fall 2002)
Article: The Sources of Our Sanctification
Author: Tom Wells

The Sources of Our Sanctification

Tom Wells

The word piety, if I understand it correctly, refers to the devout attitudes and feelings that a Christian believer must have and cultivate toward God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a fair reading of Scripture to say that the new birth brings such attitudes and feelings with it. Every Christian may truly say, “I love him because he first loved me.” Without such love Christianity in an individual is but a shell of the real thing. Piety accompanies the first breaths of the Christian life as the new believer is born into the family of God.

Piety, however, must also be cultivated. As with all else that the Father works within believers at the outset of their Christian life, there is a process of growth and development that must follow the initial gift. The goal is to be like the Lord Jesus in all one’s moral character. The process that targets this goal is called by theologians sanctification. Hence, the title of this article, The Sources of Our Sanctification. If we must be sanctified, how shall we go about it? Or, alternately, how shall God work this conformity to his Son within our daily lives?

This question came home to me recently in reading a book titled, The Weakness of the Law.1 The book is further defined as a “timely defense of the third use of the law,” as set forth by the leaders of the Reformation and especially John

Calvin. In brief, the third use was the usefulness of the moral law in promoting the sanctification of the believer. In the author’s words, “The first two uses are the condemnation of unrighteousness in the sinner, and the social role of restraining those who are particularly unruly. The ‘third use’ refers to the function of the moral law as the pattern of life for the believer.” The moral law (or the Ten Commandments), in this view “exercises a key role in sanctification when employed by the Holy Spirit”2 From the days of the Reformation, until the present hour, Bible students have sought to pinpoint the sources of the believer’s sanctification. What tools does God use, and what tools does he put into the hands of his people, to promote the various facets of their sanctification, including the growth of piety? The question is just as pressing today as it was at any time in history.

We start with documenting from Scripture the goal of the Christian life. Paul describes it in these words, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he [the Son]...

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