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August 2, 2016

PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION

by Leslie John

Leslie M. John

Progressive sanctification is that in which a believer is purified every moment and every day in his life.  It could be called Practical sanctification also.

There were Ten Commandments given to the children of Israel and many other commandments associated with them as described in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  In Genesis there were commandments given, however, they were all verbal.

Until the Law was given the guilt was not imputed to the man as Sin. However, God did not leave Adam and Eve to go unpunished from their transgression of God’s verbal commandment. Likewise, He did not leave Cain to go unpunished for killing his brother, Abel. After that God punished the whole world by flood, during Noah’s period, except Noah’s family and the livestock according as God wished, because of the wickedness in the world. Later, God punished Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone.

Man failed to keep the Ten Commandments and no one could be justified under Mosaic Law.  God spoke through prophets, and then lastly through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

All power is given to the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has the keys to the hell and hades. He is authorized to forgive sins of any man, who confesses his sin to Him and accepts Him as Savior, and believes in heart that God raised Him from the dead.  There is no savior except Jesus Christ.

Jesus came in the form of servant and in the likeness of man, and took upon Himself the iniquity of man and died on the cross; he was buried and his body did not decompose, or get corrupted. He rose from the dead with glorified body; a body that could pass the closed door of house; a body that could appear and disappear at His will; a body that could travel from place to place instantaneously; and a body that could eat fish.

God’s desire was that you and I are conformed to the image of His Son.  It is God’s desire that we live a perfect sinless life after we have received salvation. He offered His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who was the “Lamb of God”, to die in our stead. Jesus bore our sins and died a sacrificial death on behalf of us.

Jesus did not say that we should not follow the commandments; rather He placed us on a higher level. He overcame the world and He wants us to overcome the world. He came to fulfill the law and He fulfilled it.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17)

Some of the commandments Jesus gave, to His disciples, on the Mount of Olives are as follows:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:32)

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44)

There are many more as we read in Matthew Chapters 5 to 7.  These are not as much applicable to every believer as they were applicable to His disciples. Jesus was declaring to His disciples the “kingdom of heaven”, and the characteristics of the kingdom.  He was also telling them how blessed are those who follow His doctrines.

When Jesus saw the multitudes He went up into a mountain and sat down, and when His disciples came to Him, he taught them these beatitudes, also called the “blessings”.  It does not mean that he avoided teaching multitudes who followed Him. Christians would struggle to understand and keep the message of these beatitudes, if they are taken literally as belonging to them, primarily because they were not addressed to the Church, but to the disciples and about the “kingdom of heaven”.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: (Matthew 5:1)

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.  (Matthew 5:29)

When we read those commandments it would seem impossible to keep them on daily basis. Jesus gave concise summary of all the commandments in just three verses.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

However, human as we are, and living in this world with compelling demands at various places, and in various situations, we fail to keep the commandments of the Lord, time and again. That failure leaves us to be at the mercy of our savior Lord Jesus Christ, whenever we falter.

Our primary goal, after being saved, should be to count ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God through Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible because we depend on God and do not allow sin to have dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace.

Apostle Paul wrote

For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; (1 Thessalonians 4:2-4)

We thank God because we are not servants of sin, but obeyed the Lord that we will follow Him and His teachings. Because we are freed from sin by the blood of Lord Jesus Christ we became the servants of righteousness. Earlier we were servants of the Devil and his ploys, but now we are servants of righteousness (cf. Romans 6:11, Romans 6:14, Romans 6:17-18)

After having been saved an individual needs continual sanctification to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is the aim and desire of God that we all, who are saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, become like Christ. The Bible promises all those, who are saved, that they will become partakers of divine nature.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4)

Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:5, 11 for the edification of believers in Christ and the Scriptures give us great hope of being confirmed to the Son of God, Lord Jesus Christ, but this is yet future. The prophecies are written in past tense, and many of them are fulfilled, and many of them are yet to be fulfilled. The hope given to the believers in Christ that they will be confirmed to the image of His Son is yet to be fulfilled

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified”. (Romans 8:29-30)

God said as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, and the sons of God have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but received the spirit of adoption. This privilege entails us to call God as “Abba, Father” and the Spirit bears witness that we are the children of God. (cf. Romans 8:14-16).

Apostle Paul explains that the heir as long as he is a child does not differ from a servant because even though he is the lord of all, he is under tutor and governors until the time appointed of the father. The children are still considered as in bondage under the elements of the world.

When the fullness of time was come God sent His one and only begotten Son, born of the virgin Mary, conceived of the Holy Ghost, made under law, to redeem that was under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons. Therefore, we are no more servants but sons and daughters, and if it is so, then we are heirs of God through Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us from the bondage of Mosaic Law and gave us the liberty to be under the provisions of Gospel to gain the privilege of being the adopted sons and receive the full benefits promised to the children of Israel.

Even though the promises, covenants and law belonged to the children of Israel, yet, now those who accept Lord Jesus Christ as savior are set free from the stringent Laws of Moses. Our salvation is by grace through faith. (Galatians 4:1-7).

It was according to God’s good pleasure of His will that Gentiles are also made equal partners of the inheritance of heavenly blessings. Now, therefore, in this dispensation there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. A Jew has to come to the Lord Jesus Christ just as any Gentile would come and accept Him as the Savior.

Jesus is the only way, the Truth, and the Life and no one can come to the Father except through Him. If Jews need heavenly blessings and are desirous of being conformed, in future, to the image of Lord Jesus Christ, who relinquished His glory when He came into this world as a servant in the form of man, was crucified, died, buried and rose from the dead with uncorrupted body, in his glorified body, ascended into heaven, and seated on the right hand of the Majesty, then they necessarily have to accept Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah. If they continue to be in rebellion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then, according to the word of God, they lose the privilege of being conformed to the image of His Son in eternity.

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:5)

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11)

God predestines us unto the adoption as children by Lord Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will. In Him we have obtained an inheritance according to the purpose of Him. The very first assertion the scripture makes here is that God foreknew those who would be conformed to the image of his Son, Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, God predestined those who, in his foreknowledge, would respond to His call and accept Lord Jesus Christ as their savior. Those, who respond and confess their sins to Lord Jesus Christ, will be forgiven of their sins and justified.

They are assured of being confirmed, in future, to the image of his son and, therefore, He called them and will glorify them in eternity.  Surely God foreknew those who would be conformed to the image of his Son. Therefore, he called them and justified and glorified them. None of these assertions add emphasis to imaginations that God predestined some to hell or God forcibly converts any human to his side.

The Bible contains message of Gospel of Jesus Christ and the message is that Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior, that He is the Son of God, that He and the Father are one, and that there is no salvation outside of Him. Jesus is the way, the truth and the light.

“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23)

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Romans 9:4)

“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:5)

It was God’s good pleasure that according to His will he predestined us unto adoption of children by Jesus Christ. Man has no free will to do anything against the will of God to be predestined either to become the child of God or to go against God.

It is God who controls men’s will. Man can, by himself, do nothing other than choosing for himself eternal damnation by rejecting Jesus as Savior. There is difference between choice a man makes and the will that he has. Men’s will is not free to make any decision against God’s will, but men can make their choices. The will of men cannot overpower God’s will.

The will of God is all powerful and God makes the world to move according to His will, and yet he provides a choice and chance for man to repent of his sin, and choose the living God. Jehovah is living God and not an idol. Idols do not move, do not speak, and do not do anything on their own.

Jehovah is the living God who loved us and gave His one and only begotten Son to be crucified for our sake in order that we might be saved from perishing. Whosoever believes in Jesus as Savior will not perish but will have everlasting life.

There is inheritance promised to those who believe in Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and we are predestinated to have that inheritance in future and to be conformed to the image of His Son. This is according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will. Jehovah does not need our counsel; and His counsel and His purposes are final.

The image of God is lost in the Garden of Eden when man committed transgression against the will of God and sinned against God’s law. God is the creator and man is under His will and His purposes, yet man has the choice to choose the better or worse.

The first man exercised his choice in a bad way and lost the image of God. In His mercy God desires to restore that lost image to all those who have sinned. Bible says there is no one righteous; not even one and every one has come short of the glory of God. If we say that we have not sinned, then we make God a liar. The only way to get out of that bad situation and to be conformed to the image of the Son, Lord Jesus Christ, is to repent of sins and turn to God and accept that Lord Jesus Christ is the only Savior.

To be conformed to the image of Christ is a life-time process and we are continually being “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord”. Paul confirms that he had not attained perfectness in his lifetime, and yet continued to work towards being perfect. The Bible admonishes us that we should put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of our mouths, and do not tell lies one to another. It is obvious that we fail in one of these many times, and, therefore, we need to be purified.  Even though we become a new creature in Christ, we who are fallible humans; need to be renewed of the spirit, and knowledge of the image of the Lord. (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:8-10)

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-12)

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