Friday, June 17, 2011

Wesleyan Terminiology Part 2: Justification and Sanctification

Now I know that understanding the old English in a Wesley sermon can be hard but I really encourage you to read all of Justification by Faith because the sermon does an excellent job of explaining what these terms mean.  Also, you will run across a word that Wesley uses in a lot of his sermons: vouchsafe.  In modern English it means to grant or to give as a favor.

Having said that, let's talk about Justification first.  Using Romans 4:5 as the basis, Wesley defines Justification this way:

 "...In consideration of this, that the Son of God hath "tasted death for every man," God hath now "reconciled the world to himself, not imputing to them their" former "trespasses." And thus, "as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification." So that, for the sake of his well-beloved Son, of what he hath done and suffered for us, God now vouchsafes, on one only condition, (which himself also enables us to perform,) both to remit the punishment due to our sins, to reinstate us in his favour, and to restore our dead souls to spiritual life, as the earnest of life eternal."
In other words, if you accept Christ as Saviour, by faith, God grants forgiveness of sins and there is a restoration of right relationship with God.  Justification.

Sanctification is considered by Wesley to be a "fruit" of Justification.  Although the slate is wiped clean, because we are human, the roots and weed seeds of sin still live within us and they can sprout again if we are not on our guard.  Thus, the saying "from grace, to grace to grace" came about.  I had a hard time understanding this at first because I have heard both terms used to describe the same exact thing.  Then I looked outside at my garden and the explanation clicked.

Here in Missouri we have some weeds that if you don't get them out early will continue to plague you throughout the growing season.  So I went out, garden fork in hand and turned every square inch of the upper half of the garden.  I dug down and pulled out 6 inch taproots, I pulled every runner root, dug every wild onion, put it all in a bucket and stuck it on the compost pile.  I dug it all out, I took all the weeds out of the garden, removed them completely.  The section was completely bare! 

A few days later, after a little rain and a little sun I looked out and lo and behold, there was a blanket of green on that bare ground!  Ah ha!  The light bulb went on in my little head.  I'm forgiven so sin no longer has control but the roots of sin still exist within me.  If I'm not careful they will sprout again!  Wesley put it this way in his sermon On Sin in Believers:
" Let us, therefore, hold fast the sound doctrine "once delivered to the saints," and delivered down by them with the written word to all succeeding generations: That although we are renewed, cleansed, purified, sanctified, the moment we truly believe in Christ, yet we are not then renewed, cleansed, purified altogether; but the flesh, the evil nature, still remains (though subdued) and wars against the Spirit."
Sanctification is an ongoing process.  It's spiritual work.  When a "weed" pops up, it makes you stop and ask yourself if this truly reflects the love of God at work in your life.  If not, then it's time to pray that the spirit renews, cleanses and purifies you so you can be further sanctified. 

For me personally, understanding these concepts was a huge relief!  I know that I don't always get things right!  Sometimes, I just totally and completely blow it, whatever "it" happens to be on my path!  Now, because I have a better understanding of what Sanctification means, I can recognize a mistake, I can admit to it, ask forgiveness, correct what I can and move on AND have faith that the spirit is still working within me!  I understand why it is so important to watch, guard and pray.  I understand why it is so important to read scripture everyday.  It's a spiritual battle.  The tools are spiritual.  Justification is the  good root.  Sanctification is the visible proof or "fruit". 

Thank you God that spiritual perfection is a process and not a prerequisite! 

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