Westminster Confession of Faith
Chapter XIII. Of Sanctification
Section I.–They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Section II.–This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
Section III.–In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regerate part doth overcome: and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Contrary to what the Westminster divines would have us believe, Biblical sanctification is NOT a process whereby saints become “further sanctified”, thereby progressing in the growth of a noun called holiness which they will need if they wish to see the Lord one day. In fact, what the Westminster presents to us as sanctification can hardly be called little more than works salvation, plain and simple.
We are told we will need a “personal sanctification”, as though the righteousness Christ established for His elect and then imputed to them for their justification simply will not provide enough sanctification for them at the last day. We are told that an additional holiness will be needed, a “true holiness”, without which no man shall see the Lord.
This “true holiness” as the Westminster calls it, is not a holiness merited by Christ alone and then imputed to His elect. No, this holiness is an additional holiness that must be worked into the elect with the help of the Spirit.
The Westminster goes on to tell us that this additional, so called “true holiness” will result in the gradual and progressive destruction of the whole body of sin, consequently resulting in sin’s lusts growing more and more weakened and mortified.
To make matters worse, we are also told that the power which brings this progressive destruction about, Christ’s “Word and Spirit dwelling in them”, is an “imperfect” work. Section two states this: “This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life.” How can a work of the Son and the Spirit be imperfect?
The are two major problems with the Westminster’s chapter on sanctification. The first problem is that if we compare the sanctification of the Temple, its priests and its utensils in the Old Testament to the sanctification of the temple of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, we discover that the Westminster’s “progressive sanctification” has no place.
2 Chronicles 15:18 Young’s Literal
And he bringeth in the sanctified things of his father, and his own sanctified things, to the house of God, silver, and gold, and vessels.
“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them. 3 And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. 4 The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for all time.
Neither the utensils nor the Levites were set aside in order to grow progressively more holy until at last they attained to a standard holy enough whereby they could enter into Temple service. No, they were instead common objects and common sinners chosen by God and pressed immediately into service dedicated exclusively to the Temple. This fact ALONE set them apart (sanctified) from all other objects and sinners.
There was nothing inherently special about the Levites. They were every bit the sinners their brothers were (Judges 19). However, by His own grace and for no reason whatsoever in the Levites themselves, God devoted the entire tribe to the service of His tabernacle and temple. They had been sanctified for this purpose and by this purpose. They did not grow into it, nor did they grow more suitable or less sinful from the practice of it.
In the same way, God sanctifies His elect by election, by atonement, and by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. These things alone set His people apart from all other sinners. They are dedicated by God for His exclusive use. They are His “special treasure” (Dt 7:6), the “apple of His eye” (Zch 2:8), His “inheritance” (Is 19:25), the “bride of Christ” (Rev 21:2), the “heavenly city” (Rev 21:9), each of whose names are engraved in the palms of His hands (Is 49:16).
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
You might ask at this point, why then does the Westminster speak about sanctification in terms of a progressive growth? The answer is simple. Most of the men who shaped the document did not know the gospel, and so certainly did not believe it, and this is the second problem with the document’s view of sanctification.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)
The righteousness based on the law says, “do this and you shall live”. However, the righteousness based on faith says, do not ask “who is able to ask God to save them?” or “who can a find some way on earth or even below the earth to save themselves at the day of judgment?” The righteousness based on faith says do not ask for these, because God has already revealed the way to you. He revealed it in the gospel we preach. That is, the revelation that Jesus Christ has established God’s righteousness on behalf of His elect by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.
Rather than fixing their faith on the righteousness which Christ established for His elect by His death, the followers of progressive sanctification instead scour the earth, searching in their behavior for a revelation (evidence) of righteousness. The gospel is the only evidence we have of God’s righteousness. The followers of progressive sanctification simply do not accept this is true.
Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
The problem with 90% of reformed writers, both past and present, is they don’t know what the righteousness is. They can talk about justification, about faith, about regeneration, about sanctification, about TULIP, but never once define exactly what the righteousness is. Righteousness is, ACCORDING TO THEM, some nebulous, ill defined concept of being right rather than wrong, of being good rather than bad, of being lawful rather than unlawful, of being well behaved rather than badly behaved. But none of this is the righteousness!
The righteousness is Christ’s death. And that’s what they don’t get. Oh, they see His death imputed to a man as necessary, but necessary only in the sense of being one step among many steps that are on the way to being made righteous. They don’t see Christ’s death itself as the endgame. They don’t see it as the noun which forever makes a man holy.
I plead the death of Christ alone as my righteousness, because His death alone is my righteousness. These guys though, they plead the Spirit working in them to produce works of the law for their “personal holiness”. After all, isn’t that why Jesus came to die and rise, they ask? To give them the ability to establish their holiness by doing many mighty works in His name?
What are these guys going to plead on the last day? Jesus already told us what they are going to plead. “But Lord, Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your name?”