Leighton Flowers Teaches Salvation Without Jesus. Here’s the Video and Commentary. BY NEWS DIVISION · PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 23, 2018 · UPDATED FEBRUARY 24, 2018

Leighton Flowers is the Director for Personal Evangelism and Apologetics for Texas Baptists, an adjunct professor of theology at Trinity Seminary and hosts an anti-Calvinism podcast, called Soteriology 101. Flowers has made a name for himself, challenging God’s sovereignty in various internet forums, from blogs to a webcast. He is also heavily involved in the anti-Calvinism Southern Baptist organization, called Connect 316.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Flowers doesn’t know or understand soteriology. Last year, Flowers invited a Universalist to speak at a conference for Texas Baptists, and continued to affirm him as a Christian, even after immense criticism. Now, Flowers himself is espousing Universalism – or at least a variance thereof – and claims that not only is the Pope a Christian, but that God might save people who die before they are able to hear or embrace the Gospel.

Flowers did the Google Hangout, which is provided below, to defend Billy Graham from criticism regarding his own assertion that Pope John Paul II was in Heaven, and Flowers similarly claimed that the Pope was a believer in spite of denying Sola Fide and trusting in his own self-righteousness. Then, Flowers argued that people can be saved “based upon what light they know” and that God might very well “give grace” to save people BEFORE they hear the Gospel.

Using Cornelius as an example of a God-fearing Gentile who had been given grace to believe in Judaism and further faith to believe in Jesus once the Gospel was provided by Peter, claimed that if Cornelius had died even before he confessed Christ or heard the Gospel, God still would have saved him. Flowers said at the 46.30 mark in the video:

Would God show Cornelius grace even prior to when Peter showed up with the Gospel? Of course…why…of course He would. He obviously showed him enough grace to send him the Gospel. Why wouldn’t He show him enough grace to save him if he perished prior to hearing the specifics of Jesus’ work? Again, I don’t think that’s unreasonable and that’s not beyond orthodoxy to hold to that worldview.

You can see Flowers deny the exclusivity of Christ and teach a potential Universalism at the 46.30 mark.

An individual asked him a question at the 49:43 mark, “Do you think a minimum thought, or understanding for salvation,  is ‘There is a creator God, I need to be saved or need salvation and I cannot save myself, and I need the Creator God has some way to save me’?” Flowers responded, “Yes. To some degree.” Flowers then drew from the story of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 19 and hypothesized that because the tax collector went to Heaven, today, people may be saved without knowing Jesus.

You can see my response to this below.

Jesus’ Parables as Judgment: A Response to Leighton Flowers’ View of the Purpose of the Parables

via Jesus’ Parables as Judgment: A Response to Leighton Flowers’ View of the Purpose of the Parables

Jesus’ Parables as Judgment: A Response to Leighton Flowers’ View of the Purpose of the Parables

You can view a PDF of this post here: “Jesus’ Parables as Judgment: A Response to Leighton Flowers’ View of the Purpose of the Parables”

Professor Leighton Flowers has recently written an article titled, “The Messianic Secret,”[1] wherein he explains his understanding of the purpose of the parables.  According to Flowers, the reason Jesus spoke in parables was to prevent the Jewish people from coming to repentance and faith, so as to bring about the crucifixion, otherwise the crucifixion would not have taken place.  While I will not address every single point and Scriptural reference in his article – and I don’t necessarily disagree with everything he says in the article – I do want to respond to a few of his key points.  Before I do so, however, let me first briefly explain my understanding regarding the reason Jesus spoke in parables.

Why Jesus Spoke In Parables

I believe the primary reason Jesus spoke in parables – though I do believe there exists a two-fold nature to the purpose of the parables – was to enact a form of judgment on the Jewish people.  Let us give consideration to Matthew 13:10-17 in making this point:

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

To these close disciples of Jesus – those who had ears to hear and eyes to see – the parables were a means of explaining the kingdom of God.  To those who did not have ears to hear and eyes to see, but hardened their hearts at the teachings of Jesus, the parables were a means of judgment, confirming them in their rebellious way.  Note that Jesus explicitly says that he speaks in parables “because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”  He does not say that he speaks in parables so that they won’t see and hear and understand; it’s that they already don’t see and hear and understand. Verse 15 makes clear that the people’s hearts had already grown dull, that they had already closed their eyes, otherwise they would see and hear and understand and turn and be saved.  But that is not what they wanted.  Note, the parables did not harden the people or prevent them from understanding so that they would not repent and believe (and otherwise thwart God’s redemptive plan).  Their hearts were already hard, and they had already failed to understand the truth of Jesus and his redemptive mission.  John MacArthur’s words are spot-on:

While the parables do illustrate and clarify truth for those with ears to hear, they have precisely the opposite effect on those who oppose and reject Christ.  The symbolism hides the truth from anyone without the discipline or desire to seek out Christ’s meaning.  That’s why Jesus adopted that style of teaching.  It was a divine judgment against those who met His teaching with scorn, unbelief, or apathy.[2]

MacArthur goes on to explain this two-fold nature of the parables:

In short, Jesus’ parables had a clear twofold purpose: They hid the truthfrom self-righteous or self-satisfied people who fancied themselves too sophisticated to learn from Him, while the same parables revealed truthto eager souls with childlike faith – those who were hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  Jesus thanked His Father for both results: ‘I thank You, father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight (Matt. 11:25-26).[3]

Two final points need to be made before moving on to consider some of Flowers’ points.  First it is important to keep in mind that Jesus did not always teach in parables.  There are plenty of times in the Gospels where we find Jesus teaching in a more straight-forward and didactic manner (e.g. Mk. 1:14-15; Lk. 4:14-30).  The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the best example of this.  Even though it concludes in a brief parable, “the substance of the message, starting with the Beatitudes, is delivered in a series of direct propositional statements, commandments, polemical arguments, exhortations, and words of warning.”[4]

Second, there are times when Jesus used parabolic language – the use of provincial imagery meant to communicate a spiritual truth/reality – and the intent was not to hide the truth, but to reveal and clarify the truth.  Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are good examples of this (Jn. 3-4).

In summary, Jesus used parables to teach those with ears to hear and eyes to see, as well as to confirm those with hard and unbelieving hearts in their rebellion.  The parables were not used to keep people from repenting and believing, because the people were already unrepentant and unbelieving.  Further, Jesus did not always teach in parables, but often taught in a straight-forward and didactic manner.

Responding to Leighton Flowers

Early on in the article Professor Flowers references 1 Corinthians 2:8-9 in support of his perspective.  I find this very interesting, considering the context in which this passage is found.  First, let’s look at Flowers’ words and then I’ll respond:

As the Apostle Paul noted, “We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8-9). Jesus knew that had they believed in Him before the right time then they would not have crucified Him. Therefore, the Lord graciously taught in parables “to those on the outside…so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:11b-12).

In essence, Flowers is asserting that God actively blinded or hid the wisdom of his redemptive plan from these rulers so that he could bring about the gospel – the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  This, however, is the exact opposite of the meaning of the text.  Paul is not addressing the concept of hiding the truth, but of revealing the truth.  The truth was hidden from them, not because God was actively hiding it from them, but because they themselves did not understand it (i.e. a spiritual inability to understand the things of God).  It’s not that the truth had not been made known to them, but it’s as Paul goes on to say, these things are revealed by God through the Spirit.  We understand these things because we have received the Spirit of God (vv. 10-13).  So why did the rulers not understand this mystery of God?  Because God was actively hiding it from them?  No, it’s because “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (v. 14).  This point is all the more striking when we consider the fact that Paul just spent numerous verses speaking of the unique/effectual call of God’s chosen people (1:17-2:5).  To make this a general call is to flip Paul’s teaching on its theological head, stripping it of all its polemical and pastoral power.

Further, in regards to Flowers’ reference of Mark 4:11-12, Mark basically quotes several Old Testament passages that speak of the people’s hearts already hard, their eyes already unseeing, their ears already plugged, and of the need for God to give them an understanding heart, seeing eyes, and hearing ears (Deut. 29:4; Jer. 5:21; Ezek. 12:2).  In short, it is a word of judgment on the people.  Flowers seems to think that this passage undercuts the concept of the inability of man and God’s effectual calling.  It does no such thing.

Here is another example of Flowers’ understanding of the purpose of the parables:

Jesus is not attempting to persuade everyone to come to faith in great numbers as we see following Pentecost when Peter preaches (Acts 2:41). Quite the opposite seems to be the case, in fact. To accomplish the redemptive plan through Israel’s unbelief, we see Jesus actively instructing His apostles not to tell others who he is yet (Matt. 16:20; Mark 8:30; 9:9).

In other words, Jesus used parables in order to prevent the vast majority of the Jews from repenting and believing, because if they did so, then they would not have crucified him.  Again, Flowers’ attempt here is to undercut the concept of the moral inability of man and God’s effectual calling, while putting forth his perspective of judicial hardening.[5]  Is this actually what we find though?  I think not.

First, the fact that Jesus went around preaching repentance and faith, sending out his disciples, and identifying himself as the Messiah at times, disproves Flowers’ first assertion (e.g. Mtt. 4:17; 10:5-14; Mk. 1:14-15; Lk. 4:15-21; 10:1-12).

Second, the reason Jesus hid his identity was not to prevent the vast majority of Jews from repenting and believing so as to accomplish God’s redemptive plan of the cross, but to prevent the Jews from attempting to carry out their false concept of the Messiah – a ruler of an earthly kingdom who would free them from Roman suppression.  Even his close disciples were confused about the Scriptural witness of the Messiah (Mtt. 16:21-28).  It took Jesus’ supernatural ability to open the minds of the disciples so that they could understand the Scriptures (Lk. 24:44-47).  So Flowers is correct to assert that it was for the purpose of bringing about the redemptive plan, but he’s in error to think that the crowds would have repented and believed in him if his true identity had been broadcasted.  It’s at this point, regarding the fact of Jesus not broadcasting his identity as Messiah and Jesus’ use of parables, that Flowers seems to conflate the two.  He says the following:

Moreover, Jesus purposefully speaks in parables in order to prevent the Jewish leaders coming to faith and repentance (Matt. 13:11-15; Mark 4:11-13). When great numbers began to believe Jesus was truly prophetic, notice how Jesus responded: “’Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself” (John 6:14-15). Earlier in the same gospel we learn that “many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them” (John 2:23b-24a).

Flowers seems to be asserting here that the reason Jesus spoke in parables was to conceal his identity as the Messiah.  Yet, the parables were primarily about the nature and expansion of the kingdom, not the person and work of Jesus.[6]  Further, John 6:14-15 only confirms the point that Jesus hid his identity as the Messiah, not to prevent the Jews from repenting and believing, but to prevent them from attempting to carry out their false ideas of the Messiah’s mission.  Lastly, Flowers seems to be implying that “Jesus would not entrust Himself to them” has something to do with Jesus concealing his true identity and speaking in parables so as to prevent mass conversions.  This is not the case, however.   Rather, Jesus did not entrust himself to them because he knew their hearts (Jn. 2:25), which means he knew their true intentions and motives.  This again confirms that Jesus was preventing them from attempting to carry out their false view of the Messiah’s mission, not that he was keeping them from truly repenting and believing.  Needless to say, this paragraph by Flowers is somewhat muddled, and it seems that he may be mixing categories.

Conclusion

The purpose of the parables is not so much on the subject of the ability/inability of man, but on the providence of God to accomplish his redemptive purposes in the way in which he ordained them to be accomplished.  It cannot be overlooked, too, that Jesus did not always teach in parables.  It would certainly seem that, for Flowers’ interpretation to hold water, one would have to conclude that he always taught, or at least primarily taught, in parables.  Yet, this is simply not the case.  What is more, Jesus hiding his identity as the Messiah is not the same thing as Jesus teaching in parables.  Flowers seems to conflate the two, which causes some confusion regarding his point and perspective (in my opinion at least).

The primary purpose of Jesus teaching the people in parables was to confirm the unbelieving Jews in their rebellion.  It was a form of judgment on the people.  To those with ears to hear and eyes to see, however, it was a means for Jesus to communicate the truth of his kingdom.

[1] Flowers, Leighton. “The Messianic Secret”. https://goo.gl/ze8jtm. Accessed on January 3, 2016.

[2] MacArthur, John. Parables (Thomas Nelson, 2015), xix.

[3] Ibid., xxi. Emphasis is his.

[4] Ibid., xxi.

[5] Note, judicial hardening is not a concept that contradicts Calvinism.  Judicial hardening is a biblical concept.  Flowers has repeatedly stated that Calvinists believe that mankind is born judicially hardened.  This, however, is not the case, and actually mixes categories.  What Calvinists believe is that mankind is born with a sin nature due to their federal head – Adam.  This means that we are born with corrupt hearts, and therefore our desire from our youth is that of wickedness (this takes various degrees and forms).  We do not desire the things of God; we are enemies of God and by nature children of wrath (note, man is not morally neutral).  This does not mean that man is as wicked as he can be.  By God’s common grace the world of men continues to thrive in its institutions with relative progress (though man’s work continues to be tainted by corruption and sin).  Throughout redemptive history God may judicially harden a nation (or individual) for his redemptive purposes (e.g. Pharaoh and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt).  Judicial hardening, however, and the state in which man is born are not the same thing.

[6] Of course, the kingdom of God is established through the redemptive work of Christ, but this is not overly clear in his parables, which primarily focus on the kingdom itself.

Jesus’ Parables as Judgment: A Response to Leighton Flowers’ View of the Purpose of the Parables

Reformed Baptist Daily

You can view a PDF of this post here: “Jesus’ Parables as Judgment: A Response to Leighton Flowers’ View of the Purpose of the Parables”

Professor Leighton Flowers has recently written an article titled, “The Messianic Secret,”[1] wherein he explains his understanding of the purpose of the parables.  According to Flowers, the reason Jesus spoke in parables was to prevent the Jewish people from coming to repentance and faith, so as to bring about the crucifixion, otherwise the crucifixion would not have taken place.  While I will not address every single point and Scriptural reference in his article – and I don’t necessarily disagree with everything he says in the article – I do want to respond to a few of his key points.  Before I do so, however, let me first briefly explain my understanding regarding the reason Jesus spoke in parables.

Why Jesus Spoke In Parables

I…

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Rightly Understanding the Nature of Man & Effectual Calling: A Response to Leighton Flowers, Pt. 1

via Rightly Understanding the Nature of Man & Effectual Calling: A Response to Leighton Flowers, Pt. 1

 

Rightly Understanding the Nature of Man & Effectual Calling: A Response to Leighton Flowers, Pt. 1

You can read a PDF version of this post here: “Rightly Understanding the Nature of Man and Effectual Calling: A Response to Leighton Flowers”

Lately I have been spending quite a bit of time listening to Leighton Flowers’ podcast and reading through his blog.  He is one of the very few non-Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention that is actually willing to stick his head out there and dialogue with Calvinists.  For that I give him credit.  I very much appreciate his willingness to speak with me and Dale Stenberg (my fellow partner in crime on the Reformasium Podcast[1]).  I do, however, have great concerns regarding his position on certain theological topics, and I greatly question his abilities in rightly addressing our biblical argumentation.

This article is specifically in response to one of his podcast episodes titled, “Total Inability and the Effectual Calling” (Nov. 10, 2015).[2]  This post will only deal with his statements on total inability.  I plan on providing a second post shortly to address his arguments against effectual calling and his presentation of his view regarding the power of the gospel.

I will provide key quotations of Flowers from this podcast episode and then respond in kind.  These may not be 100% verbatim quotations, but I’ve tried my best to write his words exactly.  In some instances I’ve condensed lengthy quotations for the sake of simplicity (getting to the point).  At the very least, they should be accurate representations of his views.  Leighton Flowers is more than welcome to correct me if I have misquoted or misrepresented him in any way.  That is certainly not my intention, and I will make attempts to fix such errors.  I would of course also encourage anyone reading this to first listen to the podcast episode.

Leighton Flowers: “If someone has the ability to have the mental ascent of the facts being given through the Scripture, and they have the ability to be convicted by that, then they should have the ability to respond to that in faith.”

“Man can understand and place their trust in Buddha, or in Joseph Smith, or in Satan, or whoever, even giving their lives for these people and their systems, but for some reason, according to Calvinists, God decreed for mankind to be incapable of placing their trust in the truth claims of the gospel.  They cannot, by nature, put their trust in it.”

“It’s God’s doing, according to the Calvinist, that man is in the sinful state they’re in and can’t savingly believe in the gospel unless enabled to do so by his effectual calling.”

Response: Leighton Flowers seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the biblical teaching on the nature of man, as well as what Calvinists actually believe and mean with respect to the inability of fallen mankind.  Based on his statements, he seems to think that we are speaking of a physical inability.  I see no other way of understanding the connection he makes between understanding facts and being able to put one’s faith in those facts.  The same goes with his connection regarding being able to devote oneself to these false religions and their leaders, but somehow not being able to devote oneself to Jesus Christ.  In other words, if one is physically able to mentally ascent to the facts of the gospel (i.e. at least have an intellectual understanding of gospel truth), then we ought to conclude that they are physically able to respond to that truth in faith.  Again, if one is physically able to be devoted to Joseph Smith, for example, then how else can we conclude than that they are physically able to devote themselves to Jesus Christ, if they so choose.

This, however, is erroneous to the core.  First, the inability that Calvinists speak of regarding man’s response to the gospel is not of a physical nature, but a spiritual or moral nature.  This has to do with their sinful nature.  Thomas Schreiner brings this out wonderfully in his commentary on Romans, Chapter 8 verse 8:

But Paul’s argument goes further.  Not only do they refuse to submit to God’s law; they ‘cannot’ keep it.  And ‘those who are of the flesh are not able to please God’.  Paul is certainly speaking not of a physical inability to keep God’s law but of a moral inability to do so.  He does not conclude that those of the flesh are not responsible for their sins because of their inability.  Rather, he holds them responsible for their sins even though they cannot keep God’s law.  Paul apparently did not believe that people were only culpable for sin if they had the ‘moral’ ability to keep commandments.[3]

Leighton may want to object that Paul is speaking of man’s inability in relation to the law, not the gospel.  However, the point still stands, because it speaks to man’s nature in and of itself.  Not to mention that this is not the only text that we derive the teaching of total inability from (e.g. Jn. 6:44).  We could also point out that the text says that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God”.  Yet, believing in the gospel is certainly something that is pleasing to God.  Again, Paul is here contrasting those who are in Christ, those who set their mind on the Spirit, with those who set their mind on the flesh – they are hostile to God.  This is fundamentally why they are unable to respond to the truth of God; as hostile enemies of God, they have no desire to do so.  Paul Washer comments on this point as well:

Finally, total depravity does not mean that men do not possess the necessary faculties to obey God.  Man is not a victim who desires to obey but is unable to because of factors beyond his control.  God has endowed man with an intellect, a will, and a freedom to choose.  Man is therefore responsible before God as a moral agent.  Total depravity does mean that man cannot submit himself to God because he will not, and he will not because of his own hostility toward God.[4]

Yet, this is precisely what Flowers overlooks.  The inability in man is not a physical inability (which would include a mental inability), but is a moral inability.  In other words, they act according to their sinful nature, and unless the grace of God opens their eyes to see and their ears to hear, then they will continue in their willful rebellion against their Creator (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16).  So yes, men and women entrust their souls to false religious systems; but that just proves the point.  They do so because they’re enemies of God and choose to serve the lie rather than the Creator (Rom. 1).

Another way of stating this biblical truth that God deals with men according to their moral (and covenantal) standing before God is to say that “God deals with man according to his obligation, not according to the measure of his ability.”[5]  Dr. Robert L. Reymond goes on to say,

Before the Fall, man had both the obligation and the ability to obey God.  As a result of the Fall, he retained the former but lost the latter.  Man’s inability to obey, arising from the moral corruption of his nature, does not remove from him his obligation to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and his neighbor as himself.  His obligation to obey God remains intact.  If God dealt with man today according to his ability to obey, he would have to reduce his moral demands to the vanishing point.  Conversely, if we determined the measure of man’s ability from the sweeping obligations implicit in the divine commands, then we would need to predicate total ability for man, that is to say, we would all have to adopt the Pelagian position, for the commands of God cover the entire horizon of moral obligation.[6]

Second, Flowers mixes categories, and in so doing, puts the emphasis and focal point of the discussion where it shouldn’t be.  This only muddies the water.  For instance, he says, according to the Calvinist “God decreed for mankind to be incapable of placing their trust in the truth claims of the gospel.”  I find it interesting that he has to bring in God’s decree when Calvinists themselves don’t address the issue of man’s inability from that angle, but from the angle that is presented to us in Scripture – the moral responsibility of mankind.  Flowers seems to want to go where the Scriptures don’t lead us.  It seems like a desperate attempt at producing an emotional response, rather than producing an exegetical response.

Another problem I have with this response by Flowers against the inability of man, is that it assumes a fatalistic determinism.  Yet, Calvinists do not put forth a fatalistic determinism with regard to God’s decree and man’s responsibility.  Rather, what we hold to is known as compatibilism – the belief that God’s exhaustive sovereignty and man’s responsibility/choices are compatible with one another; man’s responsibility is of a moral nature before their Creator.  Several passages serve to demonstrate this compatibility between God’s sovereignty and man’s will (e.g. Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:23-28; Phil. 2:12-13).  In other words, Calvinists readily assert the moral responsibility of mankind, and we do so while at the same time affirming the exhaustive sovereignty of God over all things, even in the matter of our salvation.  Why do we do it?  Because that’s what the Scriptures clearly teach.  So Flowers’ presentation is overly simplistic at best and woefully misleading at worst.

With regard to this compatibility, Louis Berkhof remarks:

There is not a single indication in Scripture that the inspired writers are conscious of a contradiction in connection with these matters.  They never make an attempt to harmonize the two.  This may well restrain us from assuming a contradiction here, even if we cannot reconcile both truths.[7]

I might add that the only place where such an attempt is made is in the person of Paul’s interlocutor in Romans 9, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault?  For who can resist his will?’”  I don’t think Flowers recognizes it, but this is in essence the objection he raises as well.  So I will supply the same response that the apostle Paul did:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?  Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

In conclusion, I would very much like to ask professor Flowers his understanding of God’s sovereign outworking of the gospel itself.  Does he believe that God sovereignly decreed that Christ be crucified for the forgiveness of sinners?  If so, then how does he, according to his theological system, work in the many sins of man that were necessary in bringing about that redemptive plan?  If he asserts that God merely foresaw the sinful acts of man, then he places the cart before the horse, essentially asserting that man committed these sinful acts before God even decreed Christ’s crucifixion, and ultimately it would put the redemptive plan itself in the hands of man, not God.  So, what of passages like Acts 4:23-28?  I would very much like to see professor Flowers address such passages, and if he has already, then I’m sure I will come across them in due time, and most certainly provide some response to them.


[1] Reformasium Podcast “Lively Discussion from a Reformed Perspective” www.reformasium.com

[2] “Total Inability and the Effectual Calling” Podcast episode by Leighton Flowers. http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/soteriology-101/e/total-inability-and-the-effectual-calling-41204682. Accessed on December 16, 2015.

[3] Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans (MI: Baker Academic, 1998), 412-413.

[4] Washer, Paul. The Gospel’s Power & Message (MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 117. Emphasis is his.

[5] Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 454. Emphasis his.

[6] Ibid., 454-455. Emphasis his.

[7] Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (MI: Eerdmans, 1941), 106.

Enabling Power of the Gospel?: A Response to Dr. Leighton Flowers

via Enabling Power of the Gospel?: A Response to Dr. Leighton Flowers

 

Enabling Power of the Gospel?: A Response to Dr. Leighton Flowers

I’ve listened to a fair amount of Dr. Leighton Flowers.  Not only have I spoken to him three times on his podcast, but I’ve also engaged him in discussion on the subject of Calvinism via Facebook.  One thing I’ve heard him say quite regularly is something along the lines that the power of the gospel message is that it enables people (all people) to believe when it is brought to them.  So recently I asked him to provide me with some Scriptures that he believes teach this view.  Keep in mind that his view is raised in opposition to the Reformed or Calvinistic view that God effectually calls His chosen people through the gospel message.

Following is the list of verses that Dr. Flowers provided.  Several of these verses are similar in character.  Therefore, rather than comment on each verse, I will provide a response to Dr. Flowers’ use of these texts as a whole.  That being said, I will provide specific comments on two of the verses in the list.  I encourage you to read these verses and ask yourself, “Do these verses teach that the revelation of God somehow enables all who hear it to believe, or is Dr. Flowers reading that into the text?”

 

Ps. 18:30 “This God – his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”[1]

Ps. 119:130 “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”

Prov. 30:5 “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Isa. 55:11  “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Matt. 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Lk. 11:28 “But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”

Jn. 8:31-32 “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

Jn. 20:31 “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Acts 28:23-28 “When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers.  From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.  And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.  And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Go to this people, and say, ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’  Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Rom. 1:16-18 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

2 Cor. 5:20 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

2 Tim. 3:15-17 “And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Heb. 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

1 Pet. 1:23 “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”

 

What these passages teach us, at least in part, is the necessity of revelation – special revelation.  That is, if someone is to believe the message of Christ, they must first hear that message.  I cannot believe X if I have not heard of X.  The same concept is expressed by Paul in Romans 10.  This, however, is not the same thing as saying that the message itself enables people to believe, only that they must come in contact with the message if they are to believe.

Some of these verses speak of the blessings upon those who obey God’s word, but they do not speak of this enabling concept put forth by Dr. Flowers.  A call to be reconciled, or a statement on the blessings of obedience to the word, is not the same thing as the word having some enabling effect on people.  Dr. Flowers has to assume that.

Dr. Flowers assumes, as do non-Calvinists in general, that if there is a call to believe in the word, that of necessity means that man is morally able to do so.[2]  Yet, in John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  Here is a verse that falls in line with these other verses Dr. Flowers referenced.  However, two verses later, Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (v. 37).  So here we see that the Father’s giving results in the sinner’s coming to Jesus.  Again, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day” (v. 44).  There is an inability of man expressed in this verse that is only overcome by the effectual drawing of the Father, ultimately leading to the glorification of the one drawn (raised up on the last day).

I want to now provide a specific comment on Romans 1:16 and 1 Peter 1:23. First, Romans 1:16.

The power that Paul speaks of here is not a mere enabling of sinners to believe, but a saving power.  As Paul says, it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”.  It is a power unto salvation.  The power of the gospel is that it reveals the righteousness of God through faith.  It destroys the idolatrous ways of the Gentiles and the legalistic ways of the Jews.  Yes, it is through faith; one must believe.  But that is not the same thing as Dr. Flowers has been asserting regarding enabling.  Again, he must assume this.

We see a similar statement in 1 Corinthians 1:21, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”  Here Paul is again saying that God saves those who believe in the gospel, essentially what he asserts in Romans 1:16-18.  Yet, in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, we again find the effectual calling of God:

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” [Emphasis added. Cf. 1:30-31]

God has a chosen people in the world (Jew and Gentile).  To them, Christ is seen as the power and wisdom of God for salvation.  Look, power is used of the gospel again.  Yet, as is obvious to any honest reader, this has nothing to do with a general enabling to all who hear.

Finally, 1 Peter 1:23.  I have to wonder if Dr. Flowers views the statement, “born again through the living and abiding word of God,” as the enabling power of the gospel he speaks of so frequently.  If he does, then he must believe that everyone who hears the gospel is saved because all who are born again are saved, and he believes that all experience this enabling power when they hear God’s word.  If he doesn’t view this statement as the enabling power of the gospel, then I have to wonder why he referenced it.  Again, all this verse teaches us is the necessity and power of God’s word in bringing salvation.  Any concept of enabling all people who hear God’s word is wholly absent from the text.

Now, let me say something to avoid any confusion regarding the Calvinist view of the gospel and its power.  Dr. Flowers has said essentially the following on other occasions:

“We Traditionalists actually believe in the sufficiency of the Bible to lead people to salvation.  According to the Calvinist, the Bible can’t lead a reprobate or non-elect person to salvation.  It doesn’t have the sufficiency to do so.  God has to do an extra work of grace.  They have to be regenerated, made alive, and then the Bible is sufficient.  The Traditionalist perspective is that, since the word is brought by the Holy Spirit, it’s the means by which anybody can be saved.  So we have a higher view of Scripture than Calvinists do.”[3]

There is much that is misrepresentative of Calvinism in this statement, but I will attempt to be brief.  First, the reason why Reformed/Calvinist churches are historically known for placing the Scriptures at the center of their worship services is that they whole-heartedly believe in the sufficiency of God’s word to accomplish that which God wills (Isa. 55:11, to reference one of Dr. Flowers’ verses).  Second, when Dr. Flowers says that, according to the Calvinist, “the Bible can’t lead a reprobate or non-elect person to salvation,” he’s operating on his supposition.  A reprobate is someone that God has justlypassed over in the administration of His redemptive grace, leaving them to justice for their sins.  However, Dr. Flowers doesn’t believe the Bible can lead a reprobate or non-elect to salvation either, because he doesn’t believe in the reprobate/non-elect; at least, not in the Reformed perspective.  Further, if God does this “extra work of grace,” then they’re not reprobate/non-elect.  Rather, what we Calvinists affirm is the consistency of God in His redemptive plan.  We see this, for example, in Ephesians 1:3-14:  The Father chooses a people to the praise of His glorious grace; the Son dies in their place, accomplishing the grounds of their redemption; the Holy Spirit applies the redemptive work of Christ, sealing them as a promise of their glorious inheritance.  Lastly, tying the previous two points together, Calvinists believe that the Spirit sovereignly works through the proclamation of the gospel to sanctify and save God’s people.  You see, we don’t believe that the gospel enables people, we believe that the gospel effectually saves people.  In fact, the Baptist Catechism, Q/A #3 reads:

Q. How may we know there is a God?

A. The light of nature in man and the works of God plainly declare there is a God; but His Word and Spirit only do it fully and effectually for the salvation of sinners. [Emphasis added.]

I will end this post with two Scriptures that sum this up well.

1 Thess. 1:4-5 “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction….”[4]

2 Thess. 2:13-14 “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

[I want everyone to know that Dr. Flowers and I have had friendly conversations on this, often inflammatory, debate in the past.  I may have strong disagreements with his perspective, and at times am troubled at some of the things he says, but I view him as a brother in Christ, and I believe he views me as a brother in Christ.  I have not attacked Dr. Flowers in this post, but have sought to explain why I disagree with his theological perspective.

Grace and peace…]

GROWTH IN GRACE by John Angell James “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

The word grace is one of the key terms of Holy Scripture frequently occurring, and by the knowledge of which much of the import of the whole volume is unfolded. It signifies favor, free and unmerited. “By grace (favor) are you saved,” Eph. 2:8. This is the primitive, prevailing, generic sense of the word, and is its meaning in such passages also as the following, and many others– Rom. 11:5, 6; Eph. 1:2, 6, 7; 2:7; Titus 2:11; 3:7. But as in the ordinary use of language we sometimes call the effect by the name of the cause, the word grace is often applied in Scripture to several things which are the consequences and operations of Divine favor; thus the aids of the Holy Spirit are called grace, as in that passage, “My grace is sufficient for you,” 2 Cor. 12:9; also 1 Cor. 15:9, 10.

In the passage under consideration, it has a meaning somewhat different from either of these, yet related to them, and signifies holiness, as the fruit and effect of God’s grace—and the exhortation to grow in grace is a beautiful, comprehensive, and instructive way of saying, grow in holiness; advance in piety. True, there is a sense in which a believer may grow in the favor of God itself, as well as in its effects. It is said of Christ in his youth, that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,” Luke 2:52.

God, in his love, delights in his people on a twofold account; first, because of the work of his Son, which is upon them for justification—and secondly, because of their spiritual graces, inasmuch as these are the work of his Holy Spirit; and therefore the more he sees of this work in them, the more he must love them. On account of their relation as children, he loves them all equally; but as regards their spiritual condition, he loves them in proportion to their degrees of conformity to himself. Hence they may grow in his favor continually, that is, one person may have more in him, than another, that God loves, and that same person may have more in himself, at one time than another, that God approves. But since this supposes, as its ground, a growth in holiness, which is the object of Divine delight, it brings us to that view of growth in grace, which is the meaning of the passage, and the design of this address—I mean, advance in piety.

The explanation of the text is very instructive with regard to several general principles.

1. True religion in the soul is the work of God—it is the operation of God himself as the efficient agent, whoever and whatever may be the instrumentality. It is the grace of God in us.

2. All God’s dealings with men, in regard to salvation and its benefits, are the result of pure favor. Man, as a sinner, merits nothing, and can merit nothing—it is grace that reigns throughout his whole salvation.

3. In sanctification, God’s favor shines as brightly as in justification. God’s grace is as rich and free in delivering us from the power of sin—as from its punishment. God as effectually blesses us, and as truly loves us in the work of his Spirit, as in the work of his Son.

4. Sanctification is a progressive work. Growth necessarily implies progress. We cannot be more justified at one time than another, for justification admits of no degrees; but we can be more sanctified at one time than another, for sanctification admits of all degrees.

5. Inasmuch as every operation of God’s grace is designed to bless us, sanctification is as much a Christian’s happiness as justification, since it is no less an effect of Divine grace. Consequently, to grow in holiness is to grow in happiness.

I now come to the exhortation, and admonish you to grow in grace. This implies, of course, that you have grace, for without this you cannot grow. Regeneration is incipient sanctification, sanctification is the progress of regeneration. The former is the birth of the child of God, the latter is his growth. Without life there can be no growth. Stones do not grow, for they have no vitality; and the heart of man before regeneration is compared to a stone. Are you convinced you are born again of the Spirit? That the heart of stone is changed into warm, vital flesh? It is to be feared that the reason why so many professors never grow, is because they have no principle of vitality. If you do not grow, you may question if you are born again, whether you are anything more than the picture or statue of a child.

Perhaps some will ask what are the signs of growth. Here I would remark that growth may be considered either as general, in reference to the whole work of grace in the soul, or to some particular part of it. If we consider the former, I reply, that it is evinced by a general improvement of the whole religious character; an increasing, obvious, and conscious development of the principle and power of spiritual vitality in all its appropriate functions and operations; an increase in the vigor and purity of religious affections, so that the heart is really more intensely engaged in piety; the inward life is more concentrated, sprightly, and energetic—so that the Christian has more of youthful vivaciousness in the service of God, and is actuated by a more intense and practical ardor.

In this state of GENERAL growth in grace, FAITH becomes more simple, unhesitating, and confiding; less staggered by difficulties, less beclouded by doubts and fears, and more able to disentangle itself on its way to the cross—from self-righteousness, and dependence on frames and feelings.

LOVE to God, though it may contain less of glowing emotion, has more of fixed principle; and is more prompt, resolute, and self-denying in obedience.

JOY in believing, if it has not so much occasional rapture, has more of habitual, calm, and tranquil repose.

RESIGNATION to the will of God is more absolute, and we can bear with less perturbation, agitation, and chafing of mind—the crossing of our will, and the disappointment of our hopes.

PATIENCE and meekness towards our fellow creatures and fellow Christians become more conspicuous and controlled. At first, the believer can scarcely ford a shallow of troubles—but now he can swim in a sea of them; formerly he was oppressed by the lightest injury—now he can bear a heavy load; once he could scarcely endure the unintentional offences of his friends—now he can forgive and pray for his enemies.

An increase of HUMILITY is a sure and necessary sign of spiritual growth. At first we were ready to think many worse than ourselves—now we are as ready to think all better than ourselves. Then we saw some of our defects, and they appeared small—now we see many, and they are affectingly magnified. Then we knew little but the sins of the ‘conduct’—but now the corruptions of the ‘heart’ are continually abasing us. He who is growing in humility is growing indeed; for the growth of grace is as much downward at the root, as upwards in the spreading and towering branches. “Other virtues aspire upwards—but humility looks downwards. We say of the others, the higher they grow the better—but humility is best at the lowest. Faith and hope have a holy ambition, they look not lower than heaven, nothing can content them but an immortal crown; but humility pleases herself with abasement, and you shall find her with Job in the dust, in that school of morality. Yet even there she grows, and that in the favor of God—the deeper she roots, the higher she sprouts.”

ZEAL increases with everything else, and he who grows in grace, advances in love to God’s service, being more constant in attendance upon God’s house, advancing from pleasure on sabbath-day ordinances—to delight in weekday ones; and from regular private prayer—to habitual ejaculatory prayer.

The beauty and purity of external HOLINESS advance in proportion to internal spirituality and heavenly-mindedness; and the profession becomes more and more free from the spots of even God’s children.

CONSCIENCE, instead of becoming more dim in its vision, acquires greater power of perception to discern the criminality of even little sins—and a greater delicacy of taste to loathe them.

LIBERALITY becomes more diffusive, and covetousness is mortified by a longer acquaintance with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

LOVE, that heavenly virtue, without which the greatest gifts are but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, bears not only a richer crop of blossoms—but of good ripe fruits. From loving a few, and those of our own party, we go on to the spirit of the apostle, and say, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” Those who are outgrowing the prejudices of party and of ignorance, and are rising higher and higher in the strength and stature of love, give, perhaps, the fullest proof of all, of growth in grace.

This is general growth in grace; for grace in one word comprehends all others—it is the genus of which all Christian virtues are the species. Faith is grace; penitence is grace; love is grace and so are patience, humility, and zeal—so that when we are called to grow in grace, we are not restricted to any particular disposition—but enjoined to practice them all.

But there is also a PARTICULAR growth in grace, or a growth in some particular branch of a Christian duty, to which I would now direct your attention, as of some consequence—and that is our advance in those things wherein we are more than ordinarily deficient. Almost all people have, in addition to their other sins, some one sin which may be called their besetting sin, or some neglect which may be called their prevailing deficiency. Now the mortification of these sins, and the supply of these defects, should be considered as our especial aim, object, and duty; and nothing can more decisively mark our improvement in religion than the putting away of these habitual corruptions, and the taking up of these neglected branches of Christian obligation. And as deceit lies in generals, I am persuaded that many who use this phrase, not only in conversation but even in prayer, and who suppose that they are sincere and earnest in asking to grow in grace, are at the same time taking no pains to mortify their besetting sin; and while holding some vague and indefinite notions about spiritual advancement, forget that, in their case, to grow, means to put away that one sin especially.

If a person is constitutionally covetous, or passionate, or proud—to grow in grace is to become liberal, meek, and humble. If they have neglected family prayer, or week-day services of religion, or the right discharge of any social duty, or private prayer—to grow in grace means, in their case, to supply this defect. And perhaps we can better ascertain whether we are growing, by inquiring into the state of our souls with regard to these besetting sins or defects, than by examining the wide range of the whole Christian character. In going round the whole circle of duty we are apt to become confused, and we arrive therefore at no definite conclusion—but in concentrating our attention upon one point, we can better determine whether or not we are making progress. If we are growing in this one point, we are in all probability growing in others; and, on the other hand, it is this general growth that aids us in the particular one, just as the cure of one specific disease in the body is aided by the improvement of the general health, and the cure of the specific disease reacts on the general health.

I shall now point out the MEANS of growth.

And here it is of importance that I should remove a too prevailing MISTAKE, I mean the supposition that as growth is carried on by the influence of the Holy Spirit, it is a matter of pure sovereignty on God’s part to grant it—and of privilege on ours to enjoy it. God’s Spirit, I admit, is necessary—but he has promised to grant the Spirit in answer to believing prayer; and if we have him not, it is because we do not ask, or else we ask amiss. It is, therefore, our duty to grow, as well as our privilege. It is in fact a sinner’s duty to live, and of course it is a believer’s duty to grow. The promise of the Spirit does not constitute the ground of obligation—but only provides the efficient means of discharging it.

There are some methods which God uses, besides those which we ourselves are to employ, to which for a moment I would advert. Sometimes he afflicts his people—severely and variously afflicts them—and what for? To promote their growth in grace. “Every branch in me,” says the Savior, “which bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bring forth more fruit,” John 15:2. It is delightful assurance to the sorrowing disciple, and withal instructive and directory, to be told that affliction is only a pruning-knife to cause the vine to grow the better, and to be more fruitful. Afflicted Christian, are you, then, growing in grace in your sorrows? If not, you are losing the very end of them.

Having heard what God does, now hear what you are to do for your spiritual growth.

In speaking of the means which you are to employ, I will illustrate the subject by a figurative, though, I hope, not too fanciful representation. Taking up the very common simile by which a Christian is set forth in the word of God, I mean a fruit-bearing tree, I will show what is essential to the growth and fruitfulness of such a plant.

It must be PLANTED in a good and congenial soil. This is your privilege, for you are planted in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the church of the living God, and this, like a rich and fruitful soil, contains all advantages and helps for growth—here are public ordinances, and returning sacraments, which we should constantly, devoutly, and anxiously attend—here is the communion of saints, which the more we cultivate, the more we shall be strengthened—here is doctrine to instruct, pastoral oversight to guard, and discipline to correct. Value and improve your church privileges, then, if you would advance in piety.

The growth and fruitfulness of a tree depend much upon proper NUTRIMENT being supplied to the roots—and so does the growth of the Christian; and that which nourishes the root of his piety is the word of God, daily read, correctly understood, cordially believed, spiritually meditated upon, and judiciously applied. The apostle, when setting forth the growth of grace by another metaphor, says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” 1 Pet. 2:2. Good books alone will not do; hearing sermons alone will not do; we must have the pure word. The reason why the trees in the garden of the Lord do not grow to greater height, stature, and fruitfulness, is because the soul is not sufficiently fed by knowledge—these two are united in the precept—”Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;” we are to grow in grace and in knowledge, which means by knowledge.

A tree requires PRUNING if it grow and flourish; and so does our soul. We must mortify sin. Grace cannot grow in a heart where corruptions are allowed to sprout profusely. Could a grape-vine flourish and bear fruit, if all kinds of parasitic weeds were allowed to spring up and entwine around its branches? Impossible! Just as impossible is it for piety to advance, if the corruptions of the heart are permitted to reign unmortified. It is of heart-sins I now more particularly speak; sins of temper and disposition, pride, envy, jealousy, malice, revenge, impurity; sins of distrust, rebellion, unbelief, discontent; too many of which are often found in the hearts of professors. Vain and hypocritical are all prayers and wishes for growth in grace, if we do not assiduously apply ourselves to the crucifixion of the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof. And we must also clip the luxuriance of our earthly affections.

If a delicate and tender tree flourish, it must enjoy the WATCHFUL CARE of the gardener. We must feel concerned for its growth, often examine it, and remove from it whatever would hinder it from thriving. It must be protected from injury by damage from man and beast; devouring insects must be removed; and all noxious things must be kept off and put away. Nothing is so delicate and tender as grace in the soul of man. It is a heavenly exotic, and exposed to numberless injurious influences, and requires therefore the most anxious and ceaseless vigilance of its possessor. No duty is more frequently enjoined in Scripture than watchfulness; none is more needed. The increase of piety must be matter of deep and trembling solicitude.

The LIGHT and WARMTH of the SUN are essential to the growth of vegetable life, and those trees flourish most which are placed most fully in the solar beams. And is not Christ the orb of our spiritual day, the Sun of righteousness, whose effulgence is necessary to our growth? Place yourself, then, in the warm, bright splendor of his beams, by the contemplation of his glory, and meditation upon his love. Grace grows best near the cross. Let your religion be full of Christ. Dwell upon his Divine glory as God; his perfect holiness as man, and as our example; his mediatorial office and work as Prophet, Priest, and King. Daily come to him by faith. Yield your heart to his constraining love. Feel him to be precious as he is, to those who believe. Search for him in the Scriptures. Look for him in ordinances. Make him the Alpha and Omega of your thoughts. The more your minds are conversant with Christ, the more your piety will increase, for he is the sun that ripens our graces.

Nor can vegetable life be preserved without MOISTURE. Running streams, and fruitful showers, and the dew of heaven, are essentially necessary. In allusion to which God has promised the dew of his grace, the pouring out of his Spirit, as the early and the latter rain. It is only as the Spirit of God helps us by his influence that we shall grow—but this influence will be granted to any extent we desire and ask for in believing prayer. The promise of the Spirit is not to make us indolent—but diligent; give yourselves then to prayer, and let the burden of your prayers be for more grace. “Prayer,” says an old author, “is a key to open the gate of heaven, and let grace out—and prayer is a lock to fasten our hearts, and keep grace in.” In vain do we expect those alms of grace for which we do not beg.

And now, dear friends, examine yourselves. Are you advancing in the Divine life? Is it your desire, your constant and earnest desire to grow, or are you contented to be as you are? Do you feel it to be more and more a matter of solicitude, and are you even afraid of being no holier than you are? Do you hunger and thirst more than you did after righteousness? Do you take more notice of God in everything than you did, in providential dispensations, and in the means of grace? Is your religion more vigorous at the root, and more abundant in its fruits? Do you grow, not only more tenderly conscientious in little things—but more universally conscientious in all things? Is piety, while more retiring for private exercises, more diffusive in its public influence; does it come more abroad with you out of your closets, into your houses, shops, and relationships? Does it dwell with you more at home, and journey with you more constantly from home? “Does it buy and sell for you, and has it the casting vote in all you do?” Are you more punctual, lively, serious, and happy in ordinances? Do you abound more than you did in the most self-denying duties of religion? Are you more resolute in mortification, more ready and patient in cross-bearing? Is your conscience more quick to discern sin, and more easily wounded by it? Do you find your sorrows more to arise from your sins, and less from your trials, than you did? Do you find the spirit of love gradually supplanting the spirit of fear? Are you more zealous, liberal, and public spirited than you were? Try yourself by these things. Here are signs of growth, clear, decisive, unequivocal.

Do you need motives? How many are at hand. Since growth is the law of life, what strong proof can you have of life without growth? Growth is both your duty and your privilege. Think of the advantages you possess for increase. Consider how long some of you have been planted. Remember what God expects from all his culture. See how much others have outgrown you. Recollect how soon growing time will be over; and how exactly the degrees of glory in heaven will be proportioned to the degrees of grace upon earth.

Professors, I beseech you be not satisfied with much talk about religion, and little practice. “It is no good sign for a tree when all the sap runs up into the leaves, and is spent that way; nor in a Christian, when all his grace is thrown off in words. What are leaves to the fruit? Rather give us fruit on a low shrub, than a tree that can reach the clouds, with nothing but leaves. The cedarly tallness of some trees with a glorious flourish of leaves is goodly to the eye; but the kindly fruit of the lower plants is more acceptable to the taste. The eminence of some notoriously zealous professors may make them much admired; but the good fruits of mercy in men, silent, and less notable, makes them more beloved. The former may grow in applause—but the latter grow in grace—and this growth, O Lord, give me and my people.

 

SANCTIFICATION by Thomas Watson

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3

The word sanctification signifies to consecrate and set apart to a holy use: thus they are sanctified people who are separated from the world, and set apart for God’s service. Sanctification has a privative and a positive part.

I. A privative part, which lies in the purging out of sin. Sin is compared to leaven, which sours; and to leprosy, which defiles. Sanctification purges out “the old leaven.” Though it does not take away the life of sin—yet it takes away the love of sin.

II. A positive part, which is the spiritual refining of the soul; which in Scripture is called a “renewing of our mind,” and a “partaking of the divine nature.” The priests in the law were not only washed in the great laver—but adorned with glorious apparel. Exodus 28:2. Just so, sanctification not only washes from sin—but adorns with purity.

What is the NATURE of sanctification?

It is a principle of grace savingly wrought, whereby the heart becomes holy, and is made after God’s own heart. A sanctified person bears not only God’s name—but his image. In opening the nature of sanctification, I shall lay down these seven positions:

(1.) Sanctification is a SUPERNATURAL thing; it is divinely infused. We are naturally polluted, and to cleanse, God takes to be his prerogative. “I am the Lord, who sanctifies you.” Weeds grow by themselves. Flowers must be planted and cultivated. Sanctification is a flower of the Spirit’s planting, therefore it is called, “The sanctification of the Spirit.” 1 Pet 1:2.

(2.) Sanctification is an INTERNAL thing; it lies chiefly in the heart. It is called “the adorning the hidden man of the heart.” 1 Pet 3:4. The dew wets the leaf—but the sap is hidden in the root. Just so, the religion of some consists only in externals—but sanctification is deeply rooted in the soul. “In the hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom.” Psalm 51:6.

(3.) Sanctification is an EXTENSIVE thing: it spreads into the whole man. “May the God of peace sanctify you wholly.” As original corruption has depraved all the faculties—”the whole head is sick, the whole heart faint,” no part sound, as if the whole volume of blood were corrupted; just so, sanctification goes over the whole soul. After the fall, there was ignorance in the mind; but in sanctification, we are “light in the Lord.” After the fall, the will was depraved; there was not only impotence to good—but obstinacy. In sanctification, there is a blessed pliableness in the will, with the will of God. After the fall, the affections were misplaced on wrong objects; in sanctification, they are turned into a sweet order and harmony—the grief placed on sin, the love on God, the joy on heaven. Thus sanctification spreads itself as far as original corruption; it goes over the whole soul. “May God of peace sanctify you wholly.” He is not a sanctified person who is good only in some part—but who is all over sanctified; therefore, in Scripture, grace is called a “new man,” not a new eye or a new tongue—but a “new man.” Col 3:10. A good Christian, though he is sanctified but in part—yet in every part.

(4.) Sanctification is an intense and ARDENT thing. Its properties burn within the believer. “Fervent in spirit.” Rom 12:2. Sanctification is not a dead form—but it is inflamed into zeal. We call water hot, when it is so in the third or fourth degree. Just so, he is holy whose true religion is heated to some degree, and his heart boils over in love to God.

(5.) Sanctification is a BEAUTIFUL thing. It makes God and angels fall in love with us. “The beauties of holiness.” Psalm 110:3. As the sun is to the world, so is sanctification to the soul, beautifying and bespangling it in God’s eyes. That which makes God glorious must needs make us so. Holiness is the most sparkling jewel in the Godhead. “Glorious in holiness.” Sanctification is the first fruit of the Spirit; it is heaven begun in the soul. Sanctification and glory differ only in degree. Sanctification is glory in the seed; and glory is sanctification in the flower. Holiness is the quintessence of happiness.

(6.) Sanctification is an ABIDING thing. “His seed remains in him.” He who is truly sanctified, cannot fall from that state. Indeed, mere seeming holiness may be lost—colors may wash off. Sanctification may suffer an eclipse. “You have left your first love.” True sanctification is a blossom of eternity. “The anointing which you have received, abides in you.” He who is truly sanctified can no more fall away, than the angels which are fixed in their heavenly orbs.

(7.) Sanctification is a PROGRESSIVE thing. It is growing; it is compared to seed which grows: first the blade springs up, then the ear, then the ripe corn in the ear. Such as are already sanctified may be more sanctified. Justification does not admit of degrees; a believer cannot be more elected or justified than he is—but he may be more sanctified than he is. Sanctification is still increasing, like the morning sun, which grows brighter to the full meridian. Knowledge is said to increase, and faith to increase. Col 1:10; 2 Cor 10:5. A Christian is continually adding an inch to his spiritual stature. It is not with us as it was with Christ, who received the Spirit without measure; for Christ could not be more holy than he was. We have the Spirit only in measure, and may be still augmenting our grace; as Apelles, when he had drawn a picture, would be still mending it with his pencil. The image of God is drawn but imperfectly in us, therefore we must be still mending it, and drawing it in more lively colors. Sanctification is progressive; if it does not grow—it is because it does not live. Thus you see the nature of sanctification.

What are the COUNTERFEITS of sanctification?

There are things which look like sanctification—but are not.

(1.) The first counterfeit of sanctification is MORAL VIRTUE. To be just, to be temperate, to have a kind demeanor; not to have one’s escutcheon blotted with ignominious scandal, is good—but not enough; it is not sanctification. A field-flower differs from a garden-flower. Many heathen have attained to morality; as Cato, Socrates, and Aristides have. Civility is but nature refined; there is nothing of Christ there, and the heart may be foul and impure. Under these beautiful leaves of civility the worm of unbelief may be hidden! A moral person has a secret antipathy against grace: he hates vice, and he hates grace as much as vice. The snake has a beautiful color—but a sting. A person adorned and cultivated with moral virtue, has a secret spleen against sanctity. The Stoics who were the chief of the moralized heathens, were the bitterest enemies Paul had. Acts 17:18.

(2.) The second counterfeit of sanctification is SUPERSTITIOUS DEVOTION. This abounds in Popery; adorations, images, altars, vestments, and holy water—are far from sanctification. This religious frenzy does not put any intrinsic goodness into a man, it does not make a man better. If the legal purifications and washings, which were of God’s own appointing, did not make those who used them more holy; and the priests, who wore holy garments, and had holy oil poured on them—were not more holy without the anointing of the Spirit; then surely those superstitious innovations in religion, which God never appointed, cannot contribute any holiness to men. A superstitious holiness costs no great labor; there is nothing of the heart in it. If to count over a few beads, or bow to an idol, or sprinkle themselves with holy water were sanctification, and all that is required of those who should be saved—then hell would be empty, none would go there!

(3.) The third counterfeit of sanctification is HYPOCRISY; when men make a pretense of that holiness which they have not. As a comet may shine like a star—a luster may shine from their profession, which dazzles the eyes of the beholders. “Having a form of godliness—but denying the power.” These are lamps without oil; whited sepulchers, like the Egyptian temples, which had beautiful outsides—but within were filled with spiders and vermin. The apostle speaks of true holiness, Eph 4:24; implying that there is holiness which is spurious and sham. “You have a name to live—but are dead;” like pictures and statues which are destitute of a vital principle. “Clouds without water.” They pretend to be full of the Spirit—but are empty clouds.

This show of sanctification is a self-delusion. He who takes copper instead of gold, wrongs himself; the most counterfeit professor deceives others while he lives—but deceives himself when he dies! To pretend to holiness when there is none, is a vain thing. What were the foolish virgins the better, for their fine lamps, when they lacked oil? What is the lamp of profession, without the oil of saving grace? What comfort will a show of holiness yield at last? Will painted gold enrich? Will painted wine refresh him who is thirsty? Will painted holiness be a cordial at the hour of death? A pretense of sanctification is not to be rested in. Many ships, that have had the name of ‘the Hope’, ‘the Safeguard’, ‘the Triumph’, have been dashed and destroyed upon rocks. Just so, many who have had the name of saints—have been cast into hell.

(4.) The fourth counterfeit of sanctification is RESTRAINING grace—when men forbear vice, though they do not hate it. This may be the sinner’s motto, “Gladly I would—but I dare not.” The dog has a mind to the bone—but is afraid of the cudgel. Just so, men have a mind to lust—but conscience stands as the angel, with a flaming sword, and affrights them. They have a mind to revenge—but the fear of hell is a curb-bit to check them. There is no change of heart; sin is curbed—but not cured. A lion may be in chains—but is a lion still.

(5.) The fifth counterfeit of sanctification is COMMON grace—which is a slight, transient work of the Spirit—but does not amount to conversion. There is some light in the judgement—but it is not humbling. There are some checks in the conscience—but they are not awakening. This looks like sanctification—but is not. Men have convictions wrought in them—but they break loose from them again, like the deer, which, being shot, shakes out the arrow. After conviction, men go into the house of mirth, and take the harp to drive away the spirit of sadness—and so all dies and comes to nothing.

Wherein appears the NECESSITY of sanctification? In six things:

(1.) God has called us to it. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3. We are called to goodness, as well as glory. “God has not called us to uncleanness—but unto holiness.” We have no call to sin; we may have a temptation—but no call to sin; no call to be proud, or unclean; but we have a call to be holy.

(2.) Without sanctification, there is no evidencing our justification. Justification and sanctification go together. “But you are sanctified—but you are justified.” “Pardoning iniquity,” Micah 7:18; there is justification. “He will subdue our iniquities,” 5:19; there is sanctification. “Out of Christ’s side came blood and water;” blood for justification; water for sanctification. Such as have not the water out of Christ’s side to cleanse them, shall never have the blood out of his side to save them.

(3.) Without sanctification we have no title to the new covenant. The covenant of grace is our charter for heaven. The condition of the covenant is, “That God will be our God.” But who are savingly interested in the covenant, and may plead the benefit of it? Sanctified people only. “A new heart will I give you, and I will put my Spirit within you, and I will be your God.” If a man makes a will, none but such people as are named in the will, can lay claim to the will. Just so, God makes a will and testament—but it is limited to such as are sanctified; and it is high presumption for anyone else to lay claim to the will.

(4.) There is no going to heaven without sanctification. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” God is a holy God, and he will allow no unholy creature to come near him. A king will not allow a man with plague-sores to approach into his presence. Heaven is not like Noah’s ark—where the clean beasts and the unclean entered. No unclean beasts come into the heavenly ark; for though God allows the wicked to live awhile on the earth, he will never allow heaven to be pestered with such vermin! Are they fit to see God—who wallow in wickedness? Will God ever lay such vipers in his bosom? “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” It must be a clear eye that sees a bright object: only a holy heart can see God in his glory. Sinners may see God as an enemy—but not as a friend! They will have an affrighting vision of him—but not a beatific vision! They will see the flaming sword—but not the mercy-seat! Oh then, what need is there of sanctification!

(5.) Without sanctification all our holy things are defiled. “Unto those who are defiled, is nothing pure.” Under the law, “If one of you is carrying a holy sacrifice in his robes and happens to brush against some bread or stew, wine or oil, or any other kind of food—will it also become holy?” No, the holy sacrifice would not purify the other things—but it would be polluted by those things. Hag 2:12, 13. This is an emblem of a sinner’s polluting his holy offering. A foul stomach turns the best food into ill humours. Just so, an unsanctified heart pollutes prayers, alms, and sacraments. This evinces the necessity of sanctification. Sanctification makes our holy things accepted. A holy heart is the altar, which sanctifies the offering; if not to our satisfaction, yet to God’s acceptance.

(6.) Without sanctification we can show no sign of our election. 2 Thess 2:13. Election is the cause of our salvation, sanctification is our evidence. Sanctification is the ear-mark of Christ’s elect sheep.

What are the SIGNS of sanctification?

First, such as are sanctified, can remember a time when they were unsanctified. “Once we too were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us. But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:3-5. We were in our blood, and then God washed us with water, and anointed us with oil. Ezek 16:9. Those trees of righteousness which blossom and bear almonds, can remember when they were like Aaron’s dry rod—not one blossom of holiness growing. A sanctified soul can remember when it was estranged from God through ignorance and vanity—and when free grace planted this flower of holiness in it.

A second sign of sanctification is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit which dwells in us.” An unclean spirit dwells in the wicked and carries them to pride, lust, revenge; the devil enters into these swine! But the Spirit of God dwells in the elect, as their guide and comforter. The Spirit possesses the saints. God’s Spirit sanctifies the imagination, causing it to mint holy thoughts; and sanctifies the will by putting a new bias upon it, whereby it is inclined to godliness. He who is sanctified, has the influence of the Spirit, though not the essence of the Spirit.

A third sign of sanctification is an antipathy against sin. “I hate every wrong path.” Psalm 119:104. A hypocrite may leave sin—yet love it; as a serpent casts its coat—but keeps its sting! But a sanctified person can say he not only leaves sin—but loathes it. In a sanctified soul, there is a holy antipathy against sin; and antipathies can never be reconciled. Because a man has an antipathy against sin—he cannot but oppose it, and seek the destruction of it.

A fourth sign of sanctification is the spiritual performance of duties, with the heart, and from a principle of loveThe sanctified soul prays out of a love to prayer. A man may have gifts to admiration; he may speak as an angel dropped out of heaven—yet he may be carnal in spiritual things; his services may not come from a renewed principle, nor be carried upon the wings of delight in duty. A sanctified soul worships God in the Spirit. “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrificesacceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5. God judges not of our duties by their length—but by the love from which they spring.

A fifth sign is a holy life. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” 1 Peter 1:15. Where the heart is sanctified, the life will be holy. The temple had gold without, as well as within. A coin has the king’s image and superscription stamped on it. Just so, where there is sanctification, there is not only God’s image in the heart—but a superscription of holiness written in the life. Some say they have good hearts—but their lives are wicked. “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” If the water is foul in the bucket, it cannot be clean in the well. “The king’s daughter is all glorious within.” Psalm 45:13. There is holiness of heart. “Her clothing is of wrought gold.” There is holiness of life. Grace is most beautiful, when its light so shines that others may see it; this adorns true religion, and makes proselytes to the faith.

A sixth sign is steadfast resolution. He is resolved never to part with his holiness. Let others reproach it—he loves it the more. Let water be sprinkled on the fire—it burns the more. He says, as David, when Michal reproached him for dancing before the ark, “If this is to be vile—I will yet be more vile!” Let others persecute him for his holiness, he says as Paul, “None of these things move me!” He prefers sanctity before safety; and had rather keep his conscience pure than his skin whole. He says as Job, “My integrity I will hold fast, and not let it go!” He will rather part with his life, than his conscience.

Use one: The main thing a Christian should look after, is sanctification. This is “the one thing needful.” Sanctification gives us a pure complexion, it makes us as the heavens, bespangled with stars. Sanctification is our nobility, by it we are born of God, and partake of the divine nature. Sanctification is our riches, therefore compared to rows of jewels, and chains of gold. Canticles 1:10. Sanctification is our best certificate for heaven. What evidence have we else to show? Have we knowledge? So has the devil. Do we profess religion? Satan often appears in Samuel’s mantle, and transforms himself into an angel of light. But our certificate for heaven is sanctification. Sanctification is the first fruits of the Spirit; the only coin that will pass current in the other world. Sanctification is the evidence of God’s love. We cannot know God’s saving love by his giving us health, riches, or success; but only by the drawing his image of sanctification on us, by the pencil of the Holy Spirit—it is known.

Oh the misery of such as are destitute of a principle of sanctification! They are spiritually dead. Eph 2:1. Though they breathe—yet they do not live. The greatest part of the world remains unsanctified. “The world lies in wickedness.” That is, the major part of the world. Many call themselves Christians—but blot out the word ‘saints’. You may as well call him a man—who lacks reason; as him a Christian—who lacks grace.

Some are buoyed up to such a height of wickedness, that they hate and deride sanctification. They hate it. It is bad to lack holiness—it is worse to hate it. They embrace the form of religion—but hate the power. As the vulture hates sweet smells—so they hate the the perfume of holiness. They say in derision, ‘These are your holy ones!’ To deride sanctification argues a high degree of atheism, and is a black brand of reprobation. Scoffing Ishmael was cast out of Abraham’s family; and such as scoff at holiness shall be cast out of heaven!

Use two: Above all things pursue after sanctification. Seek grace more than gold. “Keep her, for she is your life!”

What are the chief INDUCEMENTS to sanctification?

(1.) It is the will of God that we should be holy. “This is the will of God—your sanctification.” As God’s Word must be the rule, so his will must be the reason of our actions. This is the will of God—our sanctification. Perhaps it is not the will of God we should be rich—but it is his will that we should be holy. God’s will is our warrant.

(2.) Jesus Christ has died for our sanctification. Christ shed his blood to wash off our impurity. The cross was both an altar and a laver. “Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:13-14. If we could be saved without holiness, Christ needed not have died. Christ died, not only to save us from wrath—but from sin!

(3.) Sanctification makes us resemble God. It was Adam’s sin—that he aspired to be like God in omniscience; but we must endeavor to be like him in sanctity. It is a clear glass—in which we can see a face; it is a holy heart—in which something of God can be seen. Nothing of God can be seen in an unsanctified man—but you may see Satan’s picture in him. Envy is the devil’s eye, hypocrisy his cloven foot; but nothing of God’s image can be seen in him. “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written–Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16.

(4.) Sanctification is that which God bears a great love to. God is not drawn to any person’s outward beauty, great abilities, noble blood, or worldly grandeur. But he is drawn to a heart embellished with holiness! Christ never admired anything but the beauty of holiness. He slighted the glorious buildings of the temple—but admired the woman’s faith, and said, “O woman, great is your faith.” As a king delights to see his image upon a piece of coin; so where God sees his likeness—he gives his love. The Lord has two heavens to dwell in—and the holy heart is one of them!

(5.) Sanctification is the only thing which makes us differ from the wicked. God’s people have his seal upon them. “The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal—The Lord knows those who are his. And, Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2 Tim 2:19. The godly are sealed with a double seal—a seal of election, “The Lord knows who are his;” and a seal of sanctification, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” This is the name by which God’s people are known, “The people of your holiness.” Isa 63:18. As chastity distinguishes a virtuous woman from a harlot, so sanctification distinguishes God’s people from others. “You have received an anointing from the Holy One.” I John 2:20.

(6.) It is as great a shame to have the name of a Christian—yet lack sanctity—as to have the name of a steward and lack fidelity; or the name of a virgin, and lack chastity. It exposes true religion to reproach—to be baptized into the name of Christ while unholy, and to have eyes full of tears on a sabbath, and on a week-day eyes full of adultery! To be so devout at the Lord’s table, as if they were stepping into heaven; and so profane the day after, as if they came out of hell! To have the name of ‘Christian’ while living unholy, is a scandal to true religion, and makes the ways of God to be evil spoken of.

(7.) Sanctification fits for heaven. “Who has called us to glory and virtue.” Glory is the throne, and sanctification is the step by which we ascend to it. As you first cleanse the vessel, and then pour in the wine; just so, God first cleanses us by sanctification, and then pours in the wine of glory. Solomon was first anointed with oil, and then was a king. First God anoints us with the holy oil of his Spirit, and then sets the crown of happiness upon our head. Pureness of heart and seeing God are linked together. Matt 5:8.

How may sanctification be ATTAINED?

(1.) Be conversant in the word of God. “Sanctify them through your truth.” John 17:17. The Word is both a mirror to show us the spots of our soul, and a laver to wash them away. The Word has a transforming virtue in it; it irradiates the mind, and consecrates the heart.

(2.) Get faith in Christ’s blood. “Having purified their hearts by faith.” She in the gospel, who touched the hem of Christ’s garment, was healed. A touch of faith purifies! Nothing can have a greater force upon the heart, to sanctify it, than faith. If I believe Christ and his merits are mine—how can I sin against him? Justifying faith does that in a spiritual sense, which miraculous faith does—it removes mountains, the mountains of pride, lust, envy. True faith, and the love of sin, are inconsistent.

(3.) Breathe after the Spirit. “The sanctification of the Spirit.” The Spirit sanctifies the heart, as the storm purifies the air, and as fire refines metals. The Spirit at work, generates his own likeness. The Spirit stamps the impression of its own sanctity upon the heart, as the seal prints its likeness upon the wax. The Spirit of God in a man perfumes him with holiness, and makes his heart a picture of heaven.

(4.) Associate with sanctified people. They may, by their counsel, prayers, and holy example, be a means to make you holy. As the communion of saints is in our creed, so it should be our company. “He who walks with the wise shall be wise.” Association begets assimilation.

(5.) Pray for sanctification. Job propounds a question. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” God can do it! Out of an unholy heart—he can produce grace! Oh! make David’s prayer your own, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Lay your heart before the Lord, and say, “Lord, my unsanctified heart pollutes all it touches. I am not fit to live with such a heart, for I cannot honor you; nor die with such a heart, for I cannot see you. Oh create in me a new heart! Lord, consecrate my heart, and make it your temple, and your praises shall be sung there forever!”

Use three: Has God brought a clean thing out of an unclean? Has he sanctified you? Wear this jewel of sanctification with THANKFULNESS. “Always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:12. Christian, you could defile yourself—but you could not sanctify yourself. But God has done it—he has not only chained up sin—but changed your nature—and made you as a king’s daughter—all glorious within! He has put upon you the breastplate of holiness, which, though it may be shot at, can never be shot through.

Are there any here who are sanctified? God has done more for you than for millions, who may have many temporal blessings—but are not sanctified. He has done more for you than if he had made you an earthly king! Are you sanctified? Heaven is begun in you—for happiness is nothing but the quintessence of holiness. Oh, how thankful should you be to God! Do as that blind man in the gospel did after he had received his sight, who “followed Christ, glorifying God.” Make heaven ring with God’s praises!