Sanctification and the Gospel

Bill Evans head shot

Rather than post something new on the current Tullian Tchvidjian brouhaha (which seems to become more disconcerting and awkward by the day) my brother John (a missionary educator in Africa) reminded me of this article I posted on Ref21 back in 2011. I still think that it covers many of the key issues reasonably well, and it demonstrates that the current controversy did not emerge out of thin air. Here’s an excerpt:

Finally, there is a particular understanding of the gospel at work here. According to Tchividjian and others, the heart of the gospel is the message of justification by grace through faith, and everything else is extracted from this center.  But many Reformed theologians, from Calvin onward, have detected something even more basic–the believer’s union by faith and the Holy Spirit with the incarnate Christ, from whom all the blessings of salvation (both forensic and transformatory) flow.  To be sure, Tchividjian is not alone among Reformed pastors and theologians in his prioritizing of justification and the forensic, but it is fair to ask whether he is engaging, as it were, in a bit of theological synecdoche by substituting a part for the whole.  The fact of the matter is that the heart of the gospel is not justification.  Nor is it sanctification.  It is Jesus Christ himself, who is “our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).  The Apostle Paul came preaching “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and more often than not he directed Christians, not to their own justification, but to the crucified and risen Christ in whom they are both justified and sanctified.  The gospel involves freedom from both the penalty and the power of sin, and the latter is not simply to be collapsed into the former.  Only when we begin with Christ and our spiritual union with him will we give both justification and sanctification their proper due.

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