relationship of justification and sanctification

Theology Thursdays: The justification of works

While reading Michael Horton's Covenant and Salvation, I stumbled upon this provocative thought from Wihelm Niesel:

“If we enjoy union with Christ, not only we ourselves but even our works too are just in God s sight. This doctrine of the justification of works (which was developed in the Reformed Church) is of the greatest consequence for ethics. It makes clear that the man who belongs to Christ need not be the prey of continual remorse. On the contrary he can go about his daily work confidently and joyfully.” (1)

In themselves, our best works are woefully stained with sin. We try our hardest to obey, and are immediately reminded of our need for justification! In this way, Horton comments, “even the third (normative) use of the law is supposed to lead us back to Christ.” Assurance rests in the promise that our whole lives, including our imperfect acts of obedience, are received through the satisfying blood of Jesus. Scented with the holy fragrance of his substitutionary death and imputed righteousness, our weak offerings are able to rise to the Father with a pleasing aroma. Or, to put it in Petrine language, we can “offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). Thank God for the treasures of union.

1. Wihelm Niesel, Reformed Symbolics: A Comparison of Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism, trans. David Lewis (Edinburgh and London: Oliver & Boyd, 1962), 217, 220-21.

Sunday Devotions: 1 Pet 1:13 and Full Assurance

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
— 1 Pet 1:13

Peter's words summon me to spiritual discipline. I am to prepare my mind for holy action and to live soberly. Yet it is clear that spiritual activity is not meant to assure myself that I am "good enough to get in." Facing death and judgment, Peter insists that my hope cannot rest in my own faithfulness, but only in the "grace that will be brought to you." The Spirit presents this reality, that full assurance comes only as I set my hope fully on this promise that when Christ is finally revealed, he comes bearing grace to believers. Such assurance does not undermine holy action, but in reality undergirds and inspires it. It frees me to serve God from love and out of respect for my Redeemer.