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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

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Chapter 13: Of Sanctification

Now that we were elected, called and justified we enter into the Christian life, which is one of growth in holiness with ups and downs. In this chapter, we will deal with the question concerning what Sanctification is and what Scripture says about it.

§1 Through The Virtue Of Christ’s Death And Resurrection, Are Also Farther Sanctified, Really And Personally

  1. They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; 4 the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, 5 without which no man shall see the Lord. 6 
    1. John 3:3-8; 1 John 2:29; 3:9-10; Rom. 1:7; 6:1-11; 15:16; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 3:12; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11[1]
    2. 1 Thess. 5:23; Rom. 6:19, 22
    3. 1 Cor. 6:11; Acts 20:32; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6
    4. John 17:17, Eph. 5:26; 3:16-19; Rom. 8:13
    5. Rom. 6:13-14; Gal. 5:17, 24; Rom. 8:13; Col. 1:11; Eph. 3:16-19; 4:22-25; 2 Cor. 7:1
    6. Heb. 12:14

Those who have been saved have a new heart and a new spirit created in them in accordance with the promise of the New Covenant (Ezek. 36:25-27). What this means is that they have a new nature and no longer are they enslaved by the old sinful nature inherited from Adam. This is all through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ’s work is the basis that we have a new nature. After having this new nature created in them, they are farther sanctified, really and personally (1 Thess. 5:13; Rom. 6:22). To be sanctified means to be set apart. If we are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit it means that we are being made more like Christ. This Sanctification is through the same virtue as our receiving the new nature, i.e., by Christ’s death and resurrection. The way that He sanctifies us is by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them (John 17:17; Rom. 8:13; Eph. 3:16-19; 5:26). Word and Spirit is also how He calls us to Himself (chapter 10:1). It is also how He keeps us for and to Himself. By this new nature and Sanctificationthe dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed (Rom. 6:13-14). The dominion is destroyed, but sin is not yet uprooted. We are to fight. Several lusts of the flesh are more and more weakened and mortified (killed). Not only are we fighting and overcoming sin and temptation, but we are also progressing toward holiness in being more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving grace. This is so that we would practice all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). The Lord grants us holiness and calls us to holiness so that we would see Him.

United, Called and Regenerated

I refer the interested reader to the previous chapters where we dealt with these things. I lightly touched upon our union with Christ in chapter 8 paragraph 5 (see chapter 27, paragraph 1 for more detail). We dealt with the effectual call or Irresistible Grace in chapter 10 and Regeneration and Justification were dealt with in chapter 11.


The answer to question 35 “What is Sanctification?” of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is as follows:


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints - Commentary

  • Ps. 89:31-32; 1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Tim. 4:7
  • Ps. 102:27; Mal. 3:6; Eph. 1:14; 1 Peter 1:5; Rev. 13:8
  • Those whom God hath accepted (chapter 11), effectually called (chapter 10), sanctified by His Spirit (chapter 13) and given the precious faith of His elect (chapter 14), can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace (e.g., John 10:28-29; 1 John 2:19). If we follow what was said in the previous chapters, as this paragraph begins by enlisting these things, we cannot but expect such a declaration. If God is absolutely sovereign over all things (chapters 3 and 5), even electing, calling, justifying, adopting (chapter 12) and sanctifying us, how can it be that God could fail in His purpose and we be lost to eternal perdition? It cannot. The elect will certainly persevere in the state of the end. This is the essential difference between true and false faith. True faith perseveres to the end (1 John 2:19). This is because the gifts and callings of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:29), in other words, He does not change His mind. Therefore, the elect are safe and He will grant them all these things which are necessary for their final salvation and perseverance.

    This does not mean that the journey will be easy. In fact, the Confession speaks of storms and floods that arise and beat us. Nonetheless, no one and nothing can shake us off that foundation and rock which by faith we are fastened upon. In these storms and floods and by the temptations of Satanthe sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured for us (so also with our assurance, see chapter 18:4). This does not mean that God has changed; he is still the same. But we are being attacked by the enemy and are fighting or giving into temptation and are in need of restoration. Even in these storms and floods, we may be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation and the enjoyment of our purchased possession. The fact that the elect cannot lose their salvation is further shown from the fact that we are engraven upon the palm of His hands (Isa. 49:16) and our names having been written in the book of life from all eternity (Rev. 13:8; 20:15). All this is given for the confidence and encouragement of the believers in God’s faithfulness, goodness, grace, promise, and power. 

    The Impossibility Of Final Apostasy For The Elect

    The biblical and Reformed doctrine of perseverance is a great mountain, which gives the saints assurance and faith in God’s almighty power in overcoming sin in us and completely saving us. The doctrine does not teach, contrary to non-Protestant caricatures, that Christians after being saved can do whatever they want to do and still remain saved. Rather, the doctrine teaches that those who have the Spirit of God indwelling in them will persevere in the faith by the almighty power of God. The Lord will chastise, sanctify and lead them toward a holier life.

    That the doctrine is true and biblical may be seen from many ways (see paragraph 2), including (1) the decree of election, (2) regeneration, (3) justification and (4) Christ’s obedience.

    Election: It has pleased God from all eternity to select a particular people in the Lord Jesus Christ whom He will redeem from sin to be with Him forever without any consideration of foreseen faith or works, merely because of His good pleasure. Seeing that their salvation was not dependent upon them, how would their perseverance be (comp...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

    ...formed doctrine is that regeneration precedes faith (see our discussion here). The Spirit uses the Word of God preached to us in the gospel. The gospel proclamation goes out and the Spirit uses the gospel proclamation to draw the elect to the Son (John 6:44, 63). 2 Thessalonians 2:14 says that God called us through the gospel. The Lord did not merely elect a people and leave them. No, He goes out and through the gospel-preaching draws them to the Son in faith and repentance. The previous verse even says that God chose us to be saved “through Sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). The Word and the Spirit always go together for a salvific work of God. Our Lord also acknowledges this when He says, “​It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Peter writes:

    1 Pet. 1:22-23 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God

    It is through the Word of God that regeneration came and we became Christians. It is not without the gospel that we became Christians. But it is through the Spirit of God working on our hearts in many ways whether it be through Bible reading, discussions and the proclamation of the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, among other things. Peter says that “this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25). It is through the gospel that the Sovereign Lord chooses to work and draw His people to Himself through faith.

    Means Appointed For the Strengthening of our Faith

    When we first believe, we do not directly attain the fulness of faith. Just like in human relations, when getting to know someone, you don’t immediately trust them completely. I am not implying that we should not completely trust God. But I am acknowledging the human factor that as we see more of God, we are all the more inclined to completely surrender to Him. The Lord our God has thought of these things and He has decreed the means by which our faith may be strengthened. The Bible calls us to pursue the strengthening of our faith. The apostles cried to our Lord: “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). The growing of our faith goes hand-in-hand with our Sanctification. As we, by the Holy Spirit, try to live lives worthy of the name of Christ, our faith grows in dependence upon His Spirit and surrender to Christ. One weak in faith cannot make huge steps in Sanctification. Therefore, what we say here may not directly have to do with faith, but with Sanctification. See also the previous chapter for the means for growth in Sanctification here.

    The primary means for growing our faith is the Word of God. As Peter says that like “newborn infants” we should “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). The previous chapter makes clear that this is the Word of God preached to us in the gospel (1 Pet. 1:25). As we get to know God more through His Word, so should our dependence and trust in Him grow. As we see His faithfulness to His covenant and its promises; His faithfulness to the saints; His power and works; His great salvation in Jesus Christ, we cannot but cast ourselves upon Him. When we read, hear, study the Word and see its wonder, that should lead us to trust...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

    The grand reason for changing the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord’s-day is that it puts us in mind of the ‘Mystery of our redemption by Christ.’ The reason why God instituted the old Sabbath was to be a memorial of the creation; but he has now brought the first day of the week in its room in memory of a more glorious work than creation, which is redemption. Great was the work of creation, but greater was the work of redemption.[32]

    Concerning the Sanctification of the Lord’s day, the WLC 117 says:

    Question 117: How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?

    Answer: The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.[15]

    That we are to rest does not imply that we are to do absolutely nothing even if there is a need. This is expressed beautifully by the WLC 119:

    Question 119: What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment?

    Answer: The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.[15]

    We are not to be idle, that is not what it means to sanctify the Sabbath, rather we should be taken up in performing the things of God and the worship of God. It should be our joy to expect eagerly the Lord’s Day every week looking forward to meeting the Lord with His people, but all the more to look forward to the eschatological Sabbath in the New Heavens and the New Earth!

    The Fifth Commandment

    Exod. 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

    See also Deut. 5:16.

    General Observations On The 5th Commandment

    The fifth commandment teaches us to honor our parents and those who are over us. We are to honor them and not disrespect or dishonor them. We should render honor to whom it is due because it is right and also because it is for our own good too. Now, dealing with the first four commandments on the first table of the Decalogue we come to the second table concerning our duty toward our fellow man. But we should see these tables as dependent upon each other, for the one who loves God will love their neighbor and the one who truly and sacrificially loves their neighbor loves God. “The fifth commandment requires the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals. (Lev. 19:32; 1 Peter 2:17; Rom. 13:1; Eph. 5:21,22; Eph. 6:1,5,9; Col. 3:19-22; Rom. 12:10)”[24] (Keach, Q&A 70).

    Honor is due to our parents because they were the ones who begat us and gave us life and the Lord requires that we honor them. They were the ones who taught us and cared for us and may continue to do so. Although not all pare...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

    ...ance and faith so that we may have the full assurance of hope until we inherit the promises. All the promises of God, which are in Christ, are the believers’ also (2 Cor. 1:20). This does not only speak of the consummated Kingdom, but also of our eternal life, eternal happiness, and joy, our fellowship with the Triune God in harmony, our resurrection, worldwide peace, cleansing us from every bit of sin, living in perfect righteousness before God, etc...

    1 Peter 1:4 speaks of “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for” us. This is our complete redemption. Our resurrection and finished Sanctification are what Peter has in mind here (1 Pet. 1:5, 9, 13). Romans 8:17 speaks of us being co-heirs with Christ. That which He has inherited, we may also share with Him in it. For example, as He sits on the throne of the Universe ruling everything, so likewise Ephesians 2:6 says that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. As He received glory after His suffering, so likewise the believers will be glorified and honored by God for their suffering for His sake (e.g., Rom. 8:18, 21, 29).

    Galatians 3:29 tells us that we are children of Abraham based on the fact that we are in Christ. As Gentiles that he was largely writing to, it would have been crazy to say that non-Jews are children of Abraham. But that is not so with Christ. As He was a true Jew, so whoever is in Him, i.e., whoever is represented by Him, is also a Jew through Him. All Christians are children of Abraham not because they are physical descendants of Abraham, but because they are united to Christ, the true child of Abraham, and through Him, they are also children of Abraham. It is in light of this that Paul calls believers the Israel of God in Galatians 6:16. This is likewise the case of the believers, both Jewish and Gentile being the Israel of God. As they are in Him who is the Servant of the LORD in Isaiah, who is called Israel (Isa. 41:8; 49:1-7), so likewise as they were through Him children of Abraham, they are also the Israel of God. This is also seen from Ephesians 2:11ff, where we are told that believing Jews and believing Gentiles, have become one new man. That would be the New Israel or Spiritual/True Israel. We were made citizens of “the commonwealth of Israel” in Christ (Eph. 2:12-13, 19).

    From Ephesians 2, Paul continues the discussion underhand concerning believing Jews and Gentiles. In Ephesians 3:6, Paul speaks of a mystery, something that was hidden, but now revealed. This mystery is the fact that the believing Gentiles belong to the same body as the believing Jews, that is, they belong to the commonwealth of Israel. They belong to Abraham to whom the promises of God were made concerning having offspring as the stars of heaven. The believing Gentiles will inherit along with the believing Jews the promises made to Israel in the OT as all the promises of God find their Yes (fulfillment) in Him and His body (2 Cor. 1:20).

    Our inheritance consists of us obtaining eternal life, the New Heavens and New Earth, i.e., the consummated Kingdom of God—the New Jerusalem. Becoming spiritual Jews in Christ. Becoming the Israel of God in Christ. Becoming co-heirs in everything that Christ has inherited from the Father. Glory to the God Who has planned this from long ago and purposed to bless us, undeserving sinners in the Beloved. 

    §6 The virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages

    1. Althoug...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

    ...e conformed to the image of Christ; and that this was necessary, he had before declared. There is therefore no reason for us to be grieved, or to think it hard and grievous, that we are afflicted, unless we disapprove of the Lord’s election, by which we have been foreordained to life, and unless we are unwilling to bear the image of the Son of God, by which we are to be prepared for celestial glory.

    But the foreknowledge of God, which Paul mentions, is not a bare prescience, as some unwise persons absurdly imagine, but the adoption by which he had always distinguished his children from the reprobate. (269) In the same sense Peter says, that the faithful had been elected to the Sanctification of the Spirit according to the foreknowledge of God. Hence those, to whom I have alluded, foolishly draw this inference, — That God has elected none but those whom he foresaw would be worthy of his grace. Peter does not in deed flatter the faithful, as though every one had been elected on account of his merit; but by reminding them of the eternal counsel of God, he wholly deprives them of all worthiness. So Paul does in this passage, who repeats by another word what he had said before of God’s purpose. It hence follows, that this knowledge is connected with God’s good pleasure; for he foreknew nothing out of himself, in adopting those whom he was pleased to adopt; but only marked out those whom he had purposed to elect. […]

    (269) Much controversy has been about the meaning of the verb προέγνω,  in this place. Many of the Fathers, such as [Jerome ], [Chrysostom ], and [Theodoret ], regarded it in the sense of simple prescience, as having reference to those who would believe and obey the gospel. The verb is found only in this place, and in the following passages, Rom 11:2; Act 26:5; 1Pe 1:20; 2Pe 3:17. In the second, and in the last passage, it signifies merely a previous knowledge or acquaintance, and refers to men. In 1Pe 1:20, it is applied to Christ as having been “foreordained,” according to our version, “before the foundation of the world.” In this Epistle, Rom 11:2, it refers to God, — “God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew;” and according to the context, it means the same as elected; for the Apostle speaks of what God did “according to the election of grace,” and not according to foreseen faith.

    The noun derived from it is found in two places, Act 2:23, and 1Pe 1:2. In the first it evidently means decree, foreordination, and in the second, the same; where it is said, that those addressed by the Apostle were elected, “according to the foreknowledge of God, κατὰ πρόγνωσιν Θεοῦ, through the Sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience;” they were not then elected, according to God’s foreknowledge or foreordination, because of their obedience. This entirely subverts the gloss put on the verb in this passage.

    The usual meaning given to the verb here is fore-approved, or chosen. [Grotius ], [Turrettin ], and others, consider that γινώσκω has the same meaning with the verb ידע, in Hebrew, which is sometimes that of approving or favoring, or regarding with love and approbation. So the compound verb may be rendered here, “whom he fore-approved, or foreknew,” as the objects of his choice: and this idea is what alone comports with the rest of the passage.

    [Stuart ] prefers another meaning, and that which it seems to have in 1Pe 1:20, “foreordained.” He says that γινώσκω  means sometimes to will, to determine, to ordain, to decree,...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

    ... rel="footnote"[2]

    We could go on and on by giving Protestant theologians who defined justification in this way. Louis Berkhof says:

    Justification is a judicial act of God, in which He declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner. It is unique in the application of the work of redemption in that it is a judicial act of God, a declaration respecting the sinner, and not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, and Sanctification. While it has respect to the sinner, it does not change his inner life. It does not affect his condition, but his state, and in that respect differs from all the other principal parts of the order of salvation. It involves the forgiveness of sins, and restoration to divine favor.[3]

    The Baptist A.H. Strong defined it as:

    By justification we mean that judicial act of God by which, on account of Christ, to whom the sinner is united by faith, he declares that sinner to be no longer exposed to the penalty of the law, but to be restored to his favor. Or, to give an alternative definition from which all metaphor is excluded: Justification is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner, because of the sinner’s new relation to Christ. God did condemn; he now acquits. He did repel; he now admits to favor.[4]

    Section one first deals with a distortion about justification and then gives the biblical position.

    Not Infusion of Righteousness

    Roman Catholics believe in what may be called “infused righteousness.” This means that in salvation, the merits of the Lord Jesus on the cross are infused with the righteousness of the sinner and together they constitute the basis of salvation. Meaning, Christ’s righteousness is not enough, rather it is given to help us with our own righteousness through works and obedience to God and the Roman Catholic Church. In their own words, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

    1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of Sanctification:[5]

    This “infused righteousness” is attained by a work, namely baptism. That is the way you get this righteousness. Basically, this position teaches that salvation by grace alone is not enough. You have to add your works and obedience to the work of Christ. It is wrong to think that Roman Catholics do not believe in the necessity of grace. Rather, they don’t believe in the sufficiency of grace. Grace alone is not enough to justify. In their own words from the Council of Trent:

    “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema,” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).[6]

    Rome, in these words, has denied the gospel of Christ. They place their curse upon the Protestant and biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. which is the gospel of our salvation. They have denied justification by faith alone, which I will seek to make a case for below. They confess that faith is necessary, but it is not enough. They confess that grac...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary holy a thing means to set it apart from common use. Dr. Pipa helpfully observes what it means that the Sabbath was sanctified and blessed at the Creation:

    God’s purpose in blessing the day is made clearer when we understand what is meant by His “sanctifying” the day, by declaring it to be holy. When God sanctified something, He removed it from its common use and set it apart for a special religious use connected with His worship and service. For example, He declared to be holy or sanctified the garments of the priest, the altar, the sanctuary, and all the furnishings and utensils in the tabernacle and, later, the temple. On account of this Sanctification, these things were to be used only for the holy purposes of worship (e.g. Exod 30:37-38).[47]

    The Sabbath Day is no ordinary day, but is a high and special day by God’s own sovereign appointment. There is some truth to the claim that “all days are holy,” but it is a half-truth. God has explicitly blessed the Sabbath day. Waldron remarks:

    God’s blessing in these passages [Gen. 1:22, 28; 5:2; 9:1, where the idea of blessing also occurs in the early chapters of Genesis] undoubtedly expresses the Creator’s good will, favor, and delight in His creatures. There is, however, much more than this. God’s blessing is effectual. It powerfully makes that which is blessed a source of good. Thus God in blessing the seventh day made it a source of blessing--of good—not (obviously) for Himself--but for men.[48]

    A few doubt that the Sabbath Day instituted at the Creation was, in fact, the seventh day of the week. But notice that the holiness of the seventh day is not in the day itself, but rather in the blessing of God. There is nothing special in any of the seven days. There is nothing special, until—God distinguishes one above the others, by blessing it and making it holy. The “holiness” of the day is not in the seventh day itself. Therefore, a change could be made without offering violence to the essence of the Sabbath. The word “Sabbath” does not mean “the seventh day of the week,” rather it means “rest”, “cessation” or something similar. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology writes on the word “Sabbath”:

    The origin of the Hebrew sabbat [שַׁבָּת] is uncertain, but it seems to have derived from the verb sabat, meaning to stop, to cease, or to keep. Its theological meaning is rooted in God’s rest following the six days of creation ( Gen 2:2-3 ).[49]

    The particular day of the week is not of the essence for the Sabbath. The day was decided by the positive command and institution of God. The Lord blessed the seventh day and made it the Sabbath. He could, likewise, if He chose to, move it to the first day. But more on this later. A.A. Hodge observes that “it is evident that the particular day set apart is not in the least of the essence of the institution, and that it must depend upon the positive will of God, which of course may substitute one day instead of another on suitable occasions for adequate reasons.”[50]Therefore, in the subsequent discussion, it will not do to repeat the claim, “for four thousand years the Sabbath was known as the seventh day of the week” over and over again. It is not of the essence of the commandment that it should be the seventh day of the week. The essence is simply: one day of rest in seven. The particular day of the week must be decided by the divine will.

    To close our discussion on Genesis 2, let me give you a quote from John Owe...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 27: Of the Communion of Saints

    ...ring in all those blessings which the Father has given to Christ. This union with Christ spans from eternity past to eternity future. What is then this union with Christ actually? Simply said, it is the application of Christ’s accomplished redemption for the elect in space and time. R. L. Dabney writes:

    When made one with His Redeeming Head, then all the communicable graces of that Head begin to transfer themselves to him. Thus we find that each kind of benefit which makes up redemption is, in different parts of the Scripture, deduced from this union as their source; Justification, spiritual strength, life, resurrection of the body, good works, prayer and praise, Sanctification, perseverance, etc., etc. Eph. 1:4, 6, 11, 13; Col. 1:24; Rom. 6:3-6, 8; Col. 2:10; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:9; John 15:1-5.[2]

    John Murray, in his Redemption: Accomplish and Applied, noted that in the Christian life “Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ.”[3] Therefore, it should be beneficial to us to take the time and see what the Scriptures say about our union with the Savior. In the same place, Murray notes that union with Christ is not an aspect of the application of redemption as repentance, faith, effectual calling, but it “underlies every step of the application of redemption.”[3] In all the steps of our salvation we have to do with our union with Christ. The whole process of salvation, from beginning to end, is the realization of our union with Christ. A. H. Strong defines union with Christ as “a union of life, in which the human spirit, while then most truly possessing its own individuality and personal distinctness, is interpenetrated and energized by the Spirit of Christ, is made inscrutably but indissolubly one with him, and so becomes a member and partaker of that regenerated, believing, and justified humanity of which he is the head.”[4] Louis Berkhof defines it as “that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.[5]

    How This Union Is Spoken Of In Scripture

    In the New Testament, especially in the Epistles of Paul, this blessed union with Christ is variously mentioned whether by pictures or by the words used. For instance, Paul says that “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). In this analogy, we see the apostle comparing our union with Christ with a building and its stones. We are a temple, but we are a temple because we are in Christ Who is building us into a temple for God. This is similar to what is said by Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-5. In this passage and others like it, we see that our union with Christ is the foundation for our communion with the believers (paragraph 2). We are also described as members of a body and Christ being the Head (Eph. 3:6; 5:29-30; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Col. 2:19).

    R. L. Dabney gives a helpful summary of the images used by Scripture to illustrate this blessed union:

    The nature of this union is to be deduced from a full comparison of all the representations by which the Word illustrates it. In one place it is described by the union of a vine with its branches; and in another, of the stock of an olive tree with its ...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

    ...Paul says that there is still an aspect to our redemption (Rom. 8:22-23). Thus in a sense, our redemption is not yet complete. It does not mean that the Lord Christ did not provide a perfect atonement for the elect, forbid the thought! But it means that the application of all the benefits of that atonement are not applied at once. For example, when we come to newness of life at the point the Spirit of grace regenerates us and gives us a new heart, which now has different desires. It wants to obey God and please Him, unlike our previous sinful desires. But we do not directly obey God in everything. There are still things that we struggle with. Then comes the lifelong process of Sanctification. That is the process through which the Spirit works on us to transform us into Christ’s image and destroy sin in us slowly. Sanctification is a lifelong process of ups and downs. It is not a constant line going upward, but upward and downward. When we die then our Sanctification is complete and we are freed from the presence of sin, but still await the redemption of our bodies.

    Now we are engaged in a war. As Paul says in Romans 6:13, we should present ourselves no longer as instruments of sin and unrighteousness, but instruments fit to be used by God. We should present our members as instruments for righteousness. To do that which God is pleased with. But sadly that is not as easy as it sounds and Paul knows this, that’s why he writes of the struggle that there is within him in Romans 7. So now we turn our attention to Romans 7. In vv. 1-6, Paul uses an analogy, which seeks to demonstrate how we have been freed from the law by dying just as a wife is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives, but if he dies she is free from that particular law. But for our purposes, we need to look at vv. 7 and beyond.

    From his previous discussion about the effect of the law when we are under sin, some people might get the idea that Paul says that the law is of sin and is actually sinful, which is not even remotely in Paul’s mind. His point was that the law for a person under sin can only increase sin, as it has no power to forgive, but it condemns all who do not obey it (Gal. 3:10). Rather, he says that the law actually brings the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7). The law is not the problem; sin is the problem (Rom. 7:8), which uses the “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12) commandments to produce sin in us. Where there is no law, there is no sin (Rom. 5:13) because sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). But all are indeed under the law either the one written on stone or on the conscience (Rom. 2:12-15; see chapter 19). Sin has no power without the law (Rom. 7:8), but since we were under the law as a covenant of works (i.e., in the State of Sin), sin reigned over us and used even the good and holy to produce more sin and impurity. Thus Paul says that in a sense he was alive or unaware of his sin apart from the law, but when he understood the requirements of the law, he died (Rom. 7:9-11).

    The problem of why the law is ineffective to bring life and Sanctification to a person under the State of Sin is because the law is spiritual (Rom. 7:14). It is not designed to produce life and Sanctification in the lives of those under sin, but only condemnation and fear. For the law to produce righteousness and Sanctification, its subject must be those who are spiritual (Col. 2:13-15). Spiritual does not mean non-physical, but rather a person who is led by the...