Spot the difference? Present and future sanctification.

The two images below are taken from Wayne Grudem’s section on sanctification in his Systematic Theology. The first graph is as it appears in the book and the second as it appears in my copy (my thanks is due to Chris Green, vice-principal of Oak Hill College, who taught me that it is good to write in books, even if my writing is practically illegible). Can you spot the difference?


Already not yet

The first graph represents the way I used to think about Christian life. I had been saved from slavery to sin at conversion; with great gratitude for what Christ had done, I struggled on in the strength of the Holy Spirit and the word to grow in holiness; at death I thought I’d finally be made perfect in holiness. My life was shaped by wanting to be what I wasn’t yet but would be. I now realise that this way of thinking brings about joyless obedience and a nagging sense of guilt.

The true gospel is represented in the second graph. At conversion I was sanctified by Christ (1 Cor 1:2). I am already graciously made perfect, justified, righteous, holy in his eyes. I now look back to the cross with gratitude and forward to glory (1 Peter 1:3-5). The rest of my life is shaped by wanting to be what I already am.

For a more complete explanation see John Piper on Christian Perfection

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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7 Responses to Spot the difference? Present and future sanctification.

  1. Tree says:

    Great illustration. Wow…what can I say but great teaching:)

    Striving Daily To Stay Holy,

  2. Pingback: The Process of Sanctification? | It's a Beautiful Gospel

  3. I must ask, are you perfect? Do you never make a mistake? Perfection would imply this.

    Or have you been DECLARED perfect and righteous by God through Christ?
    You say that this would cause joyless obedience without looking back at the cross with joy. I must respectfully disagree due to my own experience in the matter. I would say that I joyously look back at the cross because despite the fact that I am NOT perfect, God, through the imputed righteousness of His Son, sees me as perfect. I also joyously look forward to the day when I am fully sanctified by the Lord and truly become all that He knows I can be! 🙂 In the meantime, I joyfully obey the will of God in my life through the empowerment of His Holy Spirit who lives in me because I am so thankful for the fact that despite my imperfection, the almighty Creator has declared me righteous.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on your analysis! 🙂

  4. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Jeremy, thank you for your comment. I accept that my explanation of the graph is scant, but I think the graph and the closing phrase “The rest of my life is shaped by wanting to be what I already am.” captures the biblcal reality. I am not only declared righteous by faith in Christ I am made righteous, in the heavenly realms, not only seen by God as righteous, but actually righteous in his sight, by what Christ has done (Ephesians 2, 2 Cor 5;21 etc). So, although I am not practically perfect and continue to make gross mistakes, rather, continue to sin in all sorts of ways, I confess my sin and need for practical sanctification safe in the knowledge that in Christ I am already righteous and wish to attain to the person I am in him. Is that any clearer?

  5. It is a bit clearer. I was not aware based on your post that you were still factoring in a practical sanctification in daily life. The issue I still have with your statement is that you have been “made righteous.” If you are still sinning then that is not true. You are considered righteous because of Christ, but if you were indeed made righteous then you would be perfect and without sin.

    You say, “not only seen by God as righteous, but actually righteous in his sight…” I am fuzzy on the difference you are trying to imply there. You seem to have simply switched around the order of words and added the word “actually.” Both of those clauses imply being SEEN as righteous (“seen by God” and “in His sight”). That is the point I am making. You are SEEN as righteous. You are not actually righteous in any practical sense because you are still sinnful. And that is the point that Grudem is making in his book.

    There is another graph floating about out there (which I think was also made by Grudem) that looks a lot like the one you have drawn. The difference is that the line you drew straight up to “Perfect Holiness” is not sanctification but rather justification.

    Sorry if I seem to have taken on a more serious and critical tone! This is genuinely coming from a heart of seeking the truth with a fellow brother in Christ! 🙂

  6. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Jeremy, thanks for your comment. Again, I was less than clear and this blog is partly to help me get clear so your comments are really welcome. Perhaps giving this doctrine a name will help. The graph shows that upon regeneration, the believer, as a new creation, is righteous and not yet righteous. We are not righteous by works (i.e. being practically perfect) but by faith as God credits or imputes the righteousness of Christ to me. John Piper puts it like this:

    “Faith is credited as righteousness” means God credits (imputes) righteousness to the one who has faith. The faith is not the “wage” that is credited. Faith is the abandonment of all claims to be righteous, and, instead, is trust in him who counts the ungodly to be righteous.

    You may read the rest of the article on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness here:

    This might be put this way: I believe on Christ therefore God has credited righteousness to me, even though I sin. My desire, therefore, is to be what I am by faith, that is righteous.

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