Sunday, January 04, 2009

Grace and growth

It's hard for me not to find tension between the concepts of absolute justification and incomplete sanctification. If I am completely redeemed, through no work of my own, what is the importance of trying to become more holy? Doesn't that undermine the freedom of grace? The church I've recently started attending has been examining that apparent tension, lately making the transition between Romans 5 and Romans 6. J.C. Ryle (Anglican bishop) addresses it too, in his sermon "Growth":
When I speak of growth in grace, I do not for a moment mean that a believer's interest in Christ can grow. I do not mean that he can grow in safety, acceptance with God or security. I do not mean that he can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he believes. I hold firmly that the justification of a believer is a finished, perfect and complete work; and that the weakest saint, though he may not know and feel it, is as completely justified as the strongest. I hold firmly that our election, calling and standing in Christ admit of no degrees, increase or diminution. If anyone dreams that by growth in grace I mean growth in justification, he is utterly wide of the mark, and utterly mistaken about the whole point I am considering....

When I speak of growth in grace I only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer's heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage and the like may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble, and may vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life. When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply this--that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith and from grace to grace.
J.C. Ryle, Holiness: its nature, hindrances, difficulties, and roots (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2001), pp. 81-82.

No comments: