My concern with some preaching and teaching these days is the desire to move to sanctification without journeying through the cross first. This cross avoidance leads to what I call, “Crossless Sanctification.”
Sanctification can only happen as we go through the cross, not around it. In other words, it is easy to separate sanctification from the cross of Christ, which results in us stepping over the cross and trying to live out the sanctified life in the old Adam (i.e. old nature).
Personally, I can understand why this happens. For many of us, we are very hesitant in blending justification and sanctification. We rightly don’t want to mingle sanctified works of response with God’s justification of us in Christ. Therefore, we are very precise in making a division between these two doctrines. However, I believe we can err when we move sanctification too far away from justification. Thus when we separate them, we can end up compartmentalizing them.
Let me explain a little more specifically. The old Adam always wants to have his part. To get in on the action, the old Adam will try to wiggle and slide into the doctrine of justification. The old Adam will even try to hijack sanctification, which may result in works righteousness bleeding back into justification. This is one of the reasons for trying to keep the two doctrines separate and it is also the reason why many Christians throughout the ages have rightly fortified justification from the old Adam saying, “we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.” In other words, the fortification happens as the term “alone” from the Reformation is highlighted.
Due to the “Sola” of the Reformation and divine monergism, the old Adam can’t take credit in justification and is essentially restricted and evicted from the realm of justification. However, once evicted the old Adam moves to sanctification and then sets up a new residence under the alias of “the new man.” If the old Adam can’t take part of justification, he will attempt to secretly undermine sanctification underneath the banner of the new man. Keep in mind, in order for the old Adam to reign in sanctification, two things have to happen:
- The old Adam uses this separation of justification and sanctification to his advantage by keeping them compartmentalized. Once justification is compartmentalized it is reduced to a mere assumption rather than the central focus of the Christian life.
- When sanctification is separated from justification, the cross is removed from sanctification to allow the old Adam to reign in sanctification underneath the disguise of the new man.
Sanctification my friends does not happen by the power and will of the old Adam operating underneath the banner of the new man. Secondly, sanctification cannot be separated from justification leaving room for the old Adam to think it can contribute to sanctification, for they are distinctly different doctrines but not separate. We often believe that Justification belongs to God and sanctification belongs to mankind. No, they both belong to God. Furthermore, sanctification happens as we journey through the cross, not around or apart from the cross. Because sanctification is connected to the cross we confess that death is involved in justification and death is also involved in sanctification. The old Adam must find death at the cross and should have no part in justification as well as sanctification.
In justification we are put to death and resurrected. In sanctification we are daily put to death, and daily we are resurrected. Daily the old Adam is slayed and the resurrection of the new man comes forth. Daily our sin should be drowned and put to death and the new man should rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in the presence of God. This death and life cannot happen apart from the cross of Christ. As Paul shares in Galatians chapter 2,
“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved and gave himself for me.”
Sanctification is cross-centered and there is no room for the old Adam with or without his disguise. May we daily journey through the cross for our death and resurrection.