For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q35


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q34-36) is The Benefits of Redemption: Adoption and Sanctification. (see Harmony Index)
We continue in the section of the catechism that deals with the benefits flowing from our effectual call in Christ. To repeat, these benefits are justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several other benefits that accompany our life in Christ. Today we consider sanctification.
The word sanctification is a “religious word”—one not used on a daily basis. Yet the concept is familiar: at its heart, to sanctify means “to set apart.” All of us set apart certain favorite items and activities as worthy of extra time and attention. For example, like many young men, I set my sights on owning four wheels attached to a hot engine. I remember the day I acquired my first car, a broken-down Chevrolet, a year before I was old enough to get my driver’s license. By purchasing that car, I had set it apart from the many other available motor vehicles. But as I took possession, the work had just begun. To others, it might have been an eyesore, but to me it was potential. In my mind’s eye, it was set apart unto glorious things; soon it would be renovated, restored, made to match my dreams of shiny painted metal, power, and the freedom of the road. Almost sounds like a religious experience, doesn’t it? In a far grander way, Christ takes ownership of us, and both begins and completes the work of sanctification, to make us like himself, pleasing unto his Father, holy. That’s what this lesson is all about.
May the Lord grant us understanding and faith as we study these things, that in all things we would show ourselves approved unto God, “rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).
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WSC Q35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace[a], whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God[b], and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness[c].
[a] Ezek. 36:27; Phil. 2:13; II Thess. 2:13
[b] II Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:23-24; I Thess. 5:23
[c] Ezek. 36:25-27; Rom. 6:4, 6, 12-14; II Cor. 7:1; I Pet. 2:24
Question #35 asks what sanctification is, and answers that sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which our whole person is made new in the image of God, and we are made more and more able to become dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
Comments and considerations:
If you were to ask the average non-Christian the meaning of sanctification, you would probably get a blank stare. Yet the word has long been associated with religious practice. In the ancient world, pagan or otherwise, it meant the consecration or the setting apart of some object or person for a sacred purpose. In addition, the word carried with it the idea of improving or adding value by cleansing or adornment. Apart from the realm of religion, there are many mundane things in life that we set apart for a particular use and invest effort in to improve; it is not hard to find examples of what we see here. Our catechism provides an excellent definition of these two aspects of sanctification, to which we could add the definition from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary as well: “1. The act of making holy. In an evangelical sense, the act of God’s grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God.”
There are actually three aspects of sanctification.
First, at conversion: “we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God” (II Cor. 5:17, Eph. 4:23-24; I Thess. 5:23).
Next, the progressive phase which follows: “and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness” (Ezek. 36:25-27; Rom. 6:4, 6, 12-14; II Cor. 7:1; I Pet. 2:24).
And finally, at death, when we find ourselves face-to-face with the Lord; the Westminster Larger Catechism Q86 puts it this way: “The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face God in light and glory…” This holiness is another word for sanctification—the third and final stage of our sanctification. Recall Paul’s words:  “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Of the several benefits flowing from our effectual call in Christ, each of the first two was “an act of God’s free grace,” whereas our fathers precisely described the benefit of sanctification as “the work of God’s free grace.” Of the three parts of sanctification, the second is synergistic, a work in which the individual has a part in the outcome. Whereas justification and adoption are totally an act of grace, apart from any effort on our part, Paul describes sanctification very clearly in Phil. 2:12-13, saying, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (See also Col. 1:29 or II Pet. 3:18, in addition to what the catechism lists.) Of course, our work occurs only because the Spirit enables us; we are “enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” See how Webster defines this word:
1.     To make able; to supply with power, physical or moral; to furnish with sufficient power or ability. By strength a man is enabled to work. Learning and industry enable men to investigate the laws of nature. Fortitude enables us to bear pain without murmuring.
2.     To supply with means.
3.     To furnish with legal ability or competency; to authorize.
4.     To furnish with competent knowledge or skill, and in general, with adequate means.
In the process of sanctification, we are supplied, furnished, strengthened, fortified, authorized, made competent, knowledgeable, skilled, with adequate means, etc. And the list goes on! There is no end to the grace and blessings found in Christ unto sanctification (II Pet. 1:2-4).
This is such a rich topic for consideration. Our confession and catechisms do an excellent job of laying out this truth. See “the harmony” below, and read the related WLC instruction and both confessional statements. I often instruct learners to read and consider the three Larger Catechism Questions is this order for better clarity: 75, 78, and 77.  But in the end, there is at least one final word here that can be said concerning this matter, which Paul tags onto the I Thess. 5:23 passage. Together it reads thus:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (I Thess. 5:23-24).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read I Cor. 6:11. What three things described in this verse have been done to us by the work of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit? (1)
2.     The purpose of God for his people is that they become more like Christ in their desires, thoughts, attitudes, and actions (Rom. 8:29). According to I Thess. 5:23-24, whose task is it to see that our sanctification proceeds to a greater reality in our lives?
3.     How does Eph. 4:22-24 describe this process of sanctification, and what term does Paul use to define it in the believer’s life?
4.     II Cor. 3:18 explains that we can see when we are letting the Holy Spirit have his way in our lives by looking at those Christ-like attitudes in us (found in Gal. 5:22-23), which replace our old thoughts and actions. How does II Cor. 3:18 describe this process?
5.     Although we know it is God who is working out sanctification in us, Phil. 2:12-13 tells us that we must perform a critical role. What are we to be doing? What are some things we can do to see that our part is performed?
6.     Putting Col. 3:5 and Rom. 12:2 together, what is our part in God’s work of sanctification?

Note: (1) To be sanctified—one of those things found in this text—means two things. First, it means to set a thing aside for something special. God paid for us with the blood of his own Son. He owns us and we belong to him for his purposes to be enjoyed. Sanctification has a second meaning and work in the believer’s life, and that is to be changed as a person into that which is pleasing to God. After we are set apart, little by little God works in our sinful hearts to change us to be like his Son (Rom. 8:29), a work that will be completed only when we enter into his presence in eternity.

Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q35, WLC Q75, 77, 78, WCF XIII & XVI
WSC Q35. What is sanctification?
A.  Sanctification is the work of God's free grace[a], whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God[b], and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness[c].
a.     Ezk. 36:27; Phil. 2:13; IIThess. 2:13
b.     IICor. 5:17; Eph. 4:23-24; IThess. 5:23
c.     Ezek. 36:25-27; Rom. 6:4, 6, 12-14; IICor. 7:1; IPet. 2:24
WLC Q75. What is sanctification?
A.  Sanctification is a work of God's grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit[a] applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them[b], renewed in their whole man after the image of God[c]; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts[d], and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened[e], as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life[f].
a.     Eph. 1:4; 1Cor. 6:11; 2Thes. 2:13
b.     Rom. 6:4-6
c.     Eph. 4:23-24
d.     Acts 11:18; 1John 3:9
e.     Jude 20; Heb. 6:11-12; Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:10-11
f.      Rom. 6:4, 6, 14; Gal. 5:24
WLC Q77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
A.  Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification[a], yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ[b]; in sanctification of his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof[c]; in the former, sin is pardoned[d]; in the other, it is subdued[e]: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation[f] the other is neither equal in all[g], nor in this life perfect in any[h], but growing up to perfection[i].
a.     1Cor. 6:11; 1:30
b.     Rom. 4:6, 8
c.     Ezek. 36:27
d.     Rom. 3:24-25
e.     Rom. 6:6, 14
f.      Rom. 8:33-34
g.     1John 2:12-14; Heb. 5:12-14
h.     1John 1:8, 10
i.      2Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:12-14
WLC Q78. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?
A.  The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins[a], are hindered in all their spiritual services[b], and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God[c].
a.     Rom. 7:18, 23; Mark 14:66; Gal. 2:11-12
b.     Heb. 12:1
c.     Isa. 64:6; Exod. 28:38
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XIII.
Of Sanctification.
I.    They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection,[a] by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them,[b] the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,[c] and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified;[d] and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,[e] to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.[f]
[a.]  I Thess. 5:23-24; II Thess. 2:13-14; Ezek. 36:22-28; Titus 3:5; Acts 20:32; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6
[b.]  John 17:17, 19; Eph. 5:26; Rom. 8:13-14; II Thess. 2:13
[c.]   Rom. 6:6, 14
[d.]   Gal. 5:24; Rom. 8:13
[e.]  Col. 1:10-11; Eph. 3:16-19
[f.]    II Cor. 7:1; Col. 1:28; Col. 4:12; Heb. 12:14
II.  This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man;[g] yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part;[h] whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.[i]
[g].   I Thess. 5:23; Rom. 12:1-2
[h].  I John 1:8-10; Rom. 7:14-25; Phil. 3:12
[i].   Gal. 5:17
III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail;[k] yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome;[l] and so, the saints grow in grace,[m] perfecting holiness in the fear of God.[n]
[k].              Rom. 7:23
[l].   Rom. 6:14; I John 5:4; Eph. 4:15-16; see Rom. 8:2
[m].  II Pet. 3:18; II Cor. 3:18
[n].              II Cor. 7:1
CHAPTER. XVI.
Of Good Works.
I.    Good works are only such as God hath commanded in His holy Word,[a] and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.[b]
[a]. Mic. 6:8; Rom. 12:2; Heb. 13:21
[b]. Matt. 15:9; Isa. 29:13; I Pet. 1:18; John 16:2; Rom. 10:2; I Sam. 15:21-23; Deut. 10:12-13; Col. 2:16-17, 20-23
II.  These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith:[c] and by them believers manifest their thankfulness,[d] strengthen their assurance,[e] edify their brethren,[f] adorn the profession of the gospel,[g] stop the mouths of the adversaries,[h] and glorify God,[i] whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto,[k] that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.[l]
[c]. James 2:18, 22
[d]. Ps. 116:12-14; Col. 3:15-17; I Pet. 2:9
[e]. I John 2:3, 5; II Pet. 1:5-10
[f]. II Cor. 9:2; Matt. 5:16; I Tim. 4:12
[g]. Titus 2:5, 9-12; I Tim. 6:1
[h].            I Pet. 2:15
[i]. I Pet. 2:12; Phil. 1:11; John 15:8
[k].            Eph. 2:10
[l]. Rom. 6:22
III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ.[m]  And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will, and to do, of his good pleasure:[n] yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.[o]
[m]. John 15:4-6; Rom. 8:4-14; Ezek. 36:26-27
[n].            Phil 2:13; Phil. 4:13; II Cor. 3:5; Eph. 3:16
[o].  Phil. 2:12; Heb. 6:11-12; II Pet. 1:3, 5, 10-11; Isa. 64:7; II Tim. 1:6; Acts 26:6-7; Jude 20-21
IV. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.[p]
 [p].  Luke 17;10; Neh. 13:22; Rom. 8:21-25; Gal. 5:17
V.  We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins,[q] but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants:[r] and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit;[s] and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.[t]
[q]. Rom. 3:20; Rom. 4:2, 4, 6; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7; Rom. 8:18, 22-24; Ps. 16:2; Job 22:2-3; Job 35:7-8
[r]. Luke 17:10
[s]. Rom. 8:13-14; Gal. 5:22-23
[t]. Isa. 64:6; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:15, 18; Ps. 143:2; Ps. 130:3
VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him;[u] not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God's sight;[w] but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.[x]
[u]. Eph. 1:6; I Pet. 2:5; see Exod. 28:38; Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4
[w]. Job 9:20; Ps. 143:2; I John 1:8
[x].            Heb. 13:20-21; II Cor. 8:12; Heb. 6:10; Matt. 25:21, 23; I Cor. 3:14; I Cor. 4:5
VII.      Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others:[y] yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith;[z] nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word;[a] nor to a right end, the glory of God,[b] they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God:[c] and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.[d]
[y].            II Kings 10:30-31; I Kings 21:27, 29; Luke 6:32-34; Luke 18:2-7; see Rom. 13:4
[z]. Heb. 11:4, 6; see Gen. 4:3-5
[a]. I Cor. 13:3; Isa. 1:12
[b]. Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; I Cor. 10:31
[c]. Prov. 21:27; Hag. 2:14; Titus 1:15; Amos 5:21-22; Mark 7:6-7; Hos. 1:4; Rom. 9:16; Titus 3:5
[d]. Ps. 14:4; Ps. 36:3; Matt. 25:41-45; Matt. 23:23; see Rom. 1:21-32
Questions for further study:
This harmony contains pertinent and obvious references to sanctification defined in WSC Q#35 found in the Larger Catechism and Confession, but further includes the Confession’s instruction regarding Good Works.  Why and what scripture reference(s) tie these two together? See XVI.II. 

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