Rom 6; Gal 5:16-25; Col 3:1-17
The Cross and Sanctification. If justification is God’s act of declaring His children righteous, sanctification is the process by which we become righteous, holy, and good. Our lesson today focuses on the different methods and motivations for accomplishing the goals signified by the word “sanctification.”
Discussion questions and themes.
- Sanctification: obedience based on pure gratitude. Typically Paul presents his strong doctrinal positions at the beginning of his letter – especially his doctrines of justification and grace. Just as typically, the concluding chapters of his letters are packed with counsel and admonitions, urging the believers to be holy and obedient in every aspect of life. His approach requires a deeply religious temperament for it to be fully successful since the rationale for obedienceis much less likely to be rooted in reason (it is for my best good) than it is to be rooted in religion (it is the command of God).Question: What are the strengths and weaknesses of a system which simply calls for obedience because God says so? Is there formal room for any kind of situationism? Paul certainly uses rational processes in responding to God’s command (e.g. 1 Cor. 9:22, “all things to all people”). How far did he actually carry out his convictions?
- Sanctification: obedience because it is for my best good. In a system which emphasizes free will and human responsibility (e.g. Wesleyan Methodism), the emphasis on the rational basis for obedience is much stronger than it is in a Calvinistic system which emphasizes obedience to the commands of a Sovereign God. The impulse for the Wesleyan rational approach is rooted in the Old Testament which emphasizes, especially in Deuteronomy, that the laws given by God simply made very good sense (Deut. 4:5-8): “What other great nation has statues and ordinance as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?” (Deut.4:8). In this approach the specific role of the cross, vis-à-vis the law is much diminished. Indeed this approach is much more akin to a thorough-going rational secularism.Question: How can obedience be retained as a rational process and as a religious act? Would Ellen White’s phrase, “sanctified reason” be appropriate in this connection?
- Sanctification, perfectionism, and legalism. Is it possible to be obedient without that obedience being seen as legalistic? How can one strive for perfection without being driven to the despair suggested in Romans 7: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
- Ellen White on law and sanctification. In the early years of Adventism, so much emphasis was placed on obedience to law that the result was an arid and lifeless spirituality. This is the way she put it:
Let the law take care of itself. We have been at work on the law until we get as dry as the hills of Gilboa, without dew or rain. Let us trust in the merits of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” – MS 10, 1890 = EGW1888 2:557