From Good to Excellent

Faith Recovery Podcast
Faith Recovery Podcast
From Good to Excellent
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Nathan and Kent discuss how Christian growth is from good to excellent.

In “From Good to Excellent,” Kent and Nathan discuss the Christian doctrine of sanctification. It’s not what you may think.


“From Good to Excellent” – Episode Notes

Last week we discussed the justification that is by the faith of Christ. This week we’ll discuss the sanctification that is by the faith of Christ. Here are my questions for Nathan today:

In your view, what does it mean to become righteous, or to be sanctified? And is that the same as what people are calling spiritual formation in Christ? What would it mean to become “like Christ”?

I think someone becomes righteous through faith. That is, the person who lives by the faith of the son is righteous according to God’s standard.

The notion that justification and sanctification are different stages in the Christian life presumes an anemic gospel. It presumes little change at the point of faith with a slow progression across the divide between imputed righteousness and actual righteousness. Every place in the NIV where “sanctified” is used refers to something a Christian receives at the point of faith. I think “justified” refers to a person’s moral standing while “sanctified” refers to their spiritual status. They’re really two sides of the same coin.

I’m not sure if “spiritual formation” as commonly used is a biblical concept. The phrase comes from Paul’s indictment on the Galatians in 4:19.

I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,

Galatians 4:12-19 NIV

Notice that Christ isn’t formed through growth but through birth. Notice that he’s in birth pains “again” until Christ is formed in you. He wants them to get back to the way they were when Christ was formed in them, not go forward through a process of spiritual disciplines until Christ will somehow imperceptibly develop within them.

So, if we’re going to use the phrase “spiritual formation” as Paul did, it more closely equates to the common use of the term “regeneration.” This was Peter’s understanding of what happens when a person believes the gospel according to 1 Peter 1:23-25.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

NIV

What does it mean to become like Christ? The person who has the faith of the Son is like the Son.


And secondly, what is the mechanism of that transformation? What about spiritual disciplines as practices for formation in Christ?

Excepting prayer and corporate worship, the spiritual disciplines are only incidentally mentioned in scripture.

Paul mentions exercise in godliness as paying off some dividends but to what end? In most cases, prayer and worship seem to result in immediate benefits such as a change of circumstances, the receiving of wisdom, or direct insight from God such as through a prophetic word, or divine empowerment.

The mechanism of spiritual growth comes from the exercise of the new life.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:7-14 NIV

How does sanctification relate to “eternal life”? Is eternal life what we get at the end when we die? Or is it life now in Christ? Romans 5:21 “so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Yes!

In that Romans 5:21 dichotomy, Paul contrasts two things with three. Grace contrasts with sin while righteousness and eternal life contrast with death. 1 John 5:11-13.

Romans 8:11-17 integrates the concepts in a process that he equates to resurrection from death.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[fn] his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.