Monergism and Sanctification

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Reformed Roman

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Simple question.

I feel like many times when the reformed faith is being defended, we say it has to be God who does all the saving in salvation. That's the only way He can get the glory, otherwise, we can take the credit.

Yet in sanctification, it is synergistic, where we work WITH God. The same logic doesn't seem to apply here.

I feel like many of my recent struggles in my faith have had to do with that. If I'm not doing things properly, I blame not having a passion or desire for God. Subconciously at least, I think that God has to give me a passion for me to do it. So I sit in a limbo cycle where I live more for myself than Him, when it doesn't happen I pray for more passion and pray for Him to change me, and do these things through me. Then when the time comes and I have no passion I'm stuck again.

I think this is a big case of me not taking responsibility, and me not realizing that sanctification is not monergistic. Furthermore, I don't think I fully realize that God has already done the things necessary for me. He's saved me, and given me a new nature. So even if I don't feel like praying, I still CAN PRAY and I'm still responsible to.

Anyway, I'm wrestling all this out. But I could use some deep theological clarification. As to how God gets the glory through synergistic sanctification. And how that plays out practically. Because I feel like I've become so dependant on God doing the work in me that I'm not taking the responsibility I need to.
 
As to how God gets the glory through synergistic sanctification.

I am not sure 'synergy' is the right word to use in describing sanctification. It implies that the two agents are equal. I think it is more helpful to stick to the words of the confession.

LBC Chapter 13:paragraph 1. They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally,1 through the same virtue, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them;2 the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,3 and the several lusts of it are more and more weakened and mortified,4 and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,5 to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

It is God who unites us to Christ, calls us, and regenerates us. He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. This causes a real and personal sanctification whereby we grow in the practice of holiness. We are personally sanctified and we personally practice holiness more and more, but it is only because of what He has done and continues to do. When you look at sanctification through the lens of the confession, it is much easier to see how God gets all the glory.
 
Thank you Douglas. I gave it a good read. I agree with it overall as well. It is Monergistic in the sense that God is ultimately the one that causes us to be set apart. Without God saving us we could never be sanctified, and without His Spirit actively working in us we couldn't be sanctified. Yet I find it hard to find my role in sanctification and why it's so important.

Again. I battle a lot with feelings and when I don't feel like reading my Bible, or seeking Him, it's a struggle to see how me buckling down, and seeking God anyway can produce sanctification. It just makes me feel like I'm relying on human effort to sanctify me. Yet at the same time human effort is apart of the process.

There is so much depth to sanctification and that's a big thing I'm trying to get a grip on. I want to understand in a deeper way how I cooperate with God (Even when I don't feel like it, or when I don't want to) and how I can fight against those feelings, and still be submitting myself to God, for HIM to do the sanctifying.

So again, I appreciate the article and the confession above. They definitely help!
 
Dear Zach,

I agree with Ken that Reformed theology teaches that sanctification is absolutely NOT synergistic because this would imply God is 50% mover and man is 50% mover. We understand biblically that God is 100% the mover.

Is sanctification monergistic then? Well, we try to avoid using this term because it confuses people. In terms of God being 100% the mover, sanctification is monergistic. But when humans hear the term "monergistic" applied to sanctification, the cry is immediately "then man doesn't need to act!" Which is false. In fact, it is precisely because God is the mover, that man is moved. But since man always makes this cry, we try not to use monergistic even though technically this is true.

So we all agree. God is the mover and man is the moved. How does this happen? Bible tells us we are to do good works. Confession tells us what a good work is: something done IN FAITH. Sanctification is by faith. The Reformed strongly emphasize "sanctification by faith" while most others emphasize "sanctification by will power and no faith". Our view is true biblical sanctification, while the other view is what John Piper calls "legalism."

I see little difference between a Christian attempted to use his will-power to overcome his overeating and a Mormon who tries to will-power his overeating. Both are relying on their own power, not depending upon faith in God's power to work through them. Once they accomplish their goals, both will pat themselves on the back and puff up in pride because THEY overcame their eating problem. Neither gives God any credit. And if the Christian does, it's in passing only because he knows he's supposed to give God credit. But in his heart, he knows 95% of the credit goes to himself. Maybe 5% to God.

So what is sanctification by faith? How does that play out? I would refer you to John Piper's Desiring God website. Play his Gal 3 sermons (esp this one: Can You Begin by the Spirit and Be Completed by the Flesh? | Desiring God) and listen to him explain the differences between sanctification by faith and legalism and also "let go and let God" (called antinomianism). And he will also give you a 5-step process (called A.P.T.A.T.) that will help guide you to have faith/TRUST God to change you and then you act. APTAT = Dana, Doug and an APTAT Recap | Desiring God

A – I acknowledge that without Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5; Romans 7:18).

P – I pray that God would make me love as Jesus loves, and work in me all that is pleasing to him (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 5:21; Hebrews 13:21).

T – I trust the promise of God’s help and strength and guidance (Isaiah 41:10; James 1:5, 6).

A – I act in obedience to God’s word. Doug Heil asked me last Sunday if Philippians 2:12 fit my acronym: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? I said yes, because look at the ground clause which follows: “for it is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure.” Yes! Yes! We act. We obey! But what keeps this action from being a “work of law” is that we have acknowledged our helplessness, prayed for enablement, and trusted that precisely in and under our working and willing it is God who does the work! Therefore our act is a fruit of the Spirit not a work of the flesh.

T – I thank God for whatever good comes. I give him the glory (1 Peter 4:11).


The great thing about Piper is he tells us there are 3 choices:
1) Leglism - will-power sanctification (on one side)
2) Sanctification by Faith (in the middle) APTAT
3) "Let go and let God" (Antinomianism) which is "ask God to change me but don't BELIEVE/FAITH/TRUST him to actually do it."

BOTH 1) legalism and 3) let go and let God are methods that LACK FAITH. One acts without any faith. The other doesn't act because it has no faith.

And to read even deeper on sanctification, get this book off Amazon. John Hendryx (of Monergism website/bookstore) put together the best chapters of many of our major Reformed Theologians on sanctification all in one book. http://www.amazon.com/Christ-Our-Sa...=8-1&keywords=our+sanctification+john+hendryx
 
Zach
Yet in sanctification, it is synergistic, where we work WITH God. The same logic doesn't seem to apply here.

It is the regenerated soul - that has at the point of regeneration undergone definitive sanctification - that is seeking by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit to live unto righteousness and die unto sin in progressive sanctification.

If the soul hadn't been regenerated by God the Holy Spirit, he would have no new desires or motives to engage in progressive sanctification.

It also true that without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and His ongoing work in the heart and life of the regenerate soul, progressive sanctification would be impossible.

So although we as regenerate souls are involved in our progressive sanctification, in a way in which we are not involved in our justification, regeneration/definitive sanctification, the glory for sanctification goes to God, just as much as for justification.

In the case of justification Christ wrought a righteousness for us.

In the case of progressive sanctification God is working a righteousness in us that is our own in the sense that it is us that do the good works but all the glory goes to God.

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, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.


Chapter XVI
Of Good Works

I. Good works are only such as God has commanded in His holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention.

II. These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. 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: 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.

IV. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possibly 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.

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, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit, 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.

VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God's sight; 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.

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: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith;nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.
 
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I have recently preached a sermon in which I made this analogy. I hope it is helpful:

Progressive sanctification is like hot chocolate. What do you need for hot chocolate? You need hot milk, chocolate, a clean cup to put it into, and something to stir it up with. The hot milk, is the pure milk of the Word, the chocolate (sweetened by the Spirit), is the "seasoning" of grace. These are both products of the Holy Spirit of God, who speaks through the Word, and imparts God's grace whereby our lives are seasoned and sweetened. But these must be poured into a clean cup in order that the Word may be mixed with grace. We are that cup. But are we a clean cup? Hebrews 4:2, speaking of the gospel, was not profiting some because it was not mixed with faith in those who heard it. In other words, they had not yet been regenerated, given faith, and justified. Who does all this? Since life comes by the Spirit's regeneration, and faith comes by the gift of the Spirit, and faith comes by the preaching and hearing of the Word, which is also by the Spirit, then the Spirit is doing the all of the work of mixing faith in us for our justification. This both justifies and sanctifies the cup. But now the cup must contain the ingredients. There is the continuing Word and grace, which must also be poured into our cups in order to make us holy (hot chocolate). Now the ingredients must be stirred, otherwise you have hot milk with a smattering of chocolate floating about. Here is where cooperation comes in. The stirring of the milk of the Word, with the grace of God is both passive and active to us. The Spirit does this as well, through all the means God has provided. In this way we are passive to sanctification. However, we are also commanded to stir up the gifts within us, stir up one another to love and good works, and stir up the doctrines taught by Peter and the other Apostles (2 Tim. 1:6; Heb. 10:24; 2 Peter 1:13, 3:1). In this way we are active to sanctification. But as Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:18, "All things are of God..." The gifts He gives are indispensable to the whole process. Yet, He also requires us to be His vessels of holiness, so that Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. The Holy Spirit stirs us up in order for us to become that righteousness of God in Christ. And we stir ourselves up in order to be acceptable to God by our faith and reasonable service. And by these actions we become the sanctified cups of hot chocolate, seasoned and sweetened by grace, in the Word's pure milk.

Therefore is sanctification synergistic or monergistic? I'd rather explain it by hot chocolate. God provides everything needed for our justification and our definitive sanctification, a truly clean cup, then He mixes in the ingredients of Word and grace by the Holy Spirit, and we stir it up to ensure that Word and grace remain well mixed in our lives.

In Christ,
KC
 
Dear Zach,

I agree with Ken that Reformed theology teaches that sanctification is absolutely NOT synergistic because this would imply God is 50% mover and man is 50% mover. We understand biblically that God is 100% the mover.

Is sanctification monergistic then? Well, we try to avoid using this term because it confuses people. In terms of God being 100% the mover, sanctification is monergistic. But when humans hear the term "monergistic" applied to sanctification, the cry is immediately "then man doesn't need to act!" Which is false. In fact, it is precisely because God is the mover, that man is moved. But since man always makes this cry, we try not to use monergistic even though technically this is true.

So we all agree. God is the mover and man is the moved. How does this happen? Bible tells us we are to do good works. Confession tells us what a good work is: something done IN FAITH. Sanctification is by faith. The Reformed strongly emphasize "sanctification by faith" while most others emphasize "sanctification by will power and no faith". Our view is true biblical sanctification, while the other view is what John Piper calls "legalism."

I see little difference between a Christian attempted to use his will-power to overcome his overeating and a Mormon who tries to will-power his overeating. Both are relying on their own power, not depending upon faith in God's power to work through them. Once they accomplish their goals, both will pat themselves on the back and puff up in pride because THEY overcame their eating problem. Neither gives God any credit. And if the Christian does, it's in passing only because he knows he's supposed to give God credit. But in his heart, he knows 95% of the credit goes to himself. Maybe 5% to God.

So what is sanctification by faith? How does that play out? I would refer you to John Piper's Desiring God website. Play his Gal 3 sermons (esp this one: Can You Begin by the Spirit and Be Completed by the Flesh? | Desiring God) and listen to him explain the differences between sanctification by faith and legalism and also "let go and let God" (called antinomianism). And he will also give you a 5-step process (called A.P.T.A.T.) that will help guide you to have faith/TRUST God to change you and then you act. APTAT = Dana, Doug and an APTAT Recap | Desiring God

A – I acknowledge that without Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5; Romans 7:18).

P – I pray that God would make me love as Jesus loves, and work in me all that is pleasing to him (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 5:21; Hebrews 13:21).

T – I trust the promise of God’s help and strength and guidance (Isaiah 41:10; James 1:5, 6).

A – I act in obedience to God’s word. Doug Heil asked me last Sunday if Philippians 2:12 fit my acronym: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? I said yes, because look at the ground clause which follows: “for it is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure.” Yes! Yes! We act. We obey! But what keeps this action from being a “work of law” is that we have acknowledged our helplessness, prayed for enablement, and trusted that precisely in and under our working and willing it is God who does the work! Therefore our act is a fruit of the Spirit not a work of the flesh.

T – I thank God for whatever good comes. I give him the glory (1 Peter 4:11).


The great thing about Piper is he tells us there are 3 choices:
1) Leglism - will-power sanctification (on one side)
2) Sanctification by Faith (in the middle) APTAT
3) "Let go and let God" (Antinomianism) which is "ask God to change me but don't BELIEVE/FAITH/TRUST him to actually do it."

BOTH 1) legalism and 3) let go and let God are methods that LACK FAITH. One acts without any faith. The other doesn't act because it has no faith.

And to read even deeper on sanctification, get this book off Amazon. John Hendryx (of Monergism website/bookstore) put together the best chapters of many of our major Reformed Theologians on sanctification all in one book. Christ Our Sanctification: The Reformed View of Mortification and Vivification by Grace - Kindle edition by Varioius Authors, John Hendryx. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Once again great post. Especially digging deep enough to get a specific sermon on the topic! I'll be sure to listen to this in the next couple days.

I find a discussion like this is deep. So deep that it can't just be explained with normal logic. You can't use arguments, and figure out why this argument doesn't apply to this reasoning. You just have to put together everything scripture says and see it to be true.

While many of these things I know, I also know that for some reason I've become a little passive lately and I've really needed to feed these things into my soul. So I really appreciate the help
 
I find a discussion like this is deep. So deep that it can't just be explained with normal logic. You can't use arguments, and figure out why this argument doesn't apply to this reasoning. You just have to put together everything scripture says and see it to be true.

While many of these things I know, I also know that for some reason I've become a little passive lately and I've really needed to feed these things into my soul. So I really appreciate the help

Why should one aspect of salvation - progressive sanctification - be accomplished in the same way as another aspect of salvation - justification?
 
I find a discussion like this is deep. So deep that it can't just be explained with normal logic. You can't use arguments, and figure out why this argument doesn't apply to this reasoning. You just have to put together everything scripture says and see it to be true.

While many of these things I know, I also know that for some reason I've become a little passive lately and I've really needed to feed these things into my soul. So I really appreciate the help

Why should one aspect of salvation - progressive sanctification - be accomplished in the same way as another aspect of salvation - justification?

Don't get me wrong. I agree with you.

I think all of us have struggles and sometimes people just delve so deep into theology. But knowledge can puff up, and when it comes to practice the true belief of that theology is tested.

I fully believe in huge differences in sanctification and justification. However I think to attack any unbelief in my heart, I think the question I'm trying to ask is "why shouldn't one aspect of salvation, progressive sacntification, be accomplished like justification?"

Because again. the logic I hear so many people use is that God gets the glory only because it's all through Him. An arminian would maybe say "God gets the glory because without him opening my eyes, I couldn't make that choice". That's the logic we use for sanctification isn't it? Why that logic is put down as an unrealistic man glorifying thing in one aspect (in justification), and then it's seen as a perfectly fine line of reasoning for sanctification. It doesn't make sense to me.

I know this might seem like an elementary discussion to have, but again I've been finding that even though I believe something in the head, sometimes these truths are attacked in my heart so any good replies honestly help. I wish more of us were honest about our struggles with certain truths. As someone who has had at least a proper view of justification and sanctification for at least 5 years or so, I can still say those general beliefs don't always flesh themselves out in my struggles. I typically find I didn't believe as much as I thought, or that I was unbalanced in one way or another. Over reliant on grace, and "letting go and letting GOD", or I'm over reliant on self and not relying on His fully sufficient holiness and grace.
 
Because once you have the new nature from God you have been set free to live unto righteousness and to die unto sin by God. So we cannot excuse ourselves - our new selves, all the glory goes to God for re-creating us - for being passive in not making use of the means of grace, etc.

In the case of regeneration you are speaking about someone who has not yet been changed by God. Until that is the case his will is bound by sin. After regeneration, he is not in that condition, something which we " forget", because of indwelling sin, but which the Apostle encourages us to remember or "reckon" (e.g. Romans 6).


On the other hand you have also indwelling sin, so you need to constantly look to the Lord for grace and strength.

The spirit - the renewed man - is willing, but the flesh - inwelling sin - is week.

To be completely passive in progressive sanctification is really to forget or deny we are regenerate.
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