Part 4 - The Application of Faith
Christ's Work of Separation
The creation account presents a model of redemption. The work of creation points to the saving work of Jesus Christ which covers redemption, justification, and sanctification. As Paul the Apostle wrote, "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the Lord' " (1 Cor. 1:30-31). After God finished the work of creation, He rested on the seventh day. God then created the Sabbath day for man to teach him about resting in the finished work that He, God, had accomplished. God's testimony to Israel concerning the Sabbath was that "it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (Ex. 31:13). The Sabbath accompanies the model of creation and speaks of resting in God's sanctifying work. Paul shows that this points to Christ, for "sabbaths . . . are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Col. 2:16-17). Although directly pointing to the redemption of Israel, the work of creation and the Sabbath day ultimately point to the redemptive work of Christ and the rest that the believer has in Christ.
Jesus Christ has become for us "righteousness and sanctification and redemption." There is no work of man that can be gloried in; God gets all the glory, praise, and honor in the work of salvation. Furthermore, Israel's knowledge through the Sabbath that "I am the Lord who sanctifies you" is a parallel for the Christian. He is to know while resting in Christ that it is Christ who sets him apart to God, consecrates him to God's purposes, and makes him to stand before God. The knowledge of Christ's work with an accompanying faith enables one to enter His rest.
Sanctification as the work of Christ is referred to as "positional" sanctification. This is the position that all believers have in Christ. This does not change based on the day to day behavior of the believer. Another aspect of sanctification is "experiential" sanctification. This section will examine these and how they relate to the model of sanctification given in the creation account.
The model that has been presented has three parts: God's work, God's rest, and man's rest. The foundational type for the believer's rest is the Sabbath day rest. The believer's rest is entered into by faith and so both rest and faith are essential elements in sanctification. The penalty for any Israelite who broke the Sabbath rest was death. The concept of sanctification being the work of man is common, but one who works to achieve sanctification is fulfilling the type of one breaking the Sabbath rest by working. The context of the redemptive work of Christ is the fall of mankind into sin and death through the usurping of God's place and glory. The restorative place that Christ is delivering mankind back into is one where the focus and glory is put back onto God. Thus in redemption the work is God's part and rest in that work by faith is man's part.
Positional sanctification is solely the work of Christ. It is a completed work that is applied to everyone at the time of salvation. Christ is inseparably one with the Father and the Spirit, and so this setting apart is spoken of in the Scriptures as being from all three. Jude 1:1 says, "Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ." Heb. 10:10 states: "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." These verses speak of a position that a believer has in Christ regardless of works or actions. The believer has been placed into this position by God. This position does not change based on day to day actions. As Hebrews says, "we have been sanctified . . . once for all."
An actual separation
Positional sanctification is not just a theoretical position that one has. It is not just an accounting by God toward a believer even though he is immature and frequently stumbles into sin. In justification, righteousness is imputed to the believer even though his actions do not measure up in reality. In positional sanctification on the other hand, there is a real and actual separation and consecration.
The believer is first separated by the light of the knowledge of God. This creates an actual and real separation. Non-believers are in darkness and cannot grasp the things of God. The believer, guided by the Holy Spirit, can understand the things of the Spirit. He can open the Scriptures and read and understand them. His spirit is alive and in communion with God. The believer is further separated by his position in Christ. Jesus has ascended into the heavenly places and is seated at the right hand of the Father. The believer is with Christ in this holy place, cleansed from sin and accounted righteous. This also is not just theoretical but an actual separation. It is only the veil of the flesh that prevents this from being seen. But in the spiritual realm it is a reality that the believer in his spirit can know. Also a reality is the position such a one has in the body of Christ, the church. God has placed each member as He pleases and the church suffers a real lack when one avoids fellowship. Membership in the body of Christ is a place of real and actual separation from the world. Finally, the believer is positionally under the rule of Christ and is separated out from under the rule and dominion of the law. This like the others is not just theoretical. The rule of Christ upon the believer is real. The separation of the believer from the dominion of the law is also a reality. This four-fold separation is the position that all believers occupy from the moment they are saved and set apart by Christ.
In like manner, one's consecration by God is completed and real. It also is not just theoretical. The calling of God is upon every believer to share the light of the truth. So also is the call to worship and praise God, to fellowship with Him in the spiritual realm. He has consecrated the believer to minister his gift or gifts to the other members of the church. He has designated the church to be the bride of Christ, to evermore be joined as one with Christ. These callings do not change. They have been God's purpose for the believer from the beginning. The believer cannot get out from under them. Both this separation and consecration are what is called positional sanctification. This is applied to every person at the moment of salvation and has nothing to do with the works or actions of that person.
What does involve the actions of a believer is what is called "experiential" sanctification. Put simply, this is "experiencing" the fruit of the sanctified position that the believer already occupies. It is not arriving at a place of holiness but rather being fruitful in the holy position that one already has in Christ. Christ has already redeemed the believer, justified the believer, and sanctified the believer when He died on the cross, rose the third day, and ascended to the Father. The writer to the Hebrews states: "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:24). Christ entered into what is truly the Holiest of All. He did this as High Priest, Mediator between God and man. It is here, in Christ who is seated with the Father, where the believer resides. "God . . . made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" Paul writes in Ephesians. There is not a holier place that one can attain. There is not a more righteous standing that one can achieve. The work is done, completed by Christ. The work of sanctification is finished. What is left is the bearing of fruit by the believer. This is the manifestation of a holiness that has already been attained in Christ.
Bearing fruit in Christ
Actions and behavior are important because the word of God says so. Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me" (John 15:1-4). Jesus gives the pattern for experiential sanctification: first of all a position in Him, afterward the bearing of fruit because of it. There is no fruit unless there is first an abiding in Christ. But nevertheless, if there is an abiding in Christ there will be fruit. What is more, a fruitless branch has no place in Christ. However pursuing fruitfulness misses the point: one is to pursue the place of abiding in Christ. Fruitfulness will be the natural result.
Understanding the separation aspect of sanctification is important in
bearing fruit. First, by understanding the believer can rest in his position
in Christ and not try to work to achieve that position. Second, by understanding the believer can apply faith by reckoning
this separation. By a knowledgeable faith one can abide in Christ. In
abiding in Christ, the purposes of God for His people are realized. These
three actions by the believer - resting, believing, and abiding - are
aspects of faith in Christ. It is faith in Christ that will produce fruit.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Rest in Christ corresponds to Christ
as the Way. Belief in Christ corresponds to Christ as the Truth. Abiding in
Christ corresponds to Christ as the Life. When these elements of faith are
applied to the finished work of Christ then a person will realize the
calling of God.