As I was walking to language school this morning and thinking over my life, the recent words of a friend and some experiences I have had I came to a conclusion that I hope to further explore. That is that whether a person is in error by minimizing the doctrine of holiness and sanctification on one hand or in error by minimizing the fullness and completeness of Justification by faith alone apart from works on the other hand, they basically stray on the same basic issue, having to do with whether Salvation is mostly or primarily man-centered or God-centered. If your basic understanding of God’s eternal purpose in salvation is to make much of man you will err in either of these camps. On the one hand you will believe that God’s aim in loving you and saving you is to make much of you, primarily, and to give you happiness and eternal life in heaven or perhaps even many earthly pleasures in this life. The other ditch, stemming from the same problem tends toward the belief that I must work and fight sin in order to make myself pleasing to God, thus worthy of obtaining eternal life. The fear of turning the grace of God into licentiousness will often drive a person that errs in this way to not trust God’s grace at all in reality, but to carry the burden of making themselves holy on their own, though perhaps admittedly “with God’s help” (I speak from experience).
Both are man centered views, on one hand God is condescending and benevolent, at work to show mankind their worth through abounding grace without accountability and on the other hand by requiring man to prove his worth and to attain to a certain standard, working to show himself deserving of God’s mercy.
I would argue that both are symptoms of the same poison. A Gospel that does not hold up a holy, just, sovereign God who alone can save, who alone can justify, sanctify and preserve to glory those whom He has chosen by His mercy according to the glorious council of His sovereign plan for the glory of His name. A gospel that exalts this God who saves men from all tribes and nations for His glory and the praise of His glorious grace. A God who with such mercy saves by grace through faith alone freely and doesn’t stop there but works to sanctify that person day after day more into His likeness so that He may have a holy people, called out from corruption for His glory! How great is THE Gospel and Oh! How great is the God of the Gospel!