Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 5: Conquest and Settlement: The Disruptive Truth of Israel’s Holy War
Lesson 59 – Doctrine and Aim of Sanctification, Overall Position in Christ
01 May 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Last Sunday the service was closed by going to the Apostle’s Creed in the hymn book; I noticed something interesting that I want to show you. It shows you a little bit about church history. On this page there are three creeds. We all know the Apostle’s Creed. Then there’s a later creed that was developed to stem some heresies about Jesus Christ and they amplified… the guys that put the Nicene Creed together basically took the Apostle’s Creed and they built on to it, and they added extensive material on Jesus Christ, because it turned out that the Apostle’s Creed wasn’t tight enough to prevent errors on who Jesus was. But what do you observe about the structure, look at the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and then look at this contemporary affirmation of faith, which is so typical of our evangelical world today. What major difference is there in structure, the subject material?
The contemporary starts with Christ. I suspect some innocent little evangelical thought he was going to improve 1900 years of church history. There’s a reason why those other creeds start not with Christ. How does the Bible start? With God as Creator. How does the Apostle’s Creed start? With God as Creator. How does the Nicene Creed start? With God as the Creator? And how does our contemporary affirmation of faith start? Look at all the content that they’re talking about, and where do you see anything about creation? There’s one phrase in there. There’s nothing wrong, there’s no heresy there, there’s nothing blasphemous about it, it’s stating the truth. But there’s a subtlety that’s shifted between the time those ancient creeds were made and the time our contemporary stuff is written there’s been a shift in how we think about God.
Why did we start the Framework series with the act of creation, besides the obvious fact that Genesis starts there, but what do we get out of the event of creation, how does that help us look at God, what does it do for us when we think of Creation? It separates God from the creature. It starts off with the Creator/creature distinction. We are not gods, and He is not part of this creation. He preceded it, and if the universe were to disappear tonight He’d still be there. So it’s a momentous thing that has happened. There’s nothing wrong with the last creed, I’m not saying there’s particular things wrong with it. The problem is that the emphasis of the whole creed is not against the culture of our time, it’s not talking against the culture of our time.
The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed were fighting words. When the Apostle’s Creed was written, those guys weren’t trying to be sweetness and light, they were trying to be truthful over against the error of their time. That’s how those creeds got written; they were trying to correct something. What you tend to find in our own contemporary circles is sort of like following Dr. Feel Good kind of thing, it’s all this let’s get together and feel good together. Obviously we want to feel good, but not at the expense of truth. This is just a little thing that harps back to what we’ve been going over and why, when we look at the biblical set of events we keep looking at this set of events, it starts with creation, it starts with the fall; you never get away with those basics, over and over and over. They’re simple but if you let go of them you rapidly descend.
It’s just an interesting point and you could extend this if you’re interested in music, go through the hymn book and review the music, go through the hymns that when you read them the content of those hymns have heavy theology in them. They’re hymns about the person of God Himself. Then look at the kind of hymns that are talking about how we feel, or our hearts or something else. It’s not wrong per se to talk about that, but to talk about that as a starting point and to talk about that 90% of the time and God 10% of the time is an imbalance. As another exercise, if you want to try that in a hymn book, after you’ve sorted out the hymns, pick 15-20 at random, go through and look at the content and ask yourself, when I sing this hymn and the words go through my head, am I being directed to Him? Then when you get done sorting the hymns out, find out when they were written and see if you don’t notice a correlation in the time in which the hymn was written and the direction of the content of the lyrics. That’s just a little application of what we’re trying to do in the series, make us a little bit more aware of the fact that we have to have perspective on our own time, in our own generation. It’s not that we’re against everything in our day, it’s just that we have to have our feet planted on some unmovable object, some reference point in order to be able to see where we’re going in our own time.
Go to page 85 in the notes, those are the things that we studied as far as the conquest and settlement go. Tonight what we want to do is move from these events and the truths of these events, because we are looking at the conquest and settlement, the kingdom of God intruding itself into a corrupt civilization and on the cutting edge of the kingdom of God as it expands there’s holy war. From those principles we now can move to a new area of truth called the doctrine of sanctification. This has become our new area. If you look on the chart, we’ve covered a lot of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. I hope if you see these words you can visualize them in terms of these events. You want to be able to link them together. If we had a matching test we could put a list of these words on one side of the paper, put the events all scrambled on the left side of the paper and you could match them. If you can do that it is a signal that you are grasping the flow of the Scripture, that these events of Scripture depict in actual history the content of those doctrines. So when we come to Mt. Sinai we dealt with inerrancy, revelation and canonicity because they had to do with the Bible, they’re doctrines about God’s revelation. What did He do on Mt. Sinai? He revealed Himself.
For example, you’re discussing something or even in your own heart you have doubts about the inerrancy of the Scriptures, now that you have these two linked together, go back and read Exodus 19-20, put yourself at the foot of Mt. Sinai, pretend you’re Moses, you’ve climbed all the way up there and you hear God speaking. Then ask yourself the question, does He speak in a garbled way or did He speak clearly. If He spoke clearly then is He putting us on, telling us lies, the God of truth, or not. So if you can visualize that you won’t have any problem in inerrancy because God obviously spoke and He obviously spoke clearly and He obviously spoke truthfully. If He didn’t we’re all in BIG trouble. So Mt. Sinai becomes a picture of all that’s wrapped up in those doctrines. The doctrines take on three dimensions by looking at these events.
We’re coming to the doctrine of sanctification and we’re looking at it through the eyes of the reports of the conquest and settlement because that was a struggle. On page 86 I want to make a few points before we look up some Scriptures. When you come to the doctrine of sanctification you want to treat it just as historically valid and as necessary to elaborate on this truth as you would all the other truths from the standpoint of Scripture and not personal experience. The tendency in all these always is, nobody would think of talking about election on the basis of personal experience, you think I have to read Romans, Ephesians, etc., but when we come to sanctification that’s one area of truth where people tend to want to build that doctrine out of somebody’s experience, their experience, one of their church hero’s experiences, a biography or something like that. What we want to remind ourselves is just like all the other doctrines they have to be filled in with content from all the Scriptures.
There’s a neat quote on page 86 that bears repeating. Here’s a man who wrote a lot of the theory behind modern warfare, and a guy who I think is brilliant, I think, in how he analyzes who wins wars and who wins battles. Hart wrote: “Even in the most active career, especially a soldier’s career, the scope and possibilities of direct experience are extremely limited….” A man can be in the army twenty years and maybe he has six months of combat duty, where he’s actually in combat, and most guys go through twenty years with no experience in combat, a lot of exercises, a lot of war games but never the real thing. “Direct experience is too limited to form an adequate foundation either for theory or for application.” That holds true in the Christian life that your personal experience isn’t big enough for you to formulate conclusions about how God is going to grow you, or grow your children, or grow your parents, or grow the church. You’ve got to go back to the Scriptures because only in the Scriptures do we have a broad enough base of experience, reported history and how God really works, to be careful on how we state this.
As we go through the doctrine of sanctification I want to go through various topics. I want to break it down into various topics. The first sub topic we want to deal with under sanctification is what we call the phases of sanctification. All we’re doing is we’re not trying to get too heavy into theology but we want to start distinguishing things because you can get confused, and this is just a way of developing care in how we talk about it. We’ve gone through the call of Abraham, that was the first redemptive covenant we read about and we said when God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, what was the major issue that was happening? Abraham was in a pagan society, God called him out to start a program.
What is the implication historically of the Abrahamic Covenant? What at that point happened in human history that forever changed the face of the planet? In other words, had God not called Abraham out, how was God working prior to the call of Abraham? How was He talking to people? Was He talking to just small groups or was He basically revealing Himself to all the sons of Noah? All the sons of Noah, you had the Noahic Bible being transmitted tribally into all the cultures of the world, so everybody heard. Then God called Abraham out; at that point what is God beginning to do in human history? He begins to concentrate revelation down to a subset of the human race, the Jews. When that happened that created the rejoinder you’ve all heard one time or another in your life, what about the heathen who’ve never heard. It creates that because now God doesn’t speak to the whole human race, He speaks through the sons of Abraham, there’s an exclusivism that begins with that call in 2000 BC.
What we want to understand is that if we were Old Testament saints, we’ve got to put ourselves in the position of people in Joshua’s day. Their life was controlled by the call of Abraham. I if we depict that as an open circle, and I use an open circle because there are things about the Abrahamic Covenant that God hasn’t yet revealed. He’s made promises, I don’t think if you ask Abraham he’d have known about the virgin birth, but it’s implied in that covenant. So as history unfolds God reveals more and more about that Abrahamic Covenant. So we kind of keep it like an open circle, that’s the only way I have as a diagram, to kind of keep it a little hidden. In other words, God is omniscient, He knows things We don’t know, He’s got surprises and we don’t know about those things so we can’t say we really know all there is to know about the Abrahamic Covenant. Out of the Abrahamic Covenant came three promises: land, seed, and worldwide blessing; that’s the three major promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12. That’s a sovereign statement about the shape of history. It’s a statement about the fact that the seed of Abraham will be the means to bless the world. God isn’t just going to bless the world, He’s going to bless the world through Abraham, from that point on, and that is going to be a mark of human history.
What is the practical observation, if you are a student of history, you read about history, what does that say about the shape of history as far as we see the outworking? It says first of all, there’s going to be a group of physical seed of Abraham called Israel. And Israel is going to abide forever. If you have a mad man like Hitler who wants to exterminate Jews, what do you know immediately about his program? It’s going to fall flat on its face; nobody is going to exterminate the Jews, period. You’ll never do it. Why? Because God said He’s not going to do it, that’s why. And that’s because the Jew is a vehicle in history for what? Over the centuries he has been the custodian of the Word of God.
The Word of God is not a Gentile book; the Bible is a Jewish book. I had a friend witnessing to a Jewish guy one day and the Jewish guy was giving him grief about something, you’re always quoting the Bible. And this guy came back with the slickest answer, I would never have thought of this, look, that’s not my book it’s yours. It was a great answer; it’s a Jewish book about a Jewish Messiah that came out of a Jewish nation with a bunch of Jewish prophets. How much more Jewish can you get? The Abrahamic Covenant structured and set up history. In fact, Jesus said I’m not going to come back until Israel welcomes Me. So in one sense the Jew is still the key to history because it will not be until they say, Welcome is He who comes in the name of the Lord, that He comes back. Jesus will not come back to this planet until Israel welcomes Him back. That’s one of the impediments to world peace in one sense.
That’s the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, and it’s powerful, it’s elective, it controls everything. What would be some things that were happening in your life as a Jewish believer in Joshua’s day? You were in war, and you might say why do I have to go through all this? What is the big answer? The big answer as to why these things are happening in your life comes out of the Abrahamic Covenant; this controls the meaning, the destiny and the position of an Old Testament saint. It controls ours too but I’m just putting it back in the Old Testament context.
The second thing, on page 87 you have a simple diagram of this, the covenant of Abraham, if you look in the middle I say “this covenant defined her meaning and purpose in history. Israel would forever be at cultural odds with her environment.” In Fiddler on the Roof, the famous statement in the middle of that movie was: God, can’t you choose somebody else once in a while? It was a classic instance, why am I always at odds with European culture, said this Austrian Jew. And the answer is because that’s the way God set you into history. We share that same principle so we want to watch that the Abrahamic Covenant as the electing sovereign call of God is like a positional truth. We’ll call this the positional truth of sanctification; positional meaning God has set up our position in history, and no matter what else happens in our lives, the meaning of our life is set in motion here.
Down further on page 8 we go into the Sinaitic Covenant. “The Sinaitic Covenant, rather than specifying what Israel could expect of God, revealed what God expected of Israel. If the Abrahamic Covenant was written in the indicative mood, the Sinaitic Covenant was written in the imperative mood.” What we’re saying here is there are two covenants we studied that are redemptive. If we draw the Mosaic Covenant as sort of a circle, lying down on the ground, a circle of light that tells us where God wants us to walk, He’s telling us do this, don’t do this, do this, don’t do this. That’s the content of the [Mosaic] Covenant and we call that the second phase of sanctification to distinguish it from the position. This is the experience, that’s where our experience is, the experience is in obeying or disobeying, but we want to carefully distinguish our position from our experience just for the sake of getting these two straight.
The Jewish believer in Joshua’s army had the meaning of his life tied in with the meaning of his nation, tied in with the meaning of history. Everything little is tied into the large and the thing that does that is God’s plan of salvation. It’s that plan that creates our position, and it’s not going to go away, and there’s nothing we can do to change it, there’s nothing that Satan can do to change it, there’s nothing sin can do to change it, that is forever certain, it’s sure. So it’s important that we recognize that we have a position that God’s word defines for each of us. If we have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ we share the same elective plan that a Jewish believer in the Old Testament shared, under that Abrahamic Covenant, that God is doing something redemptively in history. We share that.
What’s different is that the Jewish believer in Joshua’s day was obligated by a certain set of commandments in this Mosaic Covenant, so his experience was an experience of obedience or disobedience to that Mosaic set of rules. Our experience of obedience or disobedience is to the New Testament set of rules. But whether it’s the Old Testament set of rules or the New Testament set of rules, the point is that’s our daily experience area. But our daily experience is an outworking of the prior position that we have. So we can talk about positional sanctification and we can talk about experiential sanctification and we should distinguish between the two.
Let’s contrast them a little bit more. If we say we are to love one another, are we talking about experiential sanctification or positional sanctification? Watch it because we’re really talking about both, but there are nuances to this. In an ordinary sense of the word, when we’re supposed to take care of one another, etc. isn’t that in the area of our experience. We can be true to that or false to that, we can deny that, we can be disobedient to that, etc. But what’s also true, why does God tell us that? It’s because of our position. So the command to which we can be obedient or disobedient is rooted in our position. God has a right to expect that of us because of our position. So the position controls the experience and that’s what we want to look at in the phases of sanctification.
If you get nothing out of tonight’s lesson, get this one. The understanding and the meaning of everything that happens in your experience is controlled and depends upon your position in the elect plan of God, just as the Jewish believer in Joshua’s army; he could have been at Ai when they got slaughtered, or he could have been at Jericho when they were victorious. The fact that in one instance, at Ai that army was disobedient and were collectively losers, or at Jericho they were obedient and collectively winners, didn’t change their purpose in history, because after Ai God worked and they recovered and they went to where? What was the next big event we studied after the disaster at Ai? God stopped the sun and the moon because they were obedient.
Experience fluctuates, up and down, up and down. And if you get your eyes completely on your experience you’re in for a roller coaster ride. It’s this that gives stability in the Christian life. If you think in terms of the roller coaster, any time you get totally preoccupied with experience you’re going to go downhill, because our experience is never totally pleasing to God. It’s a very discouraging thing to just sit there and look at experience upon experience upon experience and never relate it to the overall position where we’re going. So you get out of operation roller coaster over here by looking back to here. Just as, if you can imagine someone in Joshua’s army thinking after Ai, what are we doing here? Think back, wait a minute, this is 1390 BC and in 2000 BC God said we were Jews, we’re going to have a unique role to play in history, He promised our father Abraham that we were to come in here and we were to destroy these Amalekites. It’s not going smoothly but do we have any doubt about the ultimate outcome? That’s what gives the strength. We have no doubt about the ultimate outcome, regardless of the experience of the moment. That’s a comforting thought and you have to keep going back to that. So that’s one of the things we want to say, the phases of sanctification, distinguish these two.
There’s a third word that we’re not covering now because we get into that in the prophetic sections of the Bible. There’s a third name, we’ve talked about positional sanctification, we’ve talked about experiential sanctification and the third word is ultimate sanctification. In ultimate sanctification that’s the grand time when experience does line up with the position and the redemption is finished, the resurrection is over. Obviously we’re not there yet so we’re not going to emphasize that one, we’ll just deal with the first two.
There are some fine details about them and we want to look at terms of the way the covenants are structured. Genesis 12:3 takes us back to the Abrahamic Covenant, it’s a positional thing, and we want to look at two areas of the Bible, one has to do with position the other has to do with experience. We’re going to look at this call of Abraham, in particular we’re going to look at how God’s anger is expressed when it comes to our position. What does God say He will do in Genesis 12:3 and this is the protection clause for the Jewish existence in history and not for his existence only but for everyone who has trusted in Jesus Christ. “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” In other words, there’s a protection, so God curses those who try to oppose His redemptive plan in history. They will always fail; they may have victory for a moment, for a fleeting time, but they are doomed to failure because God curses them. “I will curse him that curses you.” Notice who is getting cursed in verse 3. That’s the Abrahamic Covenant.
Now watch what happens in the cursing when it comes to the Mosaic covenant. In Deuteronomy 28:15 now who gets cursed? “But it shall come about, if you will not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” The cursing is not on the Gentiles, it’s on Israel. So notice the difference between these two covenants. This covenant is a covenant of position, it defines the ultimate pathway through history, and the curse is upon those outside of the path. That’s the big picture. From moment to moment down through history we can get cursed, we can get disciplined. But that doesn’t stop the other one. Experiential sanctification is rooted in positional sanctification. The fact that God is going to curse Israel doesn’t mean that Israel isn’t going to survive in history. The fact that God disciplines us, sometimes very harshly, doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our salvation. It doesn’t mean that God is through with us, but He can be rough with us. That’s why these two phases are so important.
On page 87 I quote a scholar of ancient documents, Dr. Weinfeld, and he makes this observation: “While the ‘treaty,’” now the treaty is like the Mosaic covenant, what he’s looking at is two different formats in history, in other words he’s looking at documents out of the ancient world, he’s looking at two kinds, one is a treaty and the other is a grant. These are actually written documents and he’s talking about how you distinguish a treaty from a grant. The grant is analogous in its format and structure to Genesis 12, Genesis 15, i.e., the Abrahamic Covenant. So when they look back in ancient history, they see these grants, the grants are very parallel in their wording to this: God grants blessings to Abraham. But when they look at the treaty documents, they are very analogous to Mt. Sinai, when God established His Father-son relationship with the nation. What Weinfeld points out is that “While the ‘treaty’ constitutes an obligation of the vassal to his master,” plug in that sentence while the Mosaic covenant or the Sinaitic Covenant if you want to get the analogy: While the Sinaitic Covenant constitutes an obligation of the believer to God, “the suzerain, the ‘grant’ constitutes an obligation of the master,” God, “to his servant,” the believer. See the difference. That’s a fundamental difference.
Sad to say there are many people in Protestant evangelical Christianity that mishmash these two covenants together. These covenants are distinguished. There are two different dispensational administrations of God’s will in history, and they’re seen in these two covenant forms. “In the ‘grant’ the curse is directed towards the one who will violate the rights of the king’s vassal,” which one is that directed to? Is that Genesis 12 or is that Leviticus? It’s Genesis 12. Then he says, “while in the treaty the curse is directed towards the vassal who will violate the rights of his king,” that’s Leviticus. So the Bible has these two distinctions, it’s a very clear distinction, and that parallels in the New Testament.
When you come to the New Testament this gives you a tool. If you read in the New Testament text somewhere, “Be filled with the Spirit,” it’s an imperative, verbs have mood and we’ll talk about the indicative mood and the imperative mood. In the imperative mood the subject orders the object, says do this, don’t do this. The indicative is a description, the subject just talks about the object. But the imperative is a command. When we have an imperative in the New Testament, anywhere in the New Testament, what are we talking about, position or experience? Go back to the Old Testament, which covenant has all the imperatives in it. The Mosaic, the Sinaitic Covenant. Which covenant is defining their experience, their obligations on a day by day basis? The Mosaic Covenant. So where you see the imperatives in the New Testament it’s talking about experiential sanctification, it’s a command, God says I expect you to do this, I expect you not to do that.
But when you read, for example in Ephesians 1 and it talks about “you are blessed in the heavenlies in with Christ Jesus,” now what are we talking about. That’s position, just like the Abrahamic Covenant. If you read the New Testament with that distinction in mind, all of a sudden it starts illuminating passages. For example when you read what’s often read in communion, 1 Corinthians 11, examine yourselves, etc. and to the Corinthians it says because some of you didn’t examine yourselves you are weak, sickly, and some have died. What’s that talking about? That’s obviously discipline and it’s discipline on believers and the Corinthian church. Is that experiential or is that positional? It’s experiential; it’s analogous to the Mosaic Covenant, those cursings in Leviticus, the same principle. For example if you read in the New Testament where it talks about God in eternity past foreknew us in Christ, what’s that talking about? It’s the indicative, it’s not an imperative, there’s no command involved, it’s an obligation of God, He’s announcing here’s what I did for you. Can you change that? No. Could a Jew have changed the Abrahamic Covenant? No. He might have wished to change it, but he couldn’t. So to get anchored in the position that we enjoy in Christ is very important because that sets up what can’t be changed. Whatever happens in our life at least that is not going to change. The experience will change, but the position won’t change. That’s very important to go back to again and again and again. That’s why we talk about these phases of sanctification, position and experience.
On page 89, “the life of faith depends upon us putting these two phases of sanctification in proper perspective. We are to obey what God asks of us in the lower circle of light,” The Mosaic Covenant, the imperatives, “while we trust Him to provide what He promises in the open circle above.” See the Jews in Joshua’s day had to trust that this campaign of holy war is going to work. Did they really have a promise in the Mosaic Law Code? What is true of all the promises in the Mosaic Law, they’re all prefixed with “if” you do this, then I will do that. So if I’m sitting here and I’ve really blown it, do I have leverage any more with the imperatives? No because I disobeyed. So if I just look at what God wants me to do or what He doesn’t want me to do and I ignore what He has promised, my faith goes away, because I know I’ve sinned, I know I’ve displeased Him, now what do I do? If I’ve displeased Him and He’s going to bless me if I do this and I know I didn’t do that, now what happens to me? That’s why you have to blend the two, and that’s why the Jew in Joshua’s army would have to go back and say okay, we screwed up at Ai but the big picture is that we are God’s chosen people and He is going to send us into the land that He promised Abraham. That’s the big picture, so we may have blown it today, but the big picture hasn’t changed. That’s a basic tool to utilize this doctrine with.
One other thing, a second area in sanctification is we want to look at something else that’s often blurry. What is the aim in sanctification? A good question to ask: what’s it all about, ultimately what are we talking about when we’re talking about sanctification? What is God trying to work out in us? It’s clear, the first commandments, “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind,” etc. That’s what He’s trying to work out in experience. The problem is that if we’re sloppy here we’re going to get confused. How does God work out this goal today? It’s struggle. Is the struggle to get there due to sin or would there have been at least pressure, had Adam and Eve not fallen, to get there? Is the impediment to get there due to sin? That’s obviously the impediment but what I’m trying to get at is if you could place yourself back in the Garden of Eden prior to the fall, it gets back to this diagram where I show the difference between creation and the fall, that zone when the universe had been created but hadn’t fallen yet, so existence was not defined by evil like our existence is. We live in an abnormal world, we always have to say wait a minute, I live in an abnormal world, let me think of what it would have been like in a normal world. In a normal world, in the Garden of Eden, did Adam and Eve have a test? Yes they did.
This aim was required to be developed by historic obedience, regardless of whether there was sin or not. You may doubt that, but let’s look at the Lord Jesus Christ as a test case. Did the Lord Jesus Christ ever sin? No, He was the perfect man, without spot or blemish. If He was, what do we make of Hebrews 5:8, this is a very provocative verse, because it reveals something about Jesus Christ. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” That’s interesting. What are some implications of that verse? If this is Jesus Christ on a time line, when He was born, and he grows to an adult, thirty plus years, God is saying in Hebrews that during this time He learned, in short, He was being experientially sanctified, but without sin… without sin. But He had to learn.
What is true of your dog that is not true of you? What’s true of animals as far as learning to take care of themselves, etc. vs. how we are? What is the big difference between the human, Homo
Sapiens, and any other kind? They all are born with instinct, we aren’t. It’s peculiar that Homo sapiens have to go through a learning process. Do you know any other animal that the young stays with the parents as long as us, proportionally? Why do we have to stay so long in the nurture of a home? Why does our kind do that? Cats don’t, dogs don’t, birds don’t, but we do. It makes us different. It’s because we’re made in God’s image and there’s something going on, and the something is that we don’t have it all instinctively. Yes, we breathe automatically and there’s a certain instinctive behavior about it, but generally speaking, it’s all learned and that’s not so in many of the animals. Animals can learn, yes, but proportionally speaking, they learn a lot less than we learn. We have to learn an awful lot of stuff.
What this is saying is that Jesus learned, and it’s a very important verse because it proves that a sinless man had to learn to be sanctified, which proves that sanctification had to happen regardless of the fall, regardless of evil. This shows that Adam and Eve were supposed to have started learning what it means to obey God. What that tells us, this aim of sanctification tells us that the whole process that we’re going through is hindered by sin, it’s tougher because we now live this side of the fall, it’s hard, we have death, suffering, the things which Jesus suffered, a lot of what He suffered was due to our sin, not His. So it’s our own sin, it’s other’s sins, all of that that adds to the pressure of sanctification. But that’s not ultimately involved in sanctification. [blank spot]
… walking around in Palestine, rubbing shoulders with the human race, eventually going to and getting nailed to the cross and dying for us, and it was those acts of this perfect God-man that crated a righteousness that now God can credit to us. That’s how much pressure was on Christ. Stop and think about it. We talk about the President of the United States or somebody with a lot of pressure on them. You have responsibility and it hangs in there day after day after day. Think of the responsibility of Jesus Christ. Now perhaps we can understand what He was going through in the Garden of Gethsemane, because if He screwed up, history would have unfolded, there was a lot of pressure on Him. So that’s how He learned obedience, all during this time, up to the cross, He was learning what it meant to obey God under pressure, and He did it and it’s that historic righteousness credited to our account.
What’s so neat about this and why Hebrews brings it out, Hebrews 5:8, “He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered,” that’s in the context of the fact if you go back to Hebrews 4:14, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore draw near with confidence,” that is a wonderful passage if you understand this. What that means is, unlike the Moslem who goes to this Allah, Allah never walked around the face of the earth, Allah never got dirt under his fingernails, Allah never learned obedience, Allah never died for all the Muslims, Allah doesn’t know if he exists, doesn’t know what it means to be, to walk around and face the crud that we face as human beings. But our God does. Why? Because He walked around the face of the earth. That’s the incarnation of Christ.
These are the central great truths of the Christian faith. We come back, and if you look at the diagram on page 90 that’s what I’ve been trying to say. Before the fall we still had the aim of loyalty. That’s what history is all about. After the fall we still have the aim of loyalty, but what’s changed? After the fall it’s harder because we have the impediments that are sin, evil and its consequences. So the whole aim of sanctification is to develop the character of obeying our Father through trusting Him.
What haven’t I said? Let’s review a few things. Notice what we have not said the aim of sanctification is? The aim of sanctification is not living a moral life; we didn’t say that, we said we’re living a life or we’re trusting the Lord. Yes, they’re somewhat related, obviously, but there can be people who can live a very moral life and have nothing to do with this. So we’re not saying the aim of sanctification is morality. Satan never committed an act of immorality, but he sinned. What we’re talking about is a trust and obedience to the Father. What we’re not talking about, you notice we haven’t said “having a wonderful ecstatic spiritual experience.” There is a wonderful sense of peace and fellowship with God, non-deniable, but is that the aim for sanctification or is that an accompaniment to sanctification? That’s an accompaniment, a blessing here and there that we get, but to sit and demand that every week we have to have this ecstatic experience or the Lord’s not blessing me is wrong. Jesus didn’t have a very ecstatic experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, He turns around and everybody is sleeping, that really creates the impression that my friends are really with me here, and then He sees the police coming to arrest Him, that’s not having a good day. So sanctification can proceed and advance whether it’s a good day or a bad day. Having good days isn’t the aim of sanctification.
Some other things: it is not getting a good reputation in front of people, that’s not the aim of sanctification. Sometimes that’s confused, sometimes you’re not going to have a good reputation in front of people just because you’re being sanctified, or you will be misunderstood by a lot of people because you’re being sanctified. Was Jesus understood by His own brothers and sisters? We don’t read of one of His brothers and sisters becoming a Christian until after He dies. Was due to the fact that He didn’t live a Christ-like life? So the question must be that it’s possible to be totally and thoroughly misunderstood by people living with you, in your own family. But that’s ultimately not the issue.
Next time we’re going to cover the means of sanctification. Look at the notes, what we’ve tried to do here, and this is kind of hairy, because it gets into two things that are often in conflict. On page 91 we’re going to deal with the word “law” and on page 92 with the word “grace.” Both of those are involved in sanctification, not one, but both, and unfortunately we can rock between emphasizing one to the point where we screw it up, then we go over here and emphasize the other one and screw it up. So it’s trying to create a balance in understanding law and grace. I’d encourage you to read that section.