Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thoughts on Sanctification

As I was driving home from Balcarres this morning after giving Holy Communion to some of the residents I had a thought. I don't know if it is original. Perhaps it is just something that I read or heard before that is bubbling up to the surface. Perhaps it is something that I put together in my brain. But here are some thoughts on sanctification:

In the Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans Luther wrote:

"Sin in the Scriptures means not only external works of the body but also all those movements within us which bestir themselves and move us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heart with all its powers. Therefore the word do should refer to a person's completely falling into sin. No external work of sin happens, after all, unless a person commit himself to it completely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in the depth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works. That's what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (cf. Genesis 3)."

The root of all sin is - unbelief. So this got me thinking as I was driving home. Much talk surrounding sanctification is based upon outward acts. What one does. However, focusing one's view of sanctification upon what one does - upon the outward acts - is like focusing upon the outward acts of sin and ignoring the "movements within us." This is what we see in much "evangelical" theology. The denial of original sin leads one to focus only on the outward acts.

This has me thinking that we ought to think of sanctification not so much in outward acts but as a growth of faith and trust in Jesus. The true prayer of the Christian seeking sanctification ought to be "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5) or "Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

Furthermore, this helps clarify the source of sanctification. All too often sanctification is presented as something that must be attained. It is not. It is something that is given as gift. Just as faith is given as a gift (Eph. 2:8-9) so sanctification is given. Therefore - since we know that God gives His gifts through Word and Sacrament in the Church the place one ought to look for sanctification is not to themselves but to the faith strengthening Word and Sacraments.

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...


"He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion."

I don't see anything in there about my efforts.