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Is Justification by Believing, but Sanctification by Struggling?

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Tucker Carlson recently said,

“I should say at the outset, I’m an Episcopalian, so don’t take any theological advice from me because I don’t have any. I grew up in the shallowest faith tradition that’s ever been invented. It’s not even a Christian religion at this point, I say with shame.”

That’s a sad evaluation of the Episcopalian Church. Frankly, I usually don’t expect much from the Anglican communion, either. I had some early negative experiences with the very liberal Anglican Church of Canada that turned me off to it as a denomination. However, I need to admit I had some positive experiences, too. There’s an embattled Evangelical minority within it, and those authors have often helped me.

In fact, as I read more deeply and widely about the Keswick Convention and its wonderfully helpful teaching about the Christian life, I keep coming across Anglican theologians who have blessed me. People like W. H. Griffith Thomas (1861–1924), principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was the co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and a Keswick Convention speaker. In reading his systematic theology, The Principles of Theology, I think he may be another example of a Free Grace-friendly Anglican theologian.

Here is Griffith Thomas’s excellent summary statement on sanctification:

“What is the best way of promoting Christian holiness and guaranteeing the true fruits of faith in our lives? The supreme spiritual danger of the Christian life is that of legalism, for there is an inevitable tendency to assume that although Justification is by faith, Sanctification is somehow by struggle, that although the sinner is powerless in regard to salvation he is not so in the matter of holiness. The result of this view is frequently to cause trouble in the Christian life, making the believer feel that though he is unable to become justified apart from himself he cannot possibly be sanctified unless largely aided by his own efforts” (Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology, Article XII, p. 209).

Isn’t he right? Legalism in sanctification is a danger even for people who believe in salvation by faith apart from works. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that spiritual growth depends on self-effort, even when you know those same efforts were useless in justification. So what is the alternative? Sanctification by faith:

“But in reality there is one great principle of faith, covering the whole of the Christian life, which shows beyond all question that those who are fullest, freest, and frankest in their proclamation of Justification by faith are thereby enabled to show that Sanctification is likewise to be received in Christ by faith, and that there is one dominating principle throughout” (p. 209).

There is “one great principle of faith.” That principle is not just for salvation but covers “the whole of the Christian life.” We are saved by faith and then live by faith. We must let that message sink into our bones:

“We receive Christ Jesus by faith, and we are to walk in Him by the same principle (Col 2:6), and when this is fully realized and properly emphasized in relation both to Justification and Sanctification the outcome is liberty, joy, and practical holiness, which answer fully the New Testament requirement of the Christian life” (p. 209).

Let’s “keep the faith” for both justification and sanctification.


Send your questions or comments to Shawn.

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2 comments on “Is Justification by Believing, but Sanctification by Struggling?”

  1. I can’t understand why this is not taught more from the pulpit. If the Christian life is not of faith, it’s either legalism or license.

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