Yesterday I identified what I believe are the four core theologically-driven means for sanctification are suggested: (1) Bible intake, (2) the local church, (3) the spiritual disciplines, and (4) missional and/or service living. Today, I focus on the role of the church in the progressive sanctification process.
The church is the God-given institution where sanctification is to take place. Or, to say it another way: biblically, the process of sanctification is housed in the church. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus that Christ has given them leaders to “equip the saints” (the people of the church) to minister to each other; and the net result of this ministry to each other, is to be spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:11-16). Clearly, Paul is teaching them that believers should form a unique theologically-driven community of faith (the church), if they are to grow spiritually.
In affect, the Christian is removed from the world (separated unto God) to belong to something greater: the church. Why? First, because the church is the keeper of the truth of God’s Word. Paul tells Timothy: “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). And this is emphasized in his reminder to the Ephesians elders that their first responsibility is to protect the flock by protecting the Word (Acts 20:28-32).
The second biblical reason of the importance of the church to personal sanctification is the divinely assigned aspect of community and oneness. Biblically, this is expressed in the ‘one another’ commands of the New Testament. Commenting about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, Gene Getz states that the qualities of spiritual maturity, those that “reflect God’s holiness (i.e., sanctification in the believer) are for the most part, relational in their outworking”
Tim Keller suggests a threefold taxonomy of the “one another” responsibilities of (1) affirming one another, (2) sharing with one another, and (3) serving one another; from which, faith-building community is developed in the believer’s life. All this implies a serious level of responsibility for each other, biblically speaking, without which, discipleship is impossible.
Tomorrow I will discuss the place that spiritual disciplines have our spiritual growth.
3 John 8