Biblical Studies

Four Ways of Sanctification

How does sanctification fit into the compatibilist reading? How much of this “Christian growth” do we actually have a part in, and how much does God do for us? Is it all up to me? All Him? 50/50 split? 60/40? Am I a little snowball that God rolls down the hill, and as I stay on this wild ride I gather more snow and become “more holy”?

In his book What About Free Will?, Scott Christensen lays out four views on sanctification.

Sanctifying Growth in Holiness is…?

  1. 1
    The Me Alone Model – We are the lonesome Ranger “pursuing a band of elusive Comanches across a barren prairie.” We have the power to grow in holiness fist fine all on our own.
  2. 2
    The God Alone Model. All we have to do is say, “Let go and let God“ and – *poof* – God grows us like a ch-ch-ch-chia plant!  We merely “sit comfortably and drink our tea while God infuses us with a mystical holiness” (97).
  • 3

    The God Plus Me Model. Here comes the 50/50 split. We do our part while God does his.

    God is our copilot, either making up for what we can’t do on our own or supplying us with the necessary support to fly the plane of sanctification. This scenario might be mistaken as compatibilist, but don’t be misled. This position is actually more in line with Arminianism. Sanctification in this case is synergistic. God’s grace is necessary for a believer to persevere in her faith, but that grace is not sufficient for perseverance. The believer must cooperate with that grace by the exercise of her free will. Without such diligence, she can fall away from the faith and be lost once again. (97)

    Christensen uses and analogy I heard when I took Lindsay’s Philippians/Colossians class. You decided you would climb a mountain.

    Prekestolen (“The Preacher’s Pulpit”) in Rogaland county, Norway

    In a sudden moment of terror – you slip. As you are barely hanging on to the side of the rock, holding on for dear life, a young Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to the rescue.
    Instead of saying, “Get to the choppa!” – Conan the Barbarian himself says, “Grab ma’ hand!” But then you hear him say, “I will hold on to you… as tightly as you hold on to me!

    . . . wait a second. Young Arnold could benchpress 440 lbs (200 kgs), deadlift 710 lbs (322 kgs), and lift 298 lbs (135 kgs) over his head. And I… can’t do that. But he’s going to hold on to me only as tightly as I hold on to him? Why even grab my hand?

  • The All God and All Me Model. “In this fourth model, we work 100 percent toward the progress of our sanctification while simultaneously trusting that God is 100 percent at work in us” (97).

    The necessary trust in God’s sufficient power to achieve Christlikeness is attended by a corresponding and necessary obedience that he demands from us (Eph. 1:18–19; 3:16–17). In the end, “sanctification is God’s work, but he performs it through the diligent self-discipline and righteous pursuits of his people, not in spite of them. God’s sovereign work does not absolve believers from the need for obedience; it means their obedience is itself a Spirit-empowered work of God.”



I will add another verse to the Philippians texts I used in a previous post.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (1.29-30)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (1.6)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (2.12-13)

  1. Paul says that two things have been granted to believers: belief in Christ and suffering for his sake.
  2. God began a knew thing in believers with this belief in Christ, and he will bring them to completion when Christ returns (3.20-21)
  3. because Christ took the form of a servant, we must be willing to serve others too. And when difficulties arise, whether it be in the form of actual suffering or not, we can trust that this too has been granted by God for the sake of Christ (1.29). We must work on our salvation. We must put in the effort to love and serve others around us. And as we do so, we know that God is bringing his good work, our belief in Christ, to its completion. (This is not to say that our hope is in our efforts. Our hope is in Christ, and we should “perform deeds in keeping with our repentance” (Acts 26.20).


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