Friday, May 5, 2006

Sanctification by Imputation

“For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds will I write them. (Heb. 10:14-16)

Quite a title, isn’t it? These two wonderful words, when put together, provide a Biblical truth that would surely make an Episcopalian jump for joy! Don’t let them scare you. Once you’ve considered their meanings and laid them side by side, they’ll be rolling off your tongue like a song in no time. And once you understand their implication for everyday Christian living, you’ll thank me for adding them to your working vocabulary.

Sanctification is probably the more familiar of the two, and you likely think it has something to do with being holy. Verse fourteen would tend to verify your assumption by adding the idea of perfection. Actually, it has a two-fold meaning: a separation that which is sinful, and also a setting apart for godly purposes. The old-time Methodists would have said that it is a process that begins after conversion wherein one can reach a point of perfection. The Calvinist or Reformed view holds that this is, at best, a pipe dream and, at worst, heresy. Being just a plain Bible-believer, I can tell you that I concur with Paul. There is nothing good in my flesh, and even when I want to do the right thing, it’s the getting it done that often eludes me (Rom. 7:18). That’s where the other word comes in.

Imputation is simply attributing, vicariously, something to someone that he or she could not obtain or accomplish on his or her own. And that’s exactly what happened. Someone made an offering of Himself (vicariously) that makes us (believers) perfect forever. The sacrifice of Calvary is an ongoing compensation that produces a manifestation of its presence. According to verse sixteen, God’s laws that were written on “tables of stone” and then with writing instruments for perpetuity, have been written in the minds and hearts of God’s elect. It is a covenant He makes with us when we accept Him as Lord and King of our lives. As one preacher I heard said, “Nobody had me to tell me that such-and-such was wrong. I knew it in my heart.” (Sadly, he felt that we, his audience, were not as spiritually astute as he!) You and I are in need of exhortation to righteousness, but you can only stir up something that is already there.

So, like the old preachers used to say, “I’m saved, sanctified, and satisfied!” I will be sanctified as long I am justified, and that will be forever. The salvation I am “working out” (Philip. 2:12) is what God has “worked in” (2:13). And any sanctification I possess (and am able to display) is the result of imputation. I received them both over fifty years ago and they will both stand good for eternity. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

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