A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen’s Sanctification, Part 8: Chapter 7: Justification and Sanctification


Chapter 7 focuses on “the distinction between the justification and the sanctification that we possess in [Christ]” (170). Allen traces Calvin’s “double grace” of “reconcilation through Christ’s blamelessness” and of “sanctification by Christ’s Spirit” (171-75), and then briefly notes that the Reformed tradition’s twofold-grace language has roots in Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria (175-76). He explores this new covenant distinction in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36-37, and Hebrews 8. He deploys Romans 6 and 12 in particular against various Reformed challenges to the distinction between justification and sanctification. He wraps up with a fascinating application of Hebrews to the topic.


I appreciate that Allen notes that Scriptures speaks of justification in ways other than righteousness (dikaiosune) terminology (e.g., forgiveness, pardon, reconciliation) and warns against narrowing our consideration of this topic to forensic language texts only. Similarly, he calls us to see the range of Scriptural sanctification idioms, including purification, transformation, “God working in us,” and even equipping (Heb. 13:20) language.


I found little to critique in Allen’s exegetical arguments, saving his handling of Romans 6. He starts well, handling 6:1-6 nicely. He detours into a questionable reading of δεδικαιωται in 6:7 as “has been justified” that takes a personified “sin” as “accusation and temptation to doubt” (186-87).[1] Sadly, he never returns to articulate the passage’s application of union with Christ to sanctification. He comes close when he says that “acknowledgement of the indicative agency of God precedes the imperatival call to action by God’s people” (194). But he doesn’t apply this to Rom. 6:11-22.


By way of extension, let me sketch out briefly how I think his observation plays out in Rom. 6. Rom. 6:1-16 trumpets a marvelous feature of our union with Christ: sin has as much power over us as death has over Christ. Yet, position must be personalized. Status must be applied. Just as surely as we are united to Christ by faith, we appropriate the benefits of union with Christ by faith. This is the logic of Rom. 6:11-16. In the same way as Christ died to sin once for all time, we must regard, reckon, consider ourselves dead to sin for all time and alive to God. This is grace-inspired, grace-enabled faith that what is true of us in Christ mystically and spiritually may also be true in our present relationship with Christ. This is not a death that needs to take place. We are not actualizing a hypothetical death to sin. We are accepting as true what our union with Christ actually provided.

Obedience always follows faith. A trusted-Christ is always a followed-Christ. The two-sided obedience (don‘t go on presenting …. but present) Paul commands matches the two-sided faith he enjoined (reckon yourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God). Don’t allow sin to rule you. Allow God to rule you. Don’t present your bodies to sin. Present them to God. We comply with the former by submitting to the later. We resist sin’s reign by presenting ourselves as slaves to God. Our bodies which were formerly dominated by sin, can be, should be, may be instruments of righteousness to God, if we will respond with faith and obedience, i.e., if we will trust and obey.

Rom. 6:1-16 is a two-edged sword. In contrast to whatever theology regards sanctification as a “addition to an apparently insufficient work of Christ,” Romans 6 denies that union with Christ is not sufficient to produce the holy fruit of righteous service. It denies we need a second work of grace to complete an insufficient first work of grace. Freedom from sin, enslavement to God, and “fruit unto holiness” are spiritual benefits available to be appropriated by faith and applied by grace for every person who has been united with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. On the other hand, Romans 6 also belies all misshaped claims that holy people cannot help but be ruled by sin. Union with Christ crucified our old life (Rom. 6:6a[2]), set us free from sin and the power of the flesh (Rom. 6:6b-7; Gal. 5:16, 24), made us slaves of God (Rom. 6:22). It empowers on-going presentation of ourselves to righteousness (Rom. 6:16) and enables fruit that leads to sanctification and eternal life (Rom. 6:22).



Originally published at Exegetical Thoughts and Biblical Theology.

[1] Other instances of δικαιόω + ἀπὸ don’t offer prima facie support for Allen’s reading. E.g., Sirach 26:29 ….οὐ δικαιωθήσεται κάπηλος ἀπὸ ἁμαρτίας “and a tradesman will not be declared innocent of sin” (RSV, NRSV), “nor a shopkeeper free from sin” (NAB), “and an huckster shall not be freed from sin” (KJV). English versions are split on how to translate Acts 13:38-39 ἀπὸ πάντων ὧν οὐκ ἠδυνήθητε ἐν νόμῳ Μωϋσέως δικαιωθῆναι, 39ἐν τούτῳ πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων δικαιοῦται. and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses (NASB, ESV). “from which you were not able to be justified by the law of Moses, 39 by this one everyone who believes is justified!” (LEB).
[2] Romans 6:6 τοῦτο γινώσκοντες ὅτι ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος συνεσταυρώθη, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ· “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (NASB).

Philip Brown
Philip Brownhttp://apbrown2.net
Dr. Philip Brown is Graduate Program Director and Professor at God's Bible School & College. He holds a PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of A Reader's Hebrew Bible (Zondervan Academic, 2008).